Tricorder project brings the fabled devices into existence

Whether or not you love Star Trek we’d bet you know what a Tricorder is. The handheld device capable of gathering information about the environment around you, or taking health diagnostics about an injured crew member, seemed like unfathomably advanced technology when first seen on the original television series. But our technology has advance so quickly that you can now build a Tricorder of your own. That’s exactly what [Peter Jansen] has done. He founded the Tricorder project as a way to put a useful scientific instrument in the hands for the curious masses.

In the promo video embedded after the break [Dr. Jansen] gives us a recap of his progress so far. Three versions of the project have already been produced, and a fourth is under way. The first iteration could take atmospheric, spacial, and magnetic readings. This covers things like temperature, humidity, GPS data, light intensity, and distance measurements among others. Housed in a dark grey case it looks much like the original prop.

The second model, which is seen above, implements a swapable sensor board. That’s the part hanging off the top, but the finished model will enclose that part of the case. The hardware on this is fantastic, using an ARM processor running Linux and two 2.8″ OLED touchscreen displays. But both of these models have a price tag that’s just too high for widespread use. He’s been working on two more, the Mark 3 and Mark 4. The most recent is in software development right now with the hopes of mass production when all the details are worked out.

There’s a lot of info to dig through on the project’s site. It’s open source and all the goodies we usually look for are there.

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GeneBoy is the portable Sega Genesis you’ve always wanted

geneboy-portable-sega-genesis

There’s something about portable gaming systems that just doesn’t get old. Perhaps its the nostalgia, or the unique cases and form factors the modders come up with. Whatever it might be, we think they’re great.

[Downing] wrote in to share a portable system he just wrapped up, called the GeneBoy. He broke down a Sega Genesis console to the bare necessities, then attached a 3.5” backup camera screen to serve as the display. A 3rd party Genesis controller donated its buttons to the GeneBoy, while his D-Pad was salvaged from an original Playstation controller.

The case was built from vacuum formed plastic, which made it easy to get just the size and shape he needed to hold everything together perfectly. Even though he says that the outside of the case got a bit roughed up during final assembly, we think it looks great. I would certainly enjoy having all the fun of [Sonic the Hedgehog] or Road Rash in the palm of my hand any day!

Continue reading to see the GeneBoy in action, and be sure to check out [Downing’s] blog along with the Modded by Bacteria forum thread where he discusses the finer details of its assembly.

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Handheld Jaguar makes 32 or 64 bits portable

There’s nothing wrong with portable NESs, Super Nintendos, N64, or even a portable Sega CD. What about a portable version the oft-maligned Atari Jaguar, though? [Evil Nod] pulled it off, and it looks great.

The build is fairly standard for a portable console. A PS1 screen is used for the display, and a cut up and re-wired controller provides the input. From what we see on the build log, moving the 104-pin cartridge slot onto ribbon cables was an exercise in patience. The case is absolutely phenomenal with a textured finish we would expect to see on an early 90s console. Of course, [Nod] kept the numeric keypad; there was space left over anyway.

We can’t rag on the Jaguar or [Nod]‘s build. It’s a great execution and there’s an impressive library of games that include Worms, Rayman, Doom, and Myst. Still, we wonder what the build would look like with the Jaguar CD-ROM attached.

Full-color eBook reader needs only 8-bits of muscle

[Rossum's] still coming up with great ways to use his microtouch hardware. This time, he’s taken his inspiration from Amazon’s announcement that a full-color eBook reader (and movie player) is on the way. Judging from the video after the break, his fully functional reader is a big win for the device.

You’re probably familiar with the hardware, an ATmega644-based board connected to a touch sensitive LCD screen. You can make your own or buy one pre-assembled (but currently out-of-stock). The board has a microSD card slot making it quite easy to add books to the device. At the start of the project [Rossum] thought he might be able to read ePub files directly, but the embedded images, and unzip function needed to open the package file is a bit too much for the 8-bit processor’s restrictions. One simple step does the trick. A helper script can be used to format the files before transferring them to the device. This does the unzipping, scales the images, and repaginates the text into a format friendly for the display size.

Now if we only had a nice little case to house the hardware we’d be in business.

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Super Pixel Bros now with manufactured PCB and rewritten software

[Retro Brad] has come a long way with his 8×8 gaming device which he calls Super Pixel Bros. The newest rendition has a fab house PCB and freshly rewritten code. The game is still played on an 8×8 LED matrix, but it looks like he’s sourced a version with square pixels, which is a nice touch since he was inspired by the block-based Super Mario games. Also new in this version is the character LCD screen which displays score, level, and life information. But it’s not just the shiny new hardware that’s different, he’s rewritten the software in Swordfish Basic to run on the PIC 18F4550. The new code allowed him to tweak how levels are loaded and stored. He’s even written a level editor and has finished 20 levels thus far.

The demo after the break does a great job of showing off the hardware and the game play. He’s added a lot, including enemies, the ability to shoot fire, and of course the common moves of jumping and breaking blocks is all there. He mentioned that the fab house he used is selling boards for around $5 and he’s looking into the possibility of getting a kit service up and running.

His progress since we last checked in on the project is quite impressive.

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Hackaday Links: August 21, 2011

Arduino + PS2 controller + R2D2

Here’s an unbelievably real-looking R2D2 replica driven by a PS2 controller with an Arduino inside that plays sounds from the movies. Too bad we couldn’t find any more details about it. [Thanks Bill]

Server build time-lapse

[Justin] and his colleagues spent five days upgrading their server by building a 29-unit cluster. Lucky for us they set up a web-cam to capture the process.

Cockroach computer

Behold this working desktop computer, complete with monitor and mouse. We’re not sure how it was done, or what it’s for, but worth a peek just because of its size. [Thanks Harald via Dvice]

Modelling self-assembling viruses

A 3D printer and magnets were used to build this model of a self-assembling virus. Shake the jar and it falls apart. Shake a bit more and it’ll rebuild itself… it has the technology.

Tardis cufflinks

[Simon] is exercising his geek chic with these Tardis cuff links. The Doctor Who inspired accessories were made from a model railroad telephone booth.

Portable gets a proper home in an arcade controller

[Luke] wanted an arcade-style controller that he could use for some gaming at home. He decided to use a portable game emulator as a base and then added his own joystick and buttons along with a custom case.

The donor hardware is a Dingo A320. It’s a nice little handheld with a 2.8″ screen, and plenty of potential to emulate games like Donkey Kong seen above, or to play homebrew. It’s even been the target of some RAM upgrades we looked in on in the past. The best part for [Luke's] project is that it includes a video out port.

In the clip after the break you can see that [Luke] now has a compact controller with a huge arcade joystick, four buttons on the top surface, and the rest of the controls all around the edges of the enclosure. The video out option is selected in the menu system, so he preserved the original LCD for use during configuration.

[Read more...]

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