Display Your City’s Emotional State with Illuminated Snow

[Hunter] wanted to do something a bit more interesting for his holiday lights display last year. Rather than just animated lights, he wanted something that was driven by data. In this case, his display was based on the mood of people in his city. We’ve seen a very similar project in the past, but this one has a few notable differences.

The display runs off of an Arduino. [Hunter] is using an Ethernet shield to connect the Arduino to the Internet. It then monitors all of the latest tweets from users within a 15 mile radius of his area. The tweets are then forwarded to the Alchemy Sentiment API for analysis. The API uses various algorithms and detection methods to identify the overall sentiment within a body of text. [Hunter] is using it to determine the general mood indicated by the text of a given tweet.

Next [Hunter] needed a way to somehow display this information. He opted to use an LED strip. Since the range of sentiments is rather small, [Hunter] didn’t want to display the overall average sentiment. This value doesn’t change much over short periods of time, so it’s not very interesting to see. Instead, he plots the change made since the last sample. This results in a more obvious change to the LED display.

Another interesting thing to note about this project is that [Hunter] is using the snow in his yard to diffuse the light from the LEDs. He’s actually buried the strip under a layer of snow. This has the result of hiding the electronics, but blurring the light enough so you can’t see the individual LEDs. The effect is rather nice, and it’s something different to add to your holiday lights display. Be sure to check out the video below for a demonstration. Continue reading “Display Your City’s Emotional State with Illuminated Snow”

This CD Jewel Case Plays Music Without a Disc

We’ve all heard the terrible greeting cards that have soundbites of 2 bit jingles that usually make you want to tear the battery out… but Hallmark is finally catching up with technology and now including real music in their cards — it might only be about 10 seconds, but hey, it’s a step!

They’re still pretty corny though, and we’re not really sure what even dictates an ideal situation to give someone an audible greeting card — but regardless, [Dmitry Grinberg] thought he could do better than Hallmark — and we’d have to agree. He’s created a New Year’s Greeting card using a CD jewel case, and what he’s packed inside is pretty incredible.

The case, when opened, will play a full-length song in full fidelity. Next time you open it, it’ll play something new and at random, from its very own micro SD card 300-song library.

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DIY Conveyor Gets You From Here To There

[gwfong] was in a bind. He had to make a unique Halloween prop that dispensed candy to young trick-or-treaters at a Haunted House. He decided on a conveyor belt system and besides being functional, it also had to be inexpensive to make. After poking around the hardware store [gwfong] had an idea: make it out of items he can re-use after Halloween!

As you can see, the main roller system is made of paint rollers. These are cheap and certainly re-useable after the conveyor is disassembled. Luckily for the project, the handle of the paint roller just happens to fit very snugly into a 3/4″ PVC pipe fitting. Four T-fittings and some short lengths of PVC pipe were purchased and are used to mount the paint rollers to a wooden base. A piece of canvas cut to length and sewed into a continuous loop makes up the conveyor belt. A loose belt certainly won’t deliver any candy so two turnbuckles, one at each end, keep the belt tight on the rollers.

There is a DC motor that spins a pulley which is coupled, via a standard rubber band, to one of the end paint rollers. A full-speed conveyor haphazardly flinging candy around wouldn’t work out to well so an Arduino and motor shield are used to control the conveyor’s speed and duration. A 7.4 5000mAh Li-Po battery provides the necessary electricity for a nights-worth of un-tethered candy dispensing.

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Real-Time Thermal Projection Saves Your Tastebuds from the Hot Stuff

With another wave of holiday parties about to land on our doorstep, we still haven’t found a great way to stop scalding our tongues each time [Uncle Dave] pours us an enticing cup of boiling cocoa.

Thankfully, [Ken] has both you and your holiday guests covered with a clever trick that takes the data from a FLIR ONE and projects a heat profile onto the surface it’s observing. Here, [Ken] has superimposed his FLIR ONE data onto his kitchen table, and he’s able to visualize 2D heat profiles in near-real-time.

If you haven’t started quantifying yourself recently (and what are you waiting for?), the FLIR ONE is yet another opportunity to help you become more aware of your surroundings than you are now. It’s a thermal camera attachment for your iPhone, allowing you to see into the infrared band and look at the world in terms of heat. We’ve covered the FLIR ONE before, and we’ve seen ways of making it both clearer and more hacker-friendly.

As we tip our hats to [Ken], we’d say he’s a generous fellow. This hack is a clever inversion of the normal use case where you might whip out your FLIR-ONE-enabled iPhone and warn your cousins not to try the hot chocolate for a few more minutes. With [Ken’s] solution, the data is right there on your condiments and in plain sight of everyone, not just for you with your sweet, Star-Trek-augmented iPhone.

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Santa’s Autonomous Helping Hands Let the Jolly ol’ Fellow Kick Back this Season

For those skeptical about the feasibility of Santa’s annual delivery schedule, here’s an autonomous piece of the puzzle that will bewilder even the most hard-hearted of non-believers.

The folks over at the Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) in Germany have whipped together a fantastic demo featuring Santa’s extra pair of helping hands. In the two-and-a-half minute video, the robot executes a suite of impressive autonomous stocking-stuffing maneuvers: from recognizing the open hole in the stocking, to grasping specific candies from the cluster of goodies available.

On the hardware-side, the arms appear to be a KUKA-variant, while on the software-side, the visualizations are being handled by the open source robot software ROS‘ RVIZ tool.

If some of the props in the video look familiar, you’ll find that the researchers at CITEC have already explored some stellar perception, classification, and grasping of related research topics. Who knew this pair of hands would be so jolly to clock some overtime this holiday season? The entire video is set to a crisp computer-voiced jingle that serves as a sneaky summary of their approach to this project.

Now, if only we could set these hands off to do our other dirty work….

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Yule-Inspired Tool Time With [Becky Stern]

And now for something completely different: [Becky Stern]’s musical tour of her favorite tools around the Adafruit factory is the best holiday tune we’ve heard since The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping”. Of course, good tools are near and dear to us as well, and we found ourselves nodding frequently in agreement and smiling as broadly as [Billie, Ruby, and Gus], the anthropomorphic LED backup singers.

In other Adafruity news, it looks like their new Samsung SM482 pick and place machine was given the gift of eyes as big as pizza pies. What tools would you like to see under the tree, leaning against the Festivus pole, or all wrapped up a safe distance from the menorah this year? Do tell.

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The Epoch Christmas Tree

It’s that time of the year again, and the halls are being decked with trees, the trees covered in lights, and everyone working in retail is slowly going insane from Christmas songs piped over the PA. [Dan] has a tree and a bunch of programmable LEDs, but merely pumping jollity down that strip of LEDs wouldn’t be enough. The Nerd Quotient must be raised even higher with a tree that displays a Unix timestamp.

This build was inspired by an earlier, non-tree-based build that displays Unix time on a 32 LED array. That build used an ATMega328p for toggling LEDs on and off. This time around, [Dan] is using a dedicated LED controller – the AllPixel – that just wrapped up a very successful Kickstarter campaign. The AllPixel is, in turn, controlled by a Raspberry Pi running the BiblioPixel library,

The tree displays the current time stamp in binary across 32 spaces, with green representing a ‘one’ and a red representing ‘zero’. The top of the tree is the least significant bit, but in case [Dan] gets tired of the bottom of the tree staying completely still for the rest of this holiday season, he can switch the order making the base of the tree the LSB.

Video below.

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