Hacklet 82 – Halloween Hacks 2015

Halloween is when the ghouls start haunting and the hackers start hacking. All hallows eve is the perfect holiday for eerie blinking LEDs, spooky audio oscillators, and wild animatronics. We had a double dose of Halloween hacks last year on the Hacklet. This year we’re bringing you even more of the best Halloween hacks on hackaday.io!

eyes1We start with [dougal] and Halloween Blinky Eyes. [Dougal] wanted to create the effect of creatures peeking at you from the dark corners of the room, and he’s certainly nailed it. A strip of WS2812 LEDs is the trick here. Pairs of LEDs light up, blink, and fade away like spooky eyes. The Strip is controlled by a Particle Core using Adafruit’s NeoPixel Library, though [Dougal] plans to move to the FastLed library. Everything is powered by a USB power pack. This hack isn’t much to look at with the lights on, so check out the video to see these eyes really shine!

 

witch1Next up is [controlmypad] with Blair the Witch Project. A normal trip to Home Depot turned paranormal when [controlmypad] spotted an awesome witch decoration. The free-standing mannequin had some basic animatronics and the all important manual trigger. [controlmypad] already had a discarded electric wheelchair. After replacing the chair batteries he modified it with a Sabertooth 2×32 Motor Controller and a standard radio control receiver. A spare channel was connected to Blair’s manual trigger. An aluminum tube joins the witch and the scooter. The hardest part of this hack was keeping Blair’s skirt out of the scooter wheels. Home Depot to the rescue! A simple hoop made of lawn edging plastic keeps the fabric and wheels apart.

 

tweet-trick

[Alex Cordonnier] and his team participated in Boilermake 2015, a 24 hour Hackathon at Purdue University. The fruit of their labor is Trick or Tweet, the tweeting Jack-o’-lantern. Yes folks, we now have the internet of gourds. Hiding inside Trick or Tweet is a Raspberry Pi and a Pi Camera. The pumpkin itself is also a giant capacitive touch switch. Touching the pumpkin triggers a count down after which Trick or Tweet snaps a photo. It then adds some spooky Halloween overlays, a pun or two, and throws the whole thing up on twitter @PumpkinPiPics. [Alex] hasn’t uploaded the code yet, but we’re guessing it consists of a few Python scripts. Pretty awesome for 24 hours of work!

 

hariSometimes Halloween hacks take on a life of their own. That’s exactly what happened when [Hari Wiguna] sat down with a few parts he ordered from China. Happy Halloween 2015 is the result. [Hari’s] order included some potentiometers, a two color OLED display, and some Arduino clones. In no time [Hari] had three pots wired up to the Arduino’s analog inputs. The OLED quickly followed, displaying graphics via the Arduino’s I2C bus. He really wanted a Jack-o’-lantern though. It took a bit more tweaking, but eventually [Hari] was successful. The first pot sets eye size.  The second controls eye rotation. The third pot changes the width of Jack’s mouth. [Hari] has all the code for this hack up on his most recent project log.

Not spooked enough? If you want to see more Halloween projects, check out our newly updated Halloween hacks list! Did I miss your project? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet; As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Is it a Haunted House or a Video Game?

[Rich Fiore] didn’t want just another set of spooky decorations for his house. He wanted something interactive. By combining a projector and some IR sensing, he turned his whole house into a Halloween-themed shooter.

Technical details are sparse, although some other sites are reporting that a projector and a camera take care of the graphics, while a modified Wii remote and an IR gun handle the crosshairs and the targeting.

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Raspberry Pi Halloween Voice Changer

[Dave Shevett] has spent a lot of time (more than a year) expanding his Technomancer costume along with the companion (Arduino-driven) magic staff. He found, however, he needed a way to get his voice out from behind the mask. If you are going to go through that much trouble, you might as well augment your voice at the same time, right?

[Dave’s] voice changer uses a Raspberry Pi which isn’t all that complicated. The Pi uses Linux, and Unix–the predecessor to Linux–has a long history of having little tools you can string together to do big jobs. So once you have a Pi and a sound card, the rest is just some Linux command line wizardry.

There’s a battery and a small portable amplifier to get that booming voice. Since you don’t want to lug a keyboard and monitor around to handle every reboot, [Dave] set the Pi up to run his voice-changing scripts on each reboot.

This is a great example of why old Unix programmers make small tools and use the shell to join them together. [Dave’s] voice changer is pretty much just some off the shelf parts and a  script so simple it hardly qualifies as programming in any real sense. In fact, it is essentially one line of “code”:

play "|rec --buffer 2048 -d pitch -300 echos 0.8 0.88 100 0.6 150 .5 band 1.2k 1.5k"

Sure, there is some street cred in embedded development to doing everything the hard way, but with the advent of cheap embedded Linux systems, why not take advantage of the tools where you can?

If you want a more roll-your-own approach, you can pick up your Arduino or break out an audio mixer (but good luck getting it in your costume).

Animated Jack-o’-Lantern Really Connects

Days past people used to just carve a scary face in a pumpkin, drop in a candle and call it a day, but for our kind of crowd that’s not going to cut it. [Alexis] stuffed this Jack o Lantern with a lot of brain power and even connected it up to the internet for community control.

At the core of the festive decoration is a spark core, which allows micro controlled special effects to be triggered via Twitter. RGB LED’s change colors, flicker and flash and even a spooky ghost pops out of the top. Along with all that, a sound sensor is added in so the lights can react to the ambient sound around the lantern.

If you get too close an ultrasonic sensor will trigger the ghoulish treat with lights and animation, but what about spooky sounds? That is also included thanks to a toy found at the local discount store, which had its guts removed and its trigger button replaced with a transistor.

Now sights and sounds can all be controlled remotely or in an active response mode to entertain all the little goblins visiting the house this Halloween. Join us after the break for a quick demo video and don’t forget to send in links to your own pumpkin-based hacks this week!

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That’s No Moon Pumpkin, It’s a Space Station

Every year, Vitamin T holds a #ATXPumpkinChallenge for creative agencies in and around Austin. Each team was given a fake pumpkin and the challenge of making a 15-60 second video. As the reigning champions from last year, [SiteGoals] had to up the ante. So they launched a pumpkin into space.

Pumpkin DeathstarWhen first given the challenge, it only took the team 3 simple words to get started. Pumpkin. In. Space. What followed was a week-long frenzy of preparing the pumpkin for its maiden flight.

The pumpkin itself is pretty simple. A plastic jack-o-lantern painstakingly painted and detailed to look like the third Death Star. This is makes the title of the project a double-meaning: “Return of the Pumpkin”. They even included iconic spacecraft flying around the equator of the immensely powerful yet questionably vulnerable orb of destruction. Simply launching the pumpkin into space wasn’t enough. They built in a telemetry system and GoPro for recording the voyage. Stick around after the break to see the very entertaining making-of video, set the tune of the Cantina Band.

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Make A Cheap (And Dangerous) Automated Flamethrower

Nothing lights up the night like a quick blast from a flamethrower, but there is a reason why you can’t buy them in the Halloween decoration aisle at Target. They are dangerous, for fairly obvious reasons. [Erco] seems to have no particular fear of death, though, and he shows how you can build a simple flamethrower with a small candle, a servo, Arduino and a can of hairspray. Tresemme Extra Strong Hold, in particular, although we don’t think the exact type matters that much. All he did was to mount the candle in front of the hairspray, then mount the servo so the arm presses the spray head down. The candle does the rest, lighting the highly flammable propellant in the hairspray to produce the flamethrower effect. [Erco] is using four of these, which are co-ordinated to fire in time with music.

This one seems a bit risky. Servos have a habit of locking, and there is nothing stopping these from locking in the open position, or sticking there if the Arduino crashes. A relay or other switch that reverts to an off position when the power is removed would have been more suitable here. Secondly, there is no emergency off switch. [Erco] has wired the Arduino up next to the flamethrower itself, so you are going to have to reach in to disconnect it. That is risky enough, but he also tried a 4-way configuration that would have been impossible to disable in the event of a problem (shown in the accompanying images). Thirdly, there is no fire protection between the can of hairspray and the open flame, so if the spray head melts or fails from the heat, it’s game over. Finally (and most importantly), where are the fire extinguishers? We’d like to hear how you’d build this with safety in mind. Let us know in the comments below.

We’re big fans of flames and explosions: we’ve have seen a couple of Survival Research Laboratory shows and were blown away by their destructive pyrotechnics. But, as SRL head Mark Pauline said in a recent talk, “when things blow up at an SRL show, it’s on purpose”.

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BOO! Teach Arduino Basics With this Fun Ghost

Halloween is just around the corner, and the spooky themed tips are just starting to roll in. If you’re looking to one-up the basic store-bought decorations, and maybe teach your kid the basics of an Arduino while you’re at it — why not build a Peek-A-Boo Ghost!

Using an Arduino, two servo motors and an ultrasonic distance sensor it’s pretty easy to make this cute little ghost that covers its eyes when no one is around. They’re using cardboard for the ghost, but if you have access to a laser cutter at your hackerspace, you could make it a lot more robust using MDF or plywood.

When the ultrasonic distance sensor senses someone coming towards it, it’ll trigger the arms to move — though it’d be easy to add a small speaker element too and get some spooky music going as well!

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