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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An Internet Connected Earth

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that more than half of the world’s population doesn’t have an Internet connection. It’s tricky to get an exact figure on this, however the number of people without connection is commonly agreed to be somewhere around 2/3rds of the population of the planet. There are some heavy hitters working on this problem with some pretty interesting solutions.

OneWeb is an outfit with [Richard Branson] as the front-man who plan to launch low orbit satellites to communicate with ground terminals. The ground terminals would rebroadcast the communication signals from the satellites resulting in 2G, 3G, LTE, and WiFi signals for those near a ground terminal.

SpaceX is throwing its hat in the ring with a little helpful funding from Google and Fidelity to the tune of $1 Billion.

Perhaps the most surprising is [Zuckerberg’s] solar-powered internet laser beaming drones. The idea is that these laser birds will circle over an Internet dead-zone like buzzard over a dying buffalo (reaching?) and provide connectivity to those below. The solar drones will fly at an altitude of 20km which is a pretty good ways up there, and they are believed to be able to stay in flight for months at a time. There’s a Facebook PhD explaining this in a video after the break, thanks Dr. Facebook.

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73 Computer Scientists Created a Neural Net and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

The Internet is a strange place. The promise of cyberspace in the 1990s was nothing short of humanity’s next greatest achievement. For the first time in history, anyone could talk to anyone else in a vast, electronic communion of enlightened thought, and reasoned discourse. The Internet was intended to be the modern Library of Alexandria. It was beautiful, and it was the future. The Internet was the greatest invention of all time.

Somewhere, someone realized people have the capacity to be idiots. Turns out nobody wants to learn anything when you can gawk at the latest floundering of your most hated celebrity. Nobody wants to have a conversation, because your confirmation bias is inherently flawed and mine is much better. Politics, religion, evolution, weed, guns, abortions, Bernie Sanders and Kim Kardashian. Video games.

A funny thing happened since then. People started to complain they were being pandered to. They started to blame media bias and clickbait. People started to discover that headlines were designed to get clicks. You’ve read Moneyball, and know how the use of statistics changed baseball, right? Buzzfeed has done the same thing with journalism, and it’s working for their one goal of getting you to click that link.

Now, finally, the Buzzfeed editors may be out of a job. [Lars Eidnes] programmed a computer to generate clickbait. It’s all done using recurrent neural networks gathering millions of headlines from the likes of Buzzfeed and the Gawker network. These headlines are processed, and once every twenty minutes a new story is posted on Click-O-Tron, the only news website you won’t believe. There’s even voting, like reddit, so you know the results are populist dross.

I propose an experiment. Check out the comments below. If the majority of the comments are not about how Markov chains would be better suited in this case, clickbait works. Prove me wrong.

Internet-Connected Box Displays Emotion, Basement Dwellers Still Unaffected

For one reason or another, Twitter has become the modern zeitgeist, chronicling the latest fashions, news, gossip, and irrelevant content that sends us spiraling towards an inevitable existential ennui. This is a Twitter mood light. It tells you what everyone else on the planet is feeling. You, of course, feel nothing. Because of the ennui.

[Connor] decided it would be a good idea to audit the world’s collective mood using experimental social analytics. He’s doing that by watching millions of tweets a day and checking them against hundreds of keywords for several emotions. These emotions are graphed in real time, placed on a server, correlated and corroborated, and downloaded by a moodLight. Inside the moodLight, the emotions are translated into colors, and displayed with the help of a few RGB LEDs.

The moodLight is currently a Kickstarter campaign, with a $30 pledge getting you an assembled board with an ATMega328, an ESP8266, a few RGB LEDs, and a laser cut enclosure. After it’s assembled, the moodLight connects automagically to the analytics server for a real-time display of the emotional state of the Twitterverse. The display is updated every second, making the backend of this build just slightly more impressive than Kickstarter itself. It’s great work from [Connor], and an interesting experiment in analyzing the state of the Internet.

Push Blood Pressure Data To The Cloud Via ESP8266

[Eduardo] contacted us about his success at connecting a blood pressure monitor to the web. He pulled this off by locating the chip responsible for storing the blood pressure data after being measured. It was a simple I2C EEPROM from which he dumped the data a sniffed communications with a 4 bit logic analyzer. [Eduardo] published all of his findings on that communication scheme so check out his post for more on that. The gist of it is that he implemented his reverse engineered protocol using an ESP8266, the ubiquitous cheap WiFi board that has become a go-to for web-connected anything like power monitors and underpowered but awesome server farms. Check out the Hackaday Dictionary entry for more on this board.

[Eduardo] is not the first on the scene with such a device, you can see a Withings device and a blipcare device available on Amazon. What this hack from [Eduardo] does provide is evidence of a much cheaper route for connecting vital medical data from a geographically distant, and perhaps technophobic family member. Lets take a walk down hypothetical lane, shall we? Uncle Bob in Albuquerque who doesn’t have any local family might be a good candidate for such a hacked device, everyone knows it’s like pulling teeth to get elderly family members to report some health information to loved ones… but with [Eduardo’s] hack it’s simple. Embed the hardware (assuming you know the login creds ahead of time) into a new BPM, send it to him as a gift, and Bob’s your uncle.

We haven’t seen too many blood pressure monitor hacks, but one entry from the Hackaday Prize dubbed “the pain machine” included monitoring the user’s blood pressure. We also covered an interesting hack on monitoring your heart rate with a piezo element.

A quick demo of [Edward’s] cuff is found below.

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Amazon Giving Out (Sort Of) Hackable Amazon Dash Button

We’ve seen some interesting hacks of the Amazon Dash buttons, a neat device where you press a button and it orders a product from Amazon for you. Now, [Amazon] themselves are getting into the hacking fun with the AWS IoT Button. This is a Dash button that Amazon is giving out at events to promote their new Amazon Web Services (AWS) Internet of Things (IoT) service.

As part of their efforts to take over the world, the AWS IoT service allows you to create button-based services like ordering pizza or starting Netflix, but without running your own server. Instead, Amazon handles all of the hard stuff behind the scenes on their Lambda engine, which receives the small bit of JSON that the button sends and runs a Lambda function that orders pizza, kicks off Netflix, then starts World War III. Amazon provides sample actions for things like launching the missiles sending a text message over Twilio and writing to a database. Amazon isn’t selling these buttons: they only seem to be available as swag at events. Make a loud enough noise in the comments section and maybe they’ll allocate some for the Hackaday community.

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Get Your Internet Out of My Things

2014 was the year that the Internet of Things (IoT) reached the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” on the Gartner Hype Cycle. By 2015, it had only moved a tiny bit, towards the “Trough of Disillusionment”. We’re going to try to push it over the edge.

emerging-tech-hc.png;wa0131df2b233dcd17Depending on whom you ask, the IoT seems to mean that whatever the thing is, it’s got a tiny computer inside with an Internet connection and is sending or receiving data autonomously. Put a computer in your toaster and hook it up to the Internet! Your thermostat? Hook it up to the Internet!? Yoga mat? Internet! Mattress pad? To the Intertubes!

Snark aside, to get you through the phase of inflated expectations and on down into disillusionment, we’re going to use just one word: “security”. (Are you disillusioned yet? We’re personally bummed out anytime anyone says “security”. It’s a lot like saying “taxes” or “dentist’s appointment”, in that it means that we’re going to have to do something unpleasant but necessary. It’s a reality-laden buzzkill.)

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