This PCB Business Card is Logically Different

Having seen a number of PCB business cards [Will] decided to go against the more popular choice of a micro-controller based design and show some character with a logic based finite state machine. [Will] uses a single 7-segment display to scroll through the letters of his name with a state machine that outputs the desired combination of 1’s and 0’s to the LED display each time the tactile button is pushed.

[Will] uses a 4-bit counter made up of D Flip-Flops for the clock signal as a conditional input to 6 of the 4-input AND gates. He doesn’t go into the painful details of displaying each character through the process (thankfully) but he does mention that he uses the Quine-McCluskey technique for reduction instead of Boolean algebra. Since his name is 11 characters long and the 4-bit binary counter goes from 0000 to 1111 leaving 5 more pushes of the button before rolling the count back to 0000, during which time the display is left blank. [Will] kindly includes the eagle and Gerber files for your downloading pleasure over at his blog if you’re interested in getting a little deeper into the design.

Hacking Eating Tracking

There’s a great hackathon going on this weekend in the Boston area. Hacking Eating Tracking challenges participants to develop technology that will help guide personal behavior toward a healthier lifestyle.

The event in hosted in Cambridge, MA by Harvard University. It isn’t focused on giving you a diet that you need to follow. It looks instead at how some more abstract behavior changes will cause your body to do this for you. One really quick example is to change the hand in which you hold your fork, or swap out the fork for a different utensil. Going “lefty” while you eat can change the cadence of your consumption and my impact how many calories you consume before feeling full. This is a really fun type of hacking to delve into!

Hackaday is one of the Hackathon sponsors and [Sophi] is headed out to participate in the weekend of building. She’s planning to work with a Pixy Camera which can measure depth data and can separate colors. Of course decisions on the build direction won’t be made until she and her teammates put their heads together, but she did have a few preliminary ideas. Several of these cameras might be used in a supermarket to gather data on where customers tend to congregate and how aisle flow and stock choices might be able to change behavior.

If you’re not in the area you should still be able to follow along as the event helps to improve people’s lives through behavior. The hackathon will be using the Hackaday.io Hackathon framework. Teams will register and update their projects throughout the weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing what is built using the crate of LightBlue Bean boards we sent along from the Hackaday Store.

The Machine that Japed: Microsoft’s Humor-Emulating AI

Ten years ago, highbrow culture magazine The New Yorker started a contest. Each week, a cartoon with no caption is published in the back of the magazine. Readers are encouraged to submit an apt and hilarious caption that captures the magazine’s infamous wit. Editors select the top three entries to vie for reader votes and the prestige of having captioned a New Yorker cartoon.

The magazine receives about 5,000 submissions each week, which are scrutinized by cartoon editor [Bob Mankoff] and a parade of assistants that burn out after a year or two. But soon, [Mankoff]’s assistants may have their own assistant thanks to Microsoft researcher [Dafna Shahaf].

[Dafna Shahaf] heard [Mankoff] give a speech about the New Yorker cartoon archive a year or so ago, and it got her thinking about the possibilities of the vast collection with regard to artificial intelligence. The intricate nuances of humor and wordplay have long presented a special challenge to creators. [Shahaf] wondered, could computers begin to learn what makes a caption funny, given a big enough canon?

[Shahaf] threw ninety years worth of wry, one-panel humor at the system. Given this knowledge base, she trained it to choose funny captions for cartoons based on the jokes of similar cartoons. But in order to help [Mankoff] and his assistants choose among the entries, the AI must be able to rank the comedic value of jokes. And since computer vision software is made to decipher photos and not drawings, [Shahaf] and her team faced another task: assigning keywords to each cartoon. The team described each one in terms of its contextual anchors and subsequently its situational anomalies. For example, in the image above, the context keywords could be car dealership, car, customer, and salesman. Anomalies might include claws, fangs, and zoomorphic automobile.

The result is about the best that could be hoped for, if one was being realistic. All of the cartoon editors’ chosen winners showed up among the AI’s top 55.8%, which means the AI could ultimately help [Mankoff and Co.] weed out just under half of the truly bad entries. While [Mankoff] sees the study’s results as a positive thing, he’ll continue to hire assistants for the foreseeable future.

Humor-enabled AI may still be in its infancy, but the implications of the advancement are already great. To give personal assistants like Siri and Cortana a funny bone is to make them that much more human. But is that necessarily a good thing?

[via /.]

It Sucks to Pick Up the Pieces

Jigsaw puzzles are a fun and interactive way to spend an afternoon or twelve, depending on the piece count and your skill level. It’s exciting to find the pieces you need to complete a section or link two areas together, but if you have poor dexterity, excitement can turn to frustration when you move to pick them up. [thomasgruwez] had the disabled and otherwise fumble-fingered in mind when he created this pick and place jigsaw puzzle aid, which uses suction to pick up and transport puzzle pieces.

The suction comes from an aquarium pump running in reverse, a hack we’ve seen often which [thomasgruwez] explains in a separate Instructable. A large, inviting push button is wired in line to turn the pump on and off. An equally large and inviting momentary switch turns off the vacuum temporarily so the piece can be placed.

At the business end of this hack is the tiny suction-cupped tip from a cheap vacuum pen. To interface the pen head with the pump, [thomasgruwez] designed and printed a rigid straw to bridge the gap. With utility already in mind, [thomasgruwez] also designed a ring that can be bolted to the straw to house a steadying finger of your choice, like the pinkie hook on a pair of barbers’ shears.

Our favorite part of this hack has to be the optional accessory—a tiny platform for quickly flipping pieces without cutting the vacuum. Check it out after the break.

Generate Graph Paper — Complete with Jolly Wrencher

There’s a lot of talk about CAD software these days, and don’t get us wrong, they’re an essential tool of the trade. But for roughing out an idea, nothing tops paper and a pencil. Even the back of a cocktail napkin will do.

If you’re like us, at some point you may have had an engineering teacher force you to sketch your ideas out on paper, rather than in software. Or maybe you went to a university that required engineering students take a drawing/drafting class, where the first few weeks, you’re only allowed to use paper and pencil.

It may seem silly that in today’s age that one would choose to sketch an idea out by hand, but one simple drawing can communicate an idea quickly and easily – and that’s key. After all, the biggest part of engineering is communication.

If you’re a bit older you may remember a staple in every engineering office was the green graph paper – some people called it an “Engineer’s Notepad.” It’s basically perfect for jotting down an idea. Thick lined graph paper on the back of each page that lets the lines be visible on the front, without being distracting. It’s becoming harder and harder to find at your local office supply place, but if you search for “Ampad Engineering Pad” you’ll still find it. (There is also a “National” brand that this writer prefers.)

If you’re in a pinch, or don’t want to pay for a full pad, we found a wonderful alternative. This online graph paper generator will allow you to make your own graph paper, and even customize it to suit your needs. With things like multi-weight lines, and polar graphs and much more. The result is a PDF file you can download and keep for the future. Or if you’re a bit crafty, you can add your own logo in an vector-type editing  program such as Inkscape for free.

Still need some pointers on how to using this for project planning? [Steve] sets the standard for graph-paper project planning.

Shirt Printing With Freezer Paper

There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve wanted to add a graphic or design to a t-shirt some time in your life. There are certainly ways to do it but most of us don’t have silk screening equipment or a steady enough hand to have the end product look cool. Lucky for us, [UrbanThreads] has put together a stenciling tutorial for personalizing garments. The process is easy and inexpensive. The results are good, although it can be time-consuming if the pattern is intricate.

To get started, a black and white graphic is printed on a sheet of paper. The design is then taped to a sheet of the secret ingredient: freezer paper. The two sheets are then placed on a table with the freezer paper up. Since the freezer paper is semi transparent, the printed out design shows through. It’s now time to use an exacto knife and trace the design while cutting through the freezer paper. The two sheets are then removed from each other and the freezer paper is put wax-side-down on the garment and ironed into place. The wax melts and acts as a temporary adhesive to hold the stencil down. At this point, fabric paint can be sprayed or dabbed on with a brush (avoid brushing back and forth as it may lift the stencil). Once the paint is applied, the stencil is removed and the paint is allowed to dry. According to [UrbanThreads] the freezer paper doesn’t leave any wax or residue on the garment.

For more garment modding, check out t-shirt bleaching or get ambitious with this DIY screen printing setup.

Using The Sun To Beat The Heat

It’s practically May, and that means the sweltering heat of summer is nearly upon us. Soon you’ll be sitting outside somewhere, perhaps by a lake, or fishing from a canoe, or atop a blanket spread out on the grass at a music festival, all the while wishing you had built yourself a solar-powered personal air conditioner.

[Nords] created his from a large insulated beverage vessel. The imbibing spout offers a pre-made path to the depths of said vessel and the heart of this build, the ice water refrigerant. [Nords] fashioned a coil out of copper tubing to use as a heat exchanger and strapped it to the fan that performed best in a noise-benefit analysis.

A small USB-powered submersible pump moves the ice water up through the copper tubing. Both the pump and the fan run off of a 5V solar panel and are connected with a USB Y cable, eliminating the need for soldering. Even if you spend the summer inside, you could still find yourself uncomfortably warm. Provided you have access to ice, you could make this really cool desktop air conditioner.

[via Embedded Lab]