EL Wire Gets Some Touching After Effects

If you thought glowy wearables have had their time, guess again! After a few years designing on the side, [Josh] and [his dad] have created a nifty feature for EL wire: they’ve made it touch sensitive. But, of course, rather than simply show it off to the world, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to put touch-sensitive El Wire in the hands of any fashion-inspired electronics enthusiast.

El Wire (and tape) are composed of two conducting wires separated by a phosphor layer. (Starting to sound like a capacitor?) While the details are, alas, closed for now, the interface is Arduino compatible, making it wide open to a general audience of enthusiasts without needing years of muscled programming experience. The unit itself, dubbed the Whoaboard, contains the EL Wire drivers for four channels at about 10ft of wire length.

El Wire has always been a crowd favorite around these parts (especially in Russia). We love that [Josh’s] Whoaboard takes a conventional material that might already be lying around your shelves and transforms it into a fresh new interface. With touch-sensitivity, we can’t wait to see the community start rolling out everything from costumes to glowy alien cockpits.

Have a look at [Josh’s] creation after the break!

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Modular, Low Cost Braille Display

A lot of work with binary arithmetic was pioneered in the mid-1800s. Boolean algebra was developed by George Boole, but a less obvious binary invention was created at this time: the Braille writing system. Using a system of raised dots (essentially 1s and 0s), visually impaired people have been able to read using their sense of touch. In the modern age of fast information, however, it’s a little more difficult. A number of people have been working on refreshable Braille displays, including [Madaeon] who has created a modular refreshable Braille display.

The idea is to recreate the Braille cell with a set of tiny solenoids. The cell is a set of dots, each of which can be raised or lowered in a particular arrangement to represent a letter or other symbol. With a set of solenoids, this can be accomplished rather rapidly. [Madaeon] has already prototyped these miniscule controllable dots using the latest 3D printing and laser cutting methods and is about ready to put together his first full Braille character.

While this isn’t quite ready for a full-scale display yet, the fundamentals look like a solid foundation for building one. This is all hot on the heels of perhaps the most civilized patent disagreement in history regarding a Braille display that’s similar. Hopefully all the discussion and hacking of Braille displays will bring the cost down enough that anyone who needs one will easily be able to obtain and use one.

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Biometric Bracelet Electrifies You to Unlock Your Tablet

Researchers [Christian Holz] and [Marius Knaust] have come up with a cool new way to authenticate you to virtually any touchscreen device. This clever idea couples a biometric sensor and low-data-rate transmitter in a wearable wrist strap that talks to the touch screen by electrifying you.

Specifically the strap has electrodes that couple a 50V, 150kHz signal through your finger, to the touchscreen. The touchscreen picks up both your finger’s location through normal capacitive-sensing methods and the background signal that’s transmitted by the “watch”. This background signal is modulated on and off, transmitting your biometric data.

The biometric data itself is the impedance through your wrist from one electrode to another. With multiple electrodes encircling your wrist, they end up with something like a CAT scan of your wrist’s resistance. Apparently this is unique enough to be used as a biometric identifier. (We’re surprised.)

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Is That Google In Your Pants?

Google’s Project Jacquard is tackling the age old gap between controlling your electronic device and touching yourself. They are doing this by weaving conductive thread into clothing in the form of a touch pad. In partnership with Levi Strauss & Co., Google has been designing and producing touch interfaces that are meant to be used by developers however they see fit.

touch-sensitive-jeans-thumbThe approach that Project Jacquard has taken from a hardware standpoint is on point. Rather than having an end user product in mind and design completely towards that goal, the project is focused on the interface as its product. This has the added benefit of endless varieties of textile interface possibilities. As stated in the video embedded after the break, the conductive touch interface can be designed as a visibly noticeable difference in material or seamlessly woven into a garment.

As awesome as this new interface may seem there are some things to consider:

  • Can an unintentional brush with another person “sleeve dial” your boss or mother-in-law?
  • What are the implications of Google putting sensors in your jeans?
  • At what point is haptic feedback inappropriate? and do we have to pay extra for that?

We’ve covered e-textiles before from a conductive thread and thru hole components approach to electro-mechanical implementations.

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inFORM: MIT’s Morphing Table

Have you ever wished your dinner table could pass the salt? Advancements at MIT may soon make this a reality — although it might spill the salt everywhere. Enter the inFORM: Dynamic Physical Affordances and Constraints through Shape and Object Actuation.

While the MIT paper doesn’t go into much detail of the hardware itself, there are a few juicy tidbits that explain how it works. There are 900 individually actuated white polystyrene pins that make up the surface, in an array of 30 x 30 pixels. An overhead projector provides visual guidance of the system. Each pin can actuate 100mm, exerting a force of up to 1.08 Newtons each. To achieve the actuation, push-pull rods are utilized to maximize the dense pin arrangement as seen, making the display independent of the size of the actuators. The actuation is achieved by motorized slide potentiometers grouped in sets of 6 using custom PCBs that are driven by ATMega2560s — this allows for an excellent method of PID feedback right off the actuators themselves. There is an excellent image of the entire system on page 8 of the paper that shows both the scale and complexity of the build. Sadly it does not look like something that could be easily built at home, but hey, we’d love for someone to prove us wrong!

Stick around after the break to see this fascinating piece of technology in action. The video has been posted by a random Russian YouTube account, and we couldn’t find the original source for it — so if you can, let us know in the comments!

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50″ multitouch table is expensive, indestructable

50inchMultiTouch

Wander through a well-funded museum these days and you’re likely to find interactive exhibits scattered around, such as this sleek 50″ projection-based multitouch table. The company responsible for this beauty, Ideum, has discontinued the MT-50 model in favor of an LCD version, and has released the plans for the old model as part of the Open Exhibits initiative. This is a good thing for… well, everyone!

The frame consists of aluminum struts that crisscross through an all-steel body, which sits on casters for mobility. The computer specs seem comparable to a modern gaming rig, and rely on IEEE1394 inputs for the cameras. The costs start to pile up with the multiple row of high-intensity infrared LED strips, which can run $200 per roll. The glass is a custom made, 10mm thick sheet with projection film on one side and is micro-etched to reduce reflections and increase the viewing angle to nearly 180 degrees. The projector is an InFocus IN-1503, which has an impressively short projection throw ratio, and a final resolution of 1280×720.

The estimated price tag mentioned in the comments is pretty steep: $12k-16k. Let us know with your own comment what alternative parts might cut the cost, and watch the video overview of the table below, plus a video demonstration of its durability. For another DIY museum build, check out Bill Porter’s “Reaction Time Challenge.

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AquaTop: a gaming touch display that looks like demon possessed water

AquaTop_touch_displayAre you ready to make a utility sink sized pool of water the location of your next living room game console? This demonstration is appealing, but maybe not ready for widespread adoption. AquaTop is an interactive display that combines water, a projector, and a depth camera.

The water has bath salts added to it which turn it a milky white. This does double duty, making it a reasonably reflective surface for the projector, and hiding your hands when below the surface. The video below shows several different games being played. But the most compelling demonstration involves individual finger tracking when your digits break the surface of the water (show on the right above).

There is also a novel feedback system. The researchers hacked some speakers so they could be submerged in the tank, adding a large speaker with LEDs on it in the same manner. When fed a 50 Hz signal they make the surface of the pool dance.

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