An Animated Elf

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Halloween receives the bulk of the attention for installation-type hacks, but [Stephen’s] animated elf hack-in-progress provides the perfect example of bringing the Christmas spirit to life.

[Stephen] constructed both the background and the elf’s body from a scrap piece of plywood, drawing and painting everything by hand, and then secured the plywood with a simple 2×4 that serves as a stand. The bulk of the hack is rather simple, and reflects the longstanding technique of traditional cel animation: the non-moving portions are kept stationary and only the moving parts need to change. In this case, [Stephen’s] shortcut is to insert a tablet as the elf’s face.

The tablet is a BlackBerry PlayBook, which moves the eyes around and spouts off a few Santa-related quips while animating the mouth. [Stephen] encountered a problem with the PlayBook’s 5-minute screen timeout function, and had to design a custom application to prevent the tablet from entering sleep mode while it played through the animations. His future plans are to drill a hole through the plywood and expose the tablet’s light sensor to detect when someone walks by, then have the elf spring to life in response. You can see his progress so far in the video below.

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Video Game Automation Hacks

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3rd party console game controllers sometimes sport a “rapid-fire” button to give gamers an unfair advantage. [Connor’s] project is along the same lines, but his hack had a different goal: automate the input of GTA5 cheat codes. [Connor] admits that this is his first Arduino hack, but aside from a small hiccup, he managed to pull it off. The build connects each button on a PS3 controller via some ribbon cable to its own digital out on an Arduino Uno . After plugging in some pretty straightforward code, [Connor] can simply press one button to automate a lengthy cheat code process.

[Matt’s] hack manages to save him even more user input in this second video game hack, which automates finger clicks in an Android game. [Matt] pieced together a couple of servos plugged into a PICAXE-18M2 microcontroller, which repeats one simple action in [Matt’s] Sims Freeplay game: continuously “freshening” (flushing?) a toilet. To mimic the same capacitive response of two fingers, [Matt] built the two contact surfaces out of some anti-static foam, then grounded them out with a wire to the ground on the board.

Check out a gallery of [Connor’s] controller and a video of [Matt’s] tablet hack after the break, then check out a rapid fire controller hack that attacks an XBox360 controller.

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Perfect wall-mounted tablet integration

There’s a building downtown built about ten years ago that has tablet-sized LCD screens next to the entrance of each large meeting room. They’re never on and we always wonder why they didn’t just use one of those things that holds a sheet of printer paper to label what’s happening in the meeting space? Now this is a similar idea but with much better execution. Instead of just displaying data the in-wall tablet mount makes your room interactive.

[Tim’s] been working on it for a couple of years. He started out trying to house an iPod Touch behind a junction box cover plate. There are some pictures of that at the top of his build album. That didn’t quite take so keep scrolling to see the path to the finished product shown above. He cut a hole in the drywall and figured out how to mount a tablet dock that includes inductive charging. It holds the tablet in place with the small ledge and a few magnets, keeping its battery charged without a need for wires. Once tested he mudded, sanded, textured, and painted for a perfect finished product.

Hobby electronics team up with augmented reality

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Here’s an interesting take on using augmented reality alongside hobby electronics. The project, which comes from a group of researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory, starts off by making simple electronic devices like a radio with two knobs using network connected hardware. In other words, build something using an Arduino and include a way to get it on a network. With the radio example on knob is for tuning, the other adjusts the volume. But pick up an iPad and aim its camera at the device — which is what the image above is showing — and those knobs will get a lot more functionality. This opens up a whole set of virtual controls that can be assigned to different segments of the knob controllers.

This is certainly a better use of augmented reality than using it in advertisements which is where it usually shows up. We also think that the proliferation of personal electronics that include high-quality camera modules makes wide adoption a lot more plausible than some of the projector-based augmented reality we’ve seen. Check out a full demo in the video after the break and if that leaves you hungry for details you can get your hands on the whitepaper (PDF).

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Turning the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 into a proper Linux box

Over on the xda developers forum, [exception13] shows us the work he’s put into geting Debian running on his Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, allowing him to dual boot Android and Linux on a single device.

The project is still in a fairly early state, but so far [exception13] has most of the goodies required for a decent Linux experience running already. There’s WiFi, bluetooth, sound, usb-otg and touchscreen support, as well as support for the Note’s S Pen, the Wacom digitizer that basically turns the Galaxy Note 10.1 into an Intuos touch pad.

There’s still a lot of work work to be done, including getting the camera up and running, as well as enabling the GPS receiver. Still, it’s a very cool project that puts the power of a proper desktop interface into a tablet with enough horsepower to get something useful done.

If you’d like to get this running on your Galaxy Note, [exception13] has a download avaiable over on Google Code. There’s also a video [exception13] put together demoing all the cool stuff his Note can do, you can check that out after the break.

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PwnPad, the pentesting tablet

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Over the last few months, we’ve seen our fair share of pentesting appliances. Whether they’re in the form of a Raspberry Pi with a custom distro, or an innocuous looking Internet-connected wall wart, they’re all great tools for investigating potential security vulnerabilites at home, in the workplace, or in someone else’s workplace. Pwnie Express, manufacturers of pentesting equipment, are now releasing one of the best looking and potentially most useful piece of pentesting equipment we’ve ever seen. It’s called the PwnPad, and it allows you to get your pentesting on while still looking stylish.

Based on Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, the PwnPad combines all the goodies of a really great tablet – the ability to read NFC tags and multiband radios – with open source tools and a USB OTG cable with USB Ethernet, Bluetooth, and WiFi adapters. Everything in the PwnPad is designed for maximum utility for pentesting applications.

Of course, for those of us that already have a $200 Nexus 7, Pwnie Express says they’ll be giving away the source for their software, enabling anyone with knowledge of make to have the same functionality of the PwnPad. Of course you’ll need to get yourself a USB OTG cable and the WiFi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet adapters, but that should only add up to about $100; combined with a $200 Nexus 7, building your own is more than just a bit cheaper than Pwnie Express’ asking pre-order price of $795.

Smashed tablet in NES case lives out its days as an emulator

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The creator of this project started off with a 7″ tablet he received from a coworker. The screen was horribly smashed from one corner spreading out through the entire surface. But the hardware inside still worked, including the HDMI out port. He ended up transplanting the tablet hardware for use as an emulator.

After a bit of sizing up it was determined that the tablet hardware would fit inside the case of a broken NES. The battery would have been a tough fit, but this thing is always going to need to be connected to a television so there’s no need to work without mains power. The back plate was cut down to size and used as a try for mounting the motherboard in the case. Before that step he wired up a USB hub and mounted it so that two ports could be accessed through the original controller port openings.

There’s no details on the software used, but the final image in the gallery shows a game of Starfox being played.

[Thanks Cody]