Tracking Footballs with Magnetic Fields

smartfootball

Official NFL footballs are crafted by hand by a company in Chicago called Wilson Sporting Goods. The footballs that are made there typically range from 11 to 11.5 inches in length and weigh anywhere between 14 and 15 ounces on average. Originally, animal bladders lined the outside, occasionally from the inside of a pig, giving the traditional American football the long-standing nickname of a “pigskin.” Now a days, they consist of cowhide leather or vulcanized rubber with laces that are stitched to the top adding mass. This causes the oblong spheres to be naturally lopsided. This is fixed by inserting extra weight to the opposite side of the football balancing it out. Knowing this, a clever hacker will realize that the balancing spot is a perfect place to subtly add a motion tracking transmitter like this one. Doing so makes it possible to the track not only the position of the ball on the field, but its precise location in 3D space!

Since each football is unique, variations between one ball to another exist. This means that embedding a circuit into a football only modifies the equipment slightly, which is a good thing because sports fanatics tend to be very opinionated about whether or not technology should influence the game. So long as the transmitter and loop antenna added to the air bladder doesn’t pass that threshold of about an ounce (or so) difference in weight, then the football itself really isn’t affected much.

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Ping Pong For The IT Office

ping pong capacitive sensor pic

The office environment over at [Adam]‘s place of employment has recently become one of the many IT-related offices with a ping pong table, a cliché that he readily points out. However, [Adam] and the other folks at the office decided to step up their game a little bit by making this automated ping pong table.

The table first keeps track of the players with specialized RFID tags that are placed in the handle of the paddles. The paddles are unique to each player, and when they are swiped past a reader on the table the scoring system registers the players at the table.

Small capacitive touch sensors on the underside of the table allow the players to increment their score when a point is made. The scoreboard is a simple but a very well-polished interface that has audio cues for each point. The system is also able to keep track of the winners and the overall records are tracked, allowing for office-wide rankings.

This is the best table-related game hack since the internet-connected foosball table, and should be welcome in any office for some extra break room fun at work! All of the code is available on the project site.

Foosball Now Part of the Internet of Things

internet of things foosball

At a local LAN event, [Thomas] wanted a way to easily show off the capabilities from some of the Internet-of-Things devices everyone keeps talking about. His idea was to build an internet-connected foosball/table soccer/table football table to show off some hardware and software.

[Thomas]‘s table automates almost everything that is part of the great sport of foosball. Once a user logs in using the barcode scanner, the game begins by deploying the tiny ball with parts salvaged from a Roomba. The table uses infrared sensors to detect the ball. Once a goal is scored, it is posted online where anyone can see the current score and a history of all of the games played on the table.

There are a few other unique touches on the foosball table, such as the LED lighting, touch screen displays, and an STM32-E407 ARM processor to tie the whole machine together.

For more information including the source code and demonstrations, check out [Thomas]‘s project blog. And, if you get lonely, perhaps you can try the robot foosball player!

The Counter-Strike Airsoft Robot

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[Jon] and his brother converted an RC car into a robot that can fire airsoft pellets into the air. The little motorized vehicle was disassembled and a handheld was attached to the top. A pulling mechanism was put in place and a safety procedure was added to make sure no accidents occurred.

The chassis stand was created to hold the handle. The setup was then tested at this point, and a Raspberry Pi server was configured to have a camera that would act as the eyes for the robot. Once everything was in place, the wheels hit the ground and the vehicle was able to move around, positioning itself to aim the servos at a designated target. Footage was transmitted via the web showing what the robot was looking at.

A video of the remote-controlled counter-strike robot can be seen after the break. You could consider this your toy army. That makes this one your toy air force.

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Hot Wheels Toy Turned Radar Gun

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[Ken] was strolling through a department store one day looking for a gift for his daughter when he stumbled across a Mattel’s Hot Wheels Radar Gun for $30. He purchased it, took it home, and tested it out. Surprisingly, the device had the ability to not only scan toy cars, but also regular size vehicles, spinning bicycle wheels, and joggers as well. As his mind began to churn coming up with new ideas, he purchased another toy and repackaged it creating a more professional grade DIY radar speed detector.

The process was pretty simple. First, he disassembled the device getting to the Doppler radar system inside, which was similar to the professional radar guns that police officers used. This toy was able to transmit a continuous wave at 10.525GHz, measuring the returning frequency of returning waves that bounced off of moving objects. However, the detection range of this toy was severely limited. [Ken] then upgraded the antenna housing unit with a 3″ diameter acrylic document tube, making the quality look a lot better. After that, the system was attached to a tripod allowing for the device to be easily transported and setup near a busy traffic road, quietly watching the speed of cars driving by.

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Robotic Scalextrics

scalectrics

At the Volkswagen factory there are two towers – AutoTürme – filled with gigantic robots lifting cars into parking spaces. It’s by far the most efficient way of putting a huge number of cars in a small footprint. Slot cars exist, so how about a completely overwrought yet entirely awesome robotic parking garage for 1:32 scale cars? (.es, Google translatrix)

The project is built around several ‘racks’ to hold cars arranged around a central elevator. An Arduino takes care of moving all the motors and reading all the sensors, with the basic idea behind the project being the ability to select a car and have it appear in the pit of the track a few moments later.

Although this is just one small part of what is already a very impressive slot car track, it is however the most electronic. Other unique additions include a very unique cantilever/suspension bridge and the usual modeling techniques of creating a landscape with little more than cardboard and glue.

The best way to get a sense of how cool the parking garage is through the video. You can check that out below.

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LEGO and Arduino meet Han Solo

lego blaster gif

This full-size replica blaster from Star Wars, most iconically used by Han Solo and Princess Leia, has everything. Flashing LEDs, blaster noises, LEGO, and yes, even an Arduino. Not bad for [Baron von Brunk]‘s first project to use an Arduino!

The blaster was based on electronics and LEGO that were lying around and was intended for use for Star Wars Day 2014. (May the Fourth be with you.) “Lying around” in this sense might be a bit of an understatement for [Baron von Brunk], as the design of the blaster required the use of the LEGO Digital Designer and 400 blocks, some of which are quite rare.

The electronics for the project are tied to a moving trigger mechanism (also made from LEGO). The trigger mechanism hits a momentary pushbutton which tells the Arduino to activate the LEDs and a separate 555 timer and sound recording/playback device which handles the classic blaster sounds. The whole thing is powered by a 9V battery and housed in the front of the blaster, and all of the code (and the LEGO schematics) are available on the project’s site.

This is quite an impressive replica, and the craftsmanship that went into the build shows, especially in the LEGO parts. We think Han Solo would indeed be proud! If you’re ready to go even further with Star Wars and LEGO, you might want to check out this barrel organ that plays the Star Wars theme.

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