Building a More Nyan Planet

Video

In an effort to give salespeople something impressive to hand out, IBM recently had a bunch of very cool promotional materials printed up. It’s basically a greeting card-sized cardboard folder with a bit of text, an LCD screen, buttons, battery and display controller. This video in print device is meant to display how IBM is building a smarter planet, but [Cookie] and [Stitch] over at the Hack42 hackerspace in The Netherlands decided Nyan Cat would be a much better use of this free, portable video player. (Google translationUPDATE: Site has gone down. Here’s the Google Cache but you’ll need a browser like Chrome that can do the translation for you (we can’t figure out how to link a translation of cache).

This video card uses tech licensed from Americhip, a company that has been putting video in magazines for a few years now. By connecting the USB charging port up to his computer, the guys were able to switch the device over to USB mode where the actual video files could be read and rewritten.

By encoding a few videos to match the format of what was on the card – including some old IBM promotional material by [Jim Henson] – the team were able to get videos playing on a hackable flyer. Very cool, and if you can get your hands on some sales brochures, a free source of tiny displays.

The Tiniest Video Game

stamp

As we read [Adam]‘s writeup for an extremely tiny video game system through coke bottle glasses, we’re reminded of the countless times we were told that sitting, ‘too close to the Nintendo’ would ruin our eyes. We’ll happily dismiss any article from a medical journal that says there was any truth to that statement, but [Adam]‘s tiny video game system will most certainly hurt your eyes.

A few years ago, Atari sold keychain-sized joysticks that contained classics such as PongBreakout, Centipede, and Asteroids. [Adam] apparently ran into a cache of these cool classic baubles and immediately thought of turning them into a stand-alone video game system.

For the display, [Adam] used a CRT module from an old Sony Handicam. These modules had the right connections – power, ground, and composite video input – to connect directly to the Atari keychain games. The result is a video game that’s even smaller than a postage stamp. The picture above shows the tiny CRT next to a 25mm postage stamp; it’s small by any measure.

Retrotechtacular: World’s First Color Movie

world's-first-color-movie

It’s surprising how often a brilliant idea is missed out on until years after the fact. In this case the concept was seen publicly within ten years, but the brilliance of the inventor has been appreciated once again after 110 years. It’s a color movie which was filmed around 1901 or 1902 but it sounds like the reel wasn’t shown in its full color grandeur until 2012 when the National Media Museum in the UK started looking into the history of one particular film.

The story is well told by the curators in this video which is also embedded after the break. The reel has been in their collection for years. It’s black and white film that’s labeled as color. It just needed a clever and curious team to put three frames together with the help of color filters. It seems that [Edward Turner] patented a process in 1899 which used red, green, and blue filters to capture consecutive frames of film. The patent description helped researchers put image those frames — also using filters — to produce full color images like the one seen above.

The press release on the project shares a bit more information, like how they determined the age of the film using genealogical research and the fact that [Turner] himself died in 1904. The process didn’t die with him, but actual evolved and was exhibited publicly in 1909. This, however, is the oldest known color movie ever found.

[Read more...]

Step into the Box

thebox

Take three industrial robots, two 4’ x 8’ canvases, and several powerful video projectors. Depending on who is doing the robot programming you may end up with a lot of broken glass and splinters, or you may end up with The Box.  The latest video released by the creators project, The Box features industrial robots and projection mapping. We recently featured Disarm from the same channel.

The Box is one of those cases of taking multiple existing technologies and putting them together with breathtaking results. We can’t help but think of the possibilities of systems such as CastAR while watching the video. The robots move two large canvases while projectors display a series of 3D images on them. A third robot moves the camera.

In the behind the scenes video, the creators revealed that the robots are programmed using a Maya plugin. The plugin allowed them to synchronize the robot’s movements along with the animation. The entire video is a complex choreographed dance – even the position of the actor was pre-programmed into Maya.

[Read more...]

castAR comes to Maker Faire NY 2013

castAR-2

If there was one sentence heard over and over at Maker Faire NY, it was “Did you see castAR yet?” The Technical Illusions team was at Maker Faire in full force. [Jeri Ellsworth], [Rick Johnson,] and team brought two demos:  the tried and true Jenga simulator, and a newer overhead shooter based on the Unity 3D engine. We didn’t see any earth shattering changes from the previous demos of castAR, as [Jeri] has moved into optimization of the Hardware, and [Rick] toward even more immersive demos of the software. Optimization and preparing for market are considered the “hard yards” of any product design. This is the place where a huge amount of work goes in, but the changes are subtle to the layperson.

In addition to her development of castAR’s ASIC, [Jeri] has been hard at work on the optics. The “old” glasses used a solid plastic optical path. The newer glasses use a hollow path for the twin 720p projectors. This makes them even lighter than the previous generation. Weight on the castAR glasses can’t be overstated. They feel incredibly light. There was no perceptible pressure on the nose or ears when wearing them. Also missing was the motion sickness people often experience with VR. This is because castAR doesn’t replace the user’s vision field, it only augments the vision. Peripheral motion cues are still there, which makes for a much more comfortable experience. [Read more...]

Giant video walls powered by a Raspberry Pi

piwall

There’s no denying that giant video walls are awesome, but creating one usually means a fairly complex setup with either multiple computers or very expensive video cards. Now, with Pi Wall, you can make a video wall as large as your wallet will allow with only one Raspi per monitor, and a single master pi to control the whole shebang.

As long as you have a few displays with an HDMI input, it’s easy to turn them into a giant monitor. Just plug one Pi per monitor into a network switch, have a Pi (or other Linux box) transmit a video to all the video tiles, and sit back and enjoy the show.

Right now there is an installation guide for creating a Pi Wall, but there are a few limitations; this software only works with the video player provided with the Raspberry Pi, omxplayer. If you’re looking to create an enormous display for a flight simulator or what have you, you might need to do a bit of tinkering under the hood.

TightLight: A 3D projection mapping assistant

tightLight

Anyone can grab a projector, plug it in, and fire a movie at the wall. If, however, you want to add some depth to your work–both metaphorical and physical–you’d better start projection mapping. Intricate surfaces like these slabs of styrofoam are excellent candidates for a stunning display, but not without introducing additional complexity to your setup. [Grady] hopes to alleviate some tedium with the TightLight (Warning: “music”).

The video shows the entire mapping process of which the Arduino plays a specific role toward the end. Before tackling any projector calibration, [Grady] needs an accurate 3D model of the projection surface, and boy does it look complicated. Good thing he has a NextEngine 3D laser scanner, which you’ll see lighting the surface red as it cruises along.

Enter the TightLight: essentially 20 CdS photocells hooked up to a Duemilanove, each of which is placed at a previously-marked point on the 3D surface. A quick calibration scan scrolls light from the projector across the X then Y axis, hitting each sensor to determine its exact position. [Grady] then merges the photocell location data with the earlier 3D model using the TouchDesigner platform, and bam: everything lines up and plays nice.