Tiny LED Earrings are a Miniaturization Tour de Force

Light up jewelry is nothing new – we see wearables all the time here. But home brew, self-contained, programmable LED earrings that are barely larger than the watch batteries which power them? That’s something worth looking into.

assembly5Settle back and watch [mitxela]’s miniature wizardry in the video below, but be forewarned: it runs 36 minutes. Most of the video is necessarily shot through a microscope where giant fingers come perilously close to soldering iron and razor blade.

The heart of the project is an ATtiny9, a six-legged flea of a chip. The flexible PCB is fabricated from Pyralux, which is essentially copper-clad Kapton tape. [Mitxela] etched the board after removing spray-paint resist with a laser engraver – an interesting process in its own right.

After some ridiculously tedious soldering, the whole circuit wraps around a CR927 battery and goes into a custom aluminum and polypropylene case, which required some delicate turning. Hung from off-the-shelf ear hooks, the 12 multiplexed LEDs flash fetchingly and are sure to attract attention, especially of those who know Morse.

This isn’t exactly [mitxela]’s first tiny rodeo, of course. We’ve featured his work many times, including a Morse code USB keyboardthe world’s smallest MIDI synthesizer, and the world’s smallest MIDI synthesizer again.

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Wearable Predicts Tone of Conversation from Speech, Vital Signs

If you’ve ever wondered how people are really feeling during a conversation, you’re not alone. By and large, we rely on a huge number of cues — body language, speech, eye contact, and a million others — to determine the feelings of others. It’s an inexact science to say the least. Now, researchers at MIT have developed a wearable system to analyze the tone of a conversation.

The system uses Samsung Simband wearables, which are capable of measuring several physiological markers — heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow, and skin temperature — as well as movement thanks to an on-board accelerometer. This data is fed into a neural network which was trained to classify a conversation as “happy” or “sad”. Training consisted of capturing 31 conversations of several minutes duration each, where participants were asked to tell a happy or sad story of their own choosing. This was done in an effort to record more organic emotional states than simply eliciting emotion through the use of more typical “happy” or “sad” video materials often used in similar studies.

The technology is in a very early stage of development, however the team hopes that down the road, the system will be sufficiently advanced to act as an emotional coach in real-life social situations. There is a certain strangeness about the idea of asking a computer to tell you how a person is feeling, but if humans are nothing more than a bag of wet chemicals, there might be merit in the idea yet. It’s a pretty big if.

Machine learning is becoming more powerful on a daily basis, particularly as we have ever greater amounts of computing power to throw behind it. Check out our primer on machine learning to get up to speed.

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Smart Eyeglasses That Auto Focus Where You Look

A University of Utah team have a working prototype of a new twist on fluid-filled lenses for correction of vision problems: automatic adjustment and refocus depending on what you’re looking at. Technically, the glasses have a distance sensor embedded into the front of the frame and continually adjust the focus of the lenses. An 8 gram, 110 mAh battery powers the prototype for roughly 6 hours.

Eyeglasses that can adapt on the fly to different focal needs is important because many people with degraded vision suffer from more than one condition at the same time, which makes addressing their vision problems more complex than a single corrective lens. For example, many people who are nearsighted or farsighted (where near objects and far objects far objects and near objects are seen out of focus, respectively) also suffer from a general loss of the eye’s ability to change focus, a condition that is age-related. As a result, people require multiple sets of eyeglasses for different conditions. Bifocal or trifocal or progressive lenses are really just multiple sets of lenses squashed into a smaller form factor, and greatly reduce the wearer’s field of view which is itself a significant vision impairment. A full field of view could be restored if eyeglass lenses were able to adapt to different needs based on object distance, and that is what this project achieves.

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Blow Up Your Face

[Yuji Hayashi] and some of his buddies in Tokyo did a fun project at the Tokyo Maker Faire last August that proved to be a big hit. They built a cardboard box which enlarged the wearers face when it was worn. It’s an amazing effect — high resolution and impossible to look at without plastering your face with a huge smile!

Low Poly paper face mask
Low poly paper face mask which prompted this new technique

This work was the result of their frustration with a previous project they did early last year. They would take multiple pictures of a person’s head and use software to stitch up the images. The resulting print on a large sheet of paper was then cut, folded and glued to create a low-poly 3D paper mask of the person. Their bottleneck was that the whole process took well over 2 hours for each mask. Even reducing the mask mesh complexity, and omitting the back of the head didn’t make it much faster. But the activity was so fun, that they had to figure out a way to repeat it but in a simpler and faster way.

Obviously, a different tack was needed. A team member was visiting a research institute and saw a Fresnel lens lying around. He took a picture of himself behind the lens and shared it with the team. They inquired with a lens manufacturer and obtained a sample. After some fiddling to get the right focal distance, it seemed like they had a winner. Attaching the lens to a cardboard box and fixing it to a volunteer head raised another problem. The inside of the box was too dark for the wearers face to be seen clearly. Nothing that some LED strips couldn’t solve. The initial LEDs were cool white and gave a ghostly, pale blue tinge to the wearers face. Warm white LEDs created a much better effect. Finally, it was time to trim the Fresnel lens (done easily using a sharp blade) and to wrap up the project. On the day the Maker Faire opened, they had a set of four of these “face magnifiers” available for visitors to have fun with. As the pictures show, the result was awesome, and way better than the original, paper mask idea. Not surprising, given that the Japanese love their Animé and Manga comics and are great fans of Cosplay.

If this project stirs up your creativity, then let us goad you towards Hackaday’s 2017 Sci-Fi Contest where you can submit an awesome Sci-Fi Project to win some cool prizes.

Self-Lacing LEGO Power Shoe

Here’s a blast from the past, or future, reminiscent of the self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future Part II. [Vimal Patel] made his own self-lacing shoe using LEGO “bolted” to the shoe’s sole. We think these are cooler than the movie version since we get to see the mechanism in action, urging it on as the motor gets loaded down pulling the laces for that last little bit of tightness.

The electronics are all LEGO’s Power Functions parts. A Dremel was used to make holes in the soles to hot glue LEGO pieces for four attachment points. The attachment points are permanent but the rest can be easily removed. In case you want to look them up or make your own, he’s using the using the 8878 rechargeable LiPo battery box, the 88003 L-motor, the 8884 IR receiver, and the 8885 IR remote control. That’s right, these shoes are laced up under command of an IR remote control, well, provided the battery box is powered on. There’s a 1:24 worm gear reduction to get the needed torque.

This was a quick build for [Patel], done over two afternoons. He initially tried with the winding axle behind the heel but that didn’t work well so he moved the axle adjacent to the laces instead, which works great as you can see in the video after the break.

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Bluetooth Automation Remote Hangs Around

Using your smartphone to control your home automation system gives you a lot of flexibility. But for something as simple as turning the lights on and off, it can be a pain to go through the whole process of unlocking your phone, choosing the right browser page or app, and then finally hitting the button you need. It’d be much simpler if it could all be done at the touch of a single, physical button – but phones don’t have many of those anymore. [falldeaf] brings the solution – a four-button Bluetooth remote for your smartphone that’s wearable, to boot.

The project is built around the RFDuino, an Arduino platform used for quickly and easily building Bluetooth compatible projects. So far, so simple – four buttons wired into a microcontroller with wireless capability onboard. The real trick is the 3D-printed clothespin style case which allows you to clip the four-button remote onto your clothes. [falldeaf]’s first attempt was a palm-mounted setup that they found got in the way of regular tasks; we agree that the wearable version offers a serious upgrade in utility.

The smartphone side of things is handled with a custom app [falldeaf] coded using PhoneGap. This is where actions for the buttons can be customized, including using the buttons to navigate a menu system to enable the user to select more than just one function per button. It adds a high level of flexibility, so you can create all kinds of macros to control your whole home automation system from your button clip.

It’s really great to see a project that considers ergonomics and usability above and beyond just creating the baseline functionality. Follow this train of thought and you’ll find yourself enjoying your projects in the use phase well beyond the initial build. Another great example is this self-charging electrically heated jacket. Video after the break.

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Scissor Lift Shoes May Be OSHA Compliant

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of all invention. This was probably the fundamental principle behind the show “Inspector Gadget”, a story about a police agent who has literally any technology at his grasp whenever he needs it. Although the Inspector’s gadgets get him into trouble more often than not (his niece Penny usually solves the actual crimes), the Inspector-inspired shoes that [Make it Extreme] built are a little bit more useful than whatever the Inspector happens to have up his sleeve (or pant leg, as the case may be).

If a fabrication tour de force, [Make it Extreme] built their own “Go Go Gadget Legs”, a set of pneumatically controlled stilts that allow the wearer to increase their height significantly at the push of a button. We often see drywall contractors wearing stilts of a similar height, but haven’t seen any that are able to raise and lower the wearer at will. The team built the legs from scratch, machining almost every component (including the air pistons) from stock metal. After some controls were added and some testing was done, the team found that raising one foot at a time was the safer route, although both can be raised for a more impressive-looking demonstration that is likely to throw the wearer off balance.

The quality of this build and the polish of the final product are incredibly high. If you have your own machine shop at home this sort of project might be within your reach (pun intended). If all you have on hand is a welder, though, you might be able to put together one of [Make it Extreme]’s other famous builds: a beer gun.

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