Stepping out in Style with Top Hat Navigation

Wearable tech is getting to be a big thing. But how we interface with this gear is still a bit of a work in progress. To explore this space, [Bruce Land]’s microcontroller course students came up with an acoustic interface to assist with navigation while walking. With style, of course.

[Bruce], from the Cornell University School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been burning up the Hackaday tips line with his students’ final projects. Here’s the overview page for the Sound Navigation Hat. It uses a PIC32 with GPS and compass. A lot of time was spent figuring out how to properly retrieve and parse the GPS data, but for us the interesting bits on that page are how the directional sound was put together.

Audio tones are fed to earbuds with phase shift and amplitude to make it seem like the sound is coming from the direction you’re supposed to walk. Navigation is all based on pre-programmed routes which are selected using a small LCD screen and buttons. One thing’s for sure, the choice of headwear for the project is beyond reproach from a fashion standpoint – engineering has a long history with the top hat, and we think it’s high time it made a comeback.

Is this a practical solution to land navigation? Of course not. But it could be implemented in smartphone audio players for ambient turn-by-turn navigation. And as a student project, it’s a fun way to demonstrate a novel interface. We recently covered a haptic navigation interface for the visually impaired that uses a similar principle. It’ll be interesting to see if either of these interfaces goes anywhere.

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OSWatch, an open source watch

If you are a soldering ninja with a flair for working with tiny parts and modules, check out the Open Source Watch a.k.a. OSWatch built by [Jonathan Cook]. His goals when starting out the project were to make it Arduino compatible, have enough memory for future applications, last a full day on one charge, use BLE as Central or Peripheral and be small in size. With some ingenuity, 3d printing and hacker skills, he was able to accomplish all of that.

OSWatch is still a work in progress and with detailed build instructions available, it is open for others to dig in and create their own versions with modifications – you just need to bring in a lot of patience to the build. The watch is built around a Microdunio Core+ board, an OLED screen, BLE112A module, Vibration motor, a couple of LEDs and Buttons, and a bunch of other parts. Take a look at the schematics here. The watch requires a 3V3, 8MHz version of the Microdunio Core+ (to ensure lower power consumption), and if that isn’t readily available, [Jonathan]  shows how to modify a 5V, 16MHz version.

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The Three Week Three Dollar Binary Watch

There’s a Maker Faire in three weeks, and your group wants to design and build a binary watch to give to attendees. You don’t have much time, and your budget is $3 per watch. What do you do? If you are [Parker@Macrofab] you come up with a plan, buy some parts, and start prototyping.

[Parker] selected the PIC16F527 because it had enough I/O and was inexpensive. A cheap crystal and some miscellaneous discrete parts rounded out the bill of materials. Some cheap ESD straps would serve for a band. He did the prototype with a PICDEM board and immediately ran into the bane of PIC programmers: the analog comparators were overriding the digital I/O pins. With that hurdle clear, [Parker] got the rest of the design prototyped and laid a board out in Eagle.

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The Best Badges Of The SuperCon

A few weeks ago, we took a look at the best badge hacks at the Hackaday Supercon. These were the best badge hacks anyone has ever seen – including what comes out of DEF CON and the SDR badge from the latest CCC. I’m ascribing this entirely to the free-form nature of the badge; give people a blank canvas and you’re sure to get a diverse field of builds. Now it’s time to take a look at the cream of the crop, hear what the jolly wrencher sounds like, and how to put 1000 Volts in a badge.

There were three categories for the badge hacking competition at the SuperCon – best deadbug, best blinky, and most over the top. A surprising number of people managed to solder, glue, and tape some components to a the piece of FR4 we used as a conference badge, but in the end, only three would win.

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REM Detection Lets You Boss Around Your Dreams

[Michael] has been working on projects involving lucid dreaming for a long time. The recurring problem with most projects of this nature, though, is that they often rely on some sort of headgear or other wearable which can be cumbersome to actually sleep with. He seems to have made some headway on that problem by replacing some of the offending equipment with a small camera that can detect eye movements just as well as other methods.

The idea behind projects like this is that a piece of hardware detects when the user is in REM sleep, and activates some cue which alerts the sleeper to the fact that they’re dreaming (without waking them up). Then, the sleeper can take control of the dream. The new device uses a small camera that dangles in front of an eye, which is close enough to monitor the eye’s movement. It measures the amount of change between each frame, logs the movements throughout the night and plays audio tracks or triggers other hardware when eye movements are detected.

[Michael]’s goal is to eventually communicate from inside of a dream, and has gone a long way to achieving that goal. Now that this device is more comfortable and more reliable, the dream is closer to reality. [Michael] is looking for volunteers to provide sleep logs and run tests, so if you’re interested then check out the project!

Conductive Circuit Board Tattoos: Tech Tats

While hardcore body-hackers are starting to freak us out with embedded circuit boards under their skin, a new more realistic option is becoming available — temporary tech tattoos. They’re basically wearable circuit boards.

Produced by [Chaotic Moon], the team is excited to explore the future of skin-mounted components — connected with conductive ink in the form of a temporary tattoo. And if you’re still thinking why, consider this. If these tattoos can be used as temporary health sensors, packed with different biometric readings, the “tech tat” can be applied when it is needed, in order to monitor specific things.

In one of their test cases, they mount an ATiny85 connected to temperature sensors and an ambient light sensor on the skin. A simple device like this could be used to monitor someone’s vitals after surgery, or could even be used as a fitness tracker. Add a BLE chip, and you’ve got wireless data transfer to your phone or tablet for further data processing.

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Being Hit in the Virtual World

Virtual reality could be the next big thing in the gaming world. And while VR displays and headsets are getting more and more sophisticated, many are forgetting perhaps the biggest feature VR will need to succeed — haptic feedback. [Pedro Lopes], [Alexandra Ion] and [Prof. Patric Baudisch] from the Hasso Plattner Institute is hoping to change that, with a project called Impacto: Simulating Physical Impact by Combining Tactile with Electrical Muscle Stimulation.

We’ve covered lots of haptic feedback devices over the past few years — some use mini gyros to simulate resistance, others blow air on you, but this is the first time we’ve seen one that combines muscle stimulation to really cause a physical effect.

They’re using an Oculus rift, and a Microsoft Kinect to perform the research. For their demonstration they use a basic boxing game that allows the user to feel the computer’s punches — but don’t worry, it doesn’t hit that hard!

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