Poking Around Textiles With Your Multimeter

Looking for a fun wearable electronics project? While you can buy specific fabric and conductive thread for your projects, sometimes you can even find conductive fabric where you might not expect it!

In this latest video by Adafruit, [Becky Stern] goes undercover at a fabrics store with her trusty multimeter to find some new material that can be used for electronics projects! While pickings are slim, she made some useful discoveries — most metallic fabrics aren’t conductive, but some are — You’ll definitely need to take your multimeter with you.

Another funny quirk is that some fabrics are only conductive in one direction! Which could make for a really cool project that seemingly defies conventional wiring — or you can sew a conductive thread perpendicular to the continuity to connect it all together.

Continue reading “Poking Around Textiles With Your Multimeter”

Who Wants Night Vision Eye Drops?

A team of adventurous biohackers have successfully played with an interesting type of chlorophyll, called Chlorin e6 by putting it in their eyes… and the result? Well, they kind of obtained night vision.

Say what? Chlorin e6 is a chlorophyll analog that is found in deep-sea fish, and has been used to treat night blindness in humans (patent). There’s actually lots of research done with the substance, and it has even been used to treat different cancers — but most of the research was performed on lab rats.

So the team decided to take the next step — [Gabriel Licina] volunteered, and they squirted 50uL of e6 into his wide-stretched eyes. It kicks in after about an hour, so they headed outside at night to test his vision capabilities. They started by identifying basic shapes at 10 meters away, no larger than the size of his hand. Then they tried even larger distances. They had people stand at a tree line in different places, and [Gabriel] standing 50 meters away was able to point them out. The control group could barely identify them even a third of the time.

They’ve published a research paper on their findings, and it’s quite the interesting read. Perhaps in the future this can be manufactured in eye drop form for special use cases like hunting, military, or even search and rescue.

[via reddit]

Control Stuff With Your Muscles

[David Nghiem] has been working with circuitry designed to read signals from muscles for many years. After some bad luck with a start-up company, he didn’t give up and kept researching his idea. He has decided to share his innovations with the hacker community in the form of a wearable suit that reads muscle signals.

It turns out that when you flex a muscle, it gives off a signal called a Surface ElectroMyographic signal, or SEMG for short. [David] is using an Arduino, digital potentiometer and a bunch of op amps to read the SEMG signals. LEDs are used to display the signal levels.

The history behind [David’s] project dates back to the late twentieth century, which he eloquently points out – “Holy crap that was a long time ago”. He worked with the MIT Aero Astro Lab and the Boston University Neuromuscular Research Center where he worked on a robotic arm for astronauts. The idea being to apply an opposing force to the arm to help prevent muscle deterioration.

Be sure to check out [David’s] extensive and well documented work, along with the several videos showing his projects at various stages of completion. If this gives you the electromyography bug, check out this guide on detecting the signals and an application of the concept for robotic prosthesis.

Continue reading “Control Stuff With Your Muscles”

Enigma Machine Wristwatch

We don’t find smartwatches to be supremely usable yet. This one sets a definition for usefulness. The Enigma machine is of course the cipher process used by the Germans during World War II. This Enigma Machine wristwatch is not only functional, but the appearance is modelled after that of the original machine. With the speckled gray/black case and the Enigma badge branding [Asciimation] has done a fine job of mimicking the original feel.

Driving the machine is an Arduino Pro Mini. We’ve seen Arduino Enigma Machines in the past so it’s not surprising to see it again here. The user interface consists of an OLED display at 128×64 resolution, three buttons, with a charging port to the right and on/off switch on the left.

The device is demonstrated after the break. Quite a bit of button presses are used to set up each of the three encoder wheels. But that’s hardly avoidable when you’re not committing to a full keyboard. We’re pretty impressed by the functionality of [Asciimation’s] interface considering it’s hardware simplicity.

This seems perfect for kids that are proving to have an interest in engineering. They learn about ciphers, embedded programming, and mechanical design and crafting (this is a hand-sewn leather wristband). Of course if you build one and start wearing it into the office we won’t judge.

Continue reading “Enigma Machine Wristwatch”

SXSW Create: Sparkfun Gives Kids Awesome Badges to Hack

By far the most desirable booth for the crowds at SXSW Create was the Sparkfun quadrant. We call it a quadrant because they had a huge footprint approaching 1/4 the tented area, but it was well used. They brought a number of staff down to Austin in order to give away a legit electronic badge project they call BadgerHack.

sxsw-sparkfun-badgerhack-kit-thumbWe love badge hacking. LOVE IT! But South-by isn’t purely a hardware conference so the badges aren’t made of PCBs (for shame). Add to that, free entry to Create scores you a wristband but no badge.

This is the answer to that, a badge giveaway and build-off aimed at kids but cool enough to make me feel only slightly awful for accepting one when I pretty much knew they were going to run out before the final day was done.

The USB stick PCB is, as you guessed it, an Arduino compatible loaded up with an FTDI chip and an ATmega328p which they call the BadgerStick. Accompanying this is a multiplexed 8×7 LED matrix board. Solder the three pin headers and the battery holder leads, connect to the plastic badge using the supplied double-stick tape, and you have a badge that scrolls a message in LEDs.

DSC_0508What an awesome giveaway. I really like it that they didn’t cut corners here. First off, the kids will value the badge much more because they had to actually assemble it rather than just being handed a finished widget. Secondly, there is the USB to serial chip and USB footprint that means they can reprogram it without any extra equipment. And an LED matrix… come on that’s just a gateway drug to learning Wiring. Bravo Sparkfun and Atmel for going this route with your marketing bucks.

The badge activity rounded out with some hardware interfacing. There’s a 3-pin socket that attendees could plug into 4 different stations around the booth. Once done they received a coupon code for Sparkfun that scrolls whenever the badge is booted up. For some at-home fun, the writeup (linked at the top) for the BadgerHack firmware is quite good. It offers advice on changing what is displayed on the badge and outlines how to build a game of Breakout with just a bit of added hardware.