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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Animatronic Cosplay Wings

In recent years, Cosplay as a hobby has seen improvement in the props department by leaps and bounds. Thanks in part due to the rise of the Maker culture and the easy availability of design and manufacturing tools and processes. Case in point is this awesome set of Animatronic Wings that programmer [Nelson Stoldt] built for his daughter who wanted to be Nightmare Moon.

[Nelson] had no idea what he’d gotten himself in to when he answered “Sure, I can do that”. Making motorized cosplay wings that open up to 8 feet wide and close again at the flick of a switch without weighing a ton is not a trivial project. The final rig did end up tipping the scales at just over 9 kgs, but we guess that’s a load that Cosplayers are used to hauling around.

Using a nifty program called Linkage, he played around with a few different design approaches until he found a mechanism that worked well. If you ever want to build one of [Theo Jansen]’s Strandbeest, give this program a spin. Armed with this information, and a spreadsheet to help determine the exact length of each linkage element, he modelled the project in Sketchup. The wings are operated by a scissor mechanism that is driven by a motorized screw operated sliding carriage. Wing position is measured by a potentiometer coupled to one of the wing elements. Basically, he just built a huge, powerful servo.

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Official: Pebble Ceases Hardware Production

Today Pebble has announced that it will cease all hardware production. Their outstanding Kickstarter deliveries will not be fulfilled but refunds will be issued. Warranties on all existing hardware will no longer be honored. However, the existing smartwatch service will continue… for now.

This isn’t unexpected, we ran an article yesterday about the all-but-certain rumors FitBit had acquired Pebble (and what led to that). Today’s news has turned speculation about Pebble 2 and Pebble Core Kickstarter campaigns into reality. You won’t get your hands on that fancy new hardware, but at least backers will have the money returned.

Perhaps the most interesting part of today’s blog post from the founder of Pebble, Eric Migicovsky, is about how this impacts more than a million watches already in the wild. Service will continue but (wait for it) “Pebble functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future.”

It’s not like this is a unique problem. Devices purchased by consumers that are dependent on phoning home to a server to function is a mounting issue. Earlier this year [Elliot Williams] coined this issue “Obsolescence as a Service” which is quite fitting. Anyone who still has a functional first generation iPad has enjoyed reduced quality of service; without available upgrades, you are unable to install most apps. It’s zombie hardware; electrons still flow but there’s no brain activity.

One of the perks associated with FitBit acquiring Pebble is that they have decided to keep those servers running for watches in the field. A cynic might look at the acquisition as FitBit reducing competition in the market — they wouldn’t have let hardware production cease if they were interested in acquiring the user base. At some point, those servers will stop working and the watches won’t be so smart after all. FitBit owns the IP which means they could open source everything needed for the community to build their own server infrastructure. When service quality “reduced in the future” that’s exactly what we want to see happen.