The Hackaday Prize: Interview With A ChipWhisperer

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Every finalist for The Hackaday Prize has some aspect of it that hasn’t been done before; finding the chemical composition of everything with some 3D printed parts is novel, as is building a global network of satellite ground stations with off the shelf components. [Colin]‘s ChipWhisperer, though, has some scary and interesting implications. By looking inside a microcontroller as its running, the ChipWhisperer is able to verify – or break – security on these chips. It’s also extremely interesting and somewhat magical being able to figure out what data a chip is processing simply by looking at its power consumption.

We have no idea who the winner of The Hackaday Prize is yet, and I’m hoping to remain ignorant of that fact until the party two weeks from now. Until then, you can read the short interview with [Colin O'Flynn], or check out his five-minute video for the ChipWhisperer below:

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Nikes With Power Laces, Just in Time for Next Year

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With the world’s first hoverboard being shown a few days ago, we’re on the verge of the fabulous world of tomorrow from Back to the Future. Hoverboards are cool, but there’s a wealth of other cool technology from the far-off year of 2015: Mr. Fusions, inflatable pizza, Dustbusters, and of course, Nikes with power laces. [Hunter] just built them, and with the right shoes, to boot.

[Hunter] is using the BttF-inspired Nike Air Mag shoes for this build, along with a few bits of electronics – an Arduino pro mini, a force sensing resistor, and a motor. The build began by carving out a notch in the back of the shoe for the electronics. A small bit of fishing line goes around the shoe, providing the power behind the power laces.

A force sensitive resistor under the heel of the insole tells the microcontroller when a foot is inside the shoe, and a rotary encoder on the motor shaft makes sure all the power lace cycles are the same. It’s not quite the same as the shoe seen on screen – the lower laces can’t be replicated and it’s certainly not as fast as the BttF shoes, but it does work, and as far as shoelaces are concerned, they work well.

Videos below.

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DIY FPV Goggles Born From Necessity of Cheapness

DIY FPV Goggles

So now that you’ve built your quadcopter and can fly it without crashing most of the time, what’s next? How about metaphorically hopping into the pilot’s seat with a First Person View setup. Great idea… but the cost of the required gear can be a deal breaker. FPV goggles alone range from the low to high hundreds. [sneaky] was using his laptop screen for his FPV setup and decided to try to make is own FPV goggles.

The display is just a small LCD screen that was purchased off eBay. Craft foam board was cut, bent, glued and duct taped to form a box about the same size as the LCD screen which is also secured to the box with duct tape. [sneaky] then cut the opposite side of the box to fit his face before he lined it with 1/2″ weatherstripping foam. Staring at an LCD screen just inches from your face is sure to cause some discomfort. A Fresnel lens inserted in between the user’s eyes and the LCD reduces eye strain to make long flights tolerable. The whole assembly is then held to your noggin via a recycled ski goggle strap.

In the end, [sneaky] likes his new goggles better than his old laptop screen and sun shade setup. The goggles aren’t too heavy and he can wear them comfortably for a while. We’ve seen a DIY FPV goggle setup in the past that uses individual lenses for each eye rather than one large Fresnel lens.

A Pair of Projects to Scare the Trick-or-Treaters

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The countdown is on! There’s only a few days left until Halloween, and if you’re still looking for something to spice up the experience for the kids heading to your door, [MagicWolfi] has just what you need. He’s put together two motion-sensing projects that are sure to startle any trick-or-treater.

The first project is a chain of LED-lit pumpkins that are activated by a motion sensor. A set of inverters paired with RC delay lines light up the pumpkins sequentially. They are arranged almost like a strand of Christmas lights and are powered by AA batteries, so in theory they could be expanded to make a strand as long as needed. The project was inspired by a motion-sensing dress and works pretty well as a Halloween decoration!

9378581414283863206[MagicWolfi] is pairing the LED pumpkins with his second project which uses another motion sensor to play scary sound effects. Dubbed the Scare-o-Matic, this device uses a 45-millimeter speaker connected to a SparkFun microSD audio module to produce the scary sound effects. Each time it is triggered it plays a different sound from the list. There are videos and schematics for each of these projects on the project sites if you are interested in recreating any of these before Friday!

Water Softener Level Detector Keeps You Out Of Trouble With Wife

Water Softener Monitor

Some households have water supplies that contain higher than desired levels of minerals. This condition is called hard water. There is nothing harmful about hard water but it does leave mineral deposits on pipes and appliances and makes cleaning a little bit more difficult. The solution is to have a water softener system which is basically a tank filled with salt that the household water passes through. This tank has to be refilled about every month and [David] was catching a little flak from his wife because he kept forgetting to fill it. He then set out to do what any great husband would do and built a Water Softener Monitor that reports the quantity of salt in the basement tank up to the living quarters.

[David] started thinking that he should test the salinity of the water to determine if salt needed to be added but after thinking about it for a while decided against it because any metal in that salty water would surely corrode. A non-contact approach would be to use an IR distance sensor mounted to the top of the tank and measure the distance to the pile of salt that slowly lowers as it dissolves into the water. In this case, he used a Sharp GP2D12 that can measure accurately from 10 to 80cm.

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A Proof of Concept Flash Cart for the WonderSwan

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Unless you’ve been to Japan or are fairly deep into the retro game collecting, you’ve probably never heard of the WonderSwan. It’s a handheld console, released after the Game Boy Color was beginning to show its age, and a bit before the introduction of the Game Boy Advance. It sold rather well in the only country it was released in, the game library is somewhat impressive, and there are quite a few homebrew games. Actually running these homebrew games is a challenge, though: each WonderSwan has a memory controller that maps the game ROM into the CPU’s memory. Without knowing how this controller chip works, the only way to run a homebrew cartridge is to turn on the machine with a real cart, go to the system menu, and swap the carts out. It turns out there’s a better solution, that includes programming CPLDs and looking at the output of a logic analyzer.

The first step towards [Godzil]‘s efforts to create a Flash cart for the WonderSwan is to figure out the pinout of the cartridge connector – something that isn’t well documented for a system without a homebrew hardware scene. This was done in the usual way; with a lot of ribbon cable and patience This only provided an incomplete picture of how the WonderSwan interfaced with its carts, but after digging up an official development board, [Godzil] was able to make sense of all the signals.

After building a breakout board for the cartridge port, [Godzil] connected a DE0 Nano FPGA board and looked at all the signals. With just a little bit of VHDL, the memory controller could be reverse engineered and reimplemented. [Godzil] has his proof of concept working – video below – and the next part of his project will be to turn this into a proper Flash cart.

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This Home-Made 6-Axis Robotic Arm is Quite the Looker

armfinalWith a background in software engineering, [Kris Temmerman] decided to make a physical demonstration of his knowledge in the form of a six axis robotic arm… the final product is a delicious display of mechanical eye candy.

Built from mostly aluminum stock, [Kris] machined the bulk of his parts with a CNC mill which he picked up for cheap from China. These custom pieces coupled with some hefty stepper motors ensure the arm’s accuracy as it twists freely and slides along the gantry it’s mounted to. Though the majority of the arm is metal, the hand at the end of his robot was built with 3D printed parts and can be switched out with the future attachments [Kris] plans to design. This classic gripper piece is driven separately with its own Arduino brain controlling the individual servos in the fingers. loadcels

Each finger includes some load bearing sensors which [Kris] harvested from an old scale so that the gripper can tell whether or not it has a hold of an object without crushing it. To orchestrate the robot’s movement, he wrote some nice looking software in C++ which visualizes the inverse kinematics at work in each point of articulation. For the sake of demonstrating his creation in action, he whipped up a basic demo that can locate and move colored blocks laid at random on a surface. A small camera mounted on the hand determines the orientation of the blocks relative to the machine so that the wrist can rotate itself in the proper alignment in order to pick them up.

[Kris] documented the build of his robot in a fascinating speed video which includes footage of the finished arm in action at the end:

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