Flying a Drone with an Oculus Rift 

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Controlling autonomous vehicles remotely with the use of virtual reality headsets seems like an obvious next step. Already, a few UAV companies have begun experimenting with these types of ideas by integrating Oculus Rift developer kits into their hovering quadcopters and drones. Parrot released a video on their blog showing that they developed a head-tracking system for their Bebop Drone in an effort to bring FPV flights to fruition. It looks like a lot of fun and we want to try one of these out asap!

As for technical specifications, they can be found in the YouTube description of the video embedded below. A quick glance showed that the operating system is based on Android and uses WiFi to connect the handheld tablet to the autonomous vehicle floating above. The range is a whopping 2km, giving plenty of freedom to explore. Moving one’s head swivels the attached camera giving a more immersive flying experience.

This isn’t the first example of FPV drones that we have seen. Previously, we covered an Oculus Rift + Head Tracking setup and another similar integration with a Black Armor Drone. We are bound to see virtual reality equipment used to control drones more and more as developers get their hands on cutting edge hardware like the Oculus developer kit 2 hardware which is currently shipping.

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A Remote Controlled, Fully Functional, Steam Powered Tank

Steam Powered Tank for the 21st Century

Steam power anything these days is pretty cool, but rarely have we ever seen such a complex build as this steam powered, remote controlled 1/16th scale tank.

[Ian] is an electronics design engineer whose hobbies include messing around with steam power. The Steam Turret Tank is based on a 1/16th scale Tamiya King Tiger die-cast model tank. It features a 3.5″ diameter marine boiler from MaccSteam, which is a fully equipped miniature version of a real boiler, complete with pressure gauges, safety valves, and a ceramic burner. It can produce pressures of up to 70PSI (max 120PSI), but for this project, [Ian] is limiting it to around 30PSI.

A small 2″ diameter fuel tank contains a propane mixture to fuel the boiler. Two Regner 40451 Piccolo steam engines make up the drive train, with mechanical linkages controlled by servos to engage the various features. The tank can go forward, backward, spin in place, and the turret can both rotate and adjust trajectory. It also has controllable headlights, and can even “fire” the turret.

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Green Light Your Commute with America’s Unsecured Traffic Lights

Green Lights Forever

Remember that episode of Leverage (season 5, episode 3), where Alec uses Marvin to wirelessly change all the street lights green so they can catch up to an SUV? And you scoffed and said “that’s so not real!”… well actually they got it right. A new study out of the University of Michigan (PDF warning), shows just how easy it is to make your morning commute green lights all the way.

The study points out that a large portion of traffic lights in the United States communicate with each other wirelessly over the 900Mhz and 5.8Ghz ISM band with absolutely no encryption. In order to connect to the 5.8Ghz traffic signals, you simply need the SSID (which is set to broadcast) and the proper protocol. In the study the researchers used a wireless card that is not available to the public, but they do point out that with a bit of social engineering you could probably get one. Another route is the HackRF SDR, which could be used to both sniff and transmit the required protocol. Once connected to the network you will need the default username and password, which can be found on the traffic light manufacturer’s website. To gain access to the 900Mhz networks you need all of the above and a 16-bit slave ID. This can be brute forced, and as the study shows, no ID was greater than 100. Now you have full access, not to just one traffic signal, but EVERY signal connected to the network.

Once on the network you have two options. The completely open debug port in the VxWorks OS which allows you to read-modify-write any memory register. Or by sending a(n) UDP packet where the last byte encodes the button pressed on the controller’s keypad. Using the remote keypad you can freeze the current intersection state, modify the signal timing, or change the state of any light. However the hardware Malfunction Management Unit (MMU) will still detect any illegal states (conflicting green or yellow lights), and take over with the familiar 4-way red flashing. Since a technician will have to come out and manually reset the traffic signal to recover from an illegal state, you could turn every intersection on the network into a 4-way stop.

So the next time you stop at a red light, and it seems to take forever to change, keep an eye out for the hacker who just green lit their commute.

Thanks for the tip [Matt]

THP Semifinalist: fNIR Brain Imager

565281406845688681 The current research tool du jour in the field of neuroscience and psychology is the fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging. It’s basically the same as the MRI machine found in any well equipped hospital, but with a key difference: it can detect very small variances in the blood oxygen levels, and thus areas of activity in the brain. Why is this important? For researchers, finding out what area of the brain is active in response to certain stimuli is a ticket to Tenure Town with stops at Publicationton and Grantville.

fMRI labs are expensive, and [Jeremy]‘s submission to The Hackaday Prize is aiming to do the same thing much more cheaply, and in a way that will vastly increase the amount of research being done with this technique. How is he doing this? Using the same technology used in high-tech vein finders: infrared light.

[Jeremy]‘s idea is much the same as a photoplethysmograph, better known as a pulse oximeter. Instead of relatively common LEDs, [Jeremy] is using near infrared LEDs, guided by a few papers from Cornell and Drexel that demonstrate this technique can be used to see blood oxygen concentrations in the brain.

Being based on light, this device does not penetrate deeply into the brain. For many use cases, this is fine: the motor cortex is right next to your skull, stretching from ear to ear, vision is taken care of at the back of your head, and memories are right up against your forehead. Being able to scan these areas noninvasively with a device you can wear has incredible applications from having amputees control prosthetics to controlling video game characters by just thinking about it.

[Jeremy]‘s device is small, about the size of a cellphone, and uses an array of LEDs and photodiodes to assemble an image of what’s going on inside someone’s head. The image will be somewhat crude, have low resolution, and will not cover the entire brain like an fMRI can. It also doesn’t cost millions of dollars, making this one of the most scientifically disruptive entries we have for The Hackaday Prize.

You can check out [Jeremy]‘s intro video below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize. 

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Homemade Triple Monitor Mount Looks Professionally Made

Professional Monitor Mount

Reddit user [popson] just finished off this impressive monitor mount build. Designed completely in Sketchup, it’s adjustable and will fit monitors from 20″ to 27″.

While designing it they stuck with standard material sizes, and it makes use of a lot of cold rolled steel — box tube, angle, and tube. Wide aluminum channel provides the adjust-ability for various monitor sizes, and standard VESA monitor mounting brackets guarantee monitors will fit.

sketchup model of monitor mount

There’s a lot of welding involved, but like [popson] says, he’s no pro — it’s not that hard to do. Once everything was done, they painted it glossy black to protect it from rusting.

The adjustment knobs are even home-made, cut from a wooden plank using a hole saw, sanded, and varnished.

 

He’s even added RGB LED light strips onto each of the monitors for a fully immersed gaming experience.

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Proximity Sensing LEDs Can Add a New Dynamic To Your Projects

Proximity Sensing LEDs

Looking for a fun and easy way to add a bit more interaction to your LED-laden projects? Why not turn them into proximity sensing LEDs?

Our hacker, [Will], is just getting into designing his own PCBs. He was looking for a simple project to try out that wouldn’t be too hard to design and manufacture a PCB for, so he came up with this clever little interactive LED array.

It’s actually a very simple circuit which also makes it super easy to build on a prototyping breadboard. Each proximity sensing LED is made up of five components. Three resistors, an LED, an IR LED, and a photo transistor. The IR LED is chosen specifically for the type of photo transistor being used — in this case, it emits a wavelength of 880nm, which is the type of light the photo transistor recognizes.

These components are wired in a manner that the IR LEDs are always on. The normal LED is wired in series with the photo transistor, and thus the LED only turns on when the photo transistor sees reflected 880nm light bounced back at it by whatever object you wave over top.

What would be really cool is if you added some 555 timers to the mix and had a delay before the LEDs fade away — then you could have a huge array that leaves motion trails long after you’ve triggered the sensors!

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

WiFi Raspberry Pi Touchscreen Camera

raspberry_pi_open-case-parts

Adafruit has a tutorial on their site that shows how to fashion together a cloud-connected, point-and-shoot camera. The best part of this project is that it can be customized to the heart’s content, unlike traditional digital cameras or smartphones. The integrated touchscreen and open-source computing allows for Instagram-like filters that can be scrolled through easily. No case is needed, but a 3D printed one can be attached for a more polished outcome.

The backup system of this Raspberry Pi-enabled device connects wirelessly to the internet and uploads the photos through the use of a Dropbox API. This functionality is great for syncing the camera to a cloud based server which then can be turned into a makeshift picture database for a website. The camera might be good for recording timelapse photography as well where a program could automatically create GIFs from the backup photos. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard to make either, especially because Adafruit pretty much always provides great documentation. Their videos are usually good too. The one posted below is relatively short, but provides enough information to see how it works.

[Read more...]

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