Navid Gornall Eats His Own Face

Navid Gornall is a creative technologist at a London advertising agency, which means that he gets to play with cool toys and make movies. That also means that he spends his every working hour trying to explain tech to non-technical audiences. Which is why he was so clearly happy to give a talk to the audience of hardware nerds at the Hackaday Belgrade conference.

After a whirlwind pastiche of the projects he’s been working on for the last year and a half, with tantalizing views of delta printers, dancing-flame grills, and strange juxtapositions of heat sinks and food products, he got down to details. What followed was half tech show-and-tell, and half peering behind the curtain at the naked advertising industry. You can read our writeup of the highlights after the video below.

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Facebook To Slurp Oculus Rift Users’ Every Move

The web is abuzz with the news that the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift has buried in its terms of service a clause allowing the social media giant access to the “physical movements and dimensions” of its users. This is likely to be used for the purposes of directing advertising to those users and most importantly for the advertisers, measuring the degree of interaction between user and advert. It’s a dream come true for the advertising business, instead of relying on eye-tracking or other engagement studies on limited subsets of users they can take these metrics from their entire user base and hone their offering on an even more targeted basis for peak interaction to maximize their revenue.

Hardly a surprise you might say, given that Facebook is no stranger to criticism on privacy matters. It does however represent a hitherto unseen level of intrusion into a user’s personal space, even to guess the nature of their activities from their movements, and this opens up fresh potential for nefarious uses of the data.

Fortunately for us there is a choice even if our community doesn’t circumvent the data-slurping powers of their headsets; a rash of other virtual reality products are in the offing at the moment from Samsung, HTC, and Sony among others, and of course there is Google’s budget offering. Sadly though it is likely that privacy concerns will not touch the non-tech-savvy end-user, so competition alone will not stop the relentless desire from big business to get this close to you. Instead vigilance is the key, to spot such attempts when they make their way into the small print, and to shine a light on them even when the organisations in question would prefer that they remained incognito.

Oculus Rift development kit 2 image: By Ats Kurvet – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Spools of Thread for 6,400 Pixel Color Display

This is not an LED display, it’s a thread display. The hardware artists over at Breakfast, a Brooklyn based rapid product and prototype company, built this color display that uses spools of thread for each pixel. 6,400 spools to be exact.

Serious work went into this thing, and the results couldn’t be better. Check out the video after the break to see for yourself. The trick is to increase the surface area of the spools of thread. This is done by using the spool as a pulley which guides a 5.5 foot length of “threaded fabric”. Up close, the fabric looks as if it’s just wrapped around the wooden spool, but the extra length provides enough room for 36 different colors, each blending into the next in a gradient effect. Index the location of the fabric in each pixel system and you have a wide range of color options.

The piece was commissioned by clothing retailer Forever 21 and has even been given its own website. The display pulls Instagram photos with the #F21threadscreen hashtag and displays them. You can watch a live stream for the next week, and the dedicated site has a search feature to find a recording of your own photo by username.

We must once again give credit for producing the kind of advertising we want to see. This is both interesting and awesome. It gave some talented people work producing it, and sharing the details of the build is both interesting and inspiring for us. Want to see some more interesting advertising like this? Check out that Beck’s bottle used as a phonograph cylinder, and the extreme engineering used to separate Oreos.

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Sniffing Out LG Smart TV Tracking Protocol

[DoctorBeet] noticed the advertisements on the landing screen of his new LG smart television and started wondering about tracking. His curiosity got the better of him when he came across a promotional video aimed at advertisers that boasts about the information gathered from people who use these TVs. He decided to sniff the web traffic. If what he discovered is accurate, there is an invasive amount of data being collect by this hardware. To make matters worse, his testing showed that even if the user switches the “Collection of watching info” menu item to off it doesn’t stop the data from being phoned home.

The findings start off rather innocuous, with the channel name and a unique ID being transmitted every time you change the station. Based on when the server receives the packets a description of your schedule and preferred content can be put together. This appears to be sent as plain data without any type of encryption or obfuscation.

Things get a lot more interesting when he discovers that filenames from a USB drive connected to the television are being broadcast as well. The server address they’re being sent to is a dead link — which makes us think this is some type of debugging step that was left in the production firmware — but it is still a rather sizable blunder when it comes to personal privacy. If you have one of these televisions [DoctorBeet] has a preliminary list of URLs to block with your router in order to help safeguard your privacy.

[Thanks Radcom]

New Ads – Please Whitelist Hackaday on Adblock


If you’ve been watching very closely you may have noticed that our ads have changed. If you didn’t know we run ads, I’m asking you to consider whitelisting in your advertisement blocking browser plugin.

The plan to transition to advertisements which are more targeted for our interests was mentioned back in July, when Hackaday was purchased by SupplyFrame,  I say ‘our’ interests because the companies who have signed up so far are ones with which I have personally done business when hacking my own projects. These include the manufacturers: Atmel, Microchip, NXP, and Texas Instruments as well as distributors: Arrow Electronics, Element 14, Mouser, and RS Components. The ads are in the exact same places as they have always been, at the same size, with the core belief that on-page advertising should be entirely unobtrusive. If you find the ads to be otherwise, please do let us know about it (screenshots are helpful!).

Hackaday highlights a steady stream of project features every single day. These are the best engineering-oriented hacks the web has to offer. There is some cost involved in do this, which we cover by including advertisements on our pages. Please don’t block the ads. If you haven’t been blocking, thank you! If you do use an Ad blocker, I certainly understand that you want to get away from ads that automatically play audio, flash annoying colors, or include inappropriate content. Our ads don’t do this. Please throw us a bone by adding our domain to your “whitelist”. This is very simple, and after the break I’ve included the instructions for doing so with Adblock Plus.

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Raspberry Pi camera built as part of advertising campaign


Here’s yet another example of well targeted advertising. This camera built around a Raspberry Pi is a giveaway from Sprite. The “lucky” winner of the camera will have the pleasure of seeing the Sprite logo as a watermark on all of the images they snap with it. But in the right hands it’s a simple hack to remove that “feature” (they published the Python script that adds the watermark) or to just scrap the parts for another project. Either way, Sprite got us to say their name three times in this paragraph so the campaign worked.

The most obvious part of this build is the custom cast resin case that they came up with which is a gaudy cartoon-like monstrosity. It protects the case-less Raspberry Pi board, and mounts the Pi Camera board so that the lens is positioned correctly. The lipstick-sized module mounted in the lower back half of the case is a 2400 mAh portable power supply with a USB charging port sticking out the side. This makes us wonder, do you have to wait for the RPi to power up before snapping a picture? If the size and color didn’t get you noticed by everyone the shutter sound will. it shouts the name of the soda company whenever you press the shutter release button.

If you’re more of a high-end photography enthusiast this DSLR wedded with an RPi will be of more interest.

Beck’s beer bottle sound recording

This beer bottle includes recorded audio etched into the glass. But you certainly won’t find half an album included with your next sixer. This is a one of a kind item that took a team of engineers to craft.

The idea comes from Phonographic Cylinders invented by [Thomas Edison]. Analog audio was etched into cylinders made of wax which could then be played by a needle and amplifying horn. The beer bottle is a similar size of cylinder, but etching the audio signal into glass is a horse of a different color. The video below includes a recounting of the development process from the guys who pulled it off. It includes using hard drive parts and special processing filters that remove harmonics introduced by the milling rig.

We’re sure you’ve figured it out by now; this is an advertisement. We say good! This is the kind of advertising we want. It’s topical, well targeted, and worth paying attention to. We felt the same way about the recent Oreo campaign and that Skittles hack. We hope that ad execs will take note of this.

By the way, it is possible to do this stuff at home. Check out the guy who made an Edison Cylinder wedding ring.

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