A look back at DefCon 18 badges

As he does every year, [Joe Grand] gave a talk explaining the development process for Defcon 18 badges. We looked in on these when details started trickling out back in July. They feature a neat bit of tech in the form of an LCD that acts much like ePaper. It doesn’t take any electricity to hold the image, only to change the display. This is a valuable feature for a battery powered device and allowed him to get about 9 days of juice out of a CR2032. This year’s badges also used laser-etched Aluminum as a substrate.

We’ve embedded the talk after the break and found it interesting enough to watch the entire hour. If you’re more interested in the hacks that came out of the badge, we’ve put together a playlist of videos [Joe] took while at the conference.

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Have you ever wanted to be on (Internet) TV?

Are you an independent inventor? It might just be your lucky day. The fine folks at Independent Inventor TV, a new show currently filming for Revision3, is looking for home and garage based inventors to present their inventions for the camera. Currently they are based out of San Francisco, CA and are looking to film people in person, or by Skype if you are out of town.

To apply to be on the show, send an email to Independent.Inventor.tv(at)gmail.com with the details, photos, and videos of your inventions. The shooting date of the show is November 15th, so make sure to have all submissions in well before then. The selected inventors will get to meet the hosts, Comedian Jonah Ray, as well as fellow hacker [Joe Grand] (who is the creator of many of the DefCon Badges we have covered before). Be sure to let them know Hackaday sent you!

RGB stroboscopic guitar tuning

This is [Michael Ossmann's] RGB LED stroboscopic guitar tuner. If his name is familiar that’s because we mentioned he’d be giving a talk with [Travis Goodspeed] at ToorCon. But he went to DefCon as well and spent the weekend in his hotel room trying to win the badge hacking contest.

Despite adversity he did get his tuner working. It’s built into a toy guitar that he takes on road trips with him. By adding a row of RGB LEDs between two of the frets he can use the vibration frequency of an in-tune string to flash the three different colors. If the string is not in tune the three colors will dance around but matching it with the LED frequency produces a stable color. He then uses that big yellow button to advance to the next string. See his demonstration after the break.

This is basically a built-in plectrum tuner that uses one LED package instead of two.

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DefCon 18 Official Badges

The details are out for the DefCon 18 badges. The new design has a lot of goodies packed into it, most notably a 128×32 LCD display. You can’t see it in the image above because it’s on the other side of the badge; the ribbon cable passes through a slit in the substrate to reach the connector on the back. The board has a mini-USB connector and is meant to get even the unseasoned novice up and running with some firmware tweaks. The Freescale processor (which is the same chip as last year’s badge) is running a bootloader that can be accessed and flashed using a terminal program. Yeah… impressive.

But it doesn’t stop with the component selection or firmware mastery, these badges are beautiful too. What you see above is the prototype, but the 7780 badges produced come in seven different flavors (as usual), laser etched on a PCB that uses Aluminum as the substrate. Line up all the badges side-to-side and you get a graphic art storyboard. [Joe] outdid himself this year, and he’s been nice enough to share the development details (PDF) which we spent way too much time drooling over.

[Thanks Kim]

2010 Ninja Party badge

Wired took a look at this year’s Ninja Party badges. We were giddy about all the goodies involved in last year’s must-have badge that served as an invitation to the party. It was tailor-made for hacking, including an on-board disassembler. This year’s details are still a bit sparse but the offering is more along the lines of a market-ready product. The badges come in hand held gaming format, with a d-pad and two buttons. They can connect wirelessly with each other and with hidden base stations, allowing participants to fight in the digital realm for LED-indicated achievements. The teaser is tantalizing and we can’t wait to hear details about the real/digital gaming adventure soon to unfold.

HOPE badge proximity sensor

The HOPE conference was last weekend and [Nathan] spent some time with fellow members of Makers Local 256 developing this badge proximity sensor. They took one of the HOPE badges, which have a radio on board for the tracking network, and wrote code for its MSP430 to detect other badges nearby. It uses a Geiger counter they brought with them as an enclosure, re-purposing the analog gauge to reflect the level of active radio signals in the area. You’ll find their demo clip embedded after the break.

If you managed to get your hands on one of these badges, don’t be shy about sharing your hacks. We want to see them.

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Next HOPE badge hacking primer

[Travis Goodspeed] is taking a look at the attendee badges for this year’s Next HOPE conference. He’s given us a pretty good look at what is on the board, what it means to you, and how you can get at it. Of course the final hardware specs are a secret until conference time, but this will help you get some ideas and ensure that you bring the right add-on hardware. We normally try not to do too much quoting, but one of [Travis'] statements literally makes us laugh out loud (as opposed to what most people describe as lol):

“These badges are active RFID tags which beacon the position of each attendee a few times a second, so that the god damned devil army of lies–by which I mean the Next HOPE badge committee–can track each attendee around the Hotel Pennsylvania.”

No matter how you feel about the badge committee, the tradition of hacking conference badges is a fun, rewarding, and often frustration past-time. The badges are actually using the concept of OpenAMD. The last three letters stand for Attendee Meta Data which is an evolving concept. How can meta data about attendees be useful to all involved in a non-invasive way? How about associating yourself with a concept, like microcontroller programming. What if you could search to find out where other people interested in that are right now? Could be great… could end up in an impromptu meeting around the restrooms for no good reason. Either way, take a look at the teaser video covering the topic after the break.

Oh, one more note about the hardware. This year they’re moving away from PIC based badges to the more energy-efficient MSP430 line. It’s not one of the value-line processors that the Launchpad is meant for, but this bigger-brother ‘F’ chip will be no problem to work with if you’ve already spent some time with the ‘G’ series.

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