Building a blink based input device

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Fans of the AMC show Breaking Bad will remember the Original Gangsta [Hector Salamanca]. When first introduced to the story he communicates by ringing a bell. But after being moved to a nursing home he communicates by spelling out messages with the assistance of a nurse who holds up a card with columns and rows of letters. This hack automates that task, trading the human assistant for a blink-based input system.

[Bob Stone] calls the project BlinkTalk. The user wears a Neurosky Mindwave Mobile headset. This measures brainwaves using EEG. He connects the headset to an mBed microcontroller using a BlueSMiRF Bluetooth board. The microcontroller processes the EEG data to establish when the user blinks their eyes.

The LCD screen first scrolls down each row of the displayed letters and numbers. When the appropriate row is highlighted a blink will start scrolling through the columns until a second blink selects the appropriate character. Once the message has been spelled out the “SAY!” menu item causes the Emic2 module to turn the text into speech.

If you think you could build something like this to help the disabled, you should check out thecontrollerproject.com where builders are connected with people in need.

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Wireless pinball controller for tablet gaming

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This wooden box is a wireless pinball controller and tablet stand. The idea is to set it on a workbench to give you some of the thrill of standing and playing the real thing. [Jeff] has been rather addicted to playing a pinball app on Android lately, and started the journey because he needed a way to give his thumbs some relief.

An Arduino monitors buttons on either side of this wooden controller. [Jeff] is new to working with hardware (he’s a Linux Kernel developer by trade) and was immediately struck with button debouncing issues. Rather than handle this in software (we’ve got a super-messy thread on that issue with our favorite at the bottom) he chose a hardware solution by building an SR latch out of two NAND gates.

With the inputs sorted out he added a BlueSMiRF board to the project which allowed him to connect a Nexus 7 tablet via Bluetooth. At this point he ran into some problems getting the device to respond to his control as if it were an external keyboard. His stop-gap solution was to switch to a Galaxy Tab 10.1 which wasn’t throwing cryptic errors. Hopefully he’ll fix this in the next iteration which will also include adding a plunger to launch the pinball, a part which just arrived in the mail as he was writing up this success.

We’ve embedded his quick demo video after the break.

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NES controllers for any Bluetooth application

[Dustin Evans] wanted to used his original NES controllers to play emulated games. The problem is he didn’t want to alter the classic hardware. His solution was to use the connectors and enclosure from a dead NES to build a Bluetooth translator that works with any NES controller.

Here he’s showing the gutted half of an original NES. Although the motherboard is missing, the connectors for the controllers are still there. They’ve been rewired to an Arduino board which has a BlueSMiRF modem. The controller commands are harvested by the Arduino and sent to whatever is listening on the other end of the Bluetooth connection. He also has plans to add a couple of SNES ports to the enclosure so that those unaltered controllers may also be used.

In the video after the break [Dustin] walks us through the hardware setup. He then demonstrates pairing the device with an Android phone and playing some emulators with the pictured controllers.

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Bluetooth Super Nintendo controller for Android gaming

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[Rich] needed to come up with a senior design project and decided to combine two things he loved: his Android phone and Super Nintendo.

While touchscreen phones are great, he felt that nothing beats the tactile feedback of a physical controller when it comes to gaming. He figured out how the controller’s signaling works, then wired it up to an Arduino Pro Mini 328. The Arduino interprets the SNES controller’s signals, sending them to his Android phone via a BlueSMiRF Bluetooth module.

He originally had all of the components crammed in a cardboard box, but much like we pointed out yesterday, he realized that a project really comes together when housed in a proper enclosure. He managed to squeeze all of his components into the SNES controller’s shell aside from the battery pack he used to power the remote. After a little bit of Bondo and a few coats of paint were applied, the controller is looking quite sharp.

Stick around to see a quick demo video of his controller in action, and check out this tutorial he put together explaining some of the principles he used to construct it.

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Jittering hexapod dances to the strokes of your Bluetooth keyboard

Here’s a small but functional hexapod that is controlled via Bluetooth. [Sigfpe] started with the hexapod kit sold by Polulu and added a BlueSMiRF modem to get the little guy’s communications up and running. But since the bot is merely three servos, a microcontroller board, sensors, and miscellaneous parts it’s an easy build for most electronic hobbyists.

Check out the video after the break to see the delightful dance it can perform at your bidding. When we first looked at the project we thought that the keyboard was directly paired with the bot for control, but a look at the code makes us think the computer is controlling it after processing keystrokes. Either way the BlueSMiRF should have no problem pairing with other Bluetooth devices so it’s just a matter of coding to get it taking commands from your device of choice. We’d love to see Android control but for the really hard-core code monkeys we think this should be voice controlled with a Bluetooth headset.

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Amarino makes Android controlled robots a snap

[Lucas Fragomeni] is controlling this robot using the accelerometer on his Android phone (translated). He could have gone through our Android tutorials and developed a custom application but he took the shorter route and used Amarino, an ‘Android meets Arduino’ toolkit, to do it for him. [Lucas] combined an Arduino, a BlueSMiRF Bluetooth modem, and two servo motors to build his robot. Amarino lets him connect to that Bluetooth modem and send sensor data over the connection. In this case it’s only the accelerometer that he chose to use, but he could have gone with the touchscreen, or any other sensor the handheld has to offer. Using this code package got him up and running quickly, only requiring that he writes his own code to turn the received signals into servo motor control routines. See it in action after the break.

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Using an NES controller on an Android phone

[Sk3tch] rigged up a way to use an original NES controller with Android. He bought the controller and a breakout board for it at DEFCON. By combining the controller, an Arduino, and a blueSMIRF BlueTooth module the controller can be used as a keyboard on his Android device. In the video after the break he demonstrates pairing the devices and playing Super Mario Bros. 3 in an emulator.

He calls this Alpha quality but it certainly looks like it works well. In the beta version we’d love to see all of the extra electronics inside the controller case like those USB mods.

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