Sigzig data loggers ditch the noise while pimping the case

We ran into [Paul Allen] at CES. He was showing off Sigzig, a super-low noise data logger which his company is just rolling out.

IMG_20150107_174520A couple of years ago he worked on a standalone chemical sensor and had a few extra boards sitting around after the project was done. As any resourceful hacker will do, he reached for them as the closest and easiest solution when needing to log data as a quick test. It wasn’t for quite some time that he went back to try out commercially available loggers and found a problem in doing so.

The performance of off-the-shelf data loggers wasn’t doing it for [Paul’s] team. They kept having issues with the noise level found in the samples. Since he had been patching into the chemical sensor PCBs and getting better results, the impetus for a new product appeared.

The flagship 24-bit 8-channel Sigzig samples 0-5v with less than 1uV of noise. A less expensive 4-channel differential unit offers 18-bit with 10-12 uV of noise. They are targeting $199 and $399 price points for the two units. We asked about the sample rate in the video below. The smaller version shown here captures up to 240 samples per second. The big guy has the hardware potential to sample 30,000 times per second but since the data is continuously streaming over USB that rate is currently limited to much less.

Update: It has been pointed out in the comments that USB may not be the choke point for sample rate.

 

The Giant Flip-Dot Display at CES

Flip-dot displays are grand, especially this one which boasts 74,088 pixels! I once heard the hardware compared to e-ink. That’s actually a pretty good description since both use a pixel that is white on one side and black on the other, depend on a coil to change state, and only use electricity when flipping those bits.

What’s remarkable about this is the size of the installation. It occupied a huge curving wall on the ooVoo booth at 2015 CES. We wanted to hear more about the hardware so we reached out to them they didn’t disappoint. The ooVoo crew made time for a conference call which included [Pat Murray] who coordinated the build effort. That’s right, they built this thing — we had assumed it was a rental. [Matt Farrell] recounts that during conception, the team had asked themselves how an HD video chat for mobile company can show off display technology when juxtaposed with cutting edge 4k and 8k displays? We think the flip-dot was a perfect tack — I know I spent more time looking at this than at televisions.

Join us after the break for the skinny on how it was built, including pictures of the back side of the installation and video clips that you have to hear to believe.

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Jamming Robot will Destroy You at Beer Pong

DSC_0363Wandering the aisles of Eureka Park, the startup area of the Consumer Electronics Show, I spotted a mob of people and sauntered over to see what the excitement was all about. Peeking over this gentleman’s shoulder I realized he was getting spanked at Beer Pong… by a robot!

Those in the know will recognize that the bot has only 3 cups left and so the guy definitely was giving it run for its money. But the bot’s ability to swish the ball on nearly every throw accounts for the scoreboard which read Robot: 116, Humans: 11. Unlike the ping pong robot hoax from last March, we can vouch for this one being real!

If you’re trying to attract the geek demographic, this must be one of the best offerings ever shown at a trade show. Empire Robotics manufactures the VERSABALL gripper. We know this as a jamming gripper and have been looking at the tech progress for many years now. Looking back to this Cornell research video from 2010 we realize it is based on the white paper which [John Amend, PhD] co-authored. He’s now CTO and Co-Founder of the company and was one of the people running the booth. We love it when trade show booths are staffed by the engineers!

Join me after the break for a rundown of how the system works along with a video clip of it hitting the target.

Continue reading “Jamming Robot will Destroy You at Beer Pong”

CastAR Hands-On and Off-Record Look at Next Version

At long last I had the opportunity to try out the CastAR, a glasses-based Augmented Reality system developed by Technical Illusions. The hardware has been in the works now for a couple of years, but every time we have come across a demo we were thwarted by the long lines that accompany them. This time I was really lucky. [Jeri] gave us a private demo in a suite at the Palazzo during CES 2015. Reflecting on the experience, CastAR is exactly the type of Virtual Reality hardware I’ve been longing for.

Continue reading “CastAR Hands-On and Off-Record Look at Next Version”

Making the CES Show… Thirty Years Ago

This year’s CES has dredged up some memories. I had assumed that as one becomes old they are supposed to become used to memories of a young vigorous person that shared their body and memories leaving little else except some scars and some old stale socks lying around plus 2 or 3 pictures to prove it was in fact not a series of hallucinations. Turns out you don’t get used to it, you just endure.

30 Years ago was our CES: Commodore had the reputation of showing something new every CES and this was a time when a Home Computer meant a Consumer Computer. I have written before about how we endeavored to make sure other’s failures didn’t become ours and we did in fact make it, just in time, to the ’85 CES with what became our flagship computer, at least for the next 4 days.

To the Very Last Minute

When I say made it just in time I am counting people hand carrying the last ten or so homebrewed and MOS cooked 80 column chips either the night before or that very morning. The C128 computers where waiting lined up and open in the room seen below; cases agape much like a row of baby birds waiting on whatever engorgement MOS had come up with for us as the seconds counted down.

And then finally we stood on the second floor of our booth (yes they built a 2 story structure for us in a couple of hours the night before) surveying the now working computers; C128’s and the never released LCD machine, when the last “issue” before the doors opened arrived; a Marketing person (panting) telling us of “yet another C128 failure” though she couldn’t actually point to any previous computers that had failed. We wouldn’t let her continue with her complaint until she retracted the previous general statement of failure, more on principle than actual meanness.

CES "Prep" room, 30 years ago this week.
The “Prep” room now empty, every CES C128 computer came through here. Note the EPROM burner and disks taped to the wall along with a residual Coors beer can

As with most highly technical in-the-field fixes this one was something to remember. My last act of “the ’85 CES show” became the simple motion of walking up to the “failed” computer station and pressing the key changing the C128 back to 40 column mode, especially important since it only had a 40 column monitor attached to it.

End of Line

Then something happened: We were done. I felt sub-processes actually end that had been consuming both CPU and I/O for months, I was suddenly unencumbered by the next “must fix”. I didn’t have a next task to pop from the stack… the phrase “End of Line” came to mind.

I was 24, in Las Vegas and had just delivered one of the major products for the best computer company in the world to the only show that mattered to us. I started walking towards the door with the uncommonly bright Las Vegas sun streaming through the windows. There were lines of people around the block waiting to enter, but the exit was completely unobstructed.

I buried myself in Las Vegas in a way that only youth, testosterone, and adrenaline can enable.

Making the Rounds

"Leaving Las Vegas", returning home from the '85 CES show.
Thats me with the long hair and the girl (Judy Braddick, a somewhat brilliant Game Programmer). Note the bottle of Tequila and empty beer bottle sitting on the table in the Las Vegas airport. Greg Berlin is on the left standing two feet taller than normal humans. (Hedley Davis of Xbox fame in the foreground). It was a good CES.

I won’t report here much of what all was done over the next days as I understand that for some things the statute of limitations never truly runs out, but inspired by [Mike’s] reporting of visiting the suites of the companies I will relate one small tale here: I had grabbed my best friend and fellow hardware designer who was the father of the 1581 disk drive, also successfully released on this day, and headed out. With the 6’8” [Greg Berlin] (grandson of the designer of the Curtis Wright P-40 Warhawk) in tow we started hitting the floors of the local hotels looking for the suites of the “important” companies that never managed to personally invite us. We had a secret weapon that opened doors as if bribed; not in Greg’s towering presence but in the simple phrase: “we’re from Commodore”.

Doors fully opened that had previously opened only 12-14 inches only to stop on the shoe of the doorman, and 5.25” floppies were stuffed in our pockets like the $20 bills of a VIP trying to impress his date. The suite that comes to mind was that of Electronic Arts (EA). With backslaps and copies of this year’s (and a few of last year’s) C64 game floppies shoved in our pockets we were welcomed like old friends; appointments were made and more than a couple of chugging contests were held. They lost or at least didn’t better us as we were young and full of testosterone.

As we made ready to leave the good folk of EA, after making sure that we would swing by their booth the next day (we did), they asked if there was anything they could get for us. This may sound like a strange or gratuitous question but I had already spied the case of Michelob (a beer from the early days of 1 micron silicon) and was pointing to it before the question was fully uttered. EA grabbed the case with no hesitation as I turned to face the door so he could set the case of teardrop shaped bottles on my shoulder for me.

Back out into Las Vegas we went with Electronic Art’s beer on my shoulder… It was a good CES.

CES: Meetups, Augmented Reality, and Robots

Hackaday started off Thursday of the Consumer Electronics Show with an impromptu breakfast meetup. This turns out to be a wonderful thing as it lets you ease into a 16 hour day of standing, walking, talking, and getting lost trying to find your way from conference hall to conference hall. We had a great turnout and many brought their hacks and demos to show off. A big thanks to the Sambalatte staff who are awesome people and top tier baristas.

CastAR

DSC_0354

Before leaving for CES I was talking to [Ben Krasnow] about what we should try to see and he suggested looking for private showings that are given in the suites of the hotels at the conference. Turns out our friends at Technical Illusions are doing just that. [Jeri] and [Rick] were showing off CastAR in a suite during the week and were nice enough to make room in their booked schedule for a private Demo.

What you see above are the guts of the version they are currently shipping as part of their Kickstarter fulfillment. I also got a look at a rev2 prototype and will write a follow-up post with more information on the whole experience when I have more time.

Eureka, Startups!

There is a loop of aisles in the Sands that has startup booths and most of the interesting things I saw on Wednesday and Thursday are there. Here we have a jamming gripper robot arm. It’s designed for things like moving oddly shaped goods on a manufacturing line. Empire Robotics hit a homerun with their demo for the booth, a take on beer-bong: robot versus human. The scoreboard showed the robot winning an order of magnitude more than the humans.

[Todd] was at was at the Tinkerines booth showing off 3D printers aimed to augmented the STEM curriculum. We couldn’t help but notice his TIE fighter right and inquired about it. He modeled the design himself, send it off to be cast in silver, and inlaid the stone when the ring came back from the casting service. Sweet!

LVBots

[Sarah Petkus] clued me in and gave me a ride to the Pololu CES open house. The night coincided with the LVBots meetup which they support by providing space for the meetings. There were lots of cool robots being shown off. What you see here was just the pre-meeting warmup of line-followers and sumo robots. I shot some video of the show-and-tell which we’ll post once we’ve had a chance to edit the content.

Closing out CES

wpid-wp-1420824368323.jpegToday is the last day of the conference. I stopped by the Voltera PCB printer booth yesterday but they were nowhere to be found. Turns out they were being handed a $50k check by TechCrunch for winning the Battleground. I suppose we’ll give them a pass for not being at the table during that!

I’ll be headed over this afternoon to catch up with them. I’m also hoping to get a look at the Voxel8 printer. If you have any other “can’t-miss” suggestions let me know in the comments and I’ll try to add them to my CES dance card.

[Sophi Kravitz] Joins the Hackaday Crew

Please join us in welcoming [Sophi Kravitz] to the Hackaday crew. She is coming on board to crank on the 2015 Hackaday Prize. You may remember a post from a few weeks ago when we were in search of a person with a skill set that could only be described as mythical. [Sophi] jumped at the chance and it is immediately clear that she belongs here.

[Sophi] walks the walk, and talks the talk. She’s an EE and has worked with art installations, built props and FX for movies, and tackled jobs that some might consider ‘more serious’ engineering challenges. Her passion for electronics has led her to evangelize education on the subject by working with student programs, and she recently served as a Hacker in Residence with Sparkfun. Her love of the hardware community already has her promoting hacking by immersing herself in Hackerspace culture and organizing events like the Bring a Hack meetup at Maker Faire New York.

We have big plans for the 2015 Hackaday Prize which will be announced soon. In the meantime, anyone attending the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week can meet up with [Sophi] and find out about the plans we’ve made so far. She will be at CES to represent Hackaday along with [Mike Szczys] and [Sarah Petkus]. We’re planning an impromptu meetup for anyone interested. Reply to this Tweet to tell us you’ll be there and we’ll make sure to get you the details when we have them. And of course, if you want to get your hands on some Hackaday stickers track us down during the conference. Check out our CES Twitter list to make more connections.