Navigation Thing: Four Days, Three Problems, and Fake Piezos

The Navigation Thing was designed and built by [Jan Mrázek] as part of a night game activity for high school students during week-long seminar. A night-time path through a forest had stations with simple tasks, and the Navigation Thing used GPS, digital compass, a beeper, and a ring of RGB LEDs to provide a bit of “Wow factor” while guiding a group of students from one station to the next. The devices had a clear design direction:

“I wanted to build a device which a participant would find, insert batteries, and follow the beeping to find the next stop. Imagine the strong feeling of straying in the middle of the night in an unknown terrain far away from civilization trusting only a beeping thing you found. That was the feeling I wanted to achieve.”

The Navigation Things (there are six in total) guide users to fixed waypoints with GPS, a digital compass, and a ring of WS2812 LEDs — but the primary means of feedback to the user is a beeping that gets faster as you approach the destination. [Jan] had only four days to make all six units, which was doable. But as most of us know, delivering on a tight deadline is often less about doing the work you know about, and more about effectively handling the unexpected obstacles that inevitably pop up in the process.

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Hackaday Links: December 15, 2013

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Want to get a hold of a gaming controller attachment for iOS at a rock bottom price? [Dark GOD] learned that Amazon is closing out the Gameloft DUO Gamer hardware for $6 because the hardware is no longer supported by the operating system. He shows how to make it work using a Cydia app. [Thanks ProMan]

[Frank Zhao] had a cheap HDMI switch which had problems with a sagging power rail. His solution was to hack in a USB port to inject some power.

This security hack uses an Arduino with LCD screen to display a QR code. Scan it with an Android device and you no longer need keys! Here’s the code repo and a demo video.

It’s interesting to see how many places the WS28xx pixels are popping up. Here’s a crowdfunding campaign that uses a matrix of the pixels as a portable gaming display. Look somewhat familiar? We’ve seen [Retro Brad’s] earlier hardware (made to play Super Pixel Bros.) that used an LED module instead. This is probably a lot easier to drive since it uses serial data instead of multiplexing.

Next is some robot building inspiration. [IronJungle] has been hard at work building a rover that uses compass bearings for navigation.

We liked seeing a drop-in replacment uC for Ikea Dioder projects, but if you need more power under the hood, take command of those colored lights with a Raspberry Pi.

Those lucky enough to have access to a laser cutter will find this Inkscape extension for living hinges useful.

Finally, POTUS threw down the gauntlet, encouraging everyone to learn how to program by pointing them toward the Hour of Code program. We’ve long thought that everyone should have some level of coding education. Do you agree with us? Of course, getting something like this into schools is a monumental challenge, so it’s nice to see extra-curricular offerings. We also believe that Hackerspaces are among the best driving forces for getting kids a tech education. [via Adafruit]

Advanced compass/accelerometer library for Arduino

We don’t have much personal experience with DOF hardware, but this Arduino library which reads and compensates for three-axis magnetometer and accelerometer data looks very impressive. It should work for existing hardware, but there’s also a demo design using a Honeywell HMC5883L compass and a Freescale MMA8453Q accelerometer which you can build yourself. Unfortunately these come in QFN packages (like most cheap accelerometers these days) so you may need to be creative when soldering.

What’s so special about this library? Watch the video after the break (use 720p in fullscreen to get the full effect) and you’ll see three different scatter plots of the output data. The image above is a capture of the third example, which is using the hard iron offset and accelerometer compensation. That is to say, metal on and around the board is accounted for, as well as the physical orientation of the device. Even if you have no prior experience with this type of hardware it’s easy to see the usefulness of this kind of software compensation.

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There’s a lot packed into this BeagleBoard controlled rover

That black box is hiding all kinds of goodies that make this rover a hacking playground. [Andrey] built the device around a BeagleBoard, which offers the processing power and modules that he needed to make the rest of it work.

The control unit shrinks the pilot down to the rover’s size, using a cockpit that has a steering wheel and other controls, and a monitor playing the stream from the camera on the front of the bot. It has a WiFi adapter which allows control via the Internet. The camera, which can be rotated thanks to its servo mounting, feeds the video to the BeagleBoard where it is compressed using the h264 codec (more about that and the cockpit here) to lighten the streaming load. You’ll also find an ultrasonic rangefinder on the front for obstacle avoidance, and a magnetic compass for orientation information. Finally, a GPS bolsters that data, allowing you to plot your adventures on the map.

It’s great, but it will cost you. Material estimates are North of five hundred Euros!