Hackaday Prize Entry: AutoFan Saves Tired Drivers With Face Recognition

Long distance driving can be tedious at times. The glare of the sun and the greenhouse effect of all your car’s windows make it hot and dry. You turn on the fan, or air conditioning if you have it, and that brings relief. Soon enough you’ve got another problem, the cold dry air is uncomfortable on your eyes. Eventually as you become more tired, you find yourself needing the air on your face more and more as you stay alert. You thus spend most of the journey fiddling with your vents or adjusting the climate controls. Wouldn’t it be great if the car could do all that for you?

AutoFan is a project from [hanno] that aims to automate this process intelligently. It has a fan with steerable louvres, driven by a Raspberry Pi 2 with attached webcam. The Pi computes the position of the driver’s face, and ensures the air from the fan is directed to one side of it. If it sees the driver’s blink rate increasing it directs the air to their face, having detected that they are becoming tired.

The build logs go into detail on the mathematics of calculating servo angles and correcting for camera lens distortion in OpenCV. They also discuss the Python code used to take advantage of the multicore architecture, and to control the servos. The prototype fan housing can be seen in the video below the break, complete with an unimpressed-looking cat. For those of you interested in the code, he has made it available in a GitHub repository.

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We’re Fans of Dave’s Fans

Hackaday.io contributor extraordinaire [davedarko] gets hot in the summer. We all do. But what separates him from the casual hacker is that he beat the heat by ordering four 120 mm case fans. He then 3D printed a minimalistic tower frame for the fans, and tied them all together with a ULN2004 and an ESP8266. The whole thing is controlled over the network via MQTT. That’s dedication to staying cool.

We really like the aesthetics of this design. A fan made up of fans! But from personal experience, we also know that these large case fans can push a lot of air fairly quietly. That’s important if you’re going to stand something like this up on your desk. While we’re not sure that a desk fan really needs networked individual PWM speed control, we can see the temptation.

Now that they’re individually controlled, nothing stops [davedarko] from turning this into a musical instrument, or even using the fans to transmit data. The only thing we wouldn’t do, despite the temptation to stick our fingers in the blades, is to complicate the design visually. Maybe that would finally teach the cat not to walk around on our desk.

When the Smart Hits the Fan

A fan used to be a simple device – motor rotates blades, air moves, and if you were feeling fancy, maybe the whole thing oscillates. Now fans have thermostats, timers, and IR remotes. So why not increase the complexity by making a smart fan with an IoT interface?

[Casper]’s project looks more like a proof of concept or learning platform than a serious attempt at home automation. His build log mentions an early iteration based on a Raspberry Pi. But an ESP8266 was a better choice and made it into the final build, which uses an IR LED to mimic the signals from the remote so that all the stock modes of the fan are supported. The whole thing is battery powered and sits on a breadboard on top of the fan, but we’ll bet that a little surgery could implant the interface and steal power internally. As for interfaces, take your pick – an iOS app via the SmartThings home automation platform, through their SmartTiles web client, or using an Amazon Echo. [Casper] mentions looking into MQTT as well but having some confusion; we’d suggest he check out [Elliot Williams]’ new tutorial on MQTT to get up to speed.

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Flying Planes With Squirrel Cages

Fixed wing remote control planes are ridiculously overpowered. Whereas normal, manned fixed wing aircraft need to take into account things like density altitude, angle of attack, and weight limits, most RC aircraft can hover. This insane amount of power means there’s a lot of room for experimentation, especially in new and novel power plants. [Samm Sheperd] had an old squirrel cage fan taken from an electric wall heater and figured one man’s trash was an integral part of another man’s hobby and built a plane around this very unusual fan.

squirrel-cage-fan-wideThe only part of the squirrel cage fan [Samm] reused was the impeller. Every other part of this power plant was either constructed out of foam board, plywood, or in the case of the brushless motor turning the fan, stolen from the ubiquitous box of junk on every modeller’s workbench.

The design of the plane puts the blower fan directly under the wings, blasting the air backwards underneath the empennage. During testing, [Samm] found this blower pulled around 350W from the battery – exactly what it should draw if a properly sized propeller were attached to the motor. The thrust produced isn’t that great — only about 400g of thrust from an airframe that weights 863g. That’s very underpowered for an RC aircraft, but absurdly powerful for any manned flying machine.

Does the plane work? Of course it does. [Samm] took his plane for a few laps around the neighborhood and found the plane flies excellently. It is horrifically loud, but it is a great example of how much anyone can do with cheap RC planes constructed out of foam.

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EDF Removes Hill Necessity For Snowboarding

Getting stuck on a flat portion of a trail while snowboarding is a major buzz kill. You can either hop yourself to the nearest slight downhill or unstrap your board and take a walk. Neither option is fun. [Jude] was tired of getting stuck on the flats so he strapped an electric ducted fan to the back of his snowboard.

The powerplant is an Electric Ducted Fan (EDF) intended for RC Aircraft. It is supported on the snowboard by a 3D printed mount. [Jude] made his mount design available for anyone interested in following his lead. Good ole glue holds the fan to the mount and the mount to the snowboard.

The battery is a 12S, which means it has 12 LiPo cells, 3.7 vdc each, wired in series to put out 44.4 volts. Inbetween the battery and brushless motor in the EDF is an Electronic Speed Control (ESC) that is normally used for RC vehicles. [Jude] purchased an ultra-cheap RC transmitter and receiver setup to give him one-handed wireless control of the fan’s speed. He estimates he can hit 15 mph on flat ground. If nothing else, it looks darn fun to ride!

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“Superfan” Gaming Peripheral Lets You Feel Your Speed

Virtual reality has come a long way but some senses are still neglected. Until Smell-O-Vision happens, the next step might be feeling the wind in your hair. Perhaps dad racing a sportbike or kids giggling on a rollercoaster. Not as hard to build as you might think, you probably have the parts already.

HAD - Superfan4Off-the-shelf devices serve up the seeing and hearing part of your imaginary environment, but they stop there. [Jared] wanted to take the immersion farther by being able to feel the speed, which meant building his own high power wind generator and tying it into the VR system. The failed crowdfunding effort of the “Petal” meant that something new would have to be constructed. Obviously, to move air without actually going on a rollercoaster requires a motor controller and some fans. Powerful fans.

A proponent of going big or going home, [Jared] picked up a pair of fans and modified them so heavily that they will launch themselves off of the table if not anchored down. Who overdrives fans so hard they need custom heatsinks for the motors? He does. He admits he went overboard and sensibly way overbudget for most people but he built it for himself and does not care.

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Repurposing a ceiling fan into a pottery wheel

The wheel goes round and round as does [Lou Wozniak]. He’s come back to us, this time hacking together a pottery wheel from a cheap ceiling fan. This is a great use for a discarded or inexpensive fan and the build should cost less than $50. As you watch the video you learn that repurposing the ceiling fan was no simple feat. Lucky for us [Lou] spins through detailed construction procedures and doesn’t fail to cover every tip and trick. He really does think outside the box or should we say inside the bucket and peanut butter jar. The fan gets dismantled as well as rewired inside a 5 gallon bucket which is used as the pottery wheel housing and stand. A plastic peanut butter jar was used as a makeshift electrical junction box inside the bucket. He remounted the motor’s string operated speed switch on the side of the jar and routed the pull string out the side of the bucket. The fan motor should have three or four switch speed settings which might be enough control. If continuous variable speed control is desired he could add in a controller similar to [Ben Krasnow’s] AC controller using one pin on a microcontrollerUPDATE: [AKA the A] tells us in a comment below that this controller won’t work with a ceiling fan, but we still really like [Ben’s] project so we’re leaving this link here.

Most potters use significant amounts of water to wet the clay while they throw, so we have reservations about having the high voltages and open motor design directly under the wheel with no shielding. We know [Lou] could easily hack in a splash pan and of course always plug into a ground fault protected receptacle when using electrical appliances around water.

We do get to see the wheel in operation at the end of the video, which you can watch after the break. However, [Lou] makes no claims at being a pottery artisan.

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