Myst(ery) Box

myst box

Anyone remember the game Myst? Well, [Michael] and his girlfriend have been playing quite a bit of it lately, so for her birthday, he decided to make her something inspired from it.

For those unaware of the classic that is the Myst series, it is a set of games that started back in 1993 where you assume the role of the Stranger who gets to explore other planets (called Ages) to solve various logical and mechanical puzzles.

Anyway, [Michael] got his girlfriend tickets to visit GC319QK (a geocache site requiring diving) — since the gift is a relatively small token, it was logical for [Michael] to make a fancy box for it — and that’s exactly what he did. It’s a peculiar little wooden box with LEDs, a button, a latch, an unplugged wire, different rods and strange looking sensors — and it is a very clever little puzzle.

We could explain to you how it works (with the Arduino, phototransistors and maybe the source code), but instead we think you’ll enjoy watching [Michael's] video of it.

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Putting the brains of a reverse geocache on the outside

ioio

A reverse geocache – a box that only opens in a specific geographical area – is a perennial favorite here at Hackaday. We see a ton of different implementations, but most of the time, the builds are reasonably similar. Of course dedicating a GPS receiver solely to a reverse geocache isn’t an inexpensive prospect, so [Eric] came up with a better solution. He’s using a smart phone as the brains of his geocache, allowing him to keep the GPS and display outside the locked box.

The build began by finding an old box and modifying it so it can be locked with a servo. The only other bits of electronics inside the box are an IOIO board, a battery pack, and an I2C EEPROM for storing a few settings. On the phone side of things, [Eric] wrote an Android app to serve as both the programming interface, UI, and GPS hardware for his reverse geocache. It’s exactly like all the other reverse geocaches we’ve seen, only this time the controls are wireless.

[Eric] put up a video demoing his reverse geocache. You can check that out after the break.

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Infrared hides code combination on geocache puzzle

[AJ] and [Brian] are making sure the geocache challenges they set up take some ingenuity to solve. They’ve just rolled out a two-part cache which uses a code hidden in infrared light.

The first part of the cache is a box (the black one on the left) which contains a mysterious hand crank and a smaller box that has a combination lock on it. The second stage is the wooden box on the right. It’s got a hole in the side to receive the hand crank. This connects to the dynamo inside, letting you build up some electricity as it spins. Inside the case you’ll see two red lights blink as the crank is turned, but when you push the button on the outside of the box nothing will happen. That is, unless you’re looking through a camera which can pick up infrared light. The code (710 in this case) is displayed in an array of IR LEDs, and is used to open that combination lock. We wonder if there’s any clues about using a camera or if you have to figure this out on your own.

Don’t miss the video after the break for a full demo of the system.

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Speech Recognition Geocache: Se Habla Español

Instructables user [jorgegunn] has put a unique spin on a recent geocache build by incorporating speech recognition and requiring that the “finder” knows the secret password to access the loot contained within. Although we won’t spoil the fun here, the techie spirit of the build was further bolstered by choosing a password fitting for any trekkie.

Despite utilizing an off-the-shelf speech recognition circuit kit, the majority of this hack was accomplished using parts available at local electronics and hardware stores. [jorgegunn] went to great lengths to make this hack accessible to any amateur hobbyist  and even includes links to relevant tutorials, schematics, and online parts vendors where applicable.

The actual speech recognition is accomplished with an Images Scientific Instruments model SR-06 circuit kit, capable of recognizing up to 40 different predefined words across multiple languages. Any time a correct match occurs, a value corresponding to the memory slot for that word is displayed on a pair of 7-segment displays. A separate decoder circuit based on a 74LS373 D-Type Latch and 4028 IC Decoder CMOS determines if the value being displayed constitutes a valid response and then drives a solenoid via a Darlington transistor in order to release the latching mechanism. Once opened, the device is simply pushed closed again to await its next finder- we are guessing that finding it might actually be the easiest part as judged by its size!

Although the real-world battery life has not yet been determined, a single coin cell for memory retention and a 9V battery used to drive the circuit and for latch release lasted through a full month of testing without any issues. Battery life could be extended almost indefinitely with a simple solar cell and rechargeable battery setup, but this would also obviously increase the likelihood of vandalism and/or theft.

We can imagine many different applications for such a device as-is including automated door lock  mechanisms and even access control to things such as the controls on a computer case.  It should also be fairly easy to increase the security by stringing multiple words together into a password or by instituting a “time out” period after a certain number of incorrect guesses.

Let us know of any other applications or build variations in the comments below and make sure to see how it all came together in the short videos after the break.

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Reverse geocaching Christmas gift box

This is the reverse geocache box that [William Dillon] built as a Christmas gift this year. He started with an interestingly shaped wooden box from the craft store. The clasp to keep it shut uses a servo motor on the lid with a wooden arm that grasps a screw on the base. As with the original geocache box, the Frustratomatic, and the smaller geocache, the box is designed to open only when in the correct geographic location thanks to the GPS module inside. That was a problem for [William] when a bug in his firmware locked the box during development while the key location was 1000 miles away. Luckily the box uses hinges that are attached from the outside with screws. We wonder how feasible it would be to use the mounting screws from the LCD screen to implement a coded emergency entry, using one as ground and the others as paths to microcontroller pins.

Reverse GeoCache puzzle gets downsized

[Markus] built his own reverse geocache puzzle box but on a smaller scale than the original. His is based around a PIC 18F2520 and powered by two AAA batteries. The user interface includes one button, a 16×2 character LCD, and a piezo speaker. The box unlocks itself when the GPS module inside detects the proper location on the globe. There is also a secret code that can be tapped on the button to unlock the box prematurely, and another to show the locations in which the user attempted to open the box. This build doesn’t leave much room for a payload, but [Markus] did a great job designing the board and making the components fit as efficiently as possible.

Frustromantic Box, a reverse Geocache

One of the best feelings in the world is when one of our posts inspires a fellow hacker to plan, create, and execute his or her own project.

[Russ] let us know about his Frustromantic Box which he gained inspiration from the original Reverse Geochache we posted about. For those out of the loop, the box is locked and will only open in a certain location. The current distance to the  location is displayed on the screen when a button is pressed, and usually there is a limited number of button presses (3 presses for those that know geometry, 50 for everyone else). As soon as the box is at location, it will open.

The Frustromantic Box uses an Arduino, classic HD44780 display, a servo, and the pièce de résistance EM406 GPS. All built in time to frustrate his wife for Christmas.