Hackaday Prize Entry: The Fog – The Cloud At Ground Level

I did not coin the phrase in this article’s headline. It came, I believe, from an asinine press release I read years ago. It was a stupid phrase then, and it’s a stupid phrase now, but the idea behind it does have some merit. A collaborative Dropbox running on hardware you own isn’t a bad idea, and a physical device that does the same is a pretty good idea. That’s the idea behind the USB Borg Drive. It’s two (or more) mirrored USB thumb drives linked together by condescending condensation saying you too can have the cloud in both your pockets.

Like all good technology, the USB Borg Drive began as a joke. [heige] and his colleague were passing USB sticks back and forth to get software running on a machine without Internet. The idea of two USB sticks connected together via WiFi blossomed and the idea of the USB Borg Drive was born.

An idea is one thing, and an implementation another thing entirely. This is where [helge] is stumbling. The basic idea now is to use a Raspberry Pi Zero containing a WiFi adapter, USB set up in peripheral mode, some sort of way to power the devices, and maybe a way to set IDs between pairs of devices.

There’s still a lot of work for [heige] to do, but this is actually, honestly, not a terrible idea. Everything has a USB port on it these days, and USB mass storage is available on every platform imaginable. It’s the cloud, at ground level. A fog, if you will, but not something that sounds that stupid.

Hackaday Prize Entry: The Open Voice Factory

Joe’s little brother Richard has never been able to speak. When Richard turned 19, he received a device not unlike the voice box of Stephen Hawking. Suddenly, Richard was able to communicate using thousands of words, and everyone could understand him. In the UK, there are thousands of people who could benefit from this technology, but can’t afford one. This is the inspiration for the Open Voice Factory, a device that allows anyone to create pages of touch screen interfaces and parses them into functioning speech aids.

The basic idea behind the Open Voice Factory is — wait for it — PowerPoint. Hold on, this actually makes sense. The Open Voice Factory is designed so caregivers can create and modify the touchscreen ‘pages’ with different words and actions. PowerPoint is universal, and everybody’s grandmother knows how to use it. In this regard, the software that is the leading cause of death for astronauts isn’t a terrible choice.

That PowerPoint stack is sent off to an online Factory that parses the commands and assembles a web page built for touch screen interaction. It’s brilliantly simple, relies on a cloud service so it’s highly marketable, and requires only a minimal hardware investment for each user. Consider the fact that computers – especially Macs – have had exceptional text to speech capabilities for twenty years now, and you wonder why something like this hasn’t come along sooner. It’s an awesome idea, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Antigravity Arm Floaties

A few years ago, [Mike] heard about orthotic devices for people in wheelchairs that make it easier to them to move their arms. His daughter had the opportunity to demo one of these devices, and the results with the device were good. The fights with the insurance company were not so good, but this really was a device that could be made on a 3D printer with a few rubber bands, after all. Thus, [Mike] invented 3D printed antigravity arm floaties.

The name basically tells the story — these antigravity arm floaties work well to counter the pull of gravity for individuals with low muscle tone. [Mike]’s daughter found the professional, official, not-covered-by-insurance version useful, so [Mike] decided to build his own. There’s really not much to it – it’s just a few 3D printed parts attached to a wheelchair with a few rubber bands giving the mechanical linkages some resistance.

In the true hacker spirit, [Mike] took the basic idea of these spring-loaded arm floaties and put a new twist on it. He’s using a chain as the mechanism that allows freedom of movement in the XY plane. This makes the device slightly better, and is by every account an improvement on the commercial version. That’s what you get when you can iterate quickly with a 3D printer, making this project an excellent example of what we’re looking for in the Assistive Technology portion of the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: 3D Prints For The Visually Impaired

Students with visual impairments can have difficulty with visual and spatial relationships. 3D printers can print almost everything, and with a lot of CAD work, this project in the Hackaday Prize provides these students with physical objects to learn any subject.

[Joan] and [Whosawhatsis] have already written the book on 3D printed science projects and have produced a 3D printed Braille map of a campus, but for this project, they’re making things a little bit simpler. Visually impaired students are tactile learners and the simplest of their 3D printable objects are fixed volume objects. This collection of 3D printable cylinders, cones, prisms, and pyramids give a physical representation of geometric solids. These objects also have another trick up their sleeve: they all contain the same volume. Fill the cylinder up with water, pour that water into a cone, and the student will discover that they all contain the same volume.  That’s useful for the visually impaired, but would also put these printable shapes at home in any elementary or middle school math class.

This project already has a rather large following, with teachers of the visually impaired contributing on a Google Group, and a ton of people downloading the models. [Joan] and [Whosawhatsis] are getting a lot of great feedback and growing the range of contributors, making this the start of an awesome community and a great Hackaday Prize entry.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Simpsons Hands

The creators of this Hackaday Prize entry say every month a new 3D-printed prosthetic solution comes on the scene. That doesn’t mean they’re not doing something different with their entry; yes, they’re still building a prosthetic hand, but they’re putting their own spin on it. This one isn’t using a string/cable/tendon setup, and the hand doesn’t even have four fingers. [Giovanni] and [Jenny] are going their own way, and what they’ve come up with is pretty special.

The most obvious feature of this prosthetic hand is a missing digit – Simpsons Hands – but this makes a lot of sense if you think about it. It’s doubtful any 3D-printed prosthetic hand will play a piano or touch type in the near future, so a pinkie finger is an appendix; an unneeded vanity that just increases the BOM and makes things harder to fit together.

Apart from the Simpsons Hands, this prosthetic hand is more or less what you would expect. The circuitry is just an Adafruit ATmega board, the mechanism is just a few servos, and the mechanics are well designed in carbon fiber PLA. What makes this prosthetic hand special for the team is that it’s the first of its kind in their native Colombia. Even if there’s a new 3D-printed prosthetic hand on Thingiverse every few weeks, this project makes it a truly global effort, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Tongue Computer Interface

The Hackaday Prize is a celebration of the greatest hardware put together by the greatest hackers on the planet. If you go over the entries, you’ll find user interfaces for everything. Need a wheelchair controlled by eye gaze? That won last year. A foot controlled mouse? Done. Need a device to talk to the Internet while you’re in a lucid dream? We’ve seen that.

We’ve seen a lot of really cool, really strange stuff in the Hackaday Prize. We haven’t seen anything like Pallette, a finalist for the Assistive Technologies portion of this year’s prize. It’s a tongue-computer interface. You put Pallette in your mouth, like a retainer, and you can control a computer. Telekinesis with a tongue.

At its most basic level, Pallette is a Bluetooth mouse, hidden away behind the lower jaw. Infrared sensors triangulate the position of the tongue, and a microphone detects the tongue tapping on Pallette. Everything you can do with a mouse can be done with Pallette.

At first glance, Pallette seems to be just a little bit absurd. This idea changes when you see the video the Pallette team produced for the Hackaday Prize finals. Some people can’t use their arms, and for this, Pallette is a godsend. With this, anyone can use a computer, control a Sphero, or  fly a drone. It’s a completely novel device that can be used for anything, and an excellent example of what we’re looking for in the Hackaday Prize.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: The Internet Of Casts

[Alex]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize is extremely simple: it’s a device to monitor the inside of casts. For every itch, for every broken bone, for every skin irritation, and for every episode of House that featured compartment syndrome, the CastMinder has an answer.

The CastMinder is a simple electronic device embedded inside an orthopedic cast. Attached to this tiny bit of electronics are a few sensors, relaying pressure, moisture, temperature, and of course the battery level to an iOS app. The use case for this device is actually very simple; the pressure sensor is a great idea if you have a cast and you’re unconscious in a hospital. A moisture sensor will at least tell you how many trash bags wrapped around your broken arm are necessary to take a shower.

The entire device is based on the LightBlue Bean, a tiny Bluetooth-enabled device that can be powered by a CR2032 battery. The enclosure is 3D printed, and the entire device is small enough to be embedded in a cast without the wearer noticing much. It’s a great idea, and a great project to make it to the semifinals of the Hackaday Prize.