The Hackaday Prize: The Hacker Behind The First Tricorder

Smartphones are the most common expression of [Gene Roddneberry]’s dream of a small device packed with sensors, but so far, the suite of sensors in the latest and greatest smartphone are only used to tell Uber where to pick you up, or upload pics to an Instagram account. It’s not an ideal situation, but keep in mind the Federation of the 24th century was still transitioning to a post-scarcity economy; we still have about 400 years until angel investors, startups, and accelerators are rendered obsolete.

Until then, [Peter Jansen] has dedicated a few years of his life to making the Tricorder of the Star Trek universe a reality. It’s his entry for The Hackaday Prize, and made it to the finals selection, giving [Peter] a one in five chance of winning a trip to space.

[Peter]’s entry, the Open Source Science Tricorder or the Arducorder Mini, is loaded down with sensors. With the right software, it’s able to tell [Peter] the health of leaves, how good the shielding is on [Peter]’s CT scanner, push all the data to the web, and provide a way to sense just about anything happening in the environment. You can check out [Peter]’s video for The Hackaday Prize finals below, and an interview after that.

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THP Hacker Bio: Kenji Larsen


I met up with [Kenji Larsen] at HOPE X last weekend, and I’m fairly certain he was the coolest person at a conference full of really cool people. Talking to him for a little bit, you get a sense of what it would be like to speak with [Buckmister Fuller], [Tesla], or any of the other ‘underappreciated, but not by people in the know’ minds scattered about history. I’ll just let his answers to our hacker bio questions demonstrate that.

7033431402348237268[Kenji]’s project for The Hackaday Prize is the Reactron Overdrive. It’s not just one board he’s building here, but an entire suite of sensors, interfaces, and nodes that form a complete human to machines – note the plural ‘machines’ – interface. When you consider that no one knows what the Internet of Things actually is, and that [Kenji] is working on IoT 3.0, you get a sense that there’s really something here. Also, his project log has a Tron Recognizer in it. That has to count for something, right?

Interview/Bio below.

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Interviews with the Hand-Makers

Want some inspiration to launch your own Handmade adventure? [Anne Hollowday] wrote in to share a series of short films she’s been posting called Makers of Things.

So far there are just four episodes but we hope she makes many more. Above you can see the latest, entitled Woodworker. It’s a monologue-style interview with masters of their crafts. The first installment looks at an engineering club called SMEE that builds a wide range of intricately engineered things like clocks. There’s another maker who builds miniature models of machines. And of course, The Problem Solver whose high-tech endeavors parallel the subjects of interest found on our main site.

Hack a Day on Fact or Fiction with [Veronical Belmont]

Enjoy a fun episode of “Fact or Fiction” with [Veronica Belmont], with guest [me] from Hackaday.  The show “Fact or Fiction” generally takes some popular topic and talks to experts who can shed some light on the topic. They’ve had all kinds of intelligent people on, and also me.  If you watch a few episodes you’ll see that she tends to let people talk about the science for a bit, but inevitably veers over into “can we actually make this?”, which tends to elicit an awkward and somewhat humorous response from the person being interviewed, because most of the things they’re talking about are pretty outlandish, like portal guns.  I enjoyed the one about life on mars, especially when she asks the gentleman how accurate portrayal of martians in movies are, right after he explained that we’re looking microscopic things.

On a completely unrelated note, it is a very very small world. I ran in to [Veronica] at CES a few years ago and we found that both her and her husband both worked in the same office as [Phil Torrone] when Hackaday was just beginning.

An interview with Laen (the force behind Dorkbot PDX)

[PT] recently interviewed [Laen], the man who makes it cheap and easy for hobbiests to have small PCBs manufactured. He created Dorkbot PDX’s PCB group order, a rapid turn PCB service which we see used in projects all the time (pretty much any purple PCB has gone through [Laen]).

Turns out his real name is [James Neal]. He’s a sysadmin by trade but deals in recreational circuitry at night. We were surprised to learn that the service has been rebranded. Its new name is OSH Park and it’s got a purple website with a new submission system. In the interview he discusses the genesis of the service. Inspired by a group parts order (that’s a mouthful!) with other hackers in Portland he saw a need for boards on which to mount them. The service has grown so much that he was spending 2-4 hours per night panelizing the designs. He made the wise choice to include an automated submission service in the new website that takes care of most of this work for him.

The rest of the interview spans a large range of topics. [Laen] shares his feelings on getting the boards manufactured domestically. He speaks briefly on the future of the service, and riffs on why open source hardware has value to him.

Interview: [Vladimir Demin] the creator of the player guitar

We have been amazed by [Vladimir Demin]’s work twice now. Originally, with his automatic Bayan, and more recently with his amazing automatic guitar. What you didn’t get to see was how pleasant ant fun [Valdimir] was in his email correspondence with us. You will get a chance though, because [Vladimir] agreed to answer some questions for us in an impromptu email interview. Join us after the break to get to know this fascinating gentleman a little bit better.

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ENIAC was first, right?

Well, no. Many of us who went to school and have degrees in various computer related fields instantly think of ENIAC as the first “computer”, but we’re all wrong. We know some of you are already familiar with the Atanasoff-Berry computer, and we are too… now. However, when we learned about it, it was long after our school lessons were over, and it felt like learning Santa wasn’t real, or the pilgrims didn’t really have a fancy dinner with the native Americans. [Jane Smiley] is releasing a book telling the whole story, and it should be fairly interesting. She gave an interview with Wired about the book. In the interview she talks about how fascinating the story is and even addresses [Alan Turing]’s role.