Retractable iPad dock for the kitchen

[Evan Flint] and his wife use a lot of online recipes in the kitchen. Rather than printing them out, they bought an iPad as a cooking companion. But in their cramped kitchen he needed to find a place for the high-end hardware that is out-of-the-way yet accessible. Some head scratching and parts bin diving led to this under-cabinet iPod dock.

The dock itself is a cradle made out of sheet aluminum. After cutting to shape, [Evan] bent up the sides and bottom to center the iPad. Since this is not a permanent fixture he needed to make the cradle collapsible. He used a CAD program to design the base tray to let the cradle lay flat, while giving several options to the angle when it is in use. Once the cooking is done just fold it up and the drawer slides make for easy under-cabinet storage.

Because he doesn’t own the house he didn’t want to make permanent alterations to the cabinet. But he does lament the unfinished look of the drawer slides. We’d just grab some pre-finished oak crown molding from the home store and wrap the entire thing. The left-edge of molding could slide out with the cradle when in use.

Playing DVDs on an iPad

[Harrison Jackson] figured out how to add DVD playback to an iPad. It doesn’t require a jailbreak, or any hardware modifications to your prized tablet. The work is done with some server-side processing and played back through the browser.

The popular open-source multimedia player VLC has the ability to encode from the command line during playback. [Harry's] option flag mastery of the program allows him to convert a DVD to a 320×240 format that is iPad friendly. But this alone doesn’t get the video any closer to being on the iDevice. You’ll need to be running a webserver that can stream video. This example is on OSX, but since he’s using an Apache server it should be simple to reproduce on any Unix variant. Once you’ve enabled m3u8 files in the Apache mime-types, the iPad browser can be pointed to the file address VLC is kicking out and you’ll be watching a movie in no time.

We’ve wondered about replacing our home theater front-end with an ATV 2 running XBMC but the thought of having no optical drive in the living room requires some contemplation. If this becomes a feasible option (that isn’t downscaled from DVD quality) it will be a no-brainer to make that jump.

Don’t miss the demo video after the break. Full instruction are in the comment section of that clip.

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Shoulder surfing with openCV

shoulder_surfing_with_shoulder_pad

While it seems that many people are wise to shoulder surfing, keeping a lookout for anyone spying on their passwords, [Haroon] wrote in to remind us that the threat is just as real today as it ever was.

The subjects of his research are touch screen phones and tablets, which utilize on-screen keyboards for data entry. He says that while nearly all password entry boxes on these devices are obscured with the traditional line of asterisks, the keyboards themselves are quite an interesting vulnerability.

Since touch screen technology can be finicky at times, most vendors ship their devices with some sort of key press verification system. On the iPhone and iPad, for instance, each key is highlighted in blue following a button press. This functionality makes it quite easy for shoulder surfers to casually steal your password if you’re not paying attention.

But what if you are well aware of your surroundings? [Haroon] has developed a piece of software he calls shoulderPad, which is based on openCV that does the surfing for him. The application can monitor a video stream, live or recorded, extracting the user’s password from the highlighted button presses. His demonstrations show the recording taking place at a relatively close distance, but he says that it would be quite easy to use surveillance footage or zoom lenses to capture key presses from afar.

He does say that the button highlighting can be easily disabled in the iPhone’s options pane, which should negate this sort of attack for the most part.

Continue reading to see a quick video of shoulderPad in action.

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Experimental music iPad dock

You can buy nice audio breakout equipment for your iPod if you don’t mind breaking the bank. This is partly because the demand is not incredibly high so commercial breakout hardware doesn’t benefit from volume discounts. But it’s also because Apple charges licensing fees for third-party accessories (often referred to as the “Apple Tax”). [Reed Ghazala] decided to side-step the whole situation by building his own accessory which he calls the iPad Audio Desk.

It all starts with a breakout board. The PodBreakout Mini provides an easy to solder interface for the iPad, and ensures that the repetitive act of plugging and unplugging the connection doesn’t break a solder connection. From there [Reed's] enclosure finishing skills take over. The shape and curve of the aluminum sheet give the look befitting an expensive tablet device. Along the back you can see the jacks for line-in, line-out, video, mic/guitar, and headphones that make the dock useful. It wouldn’t be hard to make one… but it might be hard to make one look this great. See for yourself after the break.

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Extending the usability of touchscreens

Fanboys may be in shock from seeing duct tape applied to the screen of an iPad, but we can assure you it’s in the name of science. [Michael Knuepfel] is working on his thesis for the ITP graduate program at the Tisch School for the Arts. He managed to augment the usability of touchscreen devices by adding hardware to them.

What he’s come up with are devices for both input and output. The output devices generally rely on light and color of light displayed on the screen itself which is picked up by a light sensor. The input devices use conductive material to complete a path between your hand and your screen. This lets the capacitive sensing screen detect the presence of your hand, through the conductor. Some of his example devices include gaming controller overlays, encoder rings, and multiple stylus designs.

After the break we’ve embedded [Michael's] teaser trailer which jumps through several demonstrations. It’s plenty to get your mind rolling, but if you want to know more you must watch his thesis presentation. It’s available as an MP4 download on this page. Just search for his name, [Michael Knuepfel] for the proper link.

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R/C car controlled by an iPad or Kinect

ipad_kinect_rc_control

R/C cars can be tons of fun, but sometimes the fun runs out after awhile. [Gaurav] got bored of steering around his R/C car with its remote, so he built an interface that lets him control the car using two different motion-detecting devices.

He built an HTML5 application for his iPad, which allows him to steer the car around. As you can see in the video below, the application utilizes the iPad’s tilt sensor to activate the car’s motors and steering depending on where on the screen he has moved the guide marker.

The second steering method he devised uses his Kinect sensor to track his movements. His hand gestures are mapped to a set of virtual spaces similar to those which the iPad uses. By moving his hands through these areas, the Arduino triggers the car’s remote just as it does with the iPad.

The actual remote control interface is achieved by wiring the car’s remote to an Arduino via a handful of opto-isolators. The Arduino is also connected to his computer via the serial port, where it waits for commands to be sent. In the case of the iPad, a Python server waits for commands to be issued from the HTML5 application. The Kinect’s interface is slightly different, with a C# application monitoring his movements and sending the commands directly to the serial port.

Check out the video below to see the car in action, and swing by his site if you are interested in grabbing some source code and giving it a try yourself.

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RoboTouch adds physical game controls to the iPad

robotouch

[ProtoDojo] wanted to play a racing game on his iPad, but he was not a big fan of using the touch interface for this particular title. Instead, he put together a pretty neat little hack that allows him to play games on his iPad using an old NES controller.

He built a set of custom conductive arms which he mounted on three micro servos. The servos were attached to the iPad screen using small suction cups in the locations where it expects to receive button presses. They are also wired to an Arduino that interprets button presses from the attached NES controller. When the Arduino senses that the D-pad or buttons have been pressed, it triggers the servos, which in turn press the virtual buttons on the screen.

In the video below, you can see that after adjusting the servo positions, the setup seems to work pretty well. You might expect to see some sort of lag with a setup like this, but we didn’t notice any. The [ProtoDojo] web site is currently down due to heavy traffic, but you should be able to find some more build details there, once it becomes functional again.

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