[Akiba] and the crew at Tokyo Hakerspace are still hard at work trying to help out their fellow countrymen after the recent earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. You may remember the group as they are behind the Kimono Lantern project we featured last week. This time around, their efforts are focused on getting usable information out to those who need it.
With all of the talk about nuclear fallout, they wanted to see what sort of measurements they could get in Tokyo, however they could not locate a Geiger counter anywhere nearby. Luckily, they were eventually able to source two old counters from the Reuseum in Idaho. One is being lent out to individuals in order to check if their home’s radiation levels are safe, but it was decided that the other would reside outdoors in order to collect radiation readings from the air.
[Akiba] wanted to put the results from the external Geiger counter up on Pachube, however these old units are all analog. He figured that a quick and dirty way to do analog to digital conversion would be to monitor the chirps coming off the counter’s speaker. This was done by wiring up an Arduino to the speaker leads, and keeping track of each time the speaker was activated. This resulted in an accurate digital radiation reading, matching that of the counter’s analog display. The Arduinio wirelessly sends the information to another Arduino stationed inside his apartment, which then uploads the data to Pachube.
A walkthrough of his conversion as well as the source code for both the Arduino counter and the Pachube uploader are available on his site, in case anyone else in the Tokyo area has a Geiger counter handy and wishes to do the same.
We, like the rest of the world, have watched in horror as footage of the recent earthquake-caused disaster has been reported from northern Japan. It’s easy to watch video and see nothing but distruction, however, life goes on and [Akiba] is looking for a way to help the recovery efforts. He mentions that one of the big needs in the disaster area right now is for light, as the power infrastructure has been heavily damaged. The mason jar seen above is a Kimono Lantern that was meant to accent a garden at night. It has a solar cell – one NiMH rechargeable battery – and one bright LED along with a charging circuit. It was designed in the Tokyo Hackerspace and they released the build files in hopes that a large number can be donated to those in need. With a reasonable amount of daylight, the single cell battery can be charged enough to provide 10 hours of light from the little device.
How can our hacks help others? That question has been on our minds for the last few days. Light is a great first step. But we’ve also wondered about information networks to help coordinate rescue and cleanup workers. There are hacks that bring WiFi using wind power or solar power. What other hacks do you think would be useful to aid in the recovery process?
This is the kind of footage that makes our mouths water here at Hackaday. [Akiba] of Freaklabs has been kind enough to take us all on a video tour of Akihabara Station, a treasure trove for electronics hackers located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. The highlight includes surplus stores, specialty electronics shops, and enough silicon to bring an engineer to tears. Rather than waste time reading about it, follow the link and check out the videos in stunning 720p.
Hackers in other parts of the world, what kind of stores and marketplaces do you have like this? Send us your pictures and videos of local marketplaces that cater to your hacking needs so we can show them off.
Researchers at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have been demoing a new power suit. It’s intended to be used by people hand harvesting in the farm industry. The 55 pound device supports the worker’s joints as they squat and reach. Within three years, they hope to have the cost within $10K. We’ve seen quite a few power suit devices this year, but research has been going on for many years, as you can see in our power suit roundup.
Nice try, Fujitaka. They manufacture cigarette vending machines in Japan, and were all set to roll out a new system of age verification cameras on their machines, which would scan the face of the buyer to look for sagging skin, wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of legal smoking age. The system is easily circumvented, however: people with a photo of an older person clipped from a magazine can fool the machine by simply showing the photo instead of their own faces.
Another aspect to Japan’s cigarette control is the Taspo card, which is an age verified ID issued to smokers of legal age or older (20 years old is the legal age in Japan). Taspo cards are required for over the counter purchases, and the majority of vending machines require them as well. Relatively few machines are outfitted with face recognition systems, but many more are set to ship in the coming months. Fujitaka claims they are working on a solution by improving the face recognition software, but we think it would be a lot easier to simply check the background of the image. Since the camera is static and always pointed in one direction, the portraits it captures should always have the same background. Someone please tell Fujitaka we just saved them a boatload of R&D money… until Guy Fawkes masks become more popular.