Hackaday Links: June 8, 2014

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Yes, dogfighting with RC planes is cool. You know what’s even cooler? RC jousting. Considering these eight foot long planes are probably made of foam board or Depron, they’ll probably hold up for a fairly long time. The perfect application of RC FPV.

Home automation is the next big thing, apparently, but it’s been around for much longer than iPhones and Bluetooth controllable outlets and smart thermostats. Here’s a home automation system from 1985. Monochrome CRT display panel (with an awesome infrared touch screen setup), a rat’s nest of wiring, and a floor plan drawn in ASCII characters. It’s also Y2K compliant.

Here’s an idea for mobile component storage: bags. Instead of tackle and tool boxes for moving resistors and other components around, [Darcy] is using custom bags made from polyethylene sheets, folded and sealed with an impulse sealer. It’s not ESD safe, but accidentally zapping a LED with an ESD would be impressive.

Need a stepper motor test circuit? Easy, just grab one of those Polulu motor drivers, an ATtiny85, wire it up, and you’re done. Of course then you’re troubled with people on the Internet saying you could have done it with a 555 timer. This one is for them. It’s a 555, some wire, and some solder. Could have done it with discrete transistors, though.

Someone figured out Lego Minifigs can hold iDevice charge cables. +1 for the 1980s spaceman.

Remember that “electronic, color sensing, multicolor pen” idea that went around the Internet a year or so ago? It’s soon to be a Kickstarter, and man, is this thing full of fail. They’re putting an ARM 9 CPU in a pen. A pen with a diameter of 15mm. Does anyone know if an ARM 9 is made in that small of a package? We’ll have a full, “this is a totally unrealistic Kickstarter and you’re all sheep for backing it” post when it finally launches. Also, this.

Turning Lego Into A Groove Machine

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Last weekend wasn’t just about Maker Faire; in Stockholm there was another DIY festival celebrating the protocols that make electronic music possible. It’s MIDI Hack 2014, and [Kristian], [Michael], [Bram], and [Tobias] put together something really cool: a Lego sequencer

The system is set up on a translucent Lego base plate, suspended above a webcam that feeds into some OpenCV and Python goodness. From there, data is sent to Native Instruments Maschine. There’s a step sequencer using normal Lego bricks, a fader controlling beat delay, and a rotary encoder for reverb.

Despite being limited to studs and pegs, the short demo in the video below actually sounds good, with a lot of precision found in the faders and block-based rotary encoder. [Kristian] will be putting up the code and a few more details shortly. Hopefully there will be enough information to use different colored blocks in the step sequencer part of the build for different notes.

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Never Lose Your Pencil With OSkAR on Patrol

OSkAR

[Courtney] has been hard at work on OSkAR, an OpenCV based speaking robot. OSkAR is [Courney’s] capstone project (pdf link) at Shepherd University in West Virginia, USA. The goal is for OSkAR to be an assistive robot. OSkAR will navigate a typical home environment, reporting objects it finds through speech synthesis software.

To accomplish this, [Courtney]  started with a Beagle Bone Black and a Logitech C920 webcam. The robot’s body was built using LEGO Mindstorms NXT parts. This means that when not operating autonomously, OSkAR can be controlled via Bluetooth from an Android phone. On the software side, [Courtney] began with the stock Angstrom Linux distribution for the BBB. After running into video problems, she switched her desktop environment to Xfce.  OpenCV provides the machine vision system. [Courtney] created models for several objects for OSkAR to recognize.

Right now, OSkAR’s life consists of wandering around the room looking for pencils and door frames. When a pencil or door is found, OSkAR announces the object, and whether it is to his left or his right. It may sound like a rather boring life for a robot, but the semester isn’t over yet. [Courtney] is still hard at work creating more object models, which will expand OSkAR’s interests into new areas.

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Hackaday Links: March 9, 2014

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Thinking about starting a CNC machine, 3D printer, or laser cutter project? Misumi has you covered. They’re offering up $150 worth of free stuff with a coupon code. [CharlieX] is putting together a BuildLog laser cutter, a whole bunch of people on reddit are building 3D printers, and I have most of the rods for an i3 build. Just use the promotion code First150 on your order. Actually, read the terms and conditions, but rest assured – this is legit.

A few months ago, we saw this Enigma cypher machine that combines the classic late-30s aesthetic of the original with modern hardware – including a few 16-segment displays. Now there’s a Kickstarter for the Open Source Enigma replica, and it looks like it’s going to end up being pretty popular. Here’s the site with all the deets. Check out that QWERTZ keyboard.

[Jason] has a love of LEGO and a terrible keyboard. Combine the two and he came up with a functional LEGO keyboard. The electronics are, sadly, an old PS/2 membrane keyboard, but the mechanicals are a work of art – all the keys are mounted on a grid of Technic parts that can be positioned over each of the membrane buttons.

Want a really cool look for your next enclosure? How about LED pipes? They’re those clear plastic bits that direct the light from LEDs around corners and can make any enclosure looks like a Star Trek set piece. You can cut these things with a laser cutter like the Alima team did with their indoor air quality meter. Looks pretty cool.

BRAIGO – A Lego Braille Printer

BRAIGO

Accessibility devices tend to be prohibitively expensive, and it’s always nice to see a hacker apply their skills to making these devices more affordable. BRAIGO is a low cost braille printer by [Shubham Banerjee]. He built the printer using parts from the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit, with a few additions. This LEGO kit retails for $349, and a standard braille printer costs over $2000.

The BRAIGO print head uses weights and a pin to punch holes in standard calculator paper rolls. LEGO motors are used to feed the paper and align the head for accurate printing. It takes about 5 to 7 seconds to print each letter, which are entered on the Mindstorms controller.

While this is a great prototype, [Shubham] intends to continue development with the goal of creating an affordable braille printer. He’s a bit swamped with media requests right now, but is working on releasing BRAIGO as an open source project so others can contribute. It’s an impressive project, especially for a 12 year old student. After the break, watch the BRAIGO do some printing.

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faBrickation: Combining Lego and 3D Printing

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While 3D printing gives you the ability to fabricate completely custom parts, it does have some drawbacks. One issue is the time and cost of printing large volumes. Often these structures are simple, and do not require completely custom design.

This is where the faBrickation system comes in. It allows you to combine 3D printed parts with off the shelf LEGO bricks. The CAD tool that lets you ‘Legofy’ a design. It creates directions on how to assemble the LEGO parts, and exports STL files for the parts to be 3D printed. These custom bricks snap into the LEGO structure.

In their demo, a head mounted display is built in 67 minutes. The same design would have taken over 14 hours to 3D print. As the design is changed, LEGO blocks are added and removed seamlessly.

Unfortunately, the tool doesn’t appear to be open source. It will appear for the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, so hopefully we will see more in the future. Until then, you can watch the demo after the break.

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Hackaday Links: January 12, 2014

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[Kyle] teaches photography and after being dismayed at the shuttering of film and darkroom programs at schools the world over decided to create a resource for film photography. There’s a lot of cool stuff on here like mixing up a batch of Rodinal developer with Tylenol, lye, and sodium sulphite, and assessing flea market film cameras. There are more tutorials coming that will include setting up a dark room, developing prints, and playing around with large format cameras.

[hifatpeople] built a binary calculator out of LEGO® bricks or toys. It started off as a series of logic gates built out of LEGO® bricks or toys in the LEGO® Digital Designer. These logic gates were combined into half adders, the half adders combined into full adders, and the full adders combined into a huge plastic calculator. Unfortunately, buying the LEGO® bricks or toys necessary to turn this digital design into a physical model would cost about $1000 using the LEGO® Pick-A-Brick service. Does anyone have a ton of LEGO® Technic® bricks or toys sitting around? We’d love to see this built.

Think you need a PID controller and fancy electronics to do reflow soldering in a toaster oven? Not so, it seems. [Sivan] is just using a meter with a thermocouple, a kitchen timer, and a little bit of patience to reflow solder very easily.

The folks at DreamSourceLabs realized a lot of electronic test equipment – from oscilloscopes and logic analyzers to protocol and RF analyzers were all included a sampling circuit. They designed the DSLogic that puts a sampler and USB plug on one board, with a whole bunch of different tools connected to a pin header. It’s a pretty cool idea for a modular approach to test equipment.

Adafruit just released an iDevice game. It’s a resistor color code game and much more educational than Candy Crush. With a $0.99 coupon for the Adafruit store, it’s effectively free if you’re buying anything at Adafruit anytime soon. Check out the video and the awesome adorable component “muppets”.