LEDs Turn This Paper Map into a Tram Tracker

Subway radar

Public transit can be a wonderful thing. It can also be annoying if the trains are running behind schedule. These days, many public transit systems are connected to the Internet. This means you can check if your train will be on time at any moment using a computer or smart phone. [Christoph] wanted to take this concept one step further for the Devlol hackerspace is Linz, Austria, so he built himself an electronic tracking system (Google translate).

[Christoph] started with a printed paper map of the train system. This was placed inside what began as an ordinary picture frame. Then, [Christoph] strung together a series of BulletPixel2 LEDs in parallel. The BulletPixel2 LEDs are 8mm tri-color LEDs that also contain a small controller chip. This allows them to be controlled serially using just one wire. It’s similar to having an RGB LED strip, minus the actual strip. [Christoph] used 50 LEDs when all was said and done. The LEDs were mounted into the photo frame along the three main train lines; red, green, and blue. The color of the LED obviously corresponds to the color of the train line.

The train location data is pulled from the Internet using a Raspberry Pi. The information must be pulled constantly in order to keep the map accurate and up to date. The Raspberry Pi then communicates with an Arduino Uno, which is used to actually control the string of LEDs. The electronics can all be hidden behind the photo frame, out of sight. The final product is a slick “radar” for the local train system.

Preserve history and dispose of asbestos

If you’ve ever visited Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War, you’ve probably seen this illuminated topographical map. For years, it was housed in one of the many visitor centers in Gettysburg and demonstrated the progress of the 3-day battle with an amazing 1960s-era visualization using a 30 foot by 30 foot topographical map and many, many light bulbs. Even the coolest museum exhibits are eventually made obsolete, so this masterpiece of battlefield education is now up for sale. The starting price for this auction? Five dollars.

We’re going to be honest. We talked about using Hackaday’s influence (and funding to buy toys such as an AR Drone and the Oculus Rift) to put a project together to save this gigantic map. It’s got everything we love in a large-scale project: giant things weighing several tons, cool representations of data, and vintage electronics. Really, restoring this map is the perfect project for any (very) ambitious hacker. It also helps I live a half hour away from Gettysburg.

There’s a problem, though: the map is literally covered in asbestos. Also, it takes up four shipping containers and weighs 12 and a half tons. Basically, you’re bidding on a GSA auction to be responsible for a hazardous waste disposal project.

Now that our dreams of doing something really cool with five dollars have come crashing down, we’re turning it over to Hackaday readers. If you run an asbestos disposal company and are around South Central PA or Maryland, there may be some people who want to get in touch with you. Drop a note in the comments.

Really, we’d really just like someone to scan this 30-foot square map with a Kinect and a high-resolution camera, and maybe get our hands on a video of the hourly show when this map was still in operation. It should be possible to dig up some topographical data and replicate this map fairly easily… maybe someone should start a Kickstarter to build a smaller, non-asbestos laden copy?

Pressure mapping sensor mat

[imsolidstate] built his own pressure sensitive mat. It utilizes two discs of copper clad board with a piece of foam in between for each of 64 sensors. As the foam gets compressed, the capacitance between the two pieces of copper changes, a measurement that is fairly easy to make with an analog to digital converter. The mat is being used to measure how well a horse saddle fits the animal. Data is read in through a serial port and then mapped using Excel. This prototype proves that the concept works but [imsolidstate] mentions that there’s room to improve the sensitivity and that there could be more noise filtering incorporated into the design.

Harry Potter Marauders map realized

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After reading about cheap wireless for microcontrollers, [Leigh] left a comment about his Marauders map. Much like the Harry Potter version, whoever holds the ‘map’ is able to see the location of the ‘marauders’ within certain bounds. Unlike the magical version however, each person being tracked needs to hold a PICAXE 08M, GPS, and 433.92MHz transmitter: while the map needs a computer running his Python script and a receiver of the same frequency. It has the potential for locating people, but we feel it might be better off in a swarm robotics setup.

Ekahau HeatMapper maps out WiFi signals

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The term ‘warwalking’ isn’t used very often, but the Ekahau HeatMapper adds a new tool to the pod bound hacker’s arsenal. The tool maps out wireless access points as well as their signal strength within a facility. A test of the HeatMapper on a map made with AutoDesk Dragonfly accurately determined the location of a router within 3 feet and helped tune the angle it needed to be at for maximum range. Ekahau made a fantastically cheesy promotional video for their product, which is viewable after the jump. The program is free of charge, but unfortunately only runs on windows, so mac and *nix users are out of luck, though it might run under wine.

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Gaming with real-world data


We were pretty excited by the prospect of location-aware software and its ability to pull map data into its functions, but what do you get when build software on top of a map-based service? Well, one possibility is 2D gaming on real maps.

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