Hackaday Prize Entry: Mouse Controlled Microscope

You might imagine that all one should need to operate a microscope would be a good set of eyes. Unfortunately if you are an amputee that may not be the case. Veterinary lab work for example requires control of focus, as well as the ability to move the sample in both X and Y directions, and these are not tasks that can easily be performed simultaneously with only a single hand.

[ksk]’s solution to this problem is to use geared stepper motors and an Arduino Mega to allow the manual functions of the microscope to be controlled from a computer mouse or trackball. The motors are mounted on the microscope controls with a custom 3D-printed housing. A rotary selector on the control box containing the Arduino allows the user to select a slow or fast mode for fine or coarse adjustment.

It’s fair to say that this project is still a work in progress, we’re featuring it in our series of posts looking at Hackaday Prize entries. However judging by the progress reported so far it’s clear that this is a project with significant potential, and we can see the finished product could be of use to anyone operating the microscope.

We’ve featured one or two mouse controlled projects over the years, though not controlling microscopes. Here’s one mouse controlled robot arm, and we’ve covered another arm with a 3D mouse.

NES Zapper: Improved with Lasers

The Zapper gun from the original Nintendo was ahead of its time. That time, though, was around 30 years ago and the iconic controller won’t even work with most modern televisions. With a little tinkering they can be made to work, but if you want to go in a different direction they can be made to do all kinds of other things, too. For example, this one can shoot green lasers and be used as a mouse.

The laser pointer was installed in the gun using a set of 3D printed rings to make sure the alignment was correct. It’s powered with a Sparkfun battery pack and control board which all fit into the gun’s case. The laser isn’t where the gun really shines, though. There’s a Wiimote shoved in there too that allows the gun to be used as a mouse pointer when using it with a projector. Be sure to check out the video below to see it in action. Nothing like mixing a little bit of modern Nintendo with a classic!

The Wiimote is a great platform for interacting with a computer. Since the Wii was released it’s been relatively easy to interface with them via Bluetooth. One of the classic Wiimote hacks is using an IR pen and projector to create a Smart Board of sorts for a fraction of the price. They’ve also been used with some pretty interesting VR displays.

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Unexpected Betrayal From Your Right Hand Mouse

Some people really enjoy the kind of computer mouse that would not be entirely out of place in a F-16 cockpit. The kind of mouse that can launch a browser with the gentle shifting of one of its thirty-eight buttons ever so slightly to the left and open their garage door with a shifting to the right of that same button. However, can this power be used for evil, and not just frustrating guest users of their computer?

We’ve heard of the trusted peripheral being repurposed for nefarious uses before. Sometimes they’ve even been modified for more benign purposes. All of these have a common trend. The mouse itself must be physically modified to add the vulnerability or feature. However, the advanced mice with macro support can be used as is for a vulnerability.

The example in this case is a Logitech G-series gaming mouse. The mouse has the ability to store multiple personal settings in its memory. That way someone could take the mouse to multiple computers and still have all their settings available. [Stefan Keisse] discovered that the 100 command limit on the macros for each button are more than enough to get a full reverse shell on the target computer.

Considering how frustratingly easy it can be to accidentally press an auxiliary button on these mice, all an attacker would need to do is wait after delivering the sabotaged mouse. Video of the exploit after the break.

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Arcade Track-Mouse

[Evan] always wanted a trackball for his arcade cabinet. It’s hard to play Missile Command with anything else, and Centipede with any other controller is just stupid. So he bought one, jury-rigged a mounting bracket for it, and then fried it by plugging the wiring harness in backwards. Doh!

But proving Edison’s famous statement that innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% having the right stuff in your junk bin, [Evan] dug deep and came out with one of twenty (!) old ball mice that he had purchased for just such an occasion. (Yeah, right.) Since a ball mouse is essentially an upside-down trackball, all that remained for him to do was reverse-engineer the mouse and swap its controller in for the busted trackball.

A simple hack, born of necessity, and well done. If you’re stuck with a crate of optical mice instead, consider turning them instead into optical laser rangefinders.

Mouse Brains Plus Line Laser Equals Rangefinder

[Neumi] wrote in with a sweet robotics hack. It’s a 2D laser distance sensor (YouTube) made with a cheap line laser and an optical mouse’s flow-sensor chip used as a low-resolution camera. In one sense, it’s a standard laser-distance-sensor project. But it is clever for a whole bunch of reasons.

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For one, using a mouse sensor as a low-res camera is awesome. It’s designed to read from a standard red LED, so the sensitivity is in just the right ballpark for use with a line laser. It returns a 30×30 pixel greyscale image, which is just about the right amount of data for a low-end microcontroller to handle and keep up with the framerate without resorting to coding tricks.

It’s also no coincidence that these sensors are available with lenses built in, for relatively cheap, on eBay. Apparently the quadcopter gurus use them as if they were mice to visually track their quad’s motion. Hacker spillover!

Detecting the laser line as it reflects off of whatever objects are lying on [Neumi]’s floor could also possibly prove difficult, and might produce false readings in the presence of background illumination. So [Neumi] takes two readings with the camera — one with the laser on and one with it off — and differences them. Done fast enough, this should reduce any non-laser sources down to the sensor’s noise floor. Finally, there’s some thresholding and averaging going on behind the scenes that help make everything work out right. The code is up on GitHub.

Not a bad build for a 2D laser distance system on a budget. If you want to shell out a bit more money, and are into a seriously involved build, this is probably the slickest we’ve seen in a long time. And if you’re thinking that you’ve heard of [Neumi] before, you’re right: we featured this 405mm laser PCB exposer / burner CNC machine just a few months ago.

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Fixing A Complicated Scrollwheel

[Thomas] loves his Logitech MX Master mouse, which has a pretty elaborate scroll-wheel mechanism. Perhaps too elaborate; it broke on him after a week of use, just when he was getting used to the feature. So what did he do? Took it apart and fixed it, naturally. And as a bonus, we get a guided tour of the interesting mechanism. Check out his video below to watch it in action.

The weighted scroll wheel switches between two different modes, one with a detent like you’re probably used to, and one where the wheel is allowed to spin freely for long-distance travel. And to do this, it’s actually got a little motor inside that rotates a cam and throws a lever into the side of the scroll wheel for the detent mode, and pulls the lever out of the way for free spins. It must also have some logic inside that detects how quickly the scroller is spun because it re-engages as soon as the scroll wheel stops.

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A Better Mousetrap, at Least for the Mouse

No mice were harmed in the making of this non-lethal soda bottle mousetrap.

Depending on your opinion of these little critters, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. We don’t deny that mice are cute as all get-out, but when they do damage to foodstuffs that you’ve put an entire summer’s effort into growing, harvesting and preserving, cute isn’t worth much.

Our preference for taking care of rodent problems is either bioremediation or rapid cervical dislocation, but if you’re more of the catch-and-release type, this trap is for you. It’s just a 2-liter soda bottle on a wire pivot and mounted to a scrap wood frame; when the offending critter unwisely enters the neck of the bottle, its weight flips the bottle down and blocks the exit. Release is as simple as removing the bottle from the frame and letting Monsieur Jingles wiggle free. The questions of where to release and how many times you’ll keep catching the same mouse are left as an exercise for the reader.

Remember – a live catch trap is only humane if it’s checked regularly. To that end, maybe something like das Katzetelegraf could be added to this trap.

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