Making a touchless vibrator with reverse engineering

Here’s one for the ladies (and men, we guess) out there.

[Beth] recently bought a LELO Lyla vibrator for herself, but found operating this wireless vibrator to be an exercise in mood-killing awkwardness. Wanting a more natural interface, she decided to reverse engineer a remote control vibrator. Here’s a cache; [Beth]‘s blog has been up and down all day.

The LELO Lyla comes with a wireless control in the form of a neon pink remote. [Beth] thought this remote was a little clunky and felt like programming a VCR – something she doesn’t like in a sex toy. With the goal of improving this remote and allowing for a better user experience, [Beth] tore down this remote and began to build her own.

The new vibrator remote would have to be touchless – there’s nothing that kills the mood faster than mashing buttons. By using ultrasonic sensors, [Beth] would be able to control the intensity of her vibrator by simply waving her hand; a much more natural interface. With the control interface out of the way, the only thing left to do was to figure out how to control the business end of the vibrator.

The remote for a stock LELO Lyla comes with a MSP430 microcontroller and a 2.4 GHz CC2500 radio controlled over an SPI interface. Instead of disassembling the microcontroller and figuring out the firmware from scratch, [Beth] decided to sniff the SPI bus and make her own controller.

After attaching some 0.1″ headers to the stock remote and soldering a few wires to the microcontroller, [Beth] captured the SPI data with a Propeller dev board. By streaming the SPI traffic to a terminal, she was able to figure out exactly how the remote works and set out on building her own.

The new remote was built out of an Arduino Pro Mini, ultrasonic sensor, CC2500 radio and a four digit 7-segment display. After printing an enclosure, [Beth] had a very easy to use, hands free vibrator.

In the video after the break you can see [Beth]‘s vibrator in action. She’s still looking for a few more ways to improve it such as predicting the movements of her hand with a phase-locked loop, but for now we’ll just tip our hat to [Beth] for a very awesome hack.

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MSP430 Launchpad Game of Life shield

[100uf] built an LED matrix shield for the MSP430 launchpad. His goal with this design was to have it play Conway’s Game of Life. It does just that, as you can see in the clip after the break. But it’s just waiting to learn some more tricks. After he tires of watching the cellular automaton he can try his hand at making some LED pendant animations.

As you can tell, the board was made in his home workshop. It’s not etched, but milled using the CNC machine shown in this image gallery. This is a single-sided PCB, which works well enough for the surface mount components and the downward facing pin sockets. But we wonder how difficult it was to solder the legs of that 8×8 LED matrix. It does have plastic feet at each corner that serve as standoffs to separate the body from the copper layer. But it still looks like a tight space into which he needed to get his iron and some solder.

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Turning the Hexbug spider into a line-following robot

You may be familiar with the Hexbug Spider, a small electronic robot toy sold at Target and Walmart for $20. While they’re able to be commanded to move forward, backward, and spin around on a dime, there aren’t any external sensors to make it really exciting. [Eric] sought to remedy this and came up with a line-following board replacement for the Hexbug Spider.

The stock Spider has a small circuit board that allows for the control of two motors with a remote. [Eric] removed this control board and replaced it with his own, powered by a TI MSP430 microcontroller. On this board, [Eric] included a pair of IR LEDs, able to detect the path of a white line drawn on the ground. With just a little bit of code, [Eric] made his $20 Hexbug Spider into a very cool looking robot.

[Eric] figured out how to improve his robot toy, but the power of the MSP430 microcontroller he used doesn’t limit him to only following lines. By using an MSP430 Launchpad, anyone can upload new code to the improved Spider, and even add new sensors to this creepy walking robotic toy.

Double-kettle boiling rig for and easier brew day

[Dave] built a controller that lets him boil two kettles at once when brewing beer. The setup uses electric heating elements in each of the kettles. We prefer to use gas as it’s a bit easier to control temperature. But an electric system like this can be used inside during the winter months while propane is relegated to the outdoors. The other thing that immediately comes to mind is partial mash recipes that require steeping in one kettle, then sparging (rinsing off the grains) with water of a different temperature. That kind of thing is a snap since the two are controlled individually by the trimpots on the front of the control box.

Inside you’ll find two 220V solid state relays. The box itself plugs into the 220V outlet in his basement which is normally occupied by his clothes dryer cord. So as not to blow a fuse, the MSP430 chip driving the relays switches back and forth between them rather than turning both on at once. The system uses entirely manual control, but it should be an easy modification to add a thermocouple and PID algorithms if so desired.

After the break [Dave] shows off the system in a video clip.

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Oscilloscope VFD repair like doing brain surgery on yourself

[Jerry Pommer] has an old Tektronix 2236 that is having some issues. Just to the right of the top corner of the screen is a VFD display that is used to show various numerical measurements. Unfortunately this has stopped working, so he made the oscilloscope probe itself in order to trouble-shoot the situation.

The entire repair process was filmed and you can see the 42-minute job embedded after the break. There’s a lot of stuff crammed inside that oscilloscope, and we see a tour of it all at the beginning of the video. Once [Jerry] gets down to business he traces the problem to a JK Flip-Flop used to feed the display. The output appears correct at first, but the clock signal is not functioning as expected. His solution is to use an MSP430 chip to replace the Flip-Flop functions.

The confidence to try this repair was sparked by [Todd Harrington's] car-stereo VFD repair video.

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Giving the MSP430 a GUI

Sometimes you need to toggle or read a few pins on a microcontroller for a project so simple (or so temporary) that coding some firmware is a rather large investment of time. [Jaspreet] had the same problem – wanting to read values and toggle pins without writing any code – so he came up with a rather clever solution to control an MSP430 through a serial connection.

[Jaspreet] calls his project ControlEasy, and it does exactly as advertised: it provides a software interface to control ADC inputs, PWM outputs, and the state of output pins via a desktop computer. ControlEasy does this with a matching piece of code running on any MSP430 with a hardware UART (like the TI Launchpad) sending and receiving data to the computer.

Right now ControlEasy can read analog values, generate PWM output, and set individual pins high and low. [Jaspreet] plans on expanding his software to allow control of LCDs and I2C and SPI devices.

In the video after the break you can see [Jaspreet] fiddling around with some pins on his LaunchPad via the GUI. The software is also available for download if you’d like to try it out, but unfortunately it’s a Windows-only build at this point.

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Quacking egg timer

[Tom] managed to build a geeky, quirky digital timer for the kitchen. Where most would have used a few seven segment displays along with some buttons and called it done, he found a way to make it a lot more fun. The plush addition on top is a yellow ducky with an orange beak. When time runs out the duck will quack, call you back to the kitchen.

As you can see in the video after the break, [Tom's] got his hands full with the family. This project was quick enough for him to fit it in during what dwindling free time he manages to hold onto. He used one of the chips that came with his MSP430 Launchpad. Since this family of processors offer extremely low-power modes when asleep they’re perfect for this type of battery-powered application. As for the duck, it’s a toy that had a couple of watch batteries and a small PCB inside. Some poking around led him to a pad that activates the quacking when grounded.

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