Making real-life portals with a Kinect

[radicade] wanted to know what real life portals would look like; not something out of a game, but actual blue and orange portals on his living room wall. Short of building a portal gun, the only option available to [radicade] was simulating a pair of portals with a Kinect and a projector.

One of the more interesting properties of portals is the ability to see through to the other side – you can look through the blue portal and see the world from the orange portal’s vantage point. [radicade] simulated the perspective of a portal using the head-tracking capabilities of a Kinect.

The Kinect grabs the depth map of a room, and calculates what peering through a portal would look like. This virtual scene is projected onto a wall behind the Kinect, creating the illusion of real-life orange and blue portals.

We’ve seen this kind of pseudo-3D, head tracking display before (1, 2), so it’s no surprise the 3D illusion of portals would carry over to a projected 3D display. You can check out [radicade]‘s portal demo video after the break.

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Playing the song “Still Alive” on hacked exercise equipment

Back in 2009, [Evi1wombat] pulled of this interesting hack, and it has slowly made its way through the internet to find us today. He obtained the computer from a recently deceased treadmill and decided to hack into it. Finding himself unable to flash the existing chip, he yanked it out and replaced it with something he was more familiar with, a dsPIC30F4011. Unfortunately we don’t have any pics of the inside, but he says that he had some fun with wire because the pin mapping wasn’t exactly the same. [Evi1wombat] also gained some respect for the original designer judging by  this quote from the source code:

* Damn, the dude who designed that board pulled
* some pretty nifty tricks… took a while to
* get all the drivers working.

Of course, once you have control over some nifty new hardware, the first logical thing to do on it is play “Still Alive” from the game Portal.

Enjoy the video after the break.
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Portal Radio is why Valve needs to build hardware

We’ve seen Portal gun builds, a few cute turret replicas, and even a miniaturized version of GLaDOS, but [John]‘s Portal radio replica is the first physical version of this oft-forgotten Portal item.

Interestingly, the entire radio is made from scrap. The spheroid body shell is made from the foam insulation from a commercial freezer, carefully sculpted, Bondoed, and painted over the course of 300 hours. The radio guts are taken from an upcycled radio, and powered by either an internal battery or a wall wart DC adapter – perfect for carrying around a test chamber with a portal gun.

Right now, there’s an AM/FM receiver inside the radio along with an audio input so an iPod or such can be plugged in. While we would have loved to see a loop of theuptempo version Still Alive, we’re guessing [John] hasn’t found an easy way to do that with junked parts yet.

Check out [John]‘s build video after the break.

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Hackaday Links: April 7, 2012

Need some gears? Got a timing belt?

[filespace] sent in a neat build he stumbled upon: making gears with plywood and a timing belt. Just cut out a plywood disk and glue on a section of timing belt. There’s some math involved in getting all the teeth evenly placed around the perimeter, but nothing too bad. Also useful for wheels, we think.

We’re on a chess kick now.

Huge chess sets are cool, right up until you try to figure out where to store the pieces when they’re not being used. [Jayefuu] came up with a neat solution to this problem. His pieces are cut out of coroplast (that corrugated plastic stuff political campaign signs are made of), making it relatively inexpensive and just as fun as normal giant chess pieces on a tile floor.

<INSERT MARGINALLY RELEVANT PORTAL QUOTE HERE>

[Randy]‘s son is in the cub scouts. Being the awesome father he is, [Randy] helped out with this year’s pinewood derby build. It’s a car shaped like a portal gun with the obligatory color-changing LED. The car won the ‘Can’t get more awesome’ award, but wheel misalignment kicked it out of the competition during qualifying rounds. Sad, that. Still awesome, though.

These people are giving you tools for free

Caltech professor [Yaser Abu-Mostafa] is teaching a Machine Learning class this semester. You can take this class as well, even if the second lecture started last Thursday.

Turning an Arduino into a speech synthesizer

[AlanFromJapan] sent in this product page for an Arduino-powered speech synthesizer. We’re probably looking at a relabeled ATmega328 with custom firmware here; to use it, you replace the micro in your Arduino Uno with this chip. The chip goes for about $10 USD here, so we’ll give it a week until someone has this proprietary firmware up on the Internet. There are English morphemes that aren’t in Japanese, so you can’t just ‘type in English’ and have it work. Here’s a video.

Six things in this links post. We’re feeling generous.

What would you build if you had a laser cutter? [Doug Miller] made a real, working fishing reel. No build log or files, but here’s a nice picture.

Portal mini golf hole will incinerate your ball…you monster

portal-golf-hole

One of [Tom’s] friends is celebrating a birthday soon, and he was asked to make a mini golf hole for the event. While most people would expect to bring beer or guac to the shindig, he saw this as an opportunity to bring a little bit of Portal to life.

Near the end of the first Portal game, you are forced to pitch your companion cube into the incinerator, a scene which [Tom] thought would be the perfect mini golf hole. He started out by building an iris door mechanism, which he surrounded with chicken wire and some plaster, producing a fantastic-looking waste disposal pipe.

He added a ramp that leads up to the hole, then [Tom] got busy with the electronics portion of the fixture. Once the portal button at the end of the ramp is pressed, an Arduno triggers a pair of motors to open the waste disposal door and fire up a smoke machine. The result, as you can see in the video below, is nothing short of awesome.

[Tom] says he’s in the process of building a pair of turrets and a working golf ball portal as well, so if you’re a big Portal fan, be sure to check out his site for updates.

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Stylophone 5 – modernizing the best of the 1968 hardware

We love looking in on [Simon Inns'] projects, and this must be one of his very best. This is the fifth version of his MIDI-capable stylophone. The gist of the control system is that a conductive keyboard (made of a tinned PCB) is played by making a connection with the tip of a wired stylus — hence the name. The idea comes from the original 1968 Dubreq Stylophone hardware, but [Simon's] not just using the idea. He has his own working original and used it to reverse engineer the circuit design.

When it first came out, the Stylophone had three flavors for Bass, Standard, and Treble audio ranges. They differed only in the choices of passive components used in the circuit. [Simon] built the variations into his design so that they are selectable on one unit. This most recent version connects via USB, allowing you to control MIDI software. But unlike his first four iterations, this also offers MIDI-In capabilities. This makes it possible to control tuning, vibrato, and to drive the Stylophone circuitry from the computer interface. Get a good look at that, and a nostalgic Portal moment, by watching the clip after the break.

If you’re looking for an easier build, you might try this analog standalone version of the Stylophone.

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Build your own Portal turret in 150 easy steps

If there were a contest for the most thorough step-by-step project log [Kurt] would the champion. He recently a posted 150 step build log for his fleece-covered Portal turret project. If you can get over the need to click-through 30 pages of steps, there’s a lot to like about this project.

First, what it doesn’t do: The Turret doesn’t split up the middle and fire bullets at you. This is a relief, but the fact that it’s not lethal doesn’t mean it just sits there looking interesting. It can detect movement, it knows when you pick it up, and it can tell when it’s been knocked over. All of these interactive sensory inputs are used to playback various sound bytes from the Portal games, making it a great piece of desk art for those working in geek-centric offices. See for yourself in the video after the break.

The body itself is a food storage container which houses the barebones Arduino and Adafruit Wav shield. As near as we can tell, a PIR sensor detects movement, and leaf switches on the legs tell it when it’s been picked up or tipped over. But we only made a cursor examination of the assembly steps so we might be missing something.

If you’re not into the turrets, maybe this potato is more up your alley.

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