Learn a new language with the Babel Fish

The Babel fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of the strangest things in the universe. After inserting a Babel fish into your ear, it feeds off brain wave energy and excretes a matrix from the conscious frequencies into the speech areas of the brain. It’s invaluable as a universal translator, but until Earth is targeted for demolition we’ll have to make do with [Becky] from Adafruit’s Babel fish language toy.

[Becky]‘s Babel fish is still able to feed off the energy given off by language, but in this case the energy comes from a set of RFID cards on which Chinese characters are written. After waving these RFID flash cards in front of the Babel fish, a wave shield connected to the Arduino plays a recording of how the logogram on the flash card should sound when pronounced.

While it’s not a biologically engineered fish that simultaneously proves and disproves the existence of god, every human endeavor – learning a language included - needs more [Douglas Adams] references. You can check out [Becky]‘s Babel fish demo video after the break.

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Store your RFID transit card inside your cellphone

Check it out, this is a Boston transit pass — or at least the parts of it that matters. [Becky Stern] got rid of the rest in a bid to embed the RFID tag inside her cellphone.

The transit pass, called a CharlieCard, started out as a normal credit card shaped tag which you might use for access in the workplace. She unsheathed the chip and its antennae by giving it a generous soak in acetone. In about thirty minutes the plastic card looks more like paper pulp, and you can gently fish out the electronics. These are now small enough to fit in the back cover of a cellphone much like those inductive charging hacks.

[Becky] put hers in an iPhone. But the idea comes from [Dhani Sutanto] who used the same technique to extract the coil from a London transit pass. He then embedded the hardware in a resin cast ring.

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Reading RFID cards from afar easily

RFID hacking has been around for years, but so far all the builds to sniff data out of someone’s wallet have been too large, too small a range, or were much too complicated for a random Joe to build in his workshop. [Adam]‘s RFID sniffer gets around all those problems, and provides yet another reason to destroy all the RFID chips in your credit cards.

The project was inspired by this build that took a much larger RFID reader and turned it into a sniffer capable of covertly reading debit cards and passports from the safety of a backpack or briefcase. [Aaron]‘s build uses a smaller off-the-shelf RFID reader, but he’s still able to read RFID cards from about a foot away.

[Aaron]‘s build is very simple consisting of only an Arduino and SD card reader. [Aaron] is able to capture all the data from an RFID card, write that data to the SD card, and emulate a card using his RFID cloner.

What’s really impressive about the build is that [Aaron] says he’s not a programmer or electrical engineer. His build log is full of self-denegration that shows both how humble [Aaron] is and how easy it is for anyone with the requisite skill set to clone the bank card sitting in your wallet. We don’t know about you, but you might want to line your wallet with aluminum foil from now on.

Kid-friendly RFID media center playlist control

rfid-dreambox-control

While young children have the tiny hands and fingers that most hackers/tinkerers wish they possessed from time to time, their fine motor skills aren’t always up to par when it comes to operating complicated electronics. People are always looking for ways to make their home entertainment systems accessible to their kids, and [Humpadilly] is no exception. Much like some of the other hacks we’ve seen this week, he has devised a way for his little ones (1 and 2 years old) to control his Dreambox Media Player using RFID, which seems to be the go-to technology for this sort of thing.

His RFID remote consists of three major components aside from the media player itself. An Arduino runs the show, and is connected to both an Ethernet shield and a breakout board fitted with an ID-20 RFID reader module. The Ethernet shield allows the Arduino to talk to his Dreambox over a telnet connection, while the RFID reader does what you would expect.

The device is in its infancy at the moment, and while [Humpadilly] hasn’t published a ton of details about the actual RFID devices he is using to control the system, he says that more details and improvements are forthcoming. In the meantime, you can check out his code here.

RFID playlists plus a QR code concept

Here’s another audio playback hack that uses physical tokens to choose what you’re listening to. It uses Touchatag RFID hardware to control iTunes. The concept is very similar to the standalone Arduino jukebox we saw on Wednesday except this one interfaces with your computer and the tags select entire albums instead of just one song. A shell script processes the incoming tag ID from the reader, populates a playlist with all the tracks from the associated album, then executes an AppleScript to launch that playlist. Check out the short demo after the break.

But what really caught our eye is the QR-code reader concept which [Janis] hopes to implement at some point in the future. The computer side of things doesn’t need to be changed, but we love the challenge of putting together an FPGA-based camera to recognize and decode the QR image. Looks like a perfect use for that $10 camera module and it’s FPGA driver!

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RFID jukebox for the kids

[Dominik] built a fun musical toy for his daughter [Anna]. It’s a jukebox that lets her play her favorite tunes using RFID tags to select between them.

The project is simple, yet robust. The enclosure is a wooden craft box that you can pick up for a couple of bucks. Inside there’s an Arduino with a Wave Shield which handles the audio playback. An RFID reader takes input from the set of card-tags he procured. An internal Lithium battery powers the device, with a USB port for charging.

Sure, those guts have some cost involved in them. But there’s no LCD which can be broken, and we thing the boards will hold up well to abuse if mounted correctly. Plus there’s a lot of future potential here. When we saw the cards we thought of those toys which make the animal sounds (“what does the cow say… mooo”). This could be used for that with really young children. Then repurposed into this jukebox as they get a bit older. If you put the guts in a new enclosure it will appear to be a brand-new toy, right?

See a demo of the project in the clip after the break.

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RFID reader gets user inputs and smart card write capability

[Navic] added a slew of abilities to his RFID reader. It’s now a full-featured RFID reader and smart card writer with extras. When we looked at it last time the unit was just an RFID and smart card reader in a project enclosure. You could see the RFID code of a tag displayed on the LCD screen, but there wasn’t a lot more to it than that.

The upgrade uses the same project enclosure but he’s added four buttons below the display. These allow him to access the different features that he’s implemented. The first one, which is shown in the video after the break, allows him to store up to six tags in the EEPROM of the Basic Stamp which drives the unit. He can dump these tag codes to a smart card (pictured above), but also has the option of interfacing with a PC to read from and write to that card.

We don’t think you can directly write RFID tags with the device, but we could be wrong.

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