XBMC controller is an all-in-one usb solution for HTPCs

On the original Xbox, XBMC was a software-only solution (assuming you had a chipped or soft-modded console). That’s because the Xbox was already meant to connect to a television and work with an IR remote control. Now that the XBMC software has transitioned to focus on a wider range of hardware, it may be more complicated to get the same functionality on an HTPC. Realizing this, [Dilshan] developed a USB connected XBMC controller that features an IR receiver, character LCD, and a rotary encoder with two buttons.

As long as your HTPC has a way to connect to the audio and video inputs on your TV, this should take care of the rest of the presentation. LCD screens were popular with XBMC from very early on because modchips included an interface. Because of this, XBMC is already setup to provide navigation and media information this way. So you can use XBMC for audio playback without needed to have your TV turned on. Add to that the ability to control your box with either  a remote control or the navigation tools on the front bezel and you’ve got a winning solution.

You can download an archive that includes all the info about this device over at the project repository. For your convenience we’ve embedded the schematic and PDF description of the project, which we found in that package, after the break.

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ChronoTune: listen to radio by year, not by frequency

The ChronoTune is a radio that plays sounds from different eras. This project was developed as an entry for the Redbull Creation Challenge by some members of i3Detroit, a hackerspace in the motor city. It allows a user to turn the dial to tune in a new moment in history, but they can also listen in on the present day. They’ll be greeted with the sounds of a tuning radio, followed by music or audio clips common to the period displayed on the dial.

As you know from the last contest entry, each project must use an Arduino to qualify. It reads a rotary encoder attached to one of the knobs on the front of the case. This doesn’t directly move the tuning needle. Instead, it’s attached to the guts of an inkjet printer to move it back and forth. This lets the radio tune itself if need be.

The audio is played from several sources. There is an MP3 module that allows for longer clips, but there are also some ISD voice recorder chip modules that play back shorter clips. If the dial is tuned to present day, an FM radio module tunes in a station over the air.

Having trouble reading that dial? Don’t worry, there’s a simulated Nixie tube display sticking out the top of the case to provide a digital readout of the currently selected time period. Check out the video after the break to see the team walk us through each part of the ChronoTune.

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Are phones with haptic feedback in our future?

Can we do away with a keypad and just squeeze our phones to check messages and dial contacts? [Sidhant Gupta] has been researching the idea of an electronically adjustable spring mechanism that might just make this possible. He calls the prototype above the SqueezeBlock. If you pick it up and give it a squeeze you can feel springs pushing back against your fingers, but it’s all a trick. Inside you’ll find one motor with a gear that converts the linear motion into a rotating force. Attached to the same axle as that gear are a motor and a rotary encoder. A microcontroller monitors that encoder to detect a user squeezing the two plates together, then drives the motor to vary the resistance. [Sidhant] outlines some possible uses that included stiffer resistence as unread email starts to pile up, or squeezing the device to its smallest size to turn the ringer volume all the way down.

We’re a little skeptical of this functionality in handhelds just because of the power consumption issue. But if that is somehow overcome we think this would make a pretty interesting phone feature… at least at first. Click through the link above for a video demonstration or get the details from the research presentation (PDF)

[Thanks Dan]

Shiny motorcycle computer

We’re rather surprised at how popular it has become to build your own motorcycle computer. [Mario Mauerer] tipped us off about his shiny motorcycle computer (translated) for his Yamaha XTZ 750. It uses an ATmega644 microcontroller to pull a variety of data together and display it on this white LED backlit display. He connected a flow meter to the fuel line to monitor gas consumption. Oil temperature is captured by inserting a brass tube (containing the sensor) through a hole in the oil cap and soldering it in place. Water temperature is gathered by measuring the external temperature of one of the cooling lines. [Mario] uses a rotary encode with a click function as the control interface device, and a battery backed real time clock keeps time.

A quick look at the PCBs tells the tale of good circuit design. But we do wonder about catching the reflection of the sun in that shiny bezel.

Full-featured AVR time-lapse

This time-lapse photo trigger was built [Lukasz Goralczyk]. It is controlled by an ATmega168 and we were surprised to read that it uses about 12k of code. Curious about what takes up that much space, we were impressed to see all the features demonstrated in the video after the break. The small device, running on two AA batteries, has a well-designed user interface displayed on a 3V character LCD that is navigated with a clickable rotary encoder.

It isn’t the smallest intervalometer we’ve ever seen, but it deserves respect for the features packed into a diminutive form-factor.

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10-bit rotary precision for servos

[Antonb] added 10-bit encoding to a standard servo. He’s removed the potentiometer, separated its shaft and used it to rotate a small magnet. By sandwiching an AS5040 rotatory encoder IC into the servo’s housing he can now measure the precise orientation of the servo horn. This is made easier by his tiny breakout board for the chip. If you want to layout your own PCB you can download the EagleCAD files for this device. Take a look at the final product in the clip after the break.

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Flexi Knobs

These boxes, called Flexi Knobs, work like a wireless Atari paddle and mouse rolled into one. Each has a rotary encoder that can also be clicked like a button. On the inside is a wireless optical mouse which controls an on-screen cursor which matches the color of the knob. In the video after the break you can see these are being used as midi controls. Each cursor can be locked onto a virtual knob, giving it a physical interface. Because there are several units being used on one machine this creates something of an abstract multi-touch system. This would make a nice interface for other applications with a plethora of settings, like Blender.

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