Hackaday Links: February 12, 2017

Taking small LCD screens, a tiny computer running Linux, and a 3D printed enclosure to build miniature versions of old computers is a thing now. Here’s [Cupcakus]’s tiny little Apple II, complete with Oregon Trail. This Apple II is running on a C.H.I.P., uses a 3s lithium battery from a drone, and works with a Bluetooth keyboard and joystick. Yes, the power button on the monitor works.

At Hackaday, we get a lot of emails from people asking the most important question ever: “how do you become a hardware hacker?” [Tex Projects] lays it all out on the line. All you need to do is to buy five of something every time you need one. Need some header pins? Buy five. A sensor? five. Come to the realization that anything you build could be bought for less money.

Are we still doing low-poly Pokemon? [davedarko] has an idea for the Sci-Fi contest we’re running. He’s going to give children seizures. He’s refreshing a project of mine by putting lights, blinkies, and noisy things in a 3D printed Porygon, the original 3D printed Pokemon. Porygon was the subject of that one episode of the Pokemon cartoon that sent 635 Japanese children to the hospital. The episode was banned in America, but it was actually Pikachu that caused the flashing lights.

‘Member Clickspring? He’s the guy who made a fantastic mechanical clock using nothing except a few bits of brass, a blowtorch, a tiny mill and lathe, and a lot of patience. Now he’s building the Antikythera mechanism. The Antikythera mechanism is a 2000-year-old device designed to calculate the phases of the moon, the motion of the planets, and other local astronomical phenomena. This is going to be a masterpiece, and will eventually end up in a museum, so be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel.

Blade Runner’s Voight-Kampff Test Gets Real

You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you.

Any Sci-Fi fan knows this is a question from the iconic Voight-Kampff test, as made famous by the movie Blade Runner. Humans pass the test. Replicants fail and are “retired”. We may not have replicants just yet, but  [Tom Meehan] is building his own version of the Voight-Kampff machine. He’s entered it in the 2017 Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest.

The machine itself is an odd mix of 70’s and 80’s electronics with older technology. Three mini CRT displays, a sensor arm, and a bellows are some of the machine’s best-known features. [Tom] is starting with the sensor arm, an odd mix of belts and telescoping rods. He’s already got a manually operated prototype built. Add a motor, and one part of the machine is ready for action.

[Tom’s] version of the Voight-Kampff test isn’t going to be a just movie prop. He plans to add a sensor suite which will turn his machine something of a modern polygraph. A Non-contact Temperature sensor will measure blush response. Iris images will be captured by a Raspberry Pi NoIR camera. Pulse oxygen and galvanic skin response will also be captured by a separate hand module. All this data will be processed by a Raspberry Pi computer.

There’s quite a lot of work to be completed. Let’s hope for humanity’s sake that [Tom] gets it done before the contest deadline of March 6.

Sci-Fi Contest: Both Wars and Trek Represented

Hackaday’s Sci-Fi Contest is in its third week. We’ve passed warp speed and were heading toward ludicrous speed. There is still almost a month to enter before March 6, when the deadline hits and everything goes to plaid. With 22 submissions all vying for 4 great prizes, there is still plenty of room for new challengers!

This contest is all about projects inspired by science fiction. There is a great mix of projects so far.

BB-8 Using Roll-On Deoderant

bb-8partsStar Wars is well represented with [Tech Flare’s] DIY Phone Controlled BB-8 Droid. [Tech Flare] is improving upon an existing BB-8 build. This is a low-cost build, so many of the parts are sourced from everyday items.

A new one for us is the 11 roll-on deodorant balls that are used as internal bearings. We’re not sure how well this robot will work, but it sure will be the best smelling BB-8 out there and you have to admit that is a creative use of easily source materials!

An Arduino is the brains of this Robot. As the title suggests, control comes from a smartphone. There is some creative work happening to fabricate the ball that makes up the body of the bot so be sure to jump in and check out that writeup.

LCARS In Real Life? Yes, Please!

lcarsAny Star Trek fan knows what the LCARS interface is [Elkentaro] is bringing LCARS life with LCARS NASA ISS Live Stream Viewer. [Elkentaro] is using a Raspberry Pi to display the International Space Station High Definition Eart-Viewing System (ISS HDEV) experiment.

The ISS is constantly streaming live views of the earth from one of 4 cameras. The Pi takes the stream and adds an LCARS image overlay. Everything is displayed on a 7″ TFT LCD. The same view Wesley Crusher would have seen at the helm of the NCC-1701D.

The overlay really brings the content to life and it has us thinking. If you have a refrigerator with one of those questionably-useful built-in montiors, it needs LCARS. Show us what you got!

Use the Schwartz

So what is missing from this contest? You of course! There is plenty of time left to create a great Sci-Fi inspired project. The deadline is Monday, March 6, 2017, 09:00 pm PST (+8 UTC). We dropped some Spaceballs references at the top of this article but haven’t actually seen an entry for that theme. Who’s going to build a voice-changing Dark Helmet?

[Phaser shown in the main image is the Original Series Phaser which Think Geek used to carry]

Hackaday’s Sci-Fi Contest Hits Warp Speed

Hackers’ perspiration may go into soldering, coding, and building. For many of us, the inspiration for these projects comes from science fiction. The books, movies, TV shows, short stories, and comics we all grew up on, and continue to devour to this day. We’re paying homage to all these great Sci-Fi stories with our latest contest.

The Sci-Fi Contest isn’t about the most efficient way of building a 555 circuit or the tightest code. This one is about celebrating science fiction in the best way we know how — building awesome projects. This is Hackaday, so you’re going to have to use some form of working electronics in your entry. Beyond that, it’s up to you. Bring us your Overwatch cosplays, your Trek Tricorders, your Star Wars pod racers.

This isn’t our first Sci-Fi contest. In fact, Sci-Fi was one of Hackaday.io’s first contests way back in 2014.
3 years and over 100,000 new hackers later, it’s time to take a fresh look at what you all have been up to. Projects that were entered in the first Sci-Fi contest are eligible, but you need to create a new project page and do some new work.

Check the rules for the full details. Once you’ve published a project use the drop-down menu on the left sidebar to enter it in the Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest.


Great work reaps great rewards. Here’s what we’ve got for this contest:

  • Grand Prize is a Rigol DS1054Z 4 Channel 50 MHz scope.
  • First Prize is a Monoprice Maker Select Mini 3D printer
  • Second Prize is a complete Blu-Ray box of Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Third Prize is Lego’s latest rendition of the Millennium Falcon.

The deadline is Monday, March 6, 2017, 09:00 pm PST (+8 UTC), so don’t waste time! Warm up your soldering irons, spin up your warp drives, and create something awesome!

The Hacklet #3

The Hacklet Issue 3

The third issue of The Hacklet has been released. In this issue, we start off with a roundup on the Sci-Fi Contest which recently concluded. After seeing the many great hacks you came up with for that contest, we’re looking forward to seeing what you think of for The Hackaday Prize.

Next up, we take a look at two hacks that deal with switching mains, which is a feature that most home automation projects need. These high voltage switches can be dangerous to build, but one hack finds a safe and cheap way to do it. The next looks at building your own high voltage circuitry.

Finally, we talk about two laser hacks. The first is practical: a device for exposing resins and masks using a laser. The second is just a really big laser, built from hardware store parts. Who doesn’t like big lasers? We definitely like big lasers, and so does the FAA.

Sci-Fi Contest Winners

We’re happy to announce 16 winners of the Sci-Fi Contest! The Hackaday Crew is thoroughly impressed with pretty much everything that was entered. The 50 projects which were marked as “complete” spanned a wide range of Science Fiction universes, and showed off the talent of the hackers who posted them.

As a quick side note: Some people have confused this contest with The Hackaday Prize. That one is still on, runs into November, and offers a trip into space as the grand prize. Get hacking!



We have a range of prizes for the winners. The Grand Prize winning team can choose between two packages, one is anchored by a pair of oscilloscopes (an OWON DS7102 and a Rigol DS1052E), the other swaps out the OWAN for a soldering station and a rework station. Top Prize winners can choose between three packages which offer a rework station, a soldering station, or a collection of dev boards. And finally, the community favorites can choose from several Sci-Fi themed prizes like Blu-Ray, DVD, coasters, toothbrushes, and other kitsch.  For a complete list of the prizes, check out the contest announcement.

Grand Prize: Demolition Man Verbal Morality Statute Monitor

Demolition Man Verbal Morality MonitorThe Verbal Morality Statute Monitor project was an early favorite of ours because the choice of Sci-Fi tech was perfect; a symbolic centerpiece of a dystopian future that can be perfectly replicated with current technology.

[tdicola] and his suspect partner [colabot] moved far beyond that favored status with a solid build that included mechanical design (which was quite a hack), hardware, and software.

The shiny unit hangs on the wall and listens for profanity, sounding an alarm and printing a citation whenever one is detected. We do hope that this ends up in a public space — perhaps a hackerspace full of foul-mouthed members. The delight of the Morality Monitor is that it can generate extra revenue and we suspect offenders will be happy to pay-up… well, maybe at first.

Second Place: Animatronic Iron Man MKIII suit

Animatronic Iron Man SuitThe scope of this project, which is the work of [Jerome Kelty] and [Greg Hatter], is impressive. The full-size Iron Man suit is wearable, true to the look of the film version, and packed full of animatronics. It won’t stop bullets, blow up bad guys, or fly… but it looks as if it can do all of that.

From helmet to boots the exoskeleton is packed with electronics. These are comprised mostly of things that light up, and things that move parts of the suit. But you also need a way to control that functionality and this is one of the most clever aspects of the design.

Each glove has an RFID tag reader in the palm area, with tags on the fingertips of the third and fourth finger. Closing your fingertip to your palm initiates a programmed sequence. All of this is well-documented in the Project Details section, with code and schematics for each subsystem shared as Build Logs.

Third Place: M.A.R.S.

sci-fi-winner-3-MARS-roverThis rover looks like an elegant insect. In a world full of clunky-looking robotics projects that’s high praise. The name of the project is an acronym for the MADspace Advanced Robtics System; a project which, from the start, sought to recreate an Open Design version of the NASA Rovers known as Spirit and Opportunity.

[Guus van der Sluijs], [Paul Wagener], and [Tom Geelen] turned this project into a showcase of what today’s widely available design software and fabrication tools can accomplish. Most of the connecting pieces were 3D printed (check out all of them in the components list), with 10mm aluminum tubing making up the rest of the chassis, and rockers to support the six wheels. Speaking of wheels, check out all the fab work that went into those! And we haven’t even mentioned the hw/sw which drives the thing!

Fourth Place: Back To The Future Time Circuit Clock

sci-fi-winner-4-BttF-ClockThis one has a very visceral hacked feeling which immediately made us take note. When you start to dig into the work which [Atheros] and [bwa] put into the Time Circuit Clock from the movie Back to the Future, the project really stands in a place of its own. Inspiration to build this came from a design which was posted by Hackaday alum [Phil Burgess] over at Adafruit.

The large collection of 14 and 7 segment display modules which make up the three parts of the clock are all hosted on about 23 PCBs which were etched as part of the development process. The electronic assembly is solid, with ribbon cables and modular design to keep it as tidy as possible. The frames for the displays are cut out of wood and the entire thing is controlled from a keypad. The clock, alarm, and FM radio make this a perfect bedside device — if you can abide being blasted by three colors of LED displays as you try to sleep.

Fifth Place: Marauder’s Map

sci-fi-winner-5-Marauders-MapThis one is hard to sum up with a single image, because The Marauder’s Map uses radio frequency communication to track beacon locations of boards like the one pictured here. Well, they tried to use this custom hardware but were unable to work out all the bugs and ended up showing the proof of concept using some EZ430-RF2500 dev boards.

We’re certainly not holding that against [phreaknik] and [ wahwahweewahh]. The amount of software that went into the mapping system is arguably more impressive than a bug-free prototype board would have been. The system can take the dimensions for any room, as well as locations of the base stations. It then polls the base stations to triangulate relative position of the beacons with great accuracy.
We have confidence that the custom boards will work at some point (this would actually make a great entry for The Hackaday Prize, right?).

Honorable Mentions

Glasses block light when they sense dangerIt was heartbreaking that these Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses didn’t make it into the top five. This, and the five projects above, were all in a tight race for the prizes. Since this project isn’t going to make the list of Skulled or Followed projects we’ve decided to award it one of those prize packages anyway in recognition of the wonderful work [Minimum Effective Dose] and his AI partner [Colabot] pulled off. The project is, of course, based on [Douglas Adams’] Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tech which allows the wearer to avoid getting upset in times of peril. The shutter glasses originally meant for 3D television viewing have been modified to sense danger and block the wear’s view of it.

The rest of the Honorable Mentions are awarded the honor of being mentioned (in alphabetical order):

Community Favorites

There are also prizes for the most Skulled and most Followed projects. Here are those winners in rank order. This list was a snapshot from Wednesday, May 7th, and since Hackaday.io is a living site the totals will change over time. The five top winners are excluded from these prizes; Skulled winners cannot also win for Followers:

Most Skulled:

Most Followers:

Complete Entries Get Shirts

All hackers who submitted what we deem to be a complete entry will receive a shirt. We’ll email with instructions on how to tell us your shirt size and mailing address.

Star Wars Training Droid Uses The Force

Star Wars Training Droid

We all know the scene, Obi-Wan Kenobi gives Luke a helmet with the blast shield down. He tells Luke “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings!” Easy for Obi-Wan to say – he doesn’t have a remote training droid flying around and shooting at him. [Roeland] and his team are working to create a real-life version of the training droid for Hackday’s Sci-Fi contest.

The training droid in Star Wars may not have had the Force on its side, but it was pretty darn agile in the air. To replicate this, the team started with a standard Walkera Ladybird micro quadcopter. It would have been simple to have a human controlling the drone-turned-droid, but [Roeland and co] wanted a fully computer controlled system. The Ladybird can carry a small payload, but it just doesn’t have the power to lift a computer and sensor suite. The team took a note from the GRASP Lab and used an external computer with a camera to control their droid.

Rather than the expensive motion capture system used by the big labs, the team used a pair of Wii Remote controllers for stereo vision. A small IR LED mounted atop the droid made it visible to the Wii Remotes’ cameras. A laptop was employed to calculate the current position of the droid. With the current and desired positions known, the laptop calculated and sent commands to an Arduino, which then translated them for the droid’s controller.

Nice work guys! Now you just have to add the blaster emitters to it!

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