Spy Video TRAKR: first impressions

At the Bay Area Maker Faire this past May, we had our first glimpse of Wild Planet’s Spy Video TRAKR, a $130 radio-controlled toy with some surprises under the hood.

On the surface, the Spy Video TRAKR — the latest addition to the popular Spy Gear toy line — is an R/C tank with a video camera and night vision, with the added ability to download new “apps” from the internet for extra functions. With a little detective work, one uncovers the TRAKR’s secret double life: it’s also an eminently hackable robotics platform! Prior Spy Gear toys have been popular hack targets, providing inexpensive, mass-produced sources of unusual items such as head-mounted displays. Rather than throw up barriers, Wild Planet has chosen to embrace this secondary market, with plans to release development tools and documentation making it possible to extend the device’s capabilities.

Read on for our image-heavy unboxing and initial impressions.

Burglar alarm in a zippo lighter

surprisingly awesome

[Madmanmoe64] has really done a fantastic job with this burglar alarm built into a zippo.  He crammed a picaxe microcontroller, some IR LEDs, an IR sensor, a battery and various switches in there quite well. It almost closes perfectly, something we think he could remedy if it really bugged him that much.

It has several modes, all initiated by a different sequence of button presses. There is the proximity alarm, which sounds when something moves very close. The reverse proximity alarm which sounds when you remove something from its immediate vicinity.  A doorbell mode, and a silent alarm mode. Check out the video after the break to see it in action.

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Disabling your cell phone’s mic for security

reedswitch

[Dan] set up this simple cell phone hack to disable his microphone when he’s not using his cell phone. He had read that the government can listen to you using your cell phone, even when it is off. This concerned him enough to hack into his phone. He removed the expansion port and wired the microphone to a magnetic reed switch. A strong magnet located in the screen side of his flip phone opens the circuit when he closes the phone. He notes that you could always just pop the battery out of your phone, but then you are left completely disconnected. This mod allows you to still receive phone calls.