Telepresence upgrade with a minimum of effort

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This telepresence upgrade lets an employee take part in the office from more than four thousand kilometers away. It’s an upgrade of their previous setup which used a laptop on a rotating platform to add a bit of control to the video conferencing experience. But all that original version could do was swivel, this one lets you drive your virtual self around for fifteen hours between battery charges.

The real work is in the base of the robot, as the audio and video are handled by a tablet independently from the locomotion. The team spent about four hundred bucks to throw the thing together. It starts with a hunk of plywood. Two 3A motors were mated with lawnmower wheels for the front of the bot. Dragging under the back of the base are a couple of casters that make it possible to turn without skidding. A motor shield and a WiFi shield for the Arduino make it possible to control the thing over the Internet. They even added some functionality on the client side to use a PlayStation 3 controller. Check out the completed machine in the clip after the break.

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Electronically controlled NFC tag

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[Per] is replacing his car stereo with a Nexus 7 tablet. It’s a great modification to add GPS, navigation, and a good music player, but [Per] wanted to pause his tunes and tell the tablet to go to sleep with an NFC tag. This means building a an NFC tag he can turn on and off, an interesting problem to say the least.

The easiest way to do this is with a CMOS switch, but a chip like a 74HC4066 is overkill for a project this simple. What [Per] needed was a single CMOS switch, something he found and fabbed a board for.

Now, with a press of a button, [Per] can activate his NFC tag and pause the music in his new stereo. Check out the video of this electronically controllable tag after the break.

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Use an old laptop as a second desktop display

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When we’re trying to get a relatively complex project to work we often end up with twenty windows open. When this happens we’re usually referencing multiple data sheets, webpages, and trying to write code that the same time. We’ve seen people with two or three monitors to alleviate the situation (often called a battlestation), but the we’re cheap and can’t justify buying more displays just for these occasions. Well [Oscar] may have the solution for us. His old laptop had been sitting in a box unused so he flipped the screen and built a stand to position it as an additional display on his desk.

The hack simply removed the screen for the hinged cover so that it could be flipped around. This turns the laptop into a tablet minus the touchscreen ability but that could always be added in later (we’ve seen it done with netbooks). He tells us that the only issue he ran into during this process was the length of the inverter cable. He simply cut it and spliced in a little bit of extra length.

[Oscar] didn’t write a post about his project, but you can see the build gallery after the break.

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OLPC tablet distribution proves concepts laid out in ‘The Diamond Age’

We don’t remember hearing about the One Laptop Per Child initiative distributing tablet computers but apparently a couple of shipments were distributed to rural communities in Ethiopia. The problem one might think of in this scenario is that the literacy rate in the two test villages was basically zero. But that’s exactly the population targeted with thr technology. The tablets were loaded with a software package called Nell. It was designed to guide a child in self learning by telling them engaging stories that include teachable moments. If you check out the white paper (PDF) you’ll find it’s pretty much the exact same teaching technique that [Neal Stephenson] wrote about in his book The Diamond Age. But keep reading that paper and you’ll see that this is because the researchers took their inspiration from that very novel.

Well the results are in and apparently [Neal] knows exactly what he is talking about. Not only did the children learn from the software, but within five months they were hacking the device (which runs Android) to get the disabled camera working.

[Thanks Alexander via Dvice]

Tablet interacts with magnets, how does that work?

Making computers interact with physical objects is a favorite of the HCI gurus out there, but these builds usually take the form of image recognition of barcodes or colors. Of course there are new near field communication builds coming down the pipe, but [Andrea Bianchi] has figured out an easier way to provide a physical bridge between computer and user. He’s using magnets to interact with a tablet, and his idea opens up a lot of ideas for future tangible interfaces.

Many tablets currently on the market have a very high-resolution, low latency magnetometer meant for geomagnetic field detection. Yes, it’s basically a compass but Android allows for the detection of magnets, and conveniently provides the orientation and magnitude of magnets around a tablet.

[Andrea] came up with a few different interfaces using magnets. The first is just a magnets of varying strengths embedded into some polymer clay. When these colorful magnetic cubes are placed on the tablet, [Andrea]‘s app is able to differentiate between small, medium, and large magnets.

There are a few more things [Andrea]‘s app can do; by placing two magnets on an ‘arrow’ token, the app can detect the direction in which the arrow is pointing. It’s a very cool project that borders on genius with its simplicity.

You can check out [Andrea]‘s demo video after the break.

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Giving the Nexus 7 HD video recording

As released, the Nexus 7 tablet includes a 1.2 Megapixel front-facing camera. Even though the camera supports taking pictures at a resolution of 1280 x 960, recording video is limited to a paltry 480p resolution. It turns out the inability to record HD 720p video isn’t a hardware limitation; engineers at either Google or Asus simply didn’t bother telling the Nexus 7 how to record in 720p.

[hillbeast] over on the XDA developers forum came up with a very easy fix for this problem that only involves a quick copy and paste job into the media_profiles.xml file.

After the break you can see two videos recorded with [thehillbeast]‘s Nexus 7. The first is a 480p video of a bit of shrubbery and a fence, while the second video is the same scene recorded at 720p. A noticable difference in quality, and a neat hack to give the already awesome Nexus 7 some additional capabilities.

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Hackaday Links: August 12, 2012

License plate tablet rack

[Hunter Davis] used an old license plate as a tablet stand. It loops around the leg of his laptop table and has a cutout for the power cord of the tablet.

More power power wheels

It may look stock, but this power wheels is hiding a new frame, motors, and tires. You won’t see it in the Power Wheels Racing Series, but it is a ton of fun for this lucky kid.

Surveillance camera chess

Want to play a game? A yellow briefcase hijacks surveillance camera feeds and lets those monitoring them play chess via text message.

ATX bench supply looks like a bench supply

Here’s another rendition of an ATX bench supply. [Ast] rolled in a voltmeter for the variable voltage plug, and an ammeter to finish off the hack.

Lync auto-responder to fool the bossman

In a move reminiscent of [Ferris Bueller], [Sepehr] coded a Lync auto responder to answer the boss when he sends an IM.