Hacklet 77 – Projects that Tweet

Since it’s launch way back in 2006, Twitter has become a magnet for techies. Maybe it’s the simple interface, maybe it’s the 140 character limit. Whatever the reason, you can find plenty of hackers, makers, and engineers tweeting about their daily activities. It didn’t take long for folks to start incorporating Twitter into their projects. Ladyada’s Tweet-a-watt is a great early example of this. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the best tweeting projects on Hackaday.io!

dogbarkWe start with [Henry Conklin] and A Twitter account for my dog. [Henry’s] dog [Oliver] loves to bark and finding a solution became his entry to The Hackaday Prize. Rather than bring Cesar Millan in, [Henry] decided to embrace [Oliver’s] vocalizations by sending them up to the cloud. A Raspberry Pi with a USB microphone uses some custom Python code to detect barks and ruffs. The Pi then sends this data to Twitter using the python-twitter library. The Pi is connected to the internet via a USB WiFi dongle. You can see the results of [Henry’s] work on [Oliver’s] own Twitter page!

dectalkerNext up is [troy.forster] and tweetie-pi. Rather than constantly check his phone or computer, [Troy] wanted a device to read his tweets. A bit of NodeJS code later, and tweetie-pi was born. A Raspberry Pi connected to the internet pulls data through the Twitter stream API. When tweets directed at a pre-configured username are found, the data is sent to a an Emic 2 text to speech module. The Emic reads in that classic DECtalker style voice we all know and love from the movies. [Troy] even added code to properly handle usernames and retweets.


homeauto[SirClover] joined the internet of things by creating Home automation system with Twitter, his entry in the 2014 Hackaday Prize. This home automation system is based around an Arduino Leonardo and an Ethernet shield. [SirClover] rolled his own custom PCB to handle relays, a Cds cell, and a 2×16 character LCD. The system can be accessed through a simple web interface. This allows the user to open or close blinds, turn on lights, all that great smart home stuff. Every time it executes a command, the home automation system reports status to Twitter.

das-cubeFinally we have [Jakob Andrén] with A danceable notification cube, which is [Jakob’s] entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. The cube itself is a translucent box that contains a metric crapton of LEDs. 148 Neopixels and 12 3W power LEDs to be exact. All these LEDs are driven by a Teensy 3.1, which serves as the main processor for the entire system. The Teensy reads position data from an MPU6040 IMU. This allows it to change brightness and color as the box is moved around – or “danced”. An ESP8266 provides the cube with data from the interwebs, specifically Facebook and Twitter. The cube lights up and flashes whenever it receives a message.

If you want to see more tweeting projects, check out our new projects that tweet list.  Did I miss your project? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Tweet-Powered Bat Removes Effort Required To Obtain Pinata Contents

A child filled game-launch event was happening in London and [Roo] was asked to use his serious making skills to construct a machine that would hit a pinata with a baseball bat. This is a great idea, well, because giving bats to a bunch of kids at a populated event probably wouldn’t end well. One of the characters from the game Skylanders is named ‘Painyatta‘ and that is whom the pinata is modeled after. Tweeting #HitPainyatta initiates a bat swing. The swing tweeter gets to keep any treats that happen to fall out.

The physical machine is pretty simple. Most of it is made of MDF and wood. A large base supports a tall, skinny box. Mounted on top is a large stepper motor with a long wooden arm holding an aluminum bat. Once a tweet came in, a moderator would check for offensive content (hey, there are kids around) using a custom Twitter API app, and if acceptable, the tweet would be displayed on an LED matrix while an Arduino controlled a stepper driver to spin the motor and swing the bat.

…no children were harmed in the making of this project…

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Wouldn’t Tweeting in Morse Code be More Like “Pecking”?

If you find yourself glued to social media and also wish to know Morse code… we can think of no better invention to help hone your skills than the Twitter Telegraph. This vintage to pop culture mashup by [Devon Elliott] is a recent project that uses a sounder from the 19th century to communicate incoming tweets with dots and dashes.

Back in the day when everyone was connected by wire, the sounder was a device on the receiving end of the telegraph which translated the incoming signal to an audible clicking. Two tall coils sat with a metal tab teetering between them. When electricity surged into one of the coils it would magnetize, pulling the tab downward in a pattern which mimicked the incoming current sent from the other end. [Devon] decided to liberate the sounder from its string-and-two-can origins and use a more modern source of input. By adding a FONA board which comes equipped with a SIM card, the device was capable of connecting and receiving data from the Internet. An Arduino is responsible for taking the data received and translating it into Morse code using the Mark Fickett’s Arduinomorse library, and then sending it out through an I/O pin to the sounder itself to be tapped.

The finished project is connected to a cellular network which it uses to receive SMS messages and tweets. By mentioning the handle @ldntelegraphco you can send the Twitter Telegraph your own message which will be tapped in code for everyone in the vicinity to hear… which is worth giving a try for those of you curious types. Lastly, if you have an interest in taking a look at the code for your own use, it is available on [Devon’s] github.

Solar Powered, Tweeting Bird Feeder


The folks at Manifold created their version of a tweeting bird feeder, and [Chad] wrote up a behind-the-scenes of their design. The goal is something we’ve seen before: When the bird lands to eat, take a picture and tweet it. In this case, they had some corporate money behind the project, and that allowed them to buy a nice solar panel and battery pack to keep the whole thing running.

The write-up is full of the experimentation that we all enjoy: They found that detecting motion through the camera feed wasn’t reliable, so they switched over to a PIR sensor. The PIR sensor was too sensitive to heat changes during the day, so they went with an ultrasonic rangefinder, but wind caused issues there. They finally came up with a solution which involves using two sensors to confirm motion. This seems a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but it works well for them.

We think it is nice to see companies getting behind quirky projects. All told, they spent dozens of hours on this, and they chose to give all of their findings back to the community in the form of thorough explanations and project diagrams. It would be nice to see more of this.

The weather in Colorado hasn’t been the best lately, so the birdhouse hasn’t been tweeting for a while. In our experience, a project that’s turned off is in the dangerous position of being scavenged for parts. Hopefully that isn’t the case here, and we will see it back in action when Spring starts.

Tweeting beer dispenser requires co-worker approval


Having been faced with an empty beer fridge one too many times the team at Metalworks came up with an approval system for dispensing malted beverages. The trick was to remove the physical controls on a can dispenser. The only way you can get a cold one is to ask the machine via its twitter account. If there’s beer inside, it waits for one of your approved co-workers to give the go-ahead.

There are two versions of the machine. The first is a hacked refrigerator with a dispenser hole cut in the door. This resides in their Sydney office, apparently doesn’t work all that well, and is only shown in the video after the break.

The image above is version 2.0 which is located at their Singapore branch. It’s a much smaller device, but works very well since it started as a commercially available can dispenser. You can see the Arduino Leonardo and breadboard which make up the driver circuits.

There aren’t a ton of details on this, but it’s not hard to find about a million examples of an Arduino using Twitter. Here’s one that takes Morse code as an input and posts the message as a Tweet.

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Twitter radio


This anthropomorphized wood bowl will read Tweets out loud. It was built by [William Lindmeier] as part of his graduate work in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University. View the clip after the break to see and hear a list from his Twitter feed read in rather pleasant text-to-speech voices.

The electronics involved are rather convoluted. Inside the upturned bowl you’ll find both an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi. But that’s not the only thing that goes into this. The best sounding text-to-speech program [William] could find was for OSX, so there is a remote computer involved as well. But we think what makes this special is the concept and execution, not the level of hardware inefficiency.

The knob to the left sets the volume and is also responsible for powering down the device. The knob of the right lets you select from various Twitter lists. Each turn of the knob is responded to with a different LED color in the nose and a spoken menu label. You can get a quick overview of the project from this summary post.

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A Little Tweeting “Ewok”

Tweet Receiving, that is. This Ewok model, named “Ewen the Cheerlight,” is able to rotate its head left and right as well as show expressions. The most interesting feature of this hack, however, is that the little Ewok actually wakes up each time one tweets a “colour” to @cheerlights and lets it’s owner [Joel] know what he thinks of the “color” you’ve chosen. [Joel] insists that he’s like this featured on [HAD], although it remains to be seen if it will soon be turned off after the tweets start rolling in…

As far as how the device works, the head is turned with a simple hobby servo motor, and the expressions are shown on a LED matrix. The model itself is built from a polystyrene ball and an old table lamp. The build really looks awesome.

All of this is controlled by an Easy USB Interface Board which is listed on [Pozible], the Australian version of [Kickstarter]. Be sure to check out the video of “Ewen” in action after the break! Continue reading “A Little Tweeting “Ewok””