A blanket that detects its own orientation

If you want to capture a 3D model of a physical object, you could use a Kinect, a couple of lasers, constructive light, or even a simple touch sensor mounted on a robotic arm. Those are all expensive devices, and somewhat unnecessary now that you can just throw a blanket over an object and get a 3D model instantaneously.

The project is called IM BLANKY and it’s supposed to reproduce 3D shapes by simply throwing it over an object. The petals in the flower motif are pieces of conductive fabric that serve as contacts for the electrified tassel in the center of each flower. When the blanket is thrown over an object, the tassel is pulled by gravity, makes contact with one of the six conductive petals and sends a tilt switch to a microcontroller.

While we’re not too sure about the resolution IM BLANKY will provide with only 20 tilt sensors, but we imagine this could be used for a few medical applications.

via dvice

Closing in on Nixie cuff links

It’s not Nixie cuff links yet, but we’re seeing a lot of potential for a few very classy accoutrements with [thouton]‘s Nixie tube necklace.

The build was inspired by this much clunkier necklace that found its way onto the MAKE blog. Unlike the previous necklace, [thouton] used a much smaller Mullard ZM1021 indicator bulb. Instead of the normal 0-9 digits in a Nixie, this tube displays only A V Ω + - % and ~, betraying its pedigree as part of the display from an ancient multimeter.

To power the bulb, [thouton] is using a single AA battery and a boost converter salvaged from a camera flash unit. All the circuitry is on a little piece of perfboard encased in a handsome aluminum tube. Power is delivered through two terminals with a bit of audio cable standing in as the chain of the necklace. We suppose this could be re-engineered to use a coin cell battery; although a coin cell doesn’t offer as many amp hours as a AA cell, [thouton] is confident the AA will last for a few days. A coin cell would be more than enough for a night on the town, though.

Wearable video coat

[David Forbes] is no stranger to the weird and esoteric, so he created a color LED TV built into a lab coat. He plans on bringing it to Burning Man next month.

The RGB LEDs are mounted narrow flex boards, providing a 160×120 pixel NTSC display. Video processing is taken care of by an Xilinx FPGA that takes the YCrCb video feed from a video iPod and converts it into four separate RGB streams for the front, back, and the two sides. The requisite controls for brightness and color are on the shoulders.

Of course, the build wouldn’t be over-the-top without the ability to plug a Nintendo into a lab coat, so there’s an NTSC input on an RCA jack. Everything is powered by two 11.1 V, 5Ah radio-control LiPo battery packs that should power this for a while.

Check out a video of the LED lab coat below.

The ElectroAxé Full-Body Percussion Suit

Carnival in Salvador, Brazil is arguably one of the biggest and craziest parties this world has ever known.  With millions in attendance for what is already an incredible audio and visual display, performers are faced with the daunting task of continually bringing something new and fresh to the masses. One could always add more fireworks or visual displays (never a bad thing), but it will only take you so far. [Kyle McDonald] and [Lucas Werthein]’s answer: The ElectroAxé Full-Body Percussion Suit as demonstrated by Carlinhos Brown at Carnival 2011.

When most people hear the word “axe” as related to music they think of an electric guitar. “Axé” however, refers to a unique Afro-Caribbean fusion genre of music that originated in Salvador in the mid 1980’s and is a favorite at Carnival. [Carlinhos Brown] is a popular Brazilian percussionist and was looking for a creative new way to express himself through his song and dance. Instead of being stuck in one place near his instruments or carrying one or two drums around “marching-band style”, he is now able to move around the stage freely – his body has become his instrument.

In order to make the magic happen, [Kyle] and [Lucas] designed custom laser cut and cnc machined drum pads containing piezo sensors and integrated them with a full-body jump suit. When struck, these sensors send a signal to an Arduino with a Sparkfun Midi Shield housed in a custom enclosure on the performer’s waist. From there the MIDI signal is sent wirelessly and then audio is played through the existing sound system – it appears that a CMD WIDI X-8 wireless MIDI system is employed for the actual wireless transmission.

Although details are somewhat scarce, there are plenty of pictures, (more) available.  You really can’t argue with the results as you watch thousands of people jam along.

Come join in the festivities with video after the break!

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Robot eyes look where you do

This robot eye can move five times faster than the human eye. It’s capable of being used to follow a human gaze and, as you can see by that coin, it’s small enough to be used in pairs. When used to follow your gaze it needs a custom-made eye tracker. The thought here is that a lot can be learned about a person’s psyche by monitoring what they are focusing on. But we wonder about the augmented reality properties of a setup like this.

Imagine a pair of glasses as a heads up display. If this camera knows where you’re looking it can process the items in your gaze and overlay digital information. As with all new technology there are obvious military uses for this, but we’d be more interested in a Flickr pool type collection of people’s real-world experiences. Like subscribing to the locations of that thumb drive network in NYC and having the camera/glasses guide you to the nearest installation.

Want to see how fast this thing responds? Check out the video after the break.

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Wearable controller for your paintball tank

If you’re too frail to take the full impact of a paintball round let this tank serve as your surrogate. The camera perched on top of the platform feeds video back to the operator’s head-mounted display. Instead of using a joystick or other traditional controller, the user aims by looking around, with his or her head movements mimicked by the camera and barrel of the tank. It looks cooler than it sounds so jump with us after the break to see for yourself. If you’re playing against this thing, we’d recommend aiming for the camera lens.

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Elegant wearable computer

[Jason Statham] [Martin Magnusson] wrote in to tell us about his adventure in building a wearable computer. The device in its current state is a Beagleboard running Angstrom Linux tethered to an iPhone for internet. A bluetooth keyboard allows for input, while output is displayed on monocle-ized Myvu. And last but not least, the entire setup is powered by 4 AA batteries for 3 hours of life.

Its not as small as some of the wearable computers we’ve seen before, but if you wanted to whip out your own it sure takes a lot less soldering.

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