Remote control with an XBee and a Propeller

If you’ve been playing with electronics for long enough, eventually you’ll need a nice remote control transmitter to control your RC car, airplane, or any other robotics project you have lying around. With these robotics projects comes the problem remote control, and the XBee Handheld Controller may be just the ticket to remotely control any project that comes off your workbench.

This isn’t the first remote controller we’ve seen that does just about everything, but it is the first one to include an XBee wireless transceiver to easily interface to your robotics project. The controller comes in two models, the Q4, which uses four Playstation-like joysticks, and the Q2, which uses proper remote control gimbal joysticks. Both the controllers have a slew of buttons, toggle switches, four rotary pots and a 2×20 LCD display.

After the break you can check out [Paul]‘s pitch explaining what these controllers can do and showing off a hexapod robot under the control of his Q4 controller. A very neat project, and we can’t wait to see this controller out in the field.

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The excitement of ice fishing now from anywhere in the world

Now you can experience the excitement felt for centuries by ice fisherman thanks to this cellular-capable tip-up.

For the uninitiated a little ice fishing primer may be in order. The majority of what you see above is a standard tip-up rig for ice fishing. Basically it lets you set many baited lines and just watch for a flag to pop up when one of them hooks a fish. Just drill a hole in the ice and drop the line through — the orange frame rests on the surface of the ice.

The add-on here is the grey box which is hiding an Xbee device. A magnet and reed switch (which can be found at the local hardware store) complete a circuit when the flag is down. But if the flag pops up the reed switch opens (or closes, we’re not sure which) and the Xbee sends an alert to a base station, which then converts that to a text message to push to your phone. As you guessed, there’s a video after the break.

Fun and convoluted. But not entirely useless. We’d suggest swapping the Xbee/cellular hardware for a cheap microcontroller/Bluetooth setup. This way you can knock back a few cold ones in the ice house while waiting for the wireless network to alert you via an SL4A script.

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Kilonode: how to test a huge Xbee mesh network

So let’s say that you’re a developer on the Xbee team. You need to test the extremes of what the RF radio modules can do when in a large network. But in addition to numerous nodes, you also need to test the effects of distance on the radios. Since it’s not reasonable to distribute hundreds of the devices (each with their own power source) throughout town, you build a test setup like the 1 kilonode Xbee rig which the project manager, [Jared Hofhiens] is showing off.

He’s holding one blade from the rack-mounted system. Each of those squares is an Xbee module, there’s 32 etched onto the board. On the edge furthest from him there are a set of connectors which mate with the rack connectors, hooking the blade up to a set of terminal servers. These servers allow developers to ssh into individual modules. On the near side of the blade there’s a set of attenuation adjustment circuits. They allow adjustments of 0-40 dB of attenuation in 10 dB increments to adjust how strong the RF signals are, simulating distance between modules.

Thirty-two of these cards are mounted in the three racks seen above to make up the 1024 module node. We really appreciate this look behind the scenes and think you’ll enjoy the video tour after the break. If it leaves you wanting more check out how one company builds cloud storage. Continue reading “Kilonode: how to test a huge Xbee mesh network”

Universal 20 channel project controller from a Ps2 controller

So you’ve got a really cool project that requires a wireless controller and a ton of different channels. What are you going to do? Are you going to go pick up an expensive RC controller? Nah, you’re going to build your own. This project makes a generic 20 channel controller for your projects by stuffing an SMDuino and an XBee module inside a ps2 controller.  Unfortunately you lose the force feedback since you have to remove the motors to make space for the extra components and batteries. You do end up with a decently ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing controller though.

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You’ll throw your back out playing this analog TV synth

de-rastra

While CRT televisions fall to the wayside as more people adopt flat-panel TVs, the abundance of unused sets gives hacker/artist [Kyle Evans] an unlimited number of analog canvases on which to project his vision. He recently wrote in to share his latest creation which he dubs “de/Rastra”.

The “CRT Performance Interface” as he calls it, is an old analog television which he hacked to display signals created by moving the TV around. Fitted with an array of force sensors, accelerometers, and switches, the display is dynamically generated by the movements of whomever happens to be holding the set.

Signals are sent wirelessly from his sensor array to an Atmel 328 microcontroller with the help of a pair of XBee radios, where they are analyzed and used to generate a series of audio streams. The signals are fed into a 400W amplifier before being inserted into the CRT’s yoke, and subsequently displayed on the screen.

We’re sure [Kyle] is probably trying to express a complex metaphor about man’s futile attempts to impose his control over technology with his project, but we think it simply looks cool.

Check out [Kyle’s] work for yourself in the video below and give us your take in the comments.

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Directly interfacing a joystick with an Xbee

We see a pretty steady stream of projects that use Xbee modules. They’re one of the more reliable and popular ways to add a wireless aspect to your project. But we don’t often see them used to their full potential. Since there’s a microcontroller onboard, many simple tasks can be accomplished without the need for an addition microcontroller. [Stephen's] showing how this can be done, by reading the stick and button data from a game controller using only an Xbee module.

His test setup uses an Arduino to drive servo motors on the receiving end of the hardware. You can’t do everything with Xbee, but the sender is where this concept comes into play. [Stephen] grabbed an older gamepad which is meant for use with a PC game port. The joystick uses potentiometers to measure position data, and the buttons simply complete a circuit. He altered the joystick by adding voltage dividers to the pots, and pull-up resistors to the buttons. From there he just wired it up to the Xbee and set up the module’s firmware to package and transmit the data. It’s a nice way to do more with less.

We had a little discussion here at Hackaday about Xbee modules which seem to be in short supply. Some of us think it’s due to the flooding in Thailand. If you’ve got some info on the situation, or just want to share your own conspiracy theory, let us know in the comments.

Monitoring the status of a unisex bathroom

Years ago, someone at [Chuck]‘s job came up with the brilliant solution of an indicator to display if the unisex bathroom is currently vacant, a men’s bathroom, or a women’s bathroom. The old system worked well, but [Chuck] thought it would be a great idea to display the current status of the bathroom on the large TV in the office, saving his coworkers from getting up only to wait in line until the bathroom became vacant.

Like the previous paper sign, [Chuck]‘s build has three statuses: a men’s room, a women’s room, and vacant with a manual dial that is turned whenever someone is entering or leaving. The new build vastly improves on the paper-based indicator by using a laser cut indicator on a rotary switch.

The electronics are dead simple; just an XBee and a Explorer USB board. Whenever the switch state is changed, the XBee sends a bit of data off to a mac mini and displays the status on the office TV. It may be funny to our immature sense of humor, but it’s still a very nice project.