Hackit: Crap Modding

When Boing Boing Gadgets posted about this $13 robot hand music box, we immediately thought “OH EXPLOITABLE!”. Over the years, we’ve acquired quite a bit of cheap trash just operating under the assumption that we would turn it into something else. Most of our acquisitions are Woot‘s fault. Just this morning we were dismayed to find out that the purveyor of cheap electronics had already sold out of animatronic Elvis heads. Now that would have been fun. We’ve purchased things like Tony Hawk helmet cams, jumbo remotes, Bluetooth headphones, Gyration mice, IMFree chatpads, and many other items of questionable use thinking that some day we’d use it. How about you? What sort of irrational purchases have you made and what would you do with a $13 mechanized hand?

[Just as we were wrapping this up, Woot posted a $49 HMD; you better believe we bought that.]

30 thoughts on “Hackit: Crap Modding

  1. Like everywhere else in the US, my electric company, Southern California Edison, subsidizes compact fluorescent light bulbs for sale at local markets and hardware stores. My two favorite recent subsidies have been a .99 cent LED desk lamp and a .99 cent jelly jar-type compact fluorescent outdoor lamp. The LED desk lamp I transformed into a decent enough accent light for a painting, while the jelly jar lamp yields a dusk to dawn photo sensor packed into a nice little plastic box, easily removed for higher purposes.

  2. I dont usually buy shit to mod/hack, its more like trash/flea market/yard sale find. I have stacks of keyboards and other random shit (to bend/mod) that my wife is probably going to kill me over….Lens/optics collection?

    -for the hand I would try to make some type of music visualization, I dont know how fast the fingers open/close so I dont know whats all feasible..

    -Maybe a rear-dash mounted “middle finger at will”
    Lights in it to drAW attention?

  3. you could make thing from the Adam’s family.

    most of my random junk is old computer parts, but you’d be amazed at how handy spare LAN cards can be, and modems are fun to microwave.

  4. I’m betting most readers have a pile, or several piles of junk. From old hardware not yet old enough to be recycled/thrown away(or is now ‘retro’), to random gifts that would be good to take apart, to stuff bought specifically for hacking.

    Lets see, my list of ‘Now what should I do with this?’ includes, several Mattel Juiceboxes (ARM7 processors with up to 8MB of RAM), pretty much every console-in-a-box that I ran across on clearence (most intended to made into portable systems), several smaller embedded x86 systems (Socket 370 most common) of varying states of working, 9V Li-Ion battery packs, and piles of normal computer parts that don’t quite make a decent system (like a Socket 370 MATX board that is locked into using only Celeron 400Mhz processors, 4GB harddisks by the pound, an entire box of Celerons at 366Mhz)

    As for the hand, there was a feature on it when it was more expensive on Make:Blog, should have plenty of suggestions there.

    hak8or: it was part of a “Woot-Off”, limited quantities that are sold out, or sell a certain quantity, before moving onto other products. Check Woot.com , as there is a small chance it, or a similar HMD might come up. Also, google ‘woot tracker’ to keep up without having to manually refresh.

  5. I bought the DLP Light Engine for a NEC SX-10000 HD projector (three DMD chips, and their driver boards, the peltier cooling on each chip, the prisms, and the cooler controllers)… the thing cost me $12 on ebay since no one else bid (and that included shipping)… I plan to, for a Senior Project, try to make at least one of the DMD chips produce a basic image… then make the other two do the same. Only $12 and that already is the best deal I could get for the components if it doesn’t work out.

    as for the hand, make it actually play an instrument, (or use it for that decoy everyone’s been making in their back room for your cubicle, the hand would make it seem like the decoy [or you, to your boss] is typing and not suspect anything… enjoy the days off)

  6. I am about the same with the pc parts but my wife drags me away from skips as I am known for bringing all sorts of rubbish home from outside.

    As for the hand I would turn that into a wank bot lol!!!!!!!!

  7. Kinda looks like there’s just a single motor and the fingers are on cams that would make them move in a set patter. If that is the case, hacking it to do anything other than speed up and slow down would require ripping out most of the insides.

    Anyone seen one up close?

  8. Yeah, where is the $49 HMD? cheapest I’ve seen that MyVue is $149 refurbished, $200 new.

    As for the hand, spray it with silver paint and attach it to a short metal pole and you have yourself a poor mans animated Terminator arm – halloween prop anyone?

  9. I own 3 Robosapiens (including a v2 i bought on woot. 1 is half dissasembled, 1 is missing its entire outer casing and its entire head. So far, nothing actually been done with them. The third robosapien is so that when i do get around to doing something, i dont have to use one I ripped in half trying to figure out.

  10. I’ve raided electronics closets from old and current employers and have stacks of old wires, connectors, cards, a TrackIR Infared HeadTracker, a Sony Glasstron HMD, A Dual-Well CD Recorder/Dubber, and many other techno-bits. I got a set of 5 LED disc lights at a hardware store for a few bucks and modded them to be case lights, added a temp display for a grill as a CPU heat meter, and various Green Laser Diode hacks. Can’t get enough of the junk! I think I’d have to try to build some sort of Text-To-ASL device with this hand.

  11. Two large ikea dressers, three sets of little organizer drawers, about a third of my remaining bedroom floorspace and a dynamic haul in the trunk of my car are all overflowing with electronic stuff that looked more than hackable.

    The favorite bits include a operating room style equipment arm, a 2hp blender, Parts from powered windows, two 20lb pure Teflon cylinders, this breaker-flipper of a light that pivots and has a switch marked “solar ray – off – heat ray”, a functional drill press that the garbage man would’ve made off with, an overbuilt ptz camera with 20x optical zoom, and all of this epic scsi equipment from a thumper truck.

    Most promising is probably the scsi equipment. A buddy of mine rescued the stuff from a metal recycler, but he had to be speedy so he only got a carload of the little bits. He’s anti-clutter so I ended up with most of it. Lots of drives and redundant power controllers and stuff, but also these funky boards with beefy relays on them. They look like the most promising home automation component ever.

    Should’ve seen it when we first got them. He was like “I’m bringin’ SCSI back”, and doing this horrifying Justin Timberlake routine up until I saw what he had in his trunk. I stared a bit, then he said he’d kill me if I started singing “my humps”.

    Sorry for the rant. Before I shunt my flow I think I’ll plug the ultra-pertinent T. Edison quote, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

  12. Does the hand make an awful cheap-motor-and-gearbox sort of grinding noise? If so, my first act would be to silence it as much as possible.

    Following that, articulate the fingers individually. Using cord that alternately wraps/unwraps around a motor would probably allow for individually addressable digits (so to speak) with a minimum of fuss.

    Once you’re done with that, a binary clock that uses finger up / down to show 1s and 0s :) You’d have to encode the time in an arduous way though (somehow compress it in to no more than 32 at a time)

  13. eliot, too bad about the Animatronic Elvis. I have been hacking into him for about the last two weeks. I have a custom cartridge built, decoded the audio and animation formats, and dumped and analyzed the main flash.

    I thought the animatronic Elvis would be added to my pile of stuff to hack someday, but this one actually stuck for once. :)

  14. This hand runs off of one motor and the same actions are performed each time, the difference being that the motor speeds up and slows down during each song played at different rates depending upon the song. At first glance, it is an effective illusion but not a very hackable toy. As it stands, you won’t get any independent finger motion out of this thing at all.
    Ye are warned.

  15. Please don’t get me started! Here’s a brief list of the most recent crap I bought:
    – bluetooth bracelets for proximity alert and silent phone ring
    – cheap-ass chinese HMD (QVGA)
    – wireless color micro video camera with sound
    – miscellaneous webcams, USB sticks and laser pointers
    – innumerable “pound shop” (uk’s equivalent to 99c stores) gadgets

    The only problem is finding the time to transform them in valuable projects!

  16. Thing from adams family and sign language rss reader were my first ideas. Then I remembered that my friends run a haunted house, and it’d be a great prop to lose a hand and have it crawl away on it’s own. Seems that you’d only need to either move two fingers or all of them at once.

  17. In terms of stuff acquired to play with and perhaps hack into and do something different with, recently I bought a Quickshot Robot Arm which you control using two old-school 9-way D connection joysticks (Spectrum/Amiga/C64 etc.) but I also bought two new old stock PSX pads that I intend to hack up into a single pad with two 8-way controllers in so I can control the arm with just a single hacked joypad. Unfortunately I got stalled because the motor that rotates the whole arm stalls and won’t turn it properly.

    One day I want to make a robot arm with miniature servos controlled by a computer which is in turn controlled with a PS2 joypad.

  18. You would not believe the amount of junk I have in the “to hack” list… But, the thing that stands out the most is a 300-disc Sony CD changer I got for really cheap on the ‘bay. (The phrase “needs work” is music to my ears!)

    It seems the drive belt (read: cheap rubber band) had slipped off the carousel. D’oh! I fixed that, but who uses CDs anymore? Hence the reason I got it: I want to hack a DVD (burner, probably) drive in place of the CD one and interface the onboard CD catalogue thingy to some kind of software to keep track of DVDs, install discs, burned backup discs, etc.

    The only road-blocks are: 1) finding the time/space, and 2) getting over my fear of completely ruining both a DVD drive and disc changer. :P

    Also, who cares about the stupid hand-shaped, Chinese Furby? There are too many cool/useful hacks out there to waste time on that junk…

  19. keyboard input interface:

    The hand would receive orders what key should it press (either from another keyboard, from the web, wherever), would move above the desired key and press it.

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