TV Control With Hand Gestures

The cell phones of yesteryear were covered in buttons. Today’s cell phones are mostly a touch display with maybe one or two buttons. As time marches on, we find ourselves using our fingers more for gestures and swipes than button pushing to control our devices. Sadly, the television remote has been stuck in an antiquated state and most are still covered in archaic buttons.

[Frederick] has decided to dig the TV remote out from the stone age and updated it to use simple gestures for control. We’ve seen gesture control before, but this one is certainly the most elegant. He’s using a Raspberry Pi with a Skywriter HAT gesture recognition board. The driver is super easy to install and can be done in a single command line. The Skywriter hat interpreters the hand gesture and the Pi fires the appropriate signal via an IR emitter. This approach made the project fairly simple to put together, with surprisingly good results.

Be sure to check out his blog for all code needed, and take a look at the video below to see the remote in action.
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All This Bike Needs Is Some Snow!

It’s safe to say that the southern UK is not known for its winter snowfall. If you have lived through a British February then the chances are you’ll know a lot about rain and grey skies.

Happily this hasn’t deterred [Stuart]. Ever the optimist, he’s turned a pile of scrap metal and an unloved mountain bike into a fully functional ski-bike, and he’s just ready to go should the jet stream deliver a covering of the white stuff on the Thames Valley.

Using the facilities of rLab – Reading Makerspsce (he’s also a founder member of the up-and-coming Newbury and District Hackspace), [Stuart] didn’t just bodge together his “iCycle”. Instead he’s made it a really high quality build, with CNC’d aluminium fork stanchions to mount his skis, and foot pegs that are engineered not to let him down on the slopes. Best of all, the bike is nearly all made from scrap materials, only the bearings, axles and paint were brought in for the project.

Skiing hasn’t been featured very often in our coverage of the world of makers, however we have featured a skiing robot, back in 2009.

Musical Shades

There are only so many blinking light patterns you can create with a microcontroller before you get bored. [Garrett] apparently felt that way and decided to build a music-driven LED display on some LED shades. The system has three main elements: a microphone, a preamp, and a 7-band spectrum analyzer chip. You can see the results in the video below.

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The Voice Recognition Typewriter

Typewriters with voice recognition have existed for over one hundred years; they were called secretaries. Robots are taking all the jobs now, and finally dictation and typing is a job that can be handled by a computer. [Zip Zaps] used an old Smith Corona typewriter to automate the process of turning dictation into print. Like a secretary hunched over an anachronistic IBM Selectric in the first season of Mad Men, this robot will take dictation and accept the overt sexism of a 1960s Manhattan ad agency.

Instead of the machinations of a few biological actuators, this typewriter is controlled with an array of servos driven by Pololu Maestro servo controller. There are twelve servos that move a small actuator down onto the keys, and another twelve servos that move the others above the correct row of the keyboard. The carriage return lever is actuated by a stepper motor, linear rail, and giant plastic lever.

While a robot that can use a typewriter is impressive, the real trick is getting it to take dictation. [Zip Zaps] used the built-in voice recognition found in Windows for this, streaming characters over a serial port to the Arduino-based electronics.

Does it work? Yes, surprisingly it does. Is it useful? Well, typewriters naturally have a cleaner, more analog tone about them, and you can’t replicate the typing experience of an old Smith Corona typewriter with a digital format. This build is just the natural extension of what digital electronics are capable of these days, and we look forward to seeing someone with this amazing device in our local Starbucks.

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FAXing in 1843

By 2016, it is evident the FAX machine has peaked. Sure, you still see a few. There are even services that will let you send and receive FAXes via Internet–which could mean no FAX machine was involved at all. But looking back, you have to wonder where it all started. Most people had never seen a FAX machine until the late 1960s or early 1970s. It was 1980 before there was a standard. Some, like hams and weather service employees, were using them even earlier. But would it surprise you to know that the first experimental FAX machine appeared in 1843?

Wait a minute. Bell didn’t even build a telephone until 1875 (the patent issued in 1876). Turns out the first FAX machines didn’t work with a phone. They worked over a telegraph wire.

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Building a Sheet Metal Pistol

Floating around the Internet are plans for a semi-automatic pistol constructed out of sheet metal. Like so many plans for 3D printed guns, it appears no one has actually built one of these pistols. It exists only as a technological construct, with diagrams you can photocopy, trace onto a few bits of metal, and presumably assemble into a gun. The only proof these parts can be turned into a gun-shaped object are a few random blog posts from two years ago showing a very ugly pistol spray painted matte black.

[Clinton Westwood] decided to take up the challenge of turning these plans into a real, working gun. He’s documented his efforts on YouTube and put a bunch of pictures up of the entire build process. The gun doesn’t work quite yet, but it almost does, and he’s doing this entirely in a garage shop, with tools anyone can pick up from Home Depot.

Most of the construction of this gun is simple enough – it’s just sheet metal, after all. The magazine was constructed by tracing the pattern onto a piece of metal, wrapping it around a mandrel, and welding it together. The side plates of the gun, again, were created with a jigsaw. Rifling the barrel – the thing that makes this gun both accurate and legal – required the construction of a few interesting tools. The rifling tool is just a piece of round bar that fits through the barrel. A small piece of a hacksaw blade was cut to fit inside this round bar, and the barrel was cut very slowly with a shop-built tool.

The finished result is something that looks like it came from the finest post-apocalyptic craftsman. A gun that looks cool is useless if it doesn’t work, and here the DIY pistol falls short. The spent casings don’t eject. It’s still a step up from the first build of this gun that was only rumored to fire blanks.

Recently, the world of gunsmithing has been inundated with 3D printed pistols that don’t work, and 3D printed guns that do work, but are somehow 200 years behind the state of the art. We’re happy to see some people are still building things with their hands, and hope [Clinton] can eventually get this gun to work.

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About Those Gravitational Waves

It was the year of 1687 when Isaac Newton published “The Principia“, which revealed the first mathematical description of gravity. Newton’s laws of motion along with his description of gravity laid before the world a revolutionary concept that could be used to describe everything from the motions of heavenly bodies to a falling apple. Newton would remain the unequivocal king of gravity for the next several hundred years. But that would all change at the dawn of the 20th century when a young man working at a Swiss patent office began to ask some profound questions. Einstein had come to the conclusion that Newtonian physics was not adequate to describe the findings of the emerging electromagnetic field theories.  In 1905, he published a paper entitled “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” which corrects Newton’s laws so they work when describing the motions of objects near the speed of light. This new description became known as Special Relativity.

It was ‘Special’ because it didn’t deal with gravity or acceleration. It would take Einstein another 10 years to work these two concepts into his relativity theory. He called it General Relativity – an understanding of which is necessary to fully grasp the significance of gravitational waves.

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