Hackaday Prize Entry: Bilateral Brain Stimulator

In 1987, an American psychologist found voluntary eye movements reduced the intensity of negative thoughts. This is the basis of EMDR, or Eye Movement and Reprocessing Desensibilization, and if it sounds too oogie-boogie to be real, I assure you there are even oogier and boogier techniques in psychology that actually work.

[David]’s entry to the Hackaday Prize is a device that helps psychologists apply EMDR for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders. To do this, the psychologist asks the patient to describe a traumatic incident while the patient makes eye movement. According to the literature, this facilitates the connection between the cerebral hemispheres and decreases the emotional burden.

If simply moving your eyes back and forth while reliving your greatest horrors is enough, what’s with the hardware? [David]’s project is just a few LEDs that help enable eye movement. With a linear array of LEDs controlled by a shift register and a PIC microcontroller, this device is just enough to make a patient glance from left to right to left over and over again.

It’s a good project, made even better by the fact that [David]’s sister, a psychotherapist and EMDR practitioner, asked [David] to create an electronic device for this technique. [David]’s already produced a video on his device, and you can check that out below.

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Train Time Ticker Will Save Your Morning Commute

The fatal combination of not being a early riser and commuting to work using public transit can easily result in missed buses or trains. Frustrated with missing train after train while fumbling with a complicated transit schedule app, [Fergal Carroll] created a Train Time Ticker to help his morning routine run right on time.

A Particle Photon hooked up to a 2.2″ TFT screen — both mounted on a breadboard with a button — fit the purpose tidily. Weekday mornings, the Ticker pulls — from a server he set up — the departure times for the specific station and platform along [Carroll]’s commute every three minutes; at all other times, the Ticker can be manually refreshed for any impending trips.

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Battery Powered Fog Machine Just in Time for Halloween

[makendo] needed a portable fog machine for an upcoming project. It seemed like the kind of a thing a liberal application of money on the Internet could fix in no time. But quality fog machines are too expensive, and the cheap machines are just, well, cheap. Stuck between $800 and quickly broken crap, he decided instead to fashion his own.

Fortunately for him, a recent fad has made it so that a certain segment of the populace absolutely require dramatic clouds of scented drug fog or they get cranky. The market saw an opportunity, cost optimized, and now there are many portable fog machines just waiting to be born in the form of an e-cigarette. However, an e-cigarette needs interaction from a person’s lungs to provide an annoying cloud. So he modeled up a 3D printable case that would blow air into the intake of the e-cigarette. Instead of filling a person’s lungs with a cloud of eye drops and nicotine, it would let out a steady stream of fog.

This device does burn through emitters, because the e-cigarette was not designed for this kind of heavy duty. Even reading the Amazon comments for the $800 dollar version, this is fairly normal for these things. So now [makendo] is able to produce a nice cloud of smoke whenever he needs and it only set him back around $40 US dollars.

Shocking Halloween Decoration

Sure, you could animate some Halloween lights using a microcontroller, some random number generation and some LEDs, and if the decorations are powered by AC, you could use some relays with your microcontroller. What if you don’t have that kind of time? [Gadget Addict] had some AC powered decorations that he’d previously animated with an Arduino and some relays, but this year wanted to do something quicker and simpler.

In another video, he goes over the wiring of a fluorescent starter to create a flickering effect with an incandescent light bulb. A fluorescent starter works because the current heats up a gas discharge tube which causes a bit of metal to bend and touch another, closing the circuit. A fluorescent bulb is a big enough load that the flowing current keeps the starter hot and, therefore, the circuit closed. If you wire the starter in series with a regular incandescent bulb, the starter heats up but the load isn’t big enough to keep the starter hot enough, so it cools down and the circuit breaks, which causes the starter to heat up again. This causes the bulb to flicker on and off. [Gadget Addict] uses two circuits with a fluorescent starter each wired to alternate bulbs in the decoration in order to get the effect to look a bit more random.

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You Kids Get Those Drones out of my Airspace!

The PacTec Security Conference in Tokyo had something interesting show up. A countermeasure against drones that allows you to take control of any craft using the popular DSMx protocol. According to Ars Technica, DSMx transmitters and receivers exchange a key to prevent interference between adjacent systems. The key isn’t protected very well so by observing traffic and applying a little brute force, you can recover the key (which is set when the transmitter binds to the aircraft).

What’s more is a timing vulnerability allows the rogue transmitter to lock out the legitimate one. You can see a demonstration of the system, called Icarus, in the video below.

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BASIC Interpreter Hidden in ESP32 Silicon

We’ve been keeping up with the ongoing software developed for the ESP32 WiFi chip, and that means a lot of flashing, hooking up random wires, and rebooting. Along the way, we stumbled on an Easter egg: the ESP32 processor has a built-in BASIC interpreter to fall back on.

That’s a cool little hack to find, but we couldn’t find some crucial functions that would have made it a lot more useful. Still, it’s great fun to play around in real-time with the chip. And you’ll absolutely get an LED blinking faster in ESP32 BASIC than you will on an Arduino!

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Qualcomm Buys NXP In Largest Ever Semiconductor Deal

Reuters has reported that Qualcomm will purchase NXP for $38 Billion in the largest semiconductor deal ever.

This deal was rumored last month in a deal worth about $30 Billion. Qualcomm’s name should be familiar to all Hackaday readers – they have an immense portfolio of mobile processors, automotive chips, and a ton of connectivity solutions for WiFi, Bluetooth, and every other bit of the EM spectrum. NXP should also be familiar for their hundreds of ARM devices, automotive devices, and Freescale’s entire portfolio.

The deal for $38 Billion is just a bit larger than the previous largest semiconductor deal, Avago’s purchase of Broadcom for $37 Billion.

This latest acquisition has followed acquisitions of ARM Holdings by Japan’s Softbank, On and Fairchild, Avago and Broadcom, NXP and Freescale, Microchip and Atmel, Intel and Altera, and a few dozen we’re forgetting right now. The good news is this immense industry consolidation won’t result in a single gigantic chip maker; there will probably be two or three gigantic chip companies in the future. If I may dredge up an observation from a Mergers and Acquisition post from this summer, this trend didn’t go well for Hughes, Fairchild, Convair, Douglas, McDonnell Douglas, North American, Grumman, Northrop, Northrop Grumman, Bell, Cessna, Schweizer or Sikorsky. It went very well for Lockheed, Boeing, and Textron.