Amazon Echo Show

Back in May, Amazon announced the Echo Show, its new version of Alexa with a 7 inch touchscreen. The Echo Show is an interesting device, but will the great unwashed masses pony up $229 to buy the show? That’s $50 more than the original Echo, or $180 more than the Echo Dot. With 5.2 million units sold in 2016, Echo has been a resounding success. This has been in part due to Amazon’s open approach to the API. Anyone can build an Alexa compatible device using a Raspberry Pi. Google has (finally) followed suit with their Home device.

It’s not just the hardware that is accessible. Skills Kit, the programmer interface for extending Echo’s functionality, is also open. At CES this year, Alexa was the belle of the ball. Third party devices are being introduced from all corners, all of them connecting to Amazon’s cloud and responding to the “Alexa” keyword.

The Echo Show takes the family in a new direction. Adding a touch screen gives the user a window on the the world not available with voice interactions. Echo Show also includes a camera, which opens up a whole new set of privacy and security questions. Amazon touts it as a device for viewing security cameras, watching YouTube videos, and making video calls. This puts Echo Show dangerously close to the internet appliance category, essentially a barren wasteland littered with the corpses of previous devices. Does anyone remember when Palm tried this with the 3Com Ergo Audrey? How about the i-Opener? Will Alexa persevere and succeed where others have failed? A lot of it will depend on the third party developers, and how Amazon treats them.

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New Take on the Binary Clock

By now it might seem like there’s no new way to build a binary clock. It’s one of the first projects many build to try out their first soldering irons, so it’s a well-traveled path. Every now and then, however, there’s a binary clock that takes a different approach, much like [Stephen]’s latest project which he calls the byte clock.

The clock works by dividing the 24-hour day into half and using an LED to represent this division, which coincidentally works out to representing AM or PM. The day is divided in half over and over again, with each division getting its own LED. In order to use this method to get one-second resolution it would need 16 LEDs, but since that much resolution isn’t too important for a general-use clock, [Stephen] reduced this to eight.

Additionally, since we’re in the Internet age, the clock has built-in WiFi courtesy of a small version of Python called WiPy which runs on its own microcontroller. A real-time clock rounds out the build and makes sure the clock is as accurate as possible. Of course an RTC might not have the accuracy as some other clocks, but for this application it certainly gets the job done.

Need to Hold Something? Build a Custom Vise

The only thing better than making a cool project is making a cool project that helps make more projects! Case in point, [Greg Stephens] and [Alex] wanted to colorize steel bearings for use in a Newton’s Cradle desk toy. After trying out a torch and not liking it, [Greg] and [Alex] decided to build custom aluminum vise to hold the sphere while it sits in the magnetic induction forge.

Their vise–they call it the Maker’s Vise0–isn’t just a one-off project to help make the cradle. [Alex] and [Greg] aspire to create a tool useable for a wide variety of projects. They wanted it to be oil-less and it had to be customizable. Ideally it would also have an acceptable grip strength, be easy to use, and look good on the bench.

[Greg] and [Alex] have set up a Hackaday.io project, and their logs show a lot of progress with two finished iterations of the vise and a variety of 3D-printed and cast parts to go with. Recently they brought in a 2,000-lb. load test and tested it on their vise collection, including the two prototypes. Version one rated at 500 lbs. reasonable clamping pressure–meaning they didn’t exert themselves to max out the pressure. Version two sits at 800 lbs., still nothing like a desk vise but far stronger than a Panavise, for instance.

Their magnetic induction forge project was also a success, with the team able to quickly change the color of a steel ball. Check out a video after the break…

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