Alexa Controls This Projector Thanks to ESP8266

[jfessard] doesn’t have extra-sensory perception, but does have an ESP8266. The little board seems to pop up in every hack these days. Inspired by not wanting to get up from the bean-bag chair or leave the electronics-housing cabinet wide open to use an HDMI switcher, [jfessard] hacked together an Alexa-compatible projector control via the ESP8266!

The core functionality here is the ability to turn the projector on and off, and to switch the HDMI source. [jfessard] connected the Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector to a Monoprice HDX-401TA 4×1 HDMI switcher. Tucked away in the cabinet below the projector, it is controlled using a IR LED transmitter breakout board sitting at the end of a fairly long set of jumper wire. The projector control itself is through a RS232 interface.

To make this easy to use with Amazon’s Alexa, [jfessard] turned to some libraries for the ESP8266 D1 Mini. The fauxmoesp library makes it look like a WeMo device, and the IRemoteESP8266 library made remote control code cloning a snap. One really frustrating part of this hack was the MAX232-style breakout board; getting a board to work when it’s labelled backwards takes a bit of head-scratching to figure out.

If the the projector ever gets too noisy, we suggest this hack that shushes the machine. For the moment, we’d rather take another look at this laser projector that mimics a cool ‘laser sky’ effect.

A Talking Clock For The 21st Century

The Talking Clock service is disappearing, and it’s quite possible that few of you will be aware of its passing. One of the staples of twentieth-century technology, the Talking Clock service was the only universally consumer-available source of accurate time information away from hourly radio time signals in the days before cheap radio-controlled clocks, or GPS. You’d dial (on a real dial, naturally!) a telephone number, to be greeted with a recorded voice telling you what the time would be at the following beep. Clocks were set, phone companies made a packet, and everybody was happy with their high-tech audio horology.

[Nick Sayer] used the USNO Master Clock telephone feed to see in the New Year, but had to make do with a voice from another time zone. It seems that there are no services remaining that provide one in Pacific time. His solution to the problem for a future year? Make his own Talking Clock, one that derives its time reference from GPS.

At its heart is a SkyTraq Venus838LPx miniature GPS module coupled to an ATMega32E5 microcontroller. The speech comes in the form of pre-recorded samples stored on an SD card. There is a small on-board amplifier to drive a single speaker. For extreme authenticity perhaps it could be attached to a GSM mobile phone module to provide a dial-up service, but he’s got everything he needs for a New Years Eve.

Want to hear what that that bit of nostalgia sounded like? Check out the quick clip below. As for modern replacements, we’ve had at least one talking clock here in the past, but not one using GPS.

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Make Your Own Current Clamp Probe

If you want to measure AC or DC current with an oscilloscope, a current clamp is a great way to do it. The clamp surrounds the wire, so you don’t need to break the connection to take your measurements. These used to be expensive, although we’ve seen some under $100, if you shop. We don’t know if it was cost or principle that motivated [Electronoobs] to build his own current clamp, but he did.

This probe design is little more than a 3D printed case, an old power supply toroid, and a conventional alligator clamp to make the business end. The sensor uses a ferrite core and a hall effect sensor. The ferrite toroid is split in half, one half in each side of the clamp. An opamp circuit provides a gain of 100 to boost the hall effect sensor’s output.

In addition to building a homebrew probe, the video also shows a teardown of a Hantek current probe and explains the theory behind the different kinds of current probes, including some tricks like using a compensation winding to prevent core magnetization.

Does it work? You bet. After calibration, it did just fine. It’s not as pretty as a $100 unit, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we are suckers for homebrew gear so we will say it is certainly more interesting. If you have a fair junk box (and a 3D printer), this probe could be made very inexpensively. The hall effect and a BNC connector are likely to be the most expensive parts. Even if you bought everything and used a non-printed case, we would be hard-pressed to think you’d spend more than $25.

If you want to see how the big boys do it, Keysight had a good break down last year. We’ve seen other homebrew builds for current probes and some of them are very accurate.

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IoT Doorman: Eye-Controlled Door for a Girl with Cerebral Palsy

Kyleigh has an eye-controlled computer on her wheelchair but something as simple as her bedroom door was still beyond her reach… until now! [Bill Binko], recently filmed a demo of an automatic, IoT door opener built for the young girl with cerebral palsy. [Bill] is a co-founder of ATMakers, an organization that enables makers interested in assistive technologies to collaborate with users to improve quality of life.

Using her eye tracking tablet (PRC Device), Kyleigh has two new icons that make the relevant call to a website, pushing a simple command to either open or close her bedroom door. The device attached to the door uses an Adafruit M0 WiFi Feather board, a DC stepper motor and wheel, a UBEC buck converter, and a potentiometer.

Since other family members are also going to be opening and closing the door, there’s potentiometer which measures the door position for proper operation next time Kyleigh wishes to use the door. The installation also maintains a fairly inconspicuous profile for the assistance it gives — the ‘brain’ is enclosed in a small box on the door, with the motor only slightly larger on the door’s base.

[Bill] believes the project has a few quibbles and wants to work out a smaller wait before the open/close process is executed and optimizing the open/close speed. You have to check out the video below to see that it works really really. We’re also excited to see Kyleigh using her gaze control to talk to an Amazon Echo. [Bill] foresee a door control improvement that links it to Alexa. And how much did it cost to improve the quality of life for this young girl? $70.

We love seeing makers help people, and cannot wait to see what 2018 will bring! If you’re looking for more inspiration, don’t miss the eye-controlled wheelchair project called Eyedrivomatic which won the 2015 Hackaday Prize. There’s also the top Assistive Technology projects from the Hackaday Prize.

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3D Print the Blasphemous Helicopter Part Known as a Jesus Nut

Today, when we say “Jesus nut”, we’re not referring to the people who spend their days proselytizing down at the mall. The term, likely spawned in the Vietnam war, refers to the main nut holding the rotors on to the mast of a helicopter which is in the shape of the Christian cross. If the “Jesus nut” was to fail, the rotors would detach from the craft, and there would be little for crews to do except to pray.

[Marius] was presented with a failed Jesus nut, though thankfully from an R/C helicopter, meaning there was no loss of life. A friend needed the part replaced for their FQ777 copter, so it was time to bust out the 3D printer and get to work.

The first step was to reconstruct the broken piece so it could be measured and then modeled in CAD software with the help of calipers to determine the original dimensions. What followed will be familiar to many 3D printing enthusiasts — a case of educated trial and error, experimenting with different filaments and print settings until a usable part was produced. [Marius] notes on the part’s Thingiverse page  that they achieved the best print with an 0.2mm layer height, and printing two parts at once to allow the layers more time to cool during each pass. It was then a simple matter of tidying up the part with sandpaper and a drill bit before installing it on the vehicle.

[Marius] reports that the part was successful, being both strong enough to withstand the forces involved as well as having a fit that was just right to suit the rotor pin which needs to be able to turn freely within the Jesus nut. While they’re not always the right tool for the job, 3D printed replacement parts can sometimes surprise you. These prints that are used in repair work often don’t attract the same interest as printing cosplay armor, kinetic art, and low-poly Pokemon. But they quickly prove how transformative having a 3D printer, and the skills to use it, are. That’s why we’re running the Repairs You Can Print contest… take a few minutes to show off the really useful repairs you’ve pulled off with your 3D printer!

Play A Few Games of Smash Brothers On The Go With A Portable Wii

How would you approach a build that required you to hack apart a perfectly good console motherboard? With aplomb and a strong finish. [jefflongo] from [BitBuilt.net] — a forum dedicated to making consoles portable — has finished just such a task, unveiling his version of a portable Wii to the world.

While this bears the general appearance of a portable GameCube, it’s what inside that counts. A heavily modified   Wii motherboard — to reduce size — forms this portable’s backbone, and it includes two infrared LEDs on its faceplate for Wii Remotes.  A single player can use the built-in controller, but [jefflongo] has included four GameCube controller ports for maximum multiplayer mayhem. Although he’ll likely plan on taking advantage of the built-in AV Out port to play on a TV and charge port for those extended gaming sessions, four 3400mAh batteries — with an estimated four hour battery life — should keep him satisfied on the go until he can recharge.

While the electronics display an impressive amount of work, but the final piece is a sight to behold. Check out the demo video after the break!

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Disco Bulb Keeps the Party Spinning

Even if you don’t like disco, you might like the slick moves that went into this project. [W&M] built a miniature motorized mirror ball inside of a standard incandescent light bulb, and the results are something to dance about.

Short of blowing a glass bulb, building a motor, and growing the wood, this is about as scratch-built as it gets. Much of the woodworking is done on a metal lathe, and this includes the base of the mirror ball itself. As with all good thing-in-a-bottle builds, the ball is too big to go in the bulb, so [W&M] quartered it, drilled a few holes, and ran a string through the pieces so they can be carefully glued and drawn back together into a sphere. He even cut up mirror tiles and painstakingly applied them with tweezers.

This disco bulb is meant to be hung from the ceiling and wired into mains like a regular mirror ball. [M&W] stuffed the guts from a small USB wall charger into the handmade beech base to provide clean power for both the geared motor that spins the ball and the tiny LED that illuminates it. Slip into your best leisure suit (or sweat suit, we won’t judge) and hustle past the break to watch the build video.

We don’t see a lot of disco balls around here, but we did see a disco icosahedron once.

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