Automatic Sunglasses, The Electromechanical Way

These days, photochromic lenses are old-hat. Sure, it’s useful to have a pair of glasses that automatically tints due to UV light, but what if you want something a little more complex and flashy? Enter [Ashraf Minhaj]’s SunGlass-Bot.

The build is simple, beginning with an Arduino Pro Mini for reasons of size. Connected to the analog input is a light-dependent resistor for sensing the ambient light level. This reading is then used to decide whether or not to move the servo which controls the position of the lenses. In low light, the lenses are flipped up to allow clear vision; in brighter light, the lenses flip down to protect the eyes. Power is supplied by a homebrew powerbank that it appears [Ashraf] built from an old phone battery and a small boost converter board. All the files to recreate the project are available on Github, too.

It’s a fun build that [Ashraf] shows off in style. While this may not be as effortless as a set of Transition lenses or as quick as a welding mask filter, it has a certain mechanical charm that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a certain sci-fi aesthetic.

Hungry for more? Check out these self-blending sunglasses we featured a while back. Video after the break.

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Failed Tool Turned Exploded Wall Art

Few things hit a hacker or maker harder than when a beloved tool goes to that Big Toolbox In The Sky. It can be hard to trash something that’s been with you through countless repairs and teardowns, made all the worse by the fact most employers don’t recognize “Tool Bereavement” as a valid reason to request time off. Maybe next time one of your trusty pieces of gear gives up the ghost, you can follow the example set by [usuallyplesent] and turn it into a piece of art to hang up on the shop wall.

The shop had gotten years of daily service out of this air powered angle die grinder (not bad for a $14 Harbor Freight tool), and he thought they should immortalize it in their waiting room by turning it into an interesting piece of art. After all, it’s not everyday that some folks see the insides of the sort of tools the more mechanically inclined of us may take for granted.

After taking the grinder apart and cleaning everything up, [usuallyplesent] decided to simplify things a bit by tossing out the assorted tiny components like seals and washers. By just focusing on the larger core components, the exploded view is cleaner and reminds us of a light saber cutaway.

Using a piece of scrap cardboard, [usuallyplesent] made templates for all of the major pieces of the grinder and used that to sketch out the placement and spacing on the white background. He then cut out each shape so the parts would be partially recessed into the board. This gives the effect that each piece was cut down the middle lengthwise but without all the hassle of actually cutting everything down the middle lengthwise.

We’ve previously seen similar displays made out of dissected consumer electronics, but there’s something rather personal about doing the same thing for a well-used tool. If any of our beloved readers feel inspired to enshrine a dead multimeter into a shadow box over the bench, be sure to let us know.

[via /r/justrolledintotheshop]

VCF West: Homebrew Lisp Machines And Injection Molded PDPs

Someone walks into the Vintage Computer Festival and asks, ‘what’s new?’. It’s a hilarious joke, but there is some truth to it. At this year’s Vintage Computer Festival West, the exhibit hall wasn’t just filled to the brim with ancient computers from the Before Time. There was new hardware. There was hardware that would give your Apple IIgs even more memory. There was new hardware that perfectly emulated 40-year-old functionality. There’s always something new at the Vintage Computer Festival.

Some of the more interesting projects are just coming off the assembly line. If you want a modern-day Lisp machine, that one won’t be assembled until next week, although there was a working prototype at VCF. If you want the greatest recreation of the most beautiful hardware, VCF has your back. Check out these amazing builds below.

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Remote Controlled Electric Snowblower Sports FPV For Safety

As summer scorches the northern hemisphere, here’s something to cool your thoughts: winter is only four months away. And with it will come the general misery and the proclamations that “It’ll never be warm again,” not to mention the white stuff and the shoveling. Or perhaps not, if you’re lucky enough to have a semi-autonomous electric snowblower in the garage.

The device [Dane Kouttron] describes is a strange beast indeed, and one that came to him under somewhat mysterious circumstances. It appears to be a standard Ariens two-stage blower, the kind normally driven by a fairly beefy internal combustion engine so as to have enough power to run the auger, the impeller, and the drive wheels. But a previous owner had removed the gas engine and attached a 4-kW brushless motor to run the auger and impeller. Realizing the potential of this machine and with a winter storm heading his way, [Dane] used the old engine mount to hold giant LiFePO₄ batteries from a cell tower backup battery. slapped a couple of electric wheelchair motors onto the drive wheels, mounted a motor to swivel the exhaust chute. and added control electronics from a retired battlebot. Setting such a machine loose in the wild would be bad, so an FPV system was added just in time for storm cleanup. Upgrades for version 2 include better weight distribution for improved stability and traction, and of course googly eyes. Check out the video below to see it flinging snow and moving around faster than any snowblower we’ve ever seen.

We’ll never get lucky enough to have such wonders gifted on us as [Dane] did, but we applaud him for picking up the torch where someone else obviously left off. And who knows; perhaps the previous maker took inspiration from this remote-controlled snowblower build?

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Video Quick Bit: Power Harvesting Hacks

Majenta Strongheart is back again, this time taking a look at some of the coolest power harvesting projects in this year’s Hackaday Prize.

The entire idea of the Power Harvesting Challenge is to get usable power from something, be it solar energy, a rushing waterfall, or fueling steam turbines with hamsters. [Cole B] decided that instead of capturing energy from one of these power sources, he’d do it all. He created Power Generation Modules, or Lego bricks for harvesting power. There’s a hand crank module, a water turbine module, and enough modules to do something with all that captured power like a light module and a USB charger module.

But maybe you don’t want to generate power the normal way. Maybe you think spinning magnets is too mainstream, or something. If that’s the case, then [Josh] has the project for you. It’s the P Cell, a battery fueled by urine. Yes, it’s just a simple copper zinc wet cell using urea as an electrolyte, but remember: in the early 1800s, human urine was a major source of nitrates used in the manufacture of gunpowder. Why not get some electricity from something that is just sent down the tubes?

Right now we’re in the middle of the Human Computer Interface Challenge. Show us that you have what it takes to get a computer to talk to a human, get a human to talk to a computer, or even recreate one of those weird 3D CAD mice from the early 90s. We’re looking for any interesting ways to bridge that valley between people and their devices. Twenty Human Computer Interface Challenge submissions will be selected to move onto the finals and win $1000 in the process! The five top entries of the 2018 Hackaday Prize will split $100,000!

Recorded Programming — Thanks to Bing Crosby

If you look up Bing Crosby in Wikipedia, the first thing you’ll notice is his real name was Harry. The second thing you’ll read, though, is that he is considered the first “multimedia star.” In 1948, half of the recorded music played on the air was by Bing Crosby. He also was a major motion picture star and a top-selling recording artist. However, while you might remember Bing for his songs like White Christmas, or for his orange juice commercials, or for accusations of poor treatment from his children, you probably don’t associate him with the use of magnetic tape.

In a way, Bing might have been akin to the Steve Jobs of the day. He didn’t power the technology for tape recording. But he did see the value of it, invested in it, and brought it to the market. Turns out Bing was quite the businessman. Want to know why he did all those Minute Maid commercials? He was a large shareholder in the company and was the west coast distributor for their products. He also owned part of the Pittsburgh Pirate baseball team and other businesses.

So how did Bing become instrumental in introducing magnetic tape recording? Because he was tired of doing live shows. You see, in 1936, Crosby became the host of a radio variety show, The Kraft Music Hall. This very popular program was live. That means you have to show up on time. If you go off on a tangent, you’ll run out of time. And if you make a mistake, there is no editing. Oh and one other thing. You have to do a nationwide live show twice: once for the east coast and another for the west. This was cutting into Bing’s “family time” which, as far as we can ascertain was a code phrase for golf.

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The Square-Inch Project Rides Again!

Want to play a game? Your challenge is to do something incredible with a printed circuit board that measures no more than one inch by one inch. It’s The Return of the One Square Inch Project and it’s going to be amazing!

We can’t believe that it’s been three years! The original One Square Inch Project was a contest dreamt up by Hackaday.io user [alpha_ninja] back in 2015, and we thought it was such a great idea that we ponied up some prizes. The entries were, frankly, the best we’ve ever seen. So we’re doing it again!

Last time around, the size constraint focused the minds and brought out the creativity in some of the best and brightest of Hackaday.io. What functionality or simply amusement can you pack into a square PCB that’s just a tad over 25 mm on a side? We’d like to see.

We’ll be featuring entries throughout the contest. We think geek ‘cred is the best reward but if you want something more to sweeten the pot here you go:

  • Grand Prize:

    • $500 Cash!
  • Four Top Entries Win Tindie Gift Certificates:

    • Best Project – $100
    • Best Artistic PCB Design – $100
    • Best Project Documentation – $100
    • Best Social Media Picture or Video – $100
  • Five Runner-Up Entries:

    • $100 OSH Park gift cards
Quadcopter in One Inch

Want some inspiration? Last time the winner was a quadcopter in one square inch, but there were tons of useful and amusing projects crammed into tight quarters, and many of them transcend their constraints. There were not one but two hi-fi sound cards: one for your laptop’s USB port and one for your microcontroller projects that is now officially supported by the Teensy Audio Library. Need a MPPT power converter for a small solar project? How about a plug-load meter that fits on a US mains plug or an I2C to WS2818 converter to make blinking easier?

There were breakout boards for nearly every imaginable chip, a radio downconverter from our own [Jenny List], and a great magnetic rotary encoder design. Key Pass, an Arduino in the size of a DIP-8, and of course a bat detector, a bubble display volt meter, a smart watch, and a capacitive touch wheel.

It’s been three years, and parts have gotten cheaper, smaller, and more capable. What’s newly feasible in a square inch that wasn’t way back in 2015? Show us what you got.