Touch Anything And Everything

Powering IoT devices is often a question of batteries or mains power, but in rare exceptions to this rule there is no power supply (PDF Warning). At the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California, San Diego, researchers have gone the extra mile to make advanced backscatter devices, and these new tags don’t need the discrete components we have seen in previous versions. They are calling it LiveTag, and it doesn’t need anything aside from a layer of foil printed or etched on a flexible ceramic-PTFE laminate. PTFE is mostly seen in the RF sector as a substrate for circuit boards.

We have seen some of the wild creations with wifi backscatter that range from dials to pushbuttons. RF backscatter works by modulating the RF signals in which we are continuously swimming. Those radio waves power the device and disrupt the ambient signals, which disruption can be detected by a receiver. With a BOM that looks like a statement more than a list, integration with many devices becomes a cost-effective reality. Do not however broadcast important data because you cannot expect great security from backscatter.

[Via IEEE Spectrum]

Advanced Techniques For Using Git With KiCAD

For most developers “distributed version control” probably means git. But by itself git doesn’t work very well with binary files such as images, zip files and the like because git doesn’t know how to make sense of the structure of an arbitrary blobs of bytes. So when trying to figure out how to track changes in design files created by most EDA tools git doesn’t get the nod and designers can be trapped in SVN hell. It turns out though KiCAD’s design files may not have obvious extensions like .txt, they are fundamentally text files (you might know that if you’ve ever tried to work around some of KiCAD’s limitations). And with a few tweaks from [jean-noël]’s guide you’ll be diffing and merging your .pro’s and .sch’s with aplomb.

There are a couple sections to the document (which is really meant as an on boarding to another tool, which we’ve gotten to in another post). The first chunk describes which files should be tracked by the repo and which the .gitignore can be configured to avoid. If that didn’t make any sense it’s worth the time learning how to keep a clean repo with the magic .gitignore file, which git will look for to see if there are any file types or paths it should avoid staging.

The second section describes how you can use two nifty git features, cleaning and smudging, to dynamically modify files as they are checked in and out of the repo. [jean-noël]’s observation is that certain files get touched by KiCAD even if there are no user facing changes, which can clutter patch sets with irrelevant changes. His suggested filters prevent this by stripping those changes out as files get checked in. Pretty slick.

Electric Wheelbarrow Makes Hauling Big Loads Easier

Gardening involves a depressing amount of physical activity: haul this over here, dump it there and then cover it with this. Things like wheelbarrows are still damn hard work, especially for people like who are somewhat physically compromised. That’s why we love this build from [Karl Gesslein]. He usually makes electronic bikes, adding motors to bicycles to roam the streets faster. But this time he applied his expertise to a wheelbarrow. He added a 3000W motor to the wheelbarrow, which drives the front wheel when triggered by the accelerator on the handle.

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Voice Controlled Stereo Balance With ESP8266

A stereo setup assumes that the listener is physically located between the speakers, that’s how it can deliver sound equally from both sides. It’s also why the receiver has a “Balance” adjustment, so the listener can virtually move the center point of the audio by changing the relative volume of the speakers. You should set your speaker balance so that your normal sitting location is centered, but of course you might not always be in that same position every time you listen to music or watch something.

[Vije Miller] writes in with his unique solution to the problem of the roving listener. He’s come up with a system that can adjust the volume of his speakers without having to touch the receiver’s setup, in fact, he doesn’t have to touch anything. By leveraging configurable voice control software running on his computer, his little ESP8266-based devices do all the work.

Each speaker has its own device which consists of a NodeMCU ESP8266 and X9C104 digital potentiometer inside of a 3D printed case. The audio terminal block on the gadget allows him to connect it inline between the speaker and the receiver, giving [Vije] the ability to adjust the volume through software. The source code, which he’s posted on the Hackaday.io project page, uses a very simple REST-style API to change speaker volume based on HTTP requests which hit the ESP8266’s IP address.

The second part of the project is a computer running VoiceAttack, which lets [Vije] assign different actions based on what the software hears. When he says the appropriate command, the software goes through and fires off HTTP requests to the nodes in the system. Everything is currently setup for two speakers, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to expand to more speakers (or even rooms) with some adjustment to the software.

It’s not the first voice controlled speaker we’ve ever seen, but it does solve a very specific problem in a unique way. We’d be interested in seeing the next logical step, which would see this technology integrated into the speaker itself.

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‘SHE BON’ is an Artful, Wearable, Sensual, Sensing Platform

SHE BON (that’s the French bon, or “good”) is an ambitious project by [Sarah Petkus] that consists of a series of wearable electronic and mechanical elements which all come together as a system for a single purpose: to sense and indicate female arousal. As a proponent of increased discussion and openness around the topic of sexuality, [Sarah]’s goal is to take something hidden and turn it into something obvious and overt, while giving it a certain artful flair in the process.

The core of the system is a wearable backpack in the shape of a heart, from which all other sensors and feedback elements are connected. A lot of thought has gone into the design of the system, ensuring that the different modules have an artistic angle to their feedback while also being comfortable to actually wear, and [Sarah] seems to have a knack for slick design. Some of the elements are complete and some are still in progress, but the system is well documented with a clear vision for the whole. It’s an unusual and fascinating project, and was one of the finalists selected in the Human Computer Interface portion of the 2018 Hackaday Prize. Speaking of which, the Musical Instrument Challenge is underway, so be sure check it out!

Industrial 3D Printing Uses Layers Like We’ve Never Seen Before

We’ve seen FDM printers lay down layers by extruding plastic in a line. We’ve seen printers use sintering and lithography to melt or cure one layer at a time before more print medium moves into place for the next layer. What we’ve never seen before is a printer like this that builds parts from distinct layers of substrate.

At the International Manufacturing Technology Show last week I spoke with Eric Povitz of Impossible Objects. The company is using a “sheet lamination process” that first prints each layer on carbon fiber or fiberglass, then uses a hydraulic press and an oven to bake the part into existence before bead-blasting the excess substrate away. Check out my interview with Eric and join me below for more pictures and details.

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Join Hackaday For A Night Of Pre-Maker Faire Hacks

This weekend is the World Maker Faire in New York, and Hackaday will be there looking at the latest and greatest projects from makers around the globe. We’ll also be buying bottles of water for five dollars, but that’s another story entirely.

As always, this year’s World Maker Faire will be held at the wonderful New York Hall of Science, and the lineup is spectacular. There will be cosplay, and Adam Savage will be there with a half dozen Junior Mythbusters. There will be a twenty-six foot tall hydraulic hand trucked in from Burning Man. You’re looking at the greatest event in STEAM education since the Bay Area Maker Faire last May.

Hackaday has a fantastic New York community and we’re holding a meetup this Thursday to sync up with Maker Faire. Guess what?  You’re invited!

We’re teaming up with our friends at Kickstarter to bring you an awesome night of hardware builds, music hacks, snacks, and more. While this is an informal event, we do have a few people who will be bringing their latest hacks to show off. Nick Chelyapov, a designer turned gear head who designed an Arduino-based synthesizer and drum machine. This isn’t a toy, but it’s also not a complicated mess of patch cables and eurorack modules. The Bitty is a real instrument that’s easy enough for anyone to pick up and make bleep bloops.

Also confirmed for this meetup is Nick Yulman, an artist who works with sound and interactive media in a variety of contexts. He’s gearing up to install his robotic musical instruments in the Areté Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. But this week he’ll be showing us how musical robots helped him stop worrying and love digital music.

This isn’t an event to be missed. You can RSVP for the event over on Eventbrite, and be sure to bring whatever project you’re working on. It’s going to be an entire night of drinks and hacks, just the thing before Maker Faire really gets rolling. Once the weekend hits, find us at the Faire; several of us from the Hackaday crew will be wandering the grounds looking for awesome hardware projects. Stephen Tranovich is even giving a talk about the Hackaday Prize on Sunday at 11. See you at the Faire!