AI Phone App Learns Baseball Signals

Watching a sport can be a bit odd if you aren’t familiar with it. Most Americans, for example, would think a cricket match looked funny because they don’t know the rules. If you were not familiar with baseball, you might wonder why one of the coaches was waving his hands around, touching his nose, his ears, and his hat seemingly at random. Those in the know however understand that this is a secret signal to the player. The coach might be telling the player to steal a base or bunt. The other team tries to decode the signals, but if you don’t know the code that is notoriously difficult. Unless you have the machine learning phone app you can see in the video below.

If you are not a baseball fan, it works like this. The coach will do a number of things. Perhaps touch his cap, then his nose, brush his left forearm, and touch his lips. However, the code is often as simple as knowing one attention signal and one action signal. For example, the coach might tell you that if they touch their nose and then their lips, you should steal. Touching their nose and then their ear is a bunt. Touching their nose and then the bill of their cap is something else. Anything they do that doesn’t start with touching their nose means nothing at all. If the signal is this easy, you really don’t even need machine learning to decode it. But if it were more complicated — say, the gesture that occurs third after they touch their nose unless they also kick dirt at which point it means nothing — it would be much harder for a human to figure out.

Continue reading “AI Phone App Learns Baseball Signals”

Secret C64 Program Found On A Christian Rock Band’s Vinyl Record

How often do you find Easter eggs in old vinyl records?

It sure was a surprise for [Robin Harbron] when he learned about a Commodore 64 program hidden on one of the sides of a record from the 1985 album of Christian rock band Prodigal. The host of the YouTube channel 8-Bit Show and Tell shows the “C-64” etching on one side of the vinyl, which he picked up after finding out online that the record contained the hidden program.

The run-out groove on records is typically an endless groove that keeps the record player from running off the record (unless there is an auto-return feature, which just replays the record). On side one of the vinyl, the run-out groove looks normal, but on side two, it’s a little thicker and contains some hidden audio. Recording the audio onto a cassette and loading it onto a dataset reveals a short C64 program.

The process is a little more troublesome that that, but after a few tries [Harbron] reveals a secret message, courtesy of Albert Einstein and Jesus Christ. It’s not the most impressive program ever written, but it’s pretty cool that programmers 35 years ago were able to fit it into only a few seconds of audio.

Unfortunately, we won’t be hearing much actual music from the album – [Harbron] chose not to play the songs to avoid copyright issues on YouTube.

Continue reading “Secret C64 Program Found On A Christian Rock Band’s Vinyl Record”

Hackaday Links: November 24, 2019

It barely seems like it, but it’s been a week since the 2019 Hackaday Superconference wrapped up in sunny Pasadena. It was an amazing weekend, filled with fun, food, camaraderie, and hacks galore. For all who were there, it’ll likely take quite some time before spinning down to Earth again from the post-con high. For those who couldn’t make it, or for those who did but couldn’t squeeze in time for all those talks with everything else going on, luckily we’ve got a ton of content for you to review. Start on the Hackaday YouTube channel, where we’ve got videos already posted from most of the main stage talks. Can’t-miss talks include Chris Gammell’s RF deep-dive, Kelly Heaton’s natural electronic art, and Mohit Bhoite’s circuit sculpture overview. You’ll also want to watch The State of the Hackaday address by Editor-in-Chief Mike Szczys. More talks will be added as they’re edited, so watch that space for developments.

One of the talks we missed – and video of which appears not to be posted yet – was Adam Zeloof’s talk on thermodynamic design for your circuits. While we wait for that, here’s an interesting part that might prove useful for your next high-power design. It’s a Thermal Jumper Chip, which is essentially a ceramic SMD component that can conduct heat but not electricity. It’s intended to be used where a TO-220 case needs to be electrically isolated but thermally connected to a heatsink. Manufacturer TT Electronics has a whole line of the chips in various sizes and specs, plus a lot of other cool components like percussive igniters.

We got an interesting tip this week about a new development in the world of 3D-printing. A group from Harvard demonstrated a multinozzle extruder that can print multimaterial objects in a single pass. The work is written up in a Nature article entitled “Voxelated soft matter via multimaterial multinozzle 3D printing”, which is unfortunately paywalled, but the abstract and supplementary videos are really interesting. This appears not to be a standard hot plastic extrusion process; rather, the extruder uses elastomeric inks that cure after they’re extruded. They manage some clever tricks, including a millipede-like, vacuum-powered soft robot extruded in one pass from both soft and rigid silicone elastomers. It’s genuinely interesting stuff, and watching the multimaterial extruder head switch materials at up to 50 times per second is mesmerizing.

People really seemed to get worked up over the transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun last week, and for good reason – astronomical alignments such as these which can be seen from Earth are rare indeed, and worth taking time to see. Not everyone was in the right place at the right time with the right gear to view the transit directly, though, which is why we were glad that Justin over at The Thought Emporium did a video on leveraging online assets for space-based observations. We’ve featured a ton of hacks using SDRs and the like to intercept data from weather satellites, and while those hacks are fun and you should totally try them, Justin points out that most of these streams are readily available for free over the Internet. Clouds, lightning, forest fires and Earth changes, and yes, even the state of the Sun can all be monitored from the web.

Speaking of changes, do you know what has changed in Unix over the last 50 years? For that matter, did you know that Unix turned 50 recently? Sean Haas did after reading this article in Advent of Computing, which he shared on the tipline. The article compares a modern Debian distro to documentation from 1971 that pre-dates Unix version 1; we assume the “Dennis_v1” folder in the doc’s URL refers to none other than Dennis Ritchie himself. It turns out that Unix is remarkably well-conserved over 50 years, at least in the userspace. File system navigation and shell commands are much the same, while programming was much different. C didn’t yet exist – Dennis was busy – but there were assemblers and linkers, plus a FORTRAN compiler and an interpreter for BASIC. It’s comforting to know that if you drop into a wormhole and end up sitting in front of a PDP-11 with Three Dog Night singing “Joy to the World” on the radio in the background, you’ll at least be able to look like you belong there.

And finally, it’s nearly Sparklecon time again. Sparklecon VII will be held on January 25 and 26, 2020, at the 23b Shop hackspace in Fullerton, California. We’ve covered previous Sparkelcons and we’ve even sponsored the meetup in the past, and it looks like a blast. The organizers have put out a Call for Proposals for talks and workshops, so if you’re in the mood for some mischief, get your application going. And be quick about it – the CFP closes on December 8.

InstaBeat Started Out Of Spite

[Tom] teaches electronics with this small programmable MP3 player, but it didn’t get its start as a teaching tool.

As all parents are sometimes required to do, [Tom] was acting as chauffeur for his daughter and his friends. When he played the Beatles one of his passengers informed him that she was completely devoid of taste and didn’t like them at all. So he decided what the world needed was a Beatles appliance. This way all the ignorant plebs could educate themselves at the push of a button.

The machine is based around some SEED studio parts and a simple PCB. It was able to hold all 12 original albums and even announced their titles in a generated voice. Since the kit is easy to put together it was quickly re-purposed as a teaching aid. They get to learn the laser cutter and do some through-hole soldering.

He has plans to turn it into a more formal how-to workshop that anyone can duplicate.He’d also like to make a small software suite for playing with text-to-speech and hacking the speaker into other roles such as a multi meter.

Keeping Time With Blinkenlights

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that hackers like weird clocks, and they love packing as many multicolored LEDs into a device as is humanly possible. Combine both of those concepts into one project, and you’ve got a perfect storm. So as far as unnecessarily complex timepieces go, we’d say the “Crazy Clock 4” built by [Fearless Night] ranks up there among the all-time greats.

This Arduino Pro Mini powered clock syncs the current time via GPS, with a temperature compensated DS3231 RTC to keep it on the straight and narrow between satellite downlinks. Once the clock has the correct time, how do you read it? Well, at the top you’ve got a basic numerical readout for the normies, and next to that there’s a circular LED display that looks like it could double as a sci-fi movie prop. On the lower level there’s a binary clock for the real show-offs, and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s even dual color-coded analog meters to show the hours and minutes.

[Fearless Night] has provided everything you need to follow along at home, from the Arduino source code to the 3D models of the case and Gerber files for the custom PCB. Personally we think just the top half of the clock would be more than sufficient for our timekeeping needs. If nothing else it should help save some energy, as the clock currently pulls an incredible 20 watts with all those LEDs firing off.

Should you decide to take a walk down memory lane and check out some of the other interesting LED clocks we’ve featured in the past, you’d be busy for quite awhile. But for our money, it’s still hard to beat the impossibly obtuse single-LED clock.

Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way

Anyone who has ever gone to a bowling alley will know the preferred (but ineffective) technique to telepathically control a bowling ball. [Mark Rober] and [James Bruton] decided to change that and hacked a bowling ball that can be steered remotely (and discreetly), simply by leaning your body.

They started with a standard bowling ball, that was cut in half and hollowed out on a lathe. A beam sits on the centre line of the ball, mounted on a bearing in each half to allow the ball to spin around it. Steering done by shifting the centre of mass, by moving a steel pendulum that hangs below the beam side to side with heavy-duty servo. The servo is controlled with an Arduino, and an IMU to detects the balls orientation. Power is provided by and RC Lipo battery. The wireless controller is a sneaky little device that is taped to [Mark]’s back and covered with clothing, and steers the ball by detecting how far he leans with an IMU module. The brain is an Arduino Mini and an NRF24L01 provides the RF link.

While it’s not an easy build, it’s a fairly simple system electronically, with off the shelf electronics modules and perfboard. The genius is in the implementation and its entertainment value. The look on the kids faces when [Mark] “telepathically” controls the ball, after showing off the fact that he has zero natural ability, is absolutely priceless. [Mark Rober], a former NASA engineer, has made a name for himself with viral Youtube videos on cool projects like a glitter booby trap for package thieves and a liquid sand hot tub. [James Bruton], a former toy designer is known for his robotics prowess that he has put on display with OpenDog and functional Star Wars robots.

For us this hack is a perfect example of one that entertains and inspires, a powerful combination for young and old alike. Check out the awesome video after the break. Continue reading “Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way”

Object Tracking Camera Slider Gets The Nice Shots

In this day and age, where all leisure activities must be duly captured and monetized online, camera sliders are hot items. Many start with a simple manual build, before graduating to something motorized for more flexibility. [Saral Tayal] took things a step further, implementing a basic tracking mode for even sweeter shots. 

The build is mechanically simple, relying on 8mm steel rods and linear bearings more typically found in 3D printers. An Arduino Uno is pressed into service to run the show, outfitted with an OLED screen to run the interface. A RoboClaw motor controller is used to control the geared DC motors used, one controlling the linear motion, the other the rotation of the camera.

With encoders fitted to the motors, the RoboClaw controller enables the Arduino to track the position and rotation of the slider as it moves. The slider then can be given the position of an object relative to itself. With a little maths, it will rotate the camera to track the object as it moves along.

It’s a simple addition to the typical slider build that greatly increases the variety of shots that can be achieved. There are plenty of ways to go about building a slider, too, as we’ve seen before. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Object Tracking Camera Slider Gets The Nice Shots”