The team behind [8 Bits and a Byte] have built a talking toaster. More accurately, they retrofitted their existing toaster with some hardware components to make it appear to talk and get angry at its users. While the actual toaster functionality isn’t necessary for the build, it certainly allows the project to have a more whimsical vibe.
The project uses a Raspberry Pi 3 and a Google AIY kit, consisting of a HAT, microphone, and speaker. Servos control the movement of the toaster’s eyebrows with the help of the HAT. Some decorative materials in the form of googly eyes and pipe cleaners help bring other features of the talking toaster to life.
The control flow for the chatbot makes use of Google’s speech-to-text for picking up text from audio input, the Dialogflow API to match intent, and Text-to-Speech to pipeline possible answer back to the Raspberry Pi to play over a speaker. They also used Remo.tv to broadcast live updates from the toaster to anyone on an online feed, allowing users in a chatroom to talk directly to Ted.
While Ted’s communications may be quite limited, there’s certainly no limit to the number of interactions he’ll be having online now!
There is an old saying, that ‘the hand is quicker than the eye;, but somewhat slower than the fly.” However, with a little practice you can swat a fly, although it sometimes doesn’t seem to faze the fly. École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has announced they have used nanotech to build a 1 gram possibly untethered, autonomous robotic insect that has enough processing power and sensors to recognize black and white patterns. Artificial muscles provide propulsion. But there’s the kicker: it can survive a strike with a fly swatter.
In the video you see below, the robots can move at 3 centimeters per second and there are two different versions. The first is a tethered system using ultra-thin wires. This is the version that can be folded, smacked, or even squashed by a shoe and continue moving.
Spilling a drink on a laptop is a terrifying experience. If you’re lucky you’ll ruin just a keyboard, and if not, your entire machine could go up in smoke. Assuming you’ve just suffered the latter, you can still be out of luck, as many laptops come with fancy integrated keyboards that are not designed to be removable. It’s not always the case however, as this ingenious hack from [InsideMyLaptop] bears out.
The hack begins with removing the top case assembly from a HP Pavilion laptop. The keyboard is riveted into the top plate assembly, along with the trackpad, which would normally necessitate their replacement as a total unit. However, if properly armed with a soldering iron, these plastic rivets can be melted to allow the backing plate and keyboard to be removed. A replacement part can then be sourced, and the remaining rivet stubs can be remelted to hold the new part in place.
It’s a simple hack, but one that goes to show one shouldn’t always take “No User Servicable Parts Inside” as an answer. We’ve seen other useful work from [InsideMyLaptop] before – like this power jack repair way back in 2011.
Most of the frame, and even the small truck that rides on it, is made out of square stock in various sizes. A couple of bearings are enough to make sure the movement is smooth and doesn’t have too much slop. Motion is provided by a long threaded rod and two nuts, which are welded to the side of the truck.
If you had the patience (and forearm strength) you could just put a crank on the rod and be done with it, but in this case [workshop from scratch] used the motor, gearbox, and chuck from an old electric drill to grab onto the threaded rod and do the spinning for him. He rigged up an enclosure for the side of the rack that holds the motor, DC power supply, and motor controller, along with a couple of switches and a knob to control the speed.
A modification allows him to enable the plasma cutter with one of the switches on the panel, which gives the setup a much more complete feel than just putting a zip tie on the trigger. With this design, the plasma cutter itself can still be removed from the mount and used normally. You can even remove the motorized component with a few bolts if you just wanted to do manual cuts on the bed.
In the video after the break, the keen-eyed viewer may notice a few familiar pieces of gear in the background, such as the hydraulic bench vise we covered earlier in the year. As the name of the channel implies, [workshop from scratch] is all about building the workshop tools that many take for granted, and they’ve all been phenomenally fascinating projects. While we admire the gumption it takes to try and build a lathe out of scrap granite slabs, there’s something to be said for DIY tools that end up looking nearly as good as commercial offerings.
Emily Velasco seems to absolutely delight in the weird, and we think that is wonderful. Weird brings us together. If you can be weird with someone else, you’ll have a special bond for life. In her inspiring 2019 Supercon talk (embedded below), Emily explains why she is drawn to weird things, and why you should be, too. Her enthusiasm is both palpable and infectious, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly want to drop everything to accompany her on a treasure hunt adventure and spend the rest of the day making things.
Emily doesn’t try to push making weird things on to you, but her reasons for working in weird are quite compelling. Weird things catch the eye and interrupt the tedium of our lives. They give us pause and invite us to look again. You can choose to turn away if you want. But if you look closer, you might find that ugly, weird, and annoying things begin to charm you.
Emily says the formative force that pulled her toward the weird was the gang of mutant toys that the villainous Sid made in Toy Story. They force you to look closer and to consider them. But Emily is far from mean-spirited — she builds her creations with love, and not to act out or to spite her little sister. They’re not what you expect, and even if someone finds them off-putting at first, they are undeniably interesting.
We have to admit, we have an odd fascination with WSL — the Windows subsystem for Linux. On the one hand, it gives us more options on Windows 10 for running the software we love. On the other hand, we wonder why we aren’t just running Linux. Sometimes it is because our cool laptop doesn’t work well on Linux. Other times we are using someone else’s computer that we aren’t allowed to reload or dual boot. Still, as long as we have to use Windows, we are glad to have WSL. A recent blog post by [Hanselman] shows some very cool tricks for using WSL that make it even better.
Did you know you can use WSL to run Linux commands in a Windows command shell? For example, you have a long directory and you want to run grep:
dir c:\archive\* | wsl grep -i hackaday
Of course, from bash you could access the same directory:
Slack is either an online collaboration tool, or a religion, depending on who you talk to. Naturally, it’s accessible across all manner of modern platforms, from Windows and MacOS to smartphones. However, some prefer to go further back. At a recent company hackathon, [Yeo Kheng Meng] decided to create a Slack client for Windows 3.1.
Programming for an older OS, in this case, Windows For Workgroups 3.11, requires setting up a viable development environment. Visual C++ 1.52 was pressed into service in this case, being the last version capable of targeting Windows 3.11. The development environment is run on a Windows 2000 virtual machine running on a Mac laptop. This was chosen for its ability to run 16-bit apps, and its Samba compatibility with both Windows 3.11 and Windows 10 and modern Macs.
There were several challenges to face along the way. Old school Windows simply isn’t capable of dealing with HTTPS, necessitating a proxy to handle the exchange of packets with Slack servers. Additionally, memory management was a hassle due to the limits of the 16-bit architecture. Thankfully, an old programming manual from the era was of great help in this regard.
At the end of the hackathon, a usable Slack client was up and running, complete with garish colors from the early Windows era. There’s a few key features missing, such as the ability to resolve user IDs, but overall, the concept works. We’ve seen [Yeo]’s work with this vintage OS before too. Video after the break.