An Arcade Cabinet With Displays To Spare

We’ve all got a pretty good mental image of what an arcade cabinet looks like, so you probably don’t need to be reminded that traditionally they are single-screen affairs. But that idea dates back to when they were built around big and bulky CRT displays. Now that we have modern LCD, LED, and OLED panels, who says you have to follow the old rules?

That’s precisely the sort of out of the box thinking that lead [Al Linke] to build this unique multi-display arcade cabinet. The game itself is still played on a single screen, but several smaller sub-displays are dotted all around the cabinet to indicate various bits of ancillary information. Are they necessary? Hardly. But we can’t deny it’s a clever idea, and we wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing something similar in other DIY cabinets.

The build started with a commercially available cabinet from Arcade1Up, which at this point are popular enough that some of the Big Box retailers have them in stock. All of the electronics except for the display were stripped out, and replaced with a Dell OptiPlex 9020 computer and high-quality joysticks and buttons. [Al] then installed his various displays all over the cabinet, including a gorgeous LED marquee that we’ve featured previously.

So what do all these little screens do? [Al] explains them in the video after the break, but the general idea is that they provide contextual information about the game you currently have loaded up. A two-color OLED display shows the name of the game and what it’s rated, while a seven segment LED display shows the year the game was released. The displays are located both by the controls and where you’d expect the coin slot to be, so whether you’re actively playing or across the room, you can see all the information.

We’re always amazed to see how builders find ways to make their own personal arcade cabinets stand out. While it’s an idea that at this point we’ve seen quite a lot of, no two projects have ever been quite the same.

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A 60 GHz Phased Array

Our friend [Hunter Scott] gave a talk at a past Supercon about phased array antennas. He mentioned he was looking for collaborators to create an antenna with the SiBeam SB9210 chip. This is a specialized chip for WirelessHD, a more or less failed video streaming protocol, and it’s essentially an entire 60 GHz phased array on a chip with both transmit and receive capabilities. For $15, it seems like quite the bargain, and [Hunter] still wants to put the device to work.

The downside is that Lattice bought SiBeam and killed this chip — not surprising considering WirelessHD never really took off. However, [Hunter] says the chip was in some old smart TVs and laptops. If you can find replacement boards for those devices on the surplus market, you can get the chip and the supporting circuitry for a song.

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Fixing The Flicker Afflicting A Night Light

It’s hard to part with some things, even if they’re broken and were worth next to nothing to begin with. But some things are just special, y’know? And we would say in this case, the thing was definitely worth saving.

[Taste the Code]’s daughter’s beloved night light had a terrible flickering problem, and then stopped working altogether. Eager to make her happy, he cracked it open and found that one of the wires had disconnected from the outlet pin it was soldered to. That’s a simple enough fix, but trying to solder in tight quarters where the walls are soft plastic can be quite challenging.

Once that was fixed, [Taste the Code] plugged it in to a test outlet. It’s back to working, but also back to flickering, because there is no capacitor to smooth out the signal going to the LEDs. [Taste the Code] measured the voltage drop across the output of the bridge rectifier and soldered in an electrolytic cap with more than double the necessary voltage rating, just to be safe. You can check out the video after the break.

This goes to show several things: one, you can learn from fixing and improving cheap electronics from the likes of your local dollar store. Two, you can also get some kinds of components there quite inexpensively from things like magnetic sensor-based window alarms and dirt cheap solar garden lights.

You can also do some fun stuff with those cheap IKEA lamps designed for children. Here’s an adorable cloud lamp with an RGB LED upgrade that shows the weather mood using an ESP8266.

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Water Switch Lamp Illuminates Current Flow

They always told you not to mix water and electricity. And while yes, that is good general advice regarding the two, you won’t rip a hole in the fabric of space-time should you go about it responsibly. Water will conduct electricity, so why not use it to switch on a lamp?

[Manvith Subraya]’s Hydro Lamp is, among other things, a reminder not to let Big Switch dim your idea of what’s possible with simple components. Switches don’t have to be complex, and some of the most reliable switches are pretty simple — the reed switch and the mercury tilt switch are good examples. By salinating the water at a ratio of 1:1, [Manvith] ensures power will flow through the acrylic tank, completing the circuit and lighting the 20W LEDs in both ends.

The brief demo video after the break sheds light on an interesting aspect of using water as a tilt switch — it’s not instantaneous. As he slowly moves the lamp from vertical to horizontal and back again, the light brightens and dims with the tide of electrons. We think it would be interesting to build a motorized frame that takes advantage of this for mood lighting purposes, especially if there were a few LEDs positioned behind the water.

Water is often used to explain the basic principle of current flow and the relationship dynamics of voltage, current, and resistance. As we saw in this water computer, the concept flows all the way into logic gates.

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Companion Bots Definitely Are The Droids You’re Looking For

Companion robots are a breed that, heretofore, we’ve primarily seen in cinema. Free from the limits of real-world technology, they manage to be charismatic, cute, and capable in ways that endear them to audiences the world over. Jorvon Moss and Alex Glow decided that this charming technology shouldn’t just live on the silver screen, and have been developing their own companion bots to explore this field. Lucky for us, they came down to Hackaday Superconference to tell us all about it!

The duo use a variety of techniques to build their ‘bots, infusing them with plenty of personality along the way. Jorvon favors the Arduino as the basis of his builds, while Alex has experimented with the Google AIY Vision Kit, BBC Micro:bit, as well as other platforms. Through clever design and careful planning, the two common maker techniques to create their unique builds. Using standard servos, 3D printed body parts, and plenty of LEDs, it’s all stuff that’s readily accessible to the home gamer.

[Alex]’s companion bot, Archimedes, has been through many upgrades to improve functionality. Plus, he’s got a cute hat!
Having built many robots, the different companions have a variety of capabilities in the manner they interact. Alex’s robot owl, Archimedes, uses machine vision to find people, and tries to figure out if they’re happy or sad. If they’re excited enough, it will give the person a small gift. Archimedes mounts on a special harness Alex built out of armature wire, allowing the avian to perch on her shoulder when out and about. Similarly, Jorvon’s Dexter lurks on his back, modeled after a monkey. Featuring an LED matrix for emotive facial expressions, and a touch sensor for high fives, Dexter packs plenty of character into his 3D printed chassis.

Alex and Jorvon also talk about some of the pitfalls and challenges they’ve faced through the development of their respective companion bots. Jorvon defines a companion robot as “any robot that you can take with you, on any type of adventure”. Being out in the real world and getting knocked around means breakages are common, with both of the duo picking up handfuls of smashed plastic and bundles of wires at times. Thankfully, with 3D printing being the tool of the trade, it’s easy to iteratively design new components to better withstand the rough and tumble of daily life out and about. This also feeds into the rest of the design process, with Jorvon giving the example of Dexter’s last minute LED upgrades that were built and fitted while at Supercon.

Develop on companion bots is never really finished. Future work involves integrating Chirp.io data-over-sound communications to allow the bots to talk. There’s been some headaches on the software side, but we look forward to seeing these ‘bots chatting away in their own droid language. While artificial intelligence doesn’t yet have homebrew companion bots matching the wisecracking droids seen in movies, designing lifelike bodies for our digital creations is a big step in that direction. With people like Alex and Jolyon on the case, we’re sure it won’t be long before we’re all walking around with digital pals on our shoulders — and it promises to be fun!

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The Internet Of Football

While football in the United States means something totally different from what it means in the rest of the world, fans everywhere take it pretty seriously. This Sunday is the peak of U.S. football frenzy, the Super Bowl, and it is surprisingly high-tech. The NFL has invested in a lot of technology and today’s football stats are nothing like those of the last century thanks to some very modern devices.

It is kind of interesting since, at the core, the sport doesn’t really need a lot of high tech. A pigskin ball, some handkerchiefs, and a field marked off with some lime and a yardstick will suffice. However, we’ve seen a long arc of technology in scoreboards, cameras — like instant replay — and in the evolution of protective gear. But the last few years have seen the rise of data collection. It’s being driven by RFID tags in the player’s shoulder pads.

These aren’t the RFID chips in your credit card. These are long-range devices and in the right stadium, a computer can track not only the player’s position, but also his speed, acceleration, and a host of other statistics.

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Hackaday Podcast 052: Shorting Components, Printing Typewriter Balls, Taking Minimal Time Lapse, And Building A Makerspace Movie Prop

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys recap a great week in hardware hacking. There’s perfection in the air as clever 3D-printing turns a button and LED matrix into an aesthetically awesome home automation display. Take a crash course in RF modulation types to use on your next project. Did you know the DB-9 connector is actually a DE-9? Building your own underwater ROV tether isn’t as simple as it sounds. And Elliot found a treasure trove of zero-ohm jumpers in chip packages — what the heck are these things for?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (57 MB)

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