The field of Augmentative and Alternative Communciation (AAC) covers communication methods used by those who are unable to otherwise produce or comprehend spoken or written language. Many will be familiar with the speech synthesizer used by Stephen Hawking as just one such example of AAC technology. [Christina Hunger] is a speech language pathologist, and is intimately familiar with such tools. She decided to use these techniques to teach her dog, Stella, to talk.
[Christina] began her project by implementing a button board which triggers various speech samples when triggered. There are plenty of typical words that a dog may wish to use, like beach, park, and ball – as well as words describing concepts, such as where, later, and come. Over time, she has observed Stella using the button board in various ways, that she claims indicate a deeper understanding and use of language than would normally be ascribed to a dog.
From the outset, [Christina] has been intentional in her methods, being sure to only demonstrate the use of the board to Stella, rather than simply pressing the buttons for her. The experiment has many similarities to the case of Koko the gorilla, known for learning symbols from American Sign Language. The project is also documented on Instagram, where she films Stella using the device and gives interpretations of the meaning of Stella’s button pressing.
Attemping to communicate on a higher level with animals has long been a mysterious and complex pursuit; one which we’re sure to see more of as various technologies continue to improve. We’d love to see a broader scientific study on the use of AAC tools to “talk” to animals. In such matters, context and interpretation play a large role, and thus it’s difficult to truly gauge the quality of understanding an animal may actually have. More research would be great to shed light on these techniques. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Training A Dog To “Speak” With A Sound Board”
It is easy to find out when the space station is passing overhead, and you may have run outside to see the blip of light moving at five miles per second. It turns out that some people make a hobby out of taking its picture, and if you have a pretty beefy telescope you can get some good shots. [Scott], on the other hand, wanted to take a handheld consumer-grade camera and try some pictures. His results show up in the video below.
If you look at the second video from [Thierry], you’ll see [Scott’s] videos are a far cry from state of the art. However, the [Thierry] photos essentially use a special telescope made to track the station very precisely. [Scott] is using a handheld, consumer-grade Nikon P1000.
Continue reading “Taking Pictures Of The Space Station With A Handheld Camera”
Building a barbecue is a common DIY pursuit, and one that comes with a tasty payoff at completion. While many projects focus on charcoal or wood-fired designs, [Andrew] is more of a gas man. Not one to simply buy off the shelf, he designed his own burners from scratch.
This quest wasn’t just unnecessary yak shaving; burners to suit [Andrew]’s desired size and power simply weren’t available. The burner is designed around the Venturi effect, wherein the propane gas is passed through a small orifice, creating a jet and pulling air along with it as it enters the burner tube. This causes the gases to mix, and they can then be ignited when passing through the outlet holes of the burner. Get the orifice and outlet holes sized just right, and you’ll have a burner that produces a hot, blue flame, perfect for efficient cooking.
The orifice was produced with brass plumbing components, and hooked up to a valve rated for use with gas lines. The burner tube itself was created from stainless steel tube, with slots cut to act as outlet holes and with the end crimped and welded shut. A black iron pipe reducer was then used as the air inlet and orifice mount.
The final result is a powerful barbecue burner that is perfectly sized to [Andrew]’s needs. If you’re keen to build your own custom rig, you may find this a useful and cheap way to go versus sourcing parts off the shelf. We’ve seen [Andrew]’s work before, too. Video after the break.
Continue reading “BBQ Burners Built From Scratch”
With its constant siren song of distraction and endless opportunity for dopamine hits, a smartphone can cause more problems than it solves. The simple solution would be a no-nonsense flip phone, but that offers zero points for style. So why not build your own rotary dial pocket cellphone?
Of course, what style points accrue to [Justine Haupt] take a hit in terms of practicality, but that was never really the point of this build. And even then, the phone appears to be surprisingly useful. It’s based on the rotary dial from a Trimline phone, which itself was an epic hack back in 1965 when it was introduced. The 3D-printed case contains an ATmega2560V microcontroller and an Adafruit FONA 3G cell module, while a flexible mono eInk display adorns the outside. Some buttons, a folding SMA antenna, and some LEDs for signal strength and battery level complete the build, which easily slips into a pocket. The dial can be used not only to dial the phone but to control the speaker volume; in practice, [Justine] mainly uses the speed dial buttons to make calls, though.
We’ve seen rotary phones converted to cell before, but this one is a next-level integration of the retro and the modern. It’s simple, intuitive, and distraction-free, and best of all, it’s a great excuse not to return a text.
Thanks to [J. Peterson] for the tip.
If you are interested in such things, you can buy a 1990s Sony Play Station via Heritage Auctions. We’re sure this will have caught your interest, after all it’s not every day you get the chance to catch such a machine. But before you call us out for seemingly reporting the news of an unremarkable sale featuring the runaway success story of 1990s gaming, take a look at the first sentence again. This is not a PlayStation, the ubiquitous grey console of the 1990s, but a Play Station, said as two words rather than one. This ill-fated collaboration between Sony and Nintendo was intended to be an SNES with a CD-ROM drive, but the project faltered and all that remained was the almost mythical tale of a few prototype consoles.
So far there has only been one of these devices that has surfaced, and this is the machine in the auction. So what seemed as though it might be a mundane console turns out to be one of the rarest machines ever created, a true Holy Grail of console collecting.
This machine has a known provenance, and has appeared on these pages before. In 2016 Ben Heck did a teardown to reveal the combination of Sony CD drive and SNES motherboard, and by 2017 he had it working with some homebrew games. There was no official software produced for this console, so it seems the lucky purchaser may have only homebrew games with which to try their console.
At the time of writing the auction is standing at $57,600, and we’d expect this to increase significantly. So you may not have the chance to own the Play Station, but with such a rare machine it’s always worth noting its appearances. It’s also worth remembering that there was more than one of them produced, in fact when your scribe was working in the same industry in the 1990s a senior colleague talked about having been shown one during dealings with Nintendo UK a few years earlier. The machine on sale today may be the only one we know to have survived, but it’s a fair possibility that there are others still gathering dust in long-forgotten archive boxes or collections of gaming hardware junk. Keep an eye out, you might just find your own rarest console ever produced!
Earlier this week, domain name registrar Namecheap sent out an email to all customers advising them of a secret deal that went down between ICANN and Verisign sometime late last year. It has the potential to change the prices of domain names drastically over time, and thus change the makeup of the Internet as we know it.
Domain names aren’t really owned, they’re rented with an option to renew, and the annual rate that you pay depends both on your provider’s markup, but also on a wholesale rate that’s the same for all names in that particular domain. This base price is set by ICANN, a non-profit.
Officially, this deal is a proposed Amendment 3 to the contract in place between Verisign and ICANN that governs the “.com” domain. The proposed amendment would let Verisign increase the wholesale rental price of “.com” domain names by 7% per year for the next four years. Then there will be a two-year breather, followed by another four years of 7% annual hikes. And there is no foreseeable end to this cycle. We think it seems reasonable to assume that the domain name registrars might pass the price gouging on to the consumer, but that really remains to be seen.
The annual wholesale domain name price has been sitting at $7.85 since 2012, and as of this writing, Namecheap is charging $8.88 for a standard “.com” address. If our math is correct, ten years from now, a “.com” domain will cost around $13.50 wholesale and $17.50 retail. This almost-doubling in price will affect both small sites and companies that hold many domain names. And the increase will only get more dramatic with time.
So let’s take a quick look at the business of domain names.
Continue reading “Sky Is New Limit For Dot Com Domain Prices”
The results are in and the Tell Time Contest was a spectacular showing of creativity. Five winners and a number of runners-up have have been chosen based on craftsmanship, functionality, and creativity.
The one that’s going to steal your heart is Fetch: A Ferrofluid Display. Pitting the force of gravity against electromagnetism, this project manages to wrangle a liquid into the segments of a display and the animations used to change between numbers are fascinating. It’s a wickedly complicated system and the gang over at Applied Procrastination did a great job of documenting the research and development that went into building this open source marvel. Has anyone tried to replicate it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
UV Glow-In-The-Dark Plot Clock
Mechanical movements date back to the transition away from sundials and hourglasses, but these two modern takes on “clockwork” prove there’s still plenty of room for creativity. The first is a plotter that uses two servo motors and a UV LED to draw hours and minutes on a phosphorescent material.
The second is both minimal and a stunning mastery of a traditional clock mechanism. TORLO uses the voice coil from a hard drive to move the gears. It’s 3D-printed and does it all in plain sight, superb!
“Alien” Cuckoo Clock
Flip Dot Clock
Fans of the Alien franchise will immediately recognize this insect-like “facehugger”, the second stage of a developing Xenomorph. Embracing the tradition of the Cuckcoo clock, at the top of the hour a “Chestburster” pops through the chest of the bust to mark the passage of time. Creepy but well executed.
The flip-dot display uses a beautiful home-etched circuit board to keep things tidy inside of the case. Of course the question with these displays is always “where did you get the flip dots?”. This panel is on it’s second life after serving a tour of duty as a bus info sign.
Runners Up and Eight Score of Entries
Congratulations to all of our runners-up in the Tell Time contest. It was a tight field with 160 total entries, each of them a fascinating take on the simple, yet very complex practice of watching the seconds tick away. Add this to your weekend bucket list as you’ll certainly get lost in the details of many of these projects.