Re-used Materials Make Tiny Offroad Track For Micro R/C

What does one do with tiny 1:35 scale remote controlled off-road vehicles? Build appropriately-tiny tracks for them to drive on, of course. That’s exactly what [David] did when he created his fantastic rock crawling track that he has dubbed the ‘4×4 Arena’, and what’s even better is that he used leftover foam inserts and acrylic paints and materials to do it, and didn’t have to spend a penny.

The original track is only just visible in the back; the new track expands it considerably.

This isn’t [David]’s first track. He originally made a smaller rock-crawling track he called Rubble Wasteland for the tiny vehicles, and he liked it so much he expanded it considerably. The new track builds on the original and is three levels deep, sports tight cave-like passages, tunnels, tricky climbs, and and realistic terrain textures.

An enormous photo gallery is right here, and other than the first and final images, it’s roughly in chronological build order. If your curiosity has been piqued about the tiny 1:35 scale remote controlled vehicles that this track is built for, around gallery page nine is where pictures of what makes these tiny things tick begins.

We have seen some amazing projects in the RC field; like this tiny 3D printed truck, and in-depth details of a micro RC plane that weighs only 2.9 grams.

Using Smartphone Cameras To Make Sure Drivers Are Looking At The Road

Most of us are probably quite aware of the damage that a car can inflict when driven by a distracted driver. In an ideal world, people who are driving a car would not allow something like their phone to distract them from their primary task of being the primary navigation system for the 1+ metric ton vehicle which they are controlling.

Many smartphone apps as well as in-car infotainment systems have added features over the years that try to prevent a driver from using them, but they run into the issue that it’s hard to distinguish between passenger and driver. As it turns out, asking the human driver whether they are the driver doesn’t always get the expected result. This is where [Rushil Khurana] and his team at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have come up with a more fool-proof approach.

In their paper (PDF), they cover the algorithm and software implementation that uses the smartphone’s own front (selfie) and back cameras to determine from the car’s interior which side of the car the user is sitting in, and deducing from that whether the user is sitting in the driver’s seat or not.  From there it is a fairly safe assumption to make that if the user is sitting in the driver’s seat, and the car is moving, that this user should not be looking at the phone’s screen.

In a test involving 16 different cars and 33 users, they achieved an overall accuracy of 94% with the phone held in the hand, and 92.2% while docked. This is more reliable than the other approaches covered in the paper, and as a benefit does not require any extra hardware. Who knows, upcoming smartphones may include a feature like this, so that apps can easily determine what feature set should be made available to a driver, if any.

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Hackaday Links: May 3, 2020

In a sign of the times, the Federal Communications Commission has officially signed off on remote testing sessions for amateur radio licensing in the United States. Testing in the US is through the Volunteer Examiner Coordinator program, which allows teams of at least three Volunteer Examiners to set up in-person testing sessions where they proctor amateur radio licensing exams. The VEs take their jobs very seriously and take pride in offering exam sessions on a regular schedule, so when social distancing rules made their usual public testing venues difficult to access, many of them quickly pivoted to remote testing using teleconferencing applications. Here’s hoping that more VEs begin offering remote testing sessions.

Another aspect of life changed by COVID-19 and social distancing rules has been the simple pleasure of a trip to the museum. And for the museums themselves, the lack of visitors can be catastrophic, both in terms of fulfilling their educational and research missions and through the lack of income that results. To keep the flame alive in a fun way, Katrina Bowen from The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge has recreated her museum in loving detail in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. For being limited to what’s available in the game, Katrina did a remarkable job on the virtual museum; we especially like the Megaprocessor wallpaper. She even managed to work in that staple last stop of every museum, the gift shop.

To the surprise of few, “spatial computing” startup Magic Leap has announced that it is laying off half its workforce as it charts a new course. The company, which attracted billions in funding based on its virtual retinal display technology, apparently couldn’t sell enough of their Magic Leap One headsets to pay the bills. The company is swiveling to industrial users, which honestly seems like a better application for their retinal display technology than the consumer or gaming markets.

And finally, as if 2020 hasn’t been weird enough already, the Department of Defense has officially released videos of what it calls “unidentified aerial phenomena.” These videos, taken from the head-up displays of US Navy fighter jets, had previously been obtained by private parties and released to the public. Recorded between 2004 and 2015, the videos appear to show objects that are capable of extremely high-speed flight and tight maneuvers close to the surface of the ocean. We find the timing of the release suspicious, almost as if the videos are intended to serve as a distraction from the disturbing news of the day. We want to believe we’re not alone, but these videos don’t do much to help.

DIY Ribbon Controller For A DIY Synth

There’s kind of a special joy in making instruments, no matter how simple or complex they are. Even if it’s a straight-up noisemaker, that’s noise you can be proud of. And besides, noise plus rhythm equals music.

Whenever you’re ready to have some next-level fun, try making controllers for your DIY instruments. Synthesizers of all stripes are often controlled with various types of potentiometers. While it would definitely be an interesting exercise to make your own standard twist-style potentiometer, [lonesoulsurfer] shows that making a ribbon controller is relatively easy.

A ribbon controller is essentially a deconstructed potentiometer that uses your finger to actuate the wiper. Here the wiper is made from Velostat, a fun, low-cost conductive material that’s also pressure-sensitive. The rest of the ribbon controller is a sandwich of thin copper plates and non-conductive plastic mounted on a wood base.

But what’s a fun controller without a fun instrument to control? As a special bonus, [lonesoulsurfer] made a little square wave-squirting synth based on the 4046 hex inverter and included the schematic for it. Slide your finger past the break to check ’em both out.

Depending on what you have lying around, it may be easier to make analog instruments like this rubber band boinger or its country cousin, the wheelbarrow bass.

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Viewing Countrywide Weather At A Glance

For his latest project, weather display aficionado [Richard] has put together a handsome little device that shows the temperatures recorded at nine different airports located all over the British Isles. Of course the concept could be adapted to wherever it is that you call home, assuming there are enough Internet-connected weather stations in the area to fill out the map.

The electronics are fairly minimal, consisting of a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board, a few seven segment LED display modules, and a simple power supply knocked together on a scrap of perfboard. As you might expect, the code is rather straightforward as well. It just needs to pull down the temperatures from an online API and light up the displays. What makes this project special is the presentation.

As [Richard] shows in the video after the break, the key is a sheet of acrylic that’s been sanded so it diffuses the light of 42 LEDs that have been painstakingly installed in holes drilled around the edge of the sheet. Combined with a printed overlay sheet, this illuminates the map and its legend in low-light conditions. It’s a simple technique that not only looks fantastic, but makes the display easy to read day or night. Definitely a tip worth mentally filing away, as it has plenty of possible applications outside of this particular build.

With his projects, [Richard] has shown himself to be a master of unique and data-rich weather displays, and a great lover of the iconic seven segment LED display. While his particular brand of climate data overload might not be for everyone, you’ve got to admire his knack for visualizing data.

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Binary Watch Looks Good

Nothing says tech addict quite like the wearing of a binary watch — and we say that as tech addicts ourselves. However, many of the homebrew binary watches we’ve seen don’t just look nerdy because they are showing the time in binary. They are nerdy because it looks like someone strapped an Arduino to their wrist. Not so with [APTechnologies] “Ultimate Binary Watch.”

While creating a binary clock is not amazing in of itself, we were highly impressed with the look of this watch. The 3D printed case and the use of surface mount LEDs makes a great looking package. We wondered how it would look with a colored plastic cover like you’d find over an old LED clock. On the other hand, the exposed LEDs do have a certain charm to them.

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Under The Hood Of Second Reality, PC Demoscene Landmark

In 1993, IBM PCs & clones were a significant but not dominant fraction of the home computer market. They were saddled with the stigma of boring business machines. Lacking Apple Macintosh’s polish, unable to match Apple II’s software library, and missing Commodore’s audio/visual capabilities. The Amiga was the default platform of choice for impressive demos, but some demoscene hackers saw the PC’s potential to blow some minds. [Future Crew] was such a team, and their Second Reality accomplished exactly that. People who remember and interested in a trip back in time should take [Fabien Sanglard]’s tour of Second Reality source code.

We recently covered another impressive PC demo executed in just 256 bytes, for which several commenters were thankful the author shared how it was done. Source for demos aren’t necessarily released: the primary objective being to put on a show, and some authors want to keep a few tricks secret. [Future Crew] didn’t release source for Second Reality until 20th anniversary of its premiere, by which time it was difficult to run on a modern PC. Technically it is supported by DOSBox but rife with glitches, as Second Reality uses so many nonstandard tricks. The easiest way to revisit nostalgia is via video captures posted to YouTube (one embedded below the break.)

A PC from 1993 is primitive by modern standards. It was well before the age of GPUs. In fact before any floating point hardware was commonplace: Intel’s 80387 math co-processor was a separate add-on to the 80386 CPU. With the kind of hardware at our disposal today it can be hard to understand what a technical achievement Second Reality was. But PC users of the time understood, sharing it and dropping jaws well beyond the demoscene community. Its spread was as close to “going viral” as possible when “high speed data” was anything faster than 2400 baud.

Many members of [Future Crew] went on to make impact elsewhere in the industry, and their influence spread far and wide. But PC graphics wasn’t done blowing minds in 1993 just yet… December 10th of that year would see the public shareware release of a little thing called Doom.

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