Gyroscope Level Is Digital

A spirit level, you know the kind of level with a little bubble in a tube of fluid, is a basic construction tool. [DesignBuildDestroy] took an Arduino, a gyroscope chip, and an OLED, and made a 3D printed level with no bubble, but it does have a nice digital display.

It is funny when you realize that at one time a gyroscope was a high tech item reserved for missiles and aircraft. Now you can grab a six-axis sensor for pennies. Even, better, the code used in the project can offload the Arduino for a lot of processing.

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DIY High Voltage Kirlian Photography Rig

High voltage is a fun, if dangerous, thing to play with. [Mirko] is an enthusiast in this space, and built a high-voltage Kirlian photography device that’s capable of creating some stunning images.

The construction of the device itself is basic. High-frequency, high-voltage electricity is connected to a metal object placed on one side of a glass plate. On the other side, salt water is pooled, and connected to a second electrode. This creates a transparent window through which the electrical discharge can be viewed either by eye or with a digital camera. Historically, this was done with photographic film in place of the transparent window, but the principle is the same.

Popular in the paranormal and alternative medicine spaces, the actual scientific application of Kirlian photography is minimal. Rather, it’s an interesting way to explore high voltages that creates some pretty results! If you find yourself becoming a fan of high voltage, you might also consider your own Tesla coil build, too. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Links: November 15, 2020

Now that we drive around cars that are more like mobile data centers than simple transportation, there’s a wealth of data to be harvested when the inevitable crashes occur. After a recent Tesla crash on a California highway, a security researcher got a hold of the car’s “black box” and extracted some terrifying insights into just how bad a car crash can be. The interesting bit is the view of the crash from the Tesla’s forward-facing cameras with object detection overlays. Putting aside the fact that the driver of this car was accelerating up to the moment it rear-ended the hapless Honda with a closing speed of 63 MPH (101 km/h), the update speeds on the bounding boxes and lane sensing are incredible. The author of the article uses this as an object lesson in why Level 2 self-driving is a bad idea, and while I agree with that premise, the fact that self-driving had been disabled 40 seconds before the driver plowed into the Honda seems to make that argument moot. Tech or not, someone this unskilled or impaired was going to have an accident eventually, and it was just bad luck for the other driver.

Last week I shared a link to Scan the World, an effort to 3D-scan and preserve culturally significant artifacts and create a virtual museum. Shortly after the article ran we got an email from Elisa at Scan the World announcing their “Unlocking Lockdown” competition, which encourages people to scan cultural artifacts and treasures directly from their home. You may not have a Ming Dynasty vase or a Grecian urn on display in your parlor, but you’ve probably got family heirlooms, knick-knacks, and other tchotchkes that should be preserved. Take a look around and scan something for posterity. And I want to thank Elisa for the link to the Pompeiian bread that I mentioned.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)has been running an interesting challenge for the last couple of years: The Subterranean (SubT) Challenge. The goal is to discover new ways to operate autonomously below the surface of the Earth, whether for mining, search and rescue, or warfare applications. They’ve been running different circuits to simulate various underground environments, with the most recent circuit being a cave course back in October. On Tuesday November 17, DARPA will webcast the competition, which features 16 teams and their autonomous search for artifacts in a virtual cave. It could make for interesting viewing.

If underground adventures don’t do it for you, how about going upstairs? LeoLabs, a California-based company that specializes in providing information about satellites, has a fascinating visualization of the planet’s satellite constellation. It’s sort of Google Earth but with the details focused on low-earth orbit. You can fly around the planet and watch the satellites whiz by or even pick out the hundreds of spent upper-stage rockets still up there. You can lock onto a specific satellite, watch for near-misses, or even turn on a layer for space debris, which honestly just turns the display into a purple miasma of orbiting junk. The best bit, though, is the easily discerned samba-lines of newly launched Starlink satellites.

A doorbell used to be a pretty simple device, but like many things, they’ve taken on added complexity. And danger, it appears, as Amazon Ring doorbell users are reporting their new gadgets going up in flame upon installation. The problem stems from installers confusing the screws supplied with the unit. The longer wood screws are intended to mount the device to the wall, while a shorter security screw secures the battery cover. Mix the two up for whatever reason, and the sharp point of the mounting screw can find the LiPo battery within, with predictable results.

And finally, it may be the shittiest of shitty robots: a monstrous robotic wolf intended to scare away wild bears. It seems the Japanese town of Takikawa has been having a problem with bears lately, so they deployed a pair of these improbable looking creatures to protect themselves. It’s hard to say what’s the best feature: the flashing LED eyes, the strobe light tail, the fact that the whole thing floats in the air atop a pole. Whatever it is, it seems to work on bears, which is probably good enough. Take a look in the video below the break.

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A Microwave Repair Even Mechanical Keyboard Fans Will Love

Microwave oven design and manufacturing have been optimized to the point where the once-expensive appliances are now nearly disposable. Despite the economics, though, some people can’t resist fixing stuff, especially when you get a chance to do it in style. Thus we present this microwave repair with its wholly unnecessary yet fabulous adornments.

The beginning of the end for [dekuNukem]’s dirt cheap second-hand microwave started where many of the appliances begin to fail first — the membrane keyboard. Unable to press the buttons reliably anymore, [dekuNukem] worked out the original keypad’s matrix wiring arrangement and whipped up a little keypad from some pushbutton switches and a scrap of perfboard. Wired into the main PCB, it was an effective and cheap solution, if a bit on the artless side.

To perk things up a bit, [dekuNukem] turned to duckyPad, a hot-swappable macropad with mechanical switches and, of course, RGB LEDs. Things got interesting from here; since duckyPad outputs serial data, an adapater was needed inside the microwave. An STM32 microcontroller and a pair of ADG714 analog switches did the trick, with power pulled from the original PCB.

The finished repair is pretty flashy, and [dekuNukem] now has the only microwave in the world with a clicky keypad. And what’s more, it works.

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Halloween Pumpkin Scares With An Evil Eye

These days, a classic Jack O’ Lantern just doesn’t cut the mustard. Kids are expecting to be scared by high-quality animatronics at a minimum. This haunting work by [Zero To Infinity] might just do the trick.

A real pumpkin is pressed into service in this build, with the usual threatening grin and candlelit interior. However, where it differs is in its single, animated eye. The eye itself is constructed of a pingpong ball, drawn upon with markers for a creepy bloodshot look. A pair of servos allow the eye to twitch and roll, under the command of an Arduino Nano. For further interactivity, an ultrasonic sensor is used to only trigger the pumpkin when it senses a person approaching.

It’s a fun holiday build that also serves as a great primer on how to work with servos and microcontrollers. We can imagine a more advanced setup using more sensors and pumpkins to train multiple eyes on the unsuspecting visitor. If that’s not scary enough, perhaps just make your pumpkins breathe fire instead. Video after the break.

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Cutting Balsa Wood With Air (Oh, And A Laser)

[DIY3DTech] likes using his Ortur laser cutter for balsa wood and decided to add an air assist system to it. Some people told him it wasn’t worth the trouble, so in the video below, he compares the results of cutting both with and without the air assist.

The air assist helped clear the cut parts and reduced charring in the wood. The air system clears residue and fumes that can reduce the effectiveness of the laser. It can also reduce the risk of the workpiece catching on fire.

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Interactive Subway Map Talks You Through The Route

Old-school rail monitoring systems had amazing displays of stations and tracks covered in flashing lights that tracked the progress of trains along a route. While it’s unlikely you’ll fit such big iron from the mid-20th century in your home, you can get a similar aesthetic with [Kothe’s] interactive subway information display.

The display relies on an Arduino Mega 2560 Pro Mini as the brains of the operation. It drives strings of WS2812B LEDs which correspond to stations along the various metro lines in the area. Additionally, the microcontroller drives a 4.3″ Nextion LCD display. The Nextion displays have the benefit of acting as a self-contained human machine interface, running their own controller on board. This means the Arduino doesn’t have to spend cycles driving the display, and the Nextion hardware comes with a useful software package for quickly and easily designing GUI interfaces. For further feedback, a DFPlayer MP3 module is used to allow the system to playback prerecorded voice samples that provide information on the rail system. The attractive front panel is made with lasercut acrylic and a color printed acetate sheet.

It’s a build that bears striking similarity to real rail information systems fielded by railways around the world. We can imagine such a device being particularly useful in a backpacker’s hostel or university dorm to help those new to town find their way around. If you prefer a more stripped-back aesthetic, we’ve seen a barebones PCB build done as well. Video after the break.

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