Among Us is a hit game of deception and intrigue. Those who have played it know the frustration of trying to complete some of the intentionally difficult tasks onboard the Skeld. [Zach Freedman] decided to recreate some of these in real life.
[Zach] built what are arguably the three most frustrating tasks from the game. There’s the excruciatingly slow upload/download station built out of an old Samsung tablet and an NFC tag, and the reactor start console created using a Raspberry Pi 3B, Teensy 3.2, and a custom mechanical keyboard. But perhaps most annoying of all is the infamous card reader. Built with another Teensy, it requires the user to swipe their ID card at just the right speed, except that speed is randomly generated for every swipe. Also, the machine fails 20% of good swipes just because. Perhaps what we love most is the way [Zach] recreated the classic VFD look by putting an OLED display behind bottle-green plastic and using a 14-segment font.
Remember DSRC? If the initialism doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry — Dedicated Short-Range Communications, a radio service intended to let cars in traffic talk to each other, never really caught on. Back in 1999, when the Federal Communications Commission set aside 75 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9-GHz band, it probably seemed like a good idea — after all, the flying cars of the future would surely need a way to communicate with each other. Only about 15,000 vehicles in the US have DSRC, and so the FCC decided to snatch back the whole 75-MHz slice and reallocate it. The lower 45 MHz will be tacked onto the existing unlicensed 5.8-GHz band where WiFi now lives, providing interesting opportunities in wireless networking. Fans of chatty cars need not fret, though — the upper 30 MHz block is being reallocated to a different Intelligent Transportation System Service called C-V2X, for Cellular Vehicle to Everything, which by its name alone is far cooler and therefore more likely to succeed.
NASA keeps dropping cool teasers of the Mars 2020 mission as the package containing the Perseverance rover hurtles across space on its way to a February rendezvous with the Red Planet. The latest: you can listen to the faint sounds the rover is making as it gets ready for its date with destiny. While we’ve heard sounds from Mars before — the InSight lander used its seismometer to record the Martian wind — Perseverance is the first Mars rover equipped with actual microphones. It’s pretty neat to hear the faint whirring of the rover’s thermal management system pump doing its thing in interplanetary space, and even cooler to think that we’ll soon hear what it sounds like to land on Mars.
Speaking of space, back at the beginning of 2020 — you know, a couple of million years ago — we kicked off the Hack Chat series by talking with Alberto Caballero about his “Habitable Exoplanets” project, a crowd-sourced search for “Earth 2.0”. We found it fascinating that amateur astronomers using off-the-shelf gear could detect the subtle signs of planets orbiting stars half a galaxy away. We’ve kept in touch with Alberto since then, and he recently tipped us off to his new SETI Project. Following the citizen-science model of the Habitable Exoplanets project, Alberto is looking to recruit amateur radio astronomers willing to turn their antennas in the direction of stars similar to the Sun, where it just might be possible for intelligent life to have formed. Check out the PDF summary of the project which includes the modest technical requirements for getting in on the SETI action.
Six years on from the emergence of the Espressif ESP8266 we might believe that the focus had shifted to the newer dual-core ESP32. But here comes a twist in the form of the newly-revealed ESP32-C3. It’s a WiFi SoC that despite its ESP32 name contains a RISC-V core in place of the Tensilica core in the ESP32s we know, and uses the ESP8266 pin-out rather than that of its newer sibling. There’s relatively little information about it at the time of writing, but CNX Software have gathered together what there is including a draft datasheet whose English translation is available as a Mega download. As with other ESP32 family members, this one delivers b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) 5, where it differs is the RISC-V 32 Single-core processor with a clock speed of up to 160 MHz. There is 400 kB of SRAM and 384 kB ROM storage space built in.
Why they are releasing the part as an ESP32 rather than giving it a series number of its own remains a mystery, but it’s not hard to see why it makes commercial sense to create it in an ESP8266-compatible footprint. The arrival of competing parts in the cheap wireless SoC space such as the Bouffalo Labs BL602 we mentioned recently is likely to be eating into sales of the six-year-old chip, so an upgrade path to a more capable part with minimal new hardware design requirements could be a powerful incentive for large customers to stay with Espressif.
We’re left to guess on how exactly the rollout will proceed. We expect to see similar developer support to that they now provide for their other chips, and then ESP32-C3 powered versions of existing ESP8266 boards in short order. It’s also to be hoped that a standard RISC-V toolchain could be used instead of the device-specific ones for current Espressif offerings. What we should not expect are open-source replacements for the blobs that drive the on-board peripherals, as the new chip will share the same closed-source IP as its predecessors for them. Perhaps if the PINE64 initiative to reverse engineer blobs for the BL602 bears fruit, we might see a similar effort for this chip.
Today the newly-released Nintendo Game & Watch can play DOOM. Sure, there are caveats…this is a watered down version due to the restraints of the hardware itself. But the important thing is that this shows the hardware has been fully owned. This is code written to replace the firmware that ships on the STM32 within, and that makes this a gorgeous little hardware platform that is completely open to homebrew hacking.
We’ll have to wait for more details on exactly how to dump firmware, but [stacksmashing] drops enough of a mention in the video below to confirm the obvious. A common approach to dumping code from a locked microcontroller is to find a vulnerability that grants execution of custom code. Being able to run just a few lines of your own code is enough set up something as simple as looping through all internal flash memory addresses and dumping them over a few GPIO pins. In this case our two heroes discovered some ARM code was being loaded from the EEPROM onto the STM32, and managed to inject their own directives to perform the dump. They have promised full details soon.
What we have today is a pretty tricky hack not just to load code, but to get DOOM to run on meager hardware specs. Notably, 128 k of SRAM and 1.3 MB of external RAM. There’s also a bottleneck with the 1.1 MB of FLASH for storing game files. The textures were stripped down, and memory allocation was rewritten, but the proof of concept is there and the game runs. Homebrew, here we come!
Creativity is a very human trait, and one that many try to emulate with robots. Some focus on the cerebral side of things, working with neural networks and machine learning to produce new artistic output. Others work on the mechanical side, building ‘bots that can manipulate tools in the real world for artistic purposes. [Technovation]’s latest build falls into the latter category – a small Arduino-powered ‘bot that likes to paint.
The robot moves around on two wheels, each driven by a stepper motor for accurate movement. The paintbrush itself is controlled with another stepper, which rotates it between the paint pots and the canvas. A servo is used to dip the brush into pots, and to apply it to the canvas. An Arduino Uno runs the show, with the robot currently programmed to paint random lines of various colors on the canvas.
By virtue of its roving design, it could theoretically paint on arbitrarily large canvasses. It’s a platform that could prove highly capable when paired with a neural network and perhaps some machine vision to allow it to concoct more complex artworks. We’ve seen other paint bots before, too. Video after the break.
buck50 comes with a plethora of functionality built in which includes an oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and bus monitor. The device is a two way street and also comes with GPIO control as well as PWM output. There’s really a remarkable amount of functionality crammed into the project. [Mark] provides a Python application that exposes a text based UI for configuring and using the device though commands and lots of commands which makes this really nerdy. There are a number of options to visualize the data captured which includes gnuplot, gtk wave and PulseView to name a few.
[Mark] does a fantastic job not only with the firmware but also with the documentation, and we really think this makes the project stand out. Commands are well documented and everything is available on [GitHub] for your hacking pleasure. And if you are about to order a Blue Pill online, you might want to check out the nitty-gritty of the clones that are floating around.
One of the biggest dangers to a cyclist is not being seen at night. To counteract this, all manner of lighting and reflective gear is available to help ensure bicycles are seen on the streets. Of course, you don’t have to stop at the purely practical. [TechnoChic] decided to have some fun with her ride, festooning her party bike with many, many LEDs.
As you’d expect, the RGB illuminations are thanks to WS2812B LED strips. Running the show is a trio of Arduino Nano 33 IoTs – one for the LEDs on the bike’s frame, the other two mounted on the front and back wheels respectively. This allowed for the easy control of LEDs on the spokes without having to pass data and power lines to the rotating wheels. The LEDs on the frame are even music-reactive, with the Arduino sampling music input via one of its analog-to-digital converters.
Paired with a boombox on the bike, the build makes for a great way to hype up group rides through the city at night. We can imagine such a bike being an absolute hit at Critical Mass, though you’ve probably gotta add a laser or glitter cannon if you’re going to draw attention at Burning Man. If you’re tired of pedaling, you might consider an electric conversion, too. Video after the break.