Triton AR Headset Blends Stock And Printed Parts

Augmented reality (AR) and natural gesture input provide a tantalizing glimpse at what human-computer interfaces may look like in the future, but at this point, the technology hasn’t seen much adoption within the open source community. Though to be fair, it seems like the big commercial players aren’t faring much better so far. You could make the case that the biggest roadblock, beyond the general lack of software this early in the game, is access to an open and affordable augmented reality headset.

Which is precisely why [Graham Atlee] has developed the Triton. This Creative Commons licensed headset combines commercial off-the-shelf components with 3D printed parts to provide a capable AR experience at a hacker-friendly price. By printing your own parts and ordering the components from AliExpress, basic AR functionality should cost you $150 to $200 USD. If you want to add gesture support you’ll need to add a Leap Motion to your bill of materials, but even still, it’s a solid deal.

Exploded view of the Triton

The trick here is that [Graham] is using the reflectors from a surprisingly cheap AR headset designed to work with a smartphone. By combining these mass produced optics with a six inch 1440 x 2560 LCD panel inside of the Triton’s 3D printed structure, projecting high quality images over the user’s field of view is far simpler than you might think.

If you want to use it as a development platform for gesture interfaces you’ll want to install a Leap Motion in the specifically designed socket in the front, but otherwise, all you need to do is plug in an HDMI video source. That could be anything from a low-power wearable to a high-end gaming computer, depending on what your goals are.

[Graham] has not only provided the STLs for all the 3D printed parts and a bill of materials, but he’s also done a fantastic job of documenting the build process with a step-by-step guide. This isn’t some theoretical creation; you could order the parts right now and start building your very own Triton. If you’re looking for software, he’s also selling a Windows-based “Triton AR Launcher” for the princely sum of $4.99 that looks pretty slick, but it’s absolutely not required to use the hardware.

Of course, plenty of people are more than happy to stick with the traditional keyboard and monitor setup. It’s hard to say if wearable displays and gesture interfaces will really become the norm, of they’re better left to science fiction. But either way, we’re happy to see affordable open source platforms for experimenting with this cutting edge technology. On the off chance any of them become the standard in the coming decades, we’d hate to be stuck in some inescapable walled garden because nobody developed any open alternatives.

Should Have Used A Vacuum Tube 555

“You should have used a 555” has become a bit of a meme around these parts lately, and for good reason. There seems to be little that these ubiquitous chips can’t be used for, and in a world where code often substitutes for hardware, it’s easy to point to instances where one could have just used a simple timer chip instead.

Definitely not in the meme category, though, is this overkill vacuum tube 555 timer. It comes to us via [David Lovett], aka [Usagi Electric], who has lately caught the “hollow state” electronics bug and has been experimenting with all sorts of vacuum tube recreations of circuits we’re far more used to seeing rendered in silicon than glass. The urge to replicate the venerable 555 in nothing but vacuum tubes is understandable, as it uses little more than a pair of comparators and a flip-flop, circuits [David] has already built vacuum tube versions of. The only part left was the discharge transistor; a pentode was enlisted to stand in for that vital function, making the circuit complete.

To physically implement the design, [David] built a large PCB to hold the 18 vacuum tubes and the handful of resistors and capacitors needed. Mounted on eight outsized leads made from sheet steel, the circuit pays homage to the original 8-pin DIP form of the 555. The video below shows the design and build process as well as testing of all the common modes of operation for the timer chip.

You can check out more of our coverage of [David]’s vacuum tube adventures, which started with his reverse-engineering of an old IBM logic module. And while he did a great job explaining the inner workings of the 555, you might want to take a deeper dive into how the venerable chip came to be.

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Hackaday Links: March 28, 2021

If you thought the global shortage of computer chips couldn’t get any worse, apparently you weren’t counting on 2021 looking back at 2020 and saying, “Hold my beer.” As if an impacted world waterway and fab fires weren’t enough to squeeze supply chains, now we learn that water restrictions could potentially impact chip production in Taiwan. The subtropical island usually counts on three or four typhoons a year to replenish its reservoirs, but 2020 saw no major typhoons in the region. This has plunged Taiwan into its worst drought since the mid-1960s, with water-use restrictions being enacted. These include a 15% reduction of supply to industrial users as well as shutting off the water entirely to non-industrial users for up to two days a week. So far, the restrictions haven’t directly impacted chip and display manufacturers, mostly because their fabs are located outside the drought zone. But for an industry where a single fab can use millions of gallons of water a day, it’s clearly time to start considering what happens if the drought worsens.

Speaking of the confluence of climate and technology, everyone problem remembers the disastrous Texas cold snap from last month, especially those who had to endure the wrath of the unusually brutal conditions in person. One such victim of the storm is Grady, everyone’s favorite YouTube civil engineer, who recently released a very good post-mortem on the engineering causes for the massive blackouts experienced after the cold snap. In the immediate aftermath of the event, we found it difficult to get anything approaching in-depth coverage on its engineering aspects — our coverage excepted, naturally — as so much of what we found was laden with political baggage. Grady does a commendable job of sticking to the facts as he goes over the engineering roots of the disaster and unpacks all the complexity of the infrastructure failures we witnessed. We really enjoyed his insights, and we wish him and all our friends in Texas the best of luck as they recover.

If you’re into the demoscene, chances are pretty good that you already know about the upcoming Revision 2021, the year’s big demoscene party. Like last year’s Revision, this will be a virtual gathering, but it seems like we’re all getting pretty used to that by now. The event is next weekend, so if you’ve got a cool demo, head over and register. Virtual or not, the bar was set pretty high last year, so there should be some interesting demos that come out of this year’s party.

Many of us suffer from the “good enough, move on” mode of project management, leaving our benches littered with breadboarded circuits that got far enough along to bore the hell out of us make a minimally useful contribution to the overall build. That’s why we love it when we get the chance to follow up on a build that has broken from that mode and progressed past the point where it originally caught our attention. A great example is Frank Olsen’s all-wood ribbon microphone. Of course, with magnets and an aluminum foil ribbon element needed, it wasn’t 100% wood, but it still was an interesting build when we first spied it, if a bit incomplete looking. Frank has fixed that in grand style by continuing the wood-construction theme that completes this all-wood replica of the iconic RCA Model 44 microphone. It looks fabulous and sounds fantastic; we can’t help but wonder how many times Frank glued his fingers together with all that CA adhesive, though.

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Code Talkers: Programming With Voice

IEEE Spectrum had an interesting post covering several companies trying to sell voice programming interfaces. Not programming APIs for speech recognition, but the replacement of the traditional text editor to produce programs.

The companies, Serenade and Talon, have very different styles. Serenade has fairly normal-sounding language, whereas Talon has you use very specific phrases and can even use eye tracking to figure out what you are looking at when you issue a command. There’s also mention of two open-source products (Aenae and Caster) that require you to use a third-party speech engine.

For an example of Talon’s input, imagine you want this line of code in your program:

name=extract_word(m)

You’d say this out loud: “Phrase name op equals snake extract word paren mad.” Not exactly how Star Trek envisioned voice programming.

For accessibility, this might be workable. It is hard for us to imagine a room full of developers all talking to make their computers enter C or Python code. Until we can say, “Computer, build a graphic using the data in file hackaday-27,” we think this is not going to go mainstream.

The actual speech recognition part is pretty much a commodity now. Making a reasonable set of guesses about what people will say and what they mean by it is something else. It seems like this works best when you have a very specific and limited vocabulary, like operating a 3D printer.

A Deep Dive Into E-Ink Tag Hacking

Over the last decade or so, e-ink price tags have become more and more ubiquitous, and they’ve now reached the point where surplus devices can be found inexpensively on various websites. [Dmitry Grinberg] found a few of these at bargain-basement prices and decided to reverse engineer and hack them into monochrome digital picture frames.

Often, the most difficult thing about repurposing surplus hardware is the potential lack of documentation. In the two tags [Dmitry] hacked, not only are the labels not documented at all, one even has an almost-undocumented SoC controlling it. After some poking around and some guesswork, he was able to find connections for both a UART and an SWD debugging interface. Fortunately, the manufacturers left the firmware unprotected, so dumping it was trivial.

Even with the firmware dumped, code for controlling peripherals (especially wireless devices) is often inscrutable. [Dmitry] overcomes this with a technique he calls “Librarification” in which he turns the manufacturer’s firmware into libraries for his custom code. Once he was able to implement his custom firmware, [Dmitry] developed his own code to wirelessly download and display both gray-scale and two-color images.

Even if you’re not interested in hacking e-ink tags, this is an incredible walk-through of how to approach reverse-engineering an embedded or IoT device. By hacking two different tags with completely different designs, [Dmitry] shows how to get into these systems with intuition, guesswork, and some sheer persistence.

If you’d like to see some more of [Dmitry]’s excellent reverse-engineering work, take a look at his reverse-engineering and ROM dump of the PokeWalker. If you’re interested in seeing what else e-ink tags can be made to do, take a look at this weather station made from the same 7.4″ e-ink tag.

A Practical Electric Motorcycle, Made From A Motorcycling Classic

If you were to try to name the vehicle that brought transport to the world’s masses, where might you start? The Ford Model T perhaps, or maybe the VW Beetle? If this was the direction you took, then we’re sorry to say you aren’t even close. The answer lies in Soichiro Honda’s Dream and its descendants, small cheap and reliable motorcycles that have been manufactured in their many millions in some form continuously for over seven decades, and which have been sold in every country in the world that has any form of road. They may be unglamorous, but if you had to pick a bike to circumnavigate the globe they can be fixed by a local mechanic anywhere on the planet. That little horizontal single-cylinder engine may be reliable though, but it’s hardly green. [David Budiatmaja] has fixed that, by transforming an elderly Honda C70 into an electric motorcycle worthy of a 21st-century city (Indonesian, Google Translate link).

The conversion appears to have achieved wide coverage in the Indonesian motoring press, and there’s more about it in the video we’ve placed below the break (Indonesian, you may have to enable subtitle translation). The C70 has been stripped of its fairing, engine, and gearbox, and a wheel motor has been laced into the rear rim. There are three battery packs made from surplus 18650 cells, and an ammo can top box containing most of the electrical wiring. Driven at 72V, it gives a modest top speed that isn’t exactly fast but isn’t too bad on a city bike. A set of trail bike bars replaces the stock ones, and something of a cosmetic makeover has given it a tougher image than your local pizza delivery bike. If it didn’t still sport the C70’s somewhat archaic front forks, it might be easy to mistake it for something else entirely.

If wheel motor motorcycle conversions interest you, this isn’t the first one we’ve brought you.

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Building The Dolphin Emulator In Ubuntu On A Nintendo Switch

[LOE TECH] has made a habit of trying out various emulation methods on his Nintendo Switch and recording the results for our benefit. Of that testing, some of the best performance he’s seen makes use of the Dolphin emulator running in Ubuntu Linux, and he has made a tutorial video documenting how to build the project, as well as how to make some performance tweaks to get the most out of the mod.

We love seeing Linux run on basically anything with a processor. It’s a classic hack at this point. Nintendo has traditionally kept its consoles fairly locked down, though, even in the face of some truly impressive efforts; so it’s always a treat to see the open-source OS run relatively smoothly on the console. This Ubuntu install is based on NVIDIA’s Linux for Tegra (L4T) package, which affords some performance gains over Android installations on the same hardware. As we’ve seen with those Android hacks, however, this software mod also makes use of the Switchroot project and, of course, it only works with specific, unpatched hardware. But if you’ve won the serial number lottery and you’re willing to risk your beloved console, [LOE TECH] also has a video detailing the process he used to get Ubuntu up and running.

Check out the video below for a medley of Gamecube game test runs. Some appear to run great, and others, well… not so much. But we truly appreciate how he doesn’t edit out the games that stutter and lag. This way, we get a more realistic, more comprehensive overview of unofficial emulation performance on the Switch. Plus, it’s almost fun to watch racing games go by in slow motion; almost, that is, if we couldn’t empathize with how frustrating it must have been to play.

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