Two-Player PVC Racing Rig Plays Daytona USA

SEGA’s Daytona USA is that big orange arcade racing machine you remember from the 90s that still seems to hang on in cinemas and pizza joints worldwide. Its controls may be floaty and physics unrealistic, but it’s probably the one racing game that almost everyone has played at one point or other. [Tom Tilley] decided to build a PVC racing rig for the game during his travels in Thailand.

As a bonus, the lightweight rigs can be broken up and transported easily by scooter.

PVC pipe is used to whip up the frames for the budget simulator, inside which each player sits. Different sizes of PVC pipe and various adapters are used to create a basic steering wheel, to which a potentiometer is attached, while the centering mechanism is simply a rubber band. The pedals are built similarly and fitted with microswitches. The build relies on a cheap USB gamepad that mimics the typical PlayStation Dual Shock design, with the pot and switches wired in place of the existing thumbstick and buttons. A computer running the PC version of Daytona USA is then used to complete the setup, along with a projector for split-screen fun.

It’s certainly not a high-end simulator by any means, but for the price of some pipes and cheap controllers, [Tom] was able to create a two-player racing rig for a fraction of the cost to hire the real arcade machine for a weekend. The kids that playtested the system certainly seemed to have a good time, as well. We’ve seen similar low-tech builds before, too – with impressive results. Video after the break.

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Coffee Cupping Is A Grind — Spectroscopy Could Brew Better Beans

If you’ve ever bought whole coffee beans, chances are good that there was all kinds of information on the bag that led to your decision, like the origin, the roast type, and the flavor notes. Traditionally, coffee grading — that’s judging the aroma of both dry and wet grounds and slurping the coffee evenly across the tongue to determine the flavor profile — is done by humans in a process called cupping. To call it a process is too clinical — it’s really more like a ceremony performed with the grave sincerity that coffee deserves.

A traditional cupping ceremony. Image via Kaldi’s Coffee

There’s an industry standard coffee flavor wheel, so why not leverage that to make a robot that can remove the human bias and possible error of doing things the traditional way? That’s exactly what Demetria, a Columbian-Israeli company is doing.

They’ve developed an AI platform that can determine bean quality as judged by handheld scanners that were born on Kickstarter. The scanner uses near-infrared to look for biochemical markers in the bean, which it uses to match up with a profile backed by the all-knowing coffee flavor wheel.

Demetria is using SCiO scanners and a custom app to judge beans before they’re even roasted, which greatly speeds up the process but makes us wonder how green bean spectroscopy stacks up against roasted beans as judged by humans. You may remember the SCiO, a pocket-sized, connected spectrometer made by Consumer Physics that finally started delivering the goods a few years after funding. If you got your hands on a SCiO, you might like to know that there’s an open project out there to hack them. Sparkfun did a nice, thorough teardown, and it seems to be a well-engineered piece of hardware.

On the one hand, cupping is a tradition and thus may people feel that robbing coffee of this tradition will rob coffee of its soul. On the other hand, cupping is wasteful, as the coffee must be roasted and ground immediately prior to the ceremony and it requires the availability of Q graders who have been trained in the ways of coffee grading.

Want to know more about coffee production? Might as well learn the Retrotechtacular way.

[Main and thumbnail images via Demetria]

This Bunny Reminds Toddlers That It’s Night Time

It’s easy to spot recent parents, they are the people who look as though they haven’t slept in months. Sometimes the little bundle of joy responsible isn’t even a babe in arms but a toddler; old enough to wake up and find their parents for some solace but not old enough to understand that not everyone is up for being woken at 3 am. [Eyal] approached this problem in some style, by modifying a rabbit night light to indicate the time by changing colour, reminding the youngster when it’s a bit early to be rousing the grown-ups.

The bunny in question is a plastic moulding, sold with a white LED providing illumination, This was removed, and replaced with a rather nice custom PCB sporting a ring of addressable LEDs surrounding a Wemos ESP8266 board. In the darkest hours of the night, it is lit as a soft red to indicate sleep time. When an appropriate wake-up point is reached it bursts into a vibrant light show of many colours. Thus the recalcitrant early-riser can be taught to give Mum & Dad a little rest through the medium of light and colour.

This isn’t the first kids night light we’ve seen, indeed some of them have been rather elegant.

Winners Of Hackaday’s Data Loggin’ Contest: Bluetooth Gardening, Counting Cups, And Predicting Rainfall

The votes for Hackaday’s Data Loggin’ Contest have been received, saved to SD, pushed out to MQTT, and graphed. Now it’s time to announce the three projects that made the most sense out of life’s random data and earned themselves a $100 gift certificate for Tindie, the Internet’s foremost purveyor of fine hand-crafted artisanal electronics.

First up, and winner of the Data Wizard category, is this whole-garden soil moisture monitor by [Joseph Eoff]. You might not realize it from the picture at the top of the page, but lurking underneath the mulch of that lovely garden is more than 20 Bluetooth soil sensors arranged in a grid pattern. All of the data is sucked up by a series of solar powered ESP32 access points, and ultimately ends up on a Raspberry Pi by way of MQTT. Here, custom Python software generates a heatmap that indicates possible trouble spots in the garden. With its easy to understand visualization of what’s happening under the surface, this project perfectly captured the spirit of the category.

Next up is the Nespresso Shield from [Steadman]. This clever gadget literally listens for the telltale sounds of the eponymous coffee maker doing its business to not only estimate your daily consumption, but warn you when the machine is running low on water. The clever non-invasive method of pulling data from a household appliance made this a strong entry for the Creative Genius category.

Last but certainly not least is this comprehensive IoT weather station that uses machine learning to predict rainfall. With crops and livestock at risk from sudden intense storms, [kutluhan_aktar] envisions this device as an early warning for farmers. The documentation on this project, from setting up the GPRS-enabled ESP8266 weather station to creating the web interface and importing all the data into TensorFlow, is absolutely phenomenal. This project serves as a invaluable framework for similar DIY weather detection and prediction systems, which made it the perfect choice for our World Changer category.

There may have only been three winners this time around, but the legendary skill and creativity of the Hackaday community was on full display for this contest. A browse through the rest of the submissions is highly recommended, and we’re sure the creators would love to hear your feedback and suggestions in the comments.

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Could Seven Gamers Play Quake On Just One 1996 SGI Machine?

[Linus Tech Tips] undertook a fun experiment a few years back. By running multiple virtual machines on a single tower PC with tons of RAM and GPUs, it was possible to let seven gamers play on a single rig at once. [CelGenStudios] found the idea intriguing, and has theorised that the same feat could be possible on mid-1990s Silicon Graphics hardware.

The idea is to use the Origin 2000 server as the base. These didn’t ship with any form of video output or even a keyboard and mouse interface. However, by substituting in the IO6G module from the Onyx2 machine, and SI graphics cards from the Octane, it’s possible to get graphics and input up and running. With multiple graphics cards and a few CAD DUO boards installed via a PCI adapter called the “shoebox”, there’s provisions for up to four separate monitors, keyboards and mice. With all this hardware, it’s theoretically possible for four users to login to the X server running in the IRIX OS on the Origin 2000 machine. Then, it’s a simple matter of firing up four instances of Quake and a dedicated server and you’re up and gaming.

[CelGenStudios] goes so far as exploring the limits of the supercomputer-grade hardware, suggesting that 7 players or more could be possible. Unfortunately, SGI hardware isn’t easy to come by, nor is it cheap, even decades after release — so thus far, the concept remains untested. We’d dearly love to see such a setup happen at QuakeCon or a hacker con, though, so if you pull it off, you know how to call. We note there’s a few Octane 2000s at the Jim Austin Computer Collection, so perhaps they might be the ones to achieve the feat.

In the meantime, check out a practical exploration of the concept on modern hardware with the original [Linus Tech Tips] project. The basic theory is simple – create a hugely powerful PC, with a beefy CPU, plenty of RAM, and one graphics cards for each of the seven players. They run multiple virtual machines and managed to deliver a full 7 player experience running off just one CPU.

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If You Can Measure It, You Must Display It

When can you be sure that you’re logging enough data? When you’re logging all of the data! Of course there are exceptions to the above tongue-in-cheek maxim, but it’s certainly a good start. Especially since data storage on, for instance, an SD card is so easy and cheap these days, there’s almost no reason to not record most every little bit of data that your project can produce. Even without an SD card, many microcontrollers have enough onboard flash, or heck even RAM, to handle whatever you throw at them. The trick, then, is to make sense out of that data, and for me at least, that often means drawing pretty pictures.

I was impressed this week by a simple but elegant stepper motor diagnosis tool hacked together by [Zapta]. Essentially, it’s a simple device: it’s a “Black Pill” dev board, two current sensors, an EEPROM for storing settings, and a touchscreen. Given that most of us with 3D printers rely on stepper motors to get the job done, it’s certainly interesting to do some diagnostics.

By logging voltage and current measurement on each phase of a stepper motor, you can learn a lot about what’s going on, at least if you can visualize all that data. And that’s where [Zapta]’s tool shines. It plots current vs motor speed to detect impedance problems. Tuning the current in the first place is a snap with Lissajous patterns, and it’ll track your extruder’s progress or look out for skipped steps for you across an entire print job. It does all this with many carefully targeted graphs.

I was talking to [Niklas Roy] about this, and he said “oh check out my hoverboard battery logger“. Here we go again! It sits inline with the battery and logs current and voltage, charging or discharging. Graphs let you visualize power usage over time, and a real-time-clock lets you sync it with video of using the hoverboard to help make even more sense of the data.

So what are you waiting for? Sensors are cheap, storage is cheap, and utilities to graph your data after the fact are plentiful. If you’re not logging all the relevant data, you’re missing out on some valuable insights. And if you are, we’d love to see your projects! (Hint, hint.)

3D Printer Control Board Packs A Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4

Traditionally, 3D printer control boards have used simplistic 8-bit microcontrollers to command the stepper drivers and ultimately move the machine where it needs to go. Newer boards have switched over to 32-bit microcontrollers, but they’re still relatively limited computationally. Because of this, a Raspberry Pi running OctoPrint is usually used to provide more complex features such as remote management and live video.

Looking to combine these different devices into a single all-in-one board, [pkElectronics] developed the Sigmoid S7P. With an STM32 microcontroller, TMC2209 stepper drivers, a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, and plenty of room for expansion, it promises to be a drop-in upgrade for essentially any 3D printer running on an open source firmware that could be ported over.

An earlier concept for the Sigmoid

According to [pkElectronics], the idea for the Sigmoid had been floating around for several years, but never got off the ground due to the difficulties in dealing with the SO-DIMM interface used by previous iterations of the Compute Module. But with the switch to smaller and denser connector for the CM4, the board finally started to take shape.

Whether you just used it as a convenient way to integrate OctoPrint into your printer, or want to get into something more advanced like Klipper, the Sigmoid S7P looks like a very exciting project. [pkElectronics] says they are considering producing the board commercially if there’s interest, so if you want one of these for your own custom 3D printer build, let them know.