Hamster Trades Crypto Better Than You

The inner machinations of the mind of cryptocurrency markets are an enigma. Even traditional stock markets often seem to behave at random, to the point that several economists seriously suggest that various non-human animals might outperform one market or another just by random chance alone. The classic example is a monkey picking stocks at random, but in the modern world the hamster [Mr Goxx] actively trades crypto from inside his hamster cage.

[Mr Goxx]’s home comprises a normal apartment and a separate office where he can make his trades. The office contains an “intention wheel” where he can run in order to select a currency to trade, and two tunnels that [Mr Goxx] can use to declare his intention to buy or sell the currency he selected with the wheel. The wheel is connected to an Arduino Nano with an optical encoder, and the Nano also detects the hamster’s presence in the “buy” or “sell” tunnel and lights up status LEDs when he wants to execute a trade. The Nano also communicates with an intricate Java program which overlays information on the live video feed and also executes the trades in real life with real money.

Live updates are sent directly both on Twitter and Reddit, besides the live Twitch stream of [Mr Goxx] we linked above. The stream only shows his office and not his apartment, and he’s mostly active at night (Berlin time). But we can’t wait for his random walks to yield long-term results which can be analyzed for years to come. In the meantime we’ll see if others have been able to make any profits in crypto with any less-random methods.

Drink Water On Schedule Or Else Flood Your Desk

How much water have you had to drink today? We would venture to guess that the answer is somewhere between ‘absolutely none’ and ‘not not nearly enough’. You can go ahead and blame poor work/life balance — that’s our plan, anyway — and just try to do better. All this working from home means the bathroom situation is now ideal, so why not drink as much water as you can?

But how? Well, you’re human, so you’ll need to make it as easy as possible to drink the water throughout the day. You could fill up one big jug and hoist it to your mouth all day long (or use a straw), but facing that amount of water all at once can be intimidating. The problem with using a regular-sized vessel is that you have to get up to refill it several times per day. When hyper-focus is winning the work/life tug-of-war, you can’t always just stop and go to the kitchen. What you need is an automatic water dispenser, and you need it right there on the desk.

[Javier Rengel]’s water pomodoro makes it as easy as setting your cup down in front of this machine and leaving it there between sips. As long as the IR sensor detects your cup, it will dispense water every hour. This means that if you don’t drink enough water throughout the day, you’re going to have it all over the desk at some point. [Javier] simply connected an Arduino UNO to a water pump and IR sensor pair and repurposed the milk dispenser from a coffee machine. Check it out in action after the break.

Of course, if you aren’t intimidated by the big jug approach, you could keep tabs on your intake with the right kind of straw.

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A Plastic Injection Machine You Can Use At Home

3D printing is all well and good if you want one of something, but if you want lots of plastic parts that are all largely identical, you should consider injection molding. You can pay someone to do this for you, or, in true hacker fashion, you can build an entire injection molding setup in your own garage, as [Action BOX] did.

The build relies on a pair of beefy 3hp motors to drive the screw-based injection system. These are responsible for feeding plastic pellets from a hopper and then melting them and filling the injection reservoir, before then forcing the hot plastic into the mold. Further stepper motors handle clamping the mold and then releasing it and ejecting the finished part. A Raspberry Pi handles the operation of the machine, and is configured with a custom Python program that is capable of proper cycle operation. At its peak, the machine can produce up to 4 parts per minute.

It’s an impressive piece of industrial-type hardware. If you want to produce a lot of plastic things in your own facility, a machine like this is very much the way to go. It’s not the first machine of its type we’ve seen, either! Video after the break.  Continue reading “A Plastic Injection Machine You Can Use At Home”

EMOJO Chatbot Will Be There For You

We all need someone to talk to sometimes, and the pandemic has only made matters worse when it comes to the number of people living with anxiety and depression. Exchanging the simplest of pleasantries can make you feel whole again, but the masks make it hard to engage with strangers and judge their emotions, so your big trip to the grocery store can make you feel lonely in a crowd.

So you go back home, still feeling lonely, and maybe you turn on the TV. Watching people interact is probably the next best thing to actual interaction, and it might even make you laugh. But have you ever wished you could talk to the people on TV? With [aniketdhole]’s EMOJO chatbot, you’ll feel as though you’re among friends. And technically you are — all the dialogue is from the TV show Friends.

In Castaway, Tom Hanks didn’t give that volleyball a frowny face, now did he? Nor does he have a dopey grin. Instead, he wears a wry smile that suggests depth of character and a grasp of the dire situation at hand. But now we have emoji, and they do a pretty good job of conveying and evoking emotion. EMOJO is a visual chatbot that uses voice and emoji to make easy, two-way conversation to help chase the loneliness away. It uses a Raspberry Pi and a TFT display to take voice input from a Bluetooth headset, convert it to text, and then respond in kind with both voice and text. It was a finalist in the rethink displays round of the Hackaday Prize, and we can’t wait to see how its character develops. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

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Did You Meet Pepper?

Earlier this week it was widely reported that Softbank’s friendly-faced almost-humanoid Pepper robot was not long for this world, as the Japanese company’s subsidiary in France that had been responsible for the robotic darling of the last decade was being downsized, and that production had paused. Had it gone the way of Sony’s Aibo robotic puppy or Honda’s crouching-astronaut ASIMO? It seems not, because the company soon rolled back a little and was at pains to communicate that reports of Pepper’s untimely death had been greatly exaggerated. It wasn’t so long ago that Pepper was the face of future home robotics, so has the golden future become a little tarnished? Perhaps it’s time to revisit our plastic friend.

A Product Still Looking For A Function

A Pepper earning an honest crust as a tourist guide at the Heijo Palace museum. Tokumeigakarinoaoshima, CC BY-SA 4.0.
A Pepper earning an honest crust as a tourist guide at the Heijo Palace museum. Tokumeigakarinoaoshima, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Pepper made its debut back in 2014, a diminutive and child-like robot with basic speech recognition and conversation skills, the ability to recognize some facial expressions, and a voice to match those big manga-style eyes. It was a robot built for personal interaction rather than work, as those soft tactile hands are better suited to a handshake than holding a tool. It found its way into Softbank stores as well as a variety of other retail environments, it was also used in experiments to assess whether it could work as a companion robot in medical settings, and it even made an appearance as a cheerleading squad. It didn’t matter that it was found to be riddled with insecurities, it very soon became a favourite with media tech pundits, but it remained at heart a product that was seeking a purpose rather than one ready-made to fit a particular function.

I first encountered a Pepper in 2016, at the UK’s National Museum of Computing. It was simply an exhibit under the watchful eye of a museum volunteer rather than being used to perform a job, and it shared an extremely busy gallery with an exhibit of Acorn classroom computers from the 1980s and early ’90s. It was an odd mix of the unexpected and the frustrating, as it definitely saw me and let me shake its hand but stubbornly refused to engage in conversation. Perhaps it was taking its performance as a human child seriously and being shy, but the overwhelming impression was of something that wasn’t ready for anything more than experimental interaction except via its touch screen. As a striking contrast in 2016 the UK saw the first release of the Amazon Echo, a disembodied voice assistant that might not have had a cute face but which could immediately have meaningful interactions with its owner.

How Can A Humanoid Robot Compete With A Disembodied Voice?

In comparing the Pepper with an Amazon Echo it’s possible that we’ve arrived at the root of the problem. Something that looks cool is all very well, but without immediate functionality, it will never capture the hearts of customers. Alexa brought with it the immense power of Amazon’s cloud computing infrastructure, while Pepper had to make do with whatever it had on board. It didn’t matter to potential customers that a cloud-connected microphone presents a huge privacy issue, for them a much cheaper device the size of a hockey puck would always win the day if it could unfailingly tell them the evening’s TV schedule or remind them about Aunty’s birthday.

Over the next decade we will see the arrival of affordable and compact processing power that can do more of the work for which Amazon currently use the cloud. Maybe Pepper will never fully receive that particular upgrade, but it’s certain that if Softbank don’t do it then somebody else will. Meanwhile there’s a reminder from another French company that being first and being cute in the home assistant market is hardly a guarantee of success, who remembers the Nabaztag?

Header: Tokumeigakarinoaoshima, CC0.

Leggo My Nintoaster!

If you’re one of today’s lucky 10,000* who have never seen a Nintoaster case mod before, boy are we glad you get to see this one first. [Dizzle813] found a shiny old Sunbeam toaster that looks just like the one we grew up with. Although the original creator made a build video, there is room for improvement in the explanation, and some people prefer reading, anyway. This handy guide references and builds upon [VomitSaw]’s original Nintoaster video.

[Dizzle813] really makes the hard parts look easy, and a build like this seems to be mostly hard parts. Unless you find this exact vintage of Sunbeam, you would have to orchestrate the innards as needed to fit your toaster. The hardest part of all is probably wiring up the 72-pin connector to the NES motherboard, but [Dizzle813] managed to pull it off using 22 AWG solid-core wire and still get everything to flex and fit together. Even still, they broke off a pin trying to ease it into the perfboard, but cutting a hole in the connector and inserting a bodge wire replacement worked just fine.

We absolutely love the way this looks and operates, especially with the lever-activated power button and the six orange LEDs inside that are brightness-controlled through the toastiness knob. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

Isn’t it great when things are built into other things? Case in point: there’s a laptop hiding inside this printer.

*relevant xkcd

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What’s Chia, And Why Is It Eating All The Hard Drives?

At this point the average Hackaday reader is likely familiar with so-called “Proof of Work” (PoW) cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin. In the most basic of terms, these cryptocurrencies allow users to earn money by devoting computational power to the network. Unfortunately, it’s well past the point where your standard desktop CPU is moving enough bits to earn anything worthwhile. Individuals looking to turn a profit have therefore resorted to constructing arrays of high-end graphics cards for the express purpose of “mining” their cryptocurrency of choice.

These miners, combined with ongoing chip shortages, have ravaged the GPU market. Anyone who’s looked at building or upgrading a computer recently will know that new video cards are in short supply, and even old models that would otherwise be considered budget options, are commanding outrageous prices. In an effort to appease their core customers, NVIDIA has even introduced cryptocurrency-specific cards that lack video output. The hope was that professional miners would buy these Cryptocurrency Mining Processors (CMPs) instead of the traditional video cards, freeing up the latter for purchase by gamers. But due to the limited availability and relatively high cost of CMPs, they’ve done little to improve the situation.

Now if you don’t use your computer for gaming, this probably seems like a distant problem. You could even be forgiven for thinking of this as little more than two largely frivolous pursuits at loggerheads with each other. After all, in a community that still holds decades-old Thinkpads as the high water mark in portable computing, a certain ambivalence about cutting edge video cards is perhaps to be expected.

But there’s a new form of cryptocurrency on the rise which threatens more than just the hardcore gamers. With “Proof of Space” (PoS) cryptocurrencies, it’s not about having the fastest CPU or the highest number of GPUs; the commodity being traded is storage space, and the player with the most hard drives wins.

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