Put A Landscape Scanner On Your Bike And Ride

Google have a fleet of cars travelling the roads of the world taking images for their online StreetView service. You could do much the same thing pedalling on two wheels, with the help of this landscape scanner from [Celian_31].

The basic concept is simple. A powerbank on the bike runs a Raspberry Pi, kitted out with its typical Pi Camera within a 3D-printed housing. A reed switch on the bike’s frame detects pulses from a magnet attached to the valve stem of one tire, and this is used to trigger the taking of photos at regular intervals with the aid of a Python script. Further scripts are then used to knit all the photos taken on a ride together into one contiguous image.

It’s unlikely you’ll recreate Google’s entire StreetView in this fashion. You’d probably want a spherical camera anyway. However, if you wish to undertake regular static surveillance of your local area in an inconspicuous fashion, this would be a great way to do it while also staying in shape. If you do that, please don’t tell us as it would be a major violation of operational security. We’d love to hear about any other projects, though! Video after the break.

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A Bird 43 wattmeter and its homebrew equivalent

Homebrew Wattmeter Pays Homage To Sturdy Original

If there’s one instrument that hams and other radio enthusiasts covet, it’s the venerable Bird 43 Thruline wattmeter. The useful RF tool has barely changed in the nearly 70 years since it was first introduced, and they’re built like a tank. This makes Bird meters highly desirable, and therefore quite expensive either brand new or on the swap-meet circuit.

But radio amateurs are nothing if not resourceful, and building a homebrew version of the Bird wattmeter (in Portuguese; Google translate tool at the bottom of the page) as Brazilian ham [Luciano Sturaro (PY2BBS)] did is a good way to get your hands on one. Granted, [Luciano] had a head start: a spare line set, which is the important bit from a Bird wattmeter. The machined metal part is in effect an air-insulated section of coaxial cable that the RF signal passes through on its way from transmitter to antenna. A “slug” is inserted into the cavity in the line set to sense the RF and couple it to the meter electronics; the slug can be rotated to measure RF traveling in either direction, allowing the user to determine how much RF is getting reflected by the antenna system.

[Luciano]’s version of the meter is faithful to the sturdy construction of the original, with a solid steel case that mimics its classic lines — the case even sports the same color scheme and stout leather carry handle. There are some changes to the electronics, and the meter movement itself is different from the original, but all in all, the “Buzz 50” looks fantastic. We especially love the detailed nameplate as an homage to Bird.

The thing about Bird — and Bird-like — meters is that the slugs are like potato chips; you can’t have just one. Curious as to how these slugs work? Check out this slug repair project.

[Featured image of Bird 43 Wattmeter: Martin RF Supply]

Thanks to [Niko Huenk] for the tip!

A robot playing tic-tac-toe against a human

TICO Robot Plays Tic-Tac-Toe By Drawing On A Tiny Whiteboard

Tic-tac-toe (or “Noughts and Crosses”) is a game simple enough to implement in any computer system: indeed it’s often used in beginner’s programming courses. A more challenging project, and arguably more interesting and useful, is to make some kind of hardware that can play it in real life. [mircemk] built a simple yet elegant machine that can play tic-tac-toe against a human player in a way that looks quite similar to the way humans play against one another: by drawing.

The robot’s design and programming were developed at PlayRobotics, who named the project TICO. The mechanical parts are available as STL files, to be printed by any 3D printer, and a comprehensive manual explains how to assemble and program the whole thing. Since it’s all open source, anyone can build it from scratch and modify it to their liking. The pictures show the original design by PlayRobotics, while the video (embedded after the break) shows [mircemk]’s version, which includes a wooden frame that gives it a bit more presence.

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Project HERMITS Robots Mimic Crabs With Mechanical Shells

Hermit crabs are famous for being small critters that, from time to time throughout their lives, abandon one shell carried on their back to pick up a new one. Project HERMITS by [Ken Nakagaki] is inspired by this very concept, and involves table-top robots that dock with a variety of modules with different mechanical mechanisms.

As shown in the project video, the small robots augment themselves by interfacing with attachments referred to as “mechanical shells.” They variously allow the robot to move differently or interact in a new way with the world.

One shell allows the robot to activate a small fan, while another lets it rotate arrows in various directions. others let robots work together to actuate a bigger mechanical assembly like a gripper or a haptic feedback joystick.

A particularly cute example is the “lift shell” which allows one little robot give another one a boost in height. Another series of shells allows the robots to play the role of various characters in a performance of Alice in Wonderland.

The technology is all built around Sony’s tiny two-wheeled toio robots, but adds a vertical actuator to the platform that lets the robots actively dock with a variety of shell designs. It’s an involved hack, but key to the whole enterprise. The individual bots are all controlled by Raspberry Pis communicating over Bluetooth.

We always love to see cute robots working together. Video after the break.

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It’s Wildcard Time, Your Last Chance To Enter The Hackaday Prize!

The final entry round of the Hackaday Prize begins today, and the theme is… anything! While we’ve guided you through work-from-home, robots, displays, and supportive devices, there are countless great ideas that don’t fit in those boxes. So for this round, just show us what you got!

Entering the Reactive Wildcard round is easy. Publish a page about your project over on Hackaday.io and use the left sidebar “Submit-to” menu on that page to add it to the Hackaday prize. The point is to build a better future, and we can’t wait to see what you think that looks like. Need some inspiration? Check out the four challenge update videos below to see what others have been entering so far this year.

What’s at stake here? Ten entries in this round will each receive a cash prize of $500 and move onto the final round. There, they content with finalist from the other four rounds for the $25,000 Grand Prize, and four other top prizes. There is also the geek cred of making the finals, a priceless achievement, even if we do say so ourselves.

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E3D On Patents And Not Being Evil About Them

In our community it’s certain that there will be many people with very strong views about patents. It’s fair to say that the patents system is at times not fit for purpose, with such phenomena as patent trolls, submarine patents, and patent war chests doing nothing but leading it into disrepute. So it’s interesting to read the words of 3D printer hotend manufacturer E3D, as they talk about why they feel the need to patent some of their inventions, and how they intend to proceed with them.

The result is a no-nonsense explanation of why their work being reproduced by overseas competitors has brought them to this point, and in short: they’re patenting very specific inventions rather than broad catch-alls, they are making what they call a legally binding promise not to enforce the patents against non-commercial or academic experimenters, and they will continue to open-source as much as they can.

Will it work for them, or is it the start of a slippery slope? We can see why the E3D folks have taken this step, and we hope that they will continue to act in a responsible manner. If not, as those who have followed the maker-oriented 3D printing business for a long time will know: treading the line between open-source and closed-source can be fraught with danger.

Satellite image of hurrican Dorian

Hurricane Hunting From Outer Space

If you live in the right part of the world, you spend a lot of the year worried about hurricanes or — technically — tropical cyclones. These storms carry an amazing amount of power and can change your life. However, we are relatively spoiled these days compared to the past. It is hard to imagine, but there was a time when a hurricane’s arrival was something of a mystery. Sure, ships would report what they encountered, but finding exact data about a hurricane was a bit hit or miss. We often talk about space technology making life better. Weather forecasting — especially for tropical storms — is one place where money spent in space has made life much better on Earth.

The lack of data about storms can be fatal. The Great Galveston hurricane of 1900 took around 12,000 lives. It might have had a better outcome, but forecasters missed where the storm was heading, announcing that it would go from Cuba to Florida which was just totally wrong. Not that a forecaster couldn’t make a mistake today, but with aircraft and satellite coverage, you’d know very quickly that the prediction was wrong and you’d sound the alarm. In truth, the prediction models have become very good over the years, so the chances of this happening today are virtually nil in any event. But being able to precisely locate and track storms helps reduce the impact of the storm and also feeds data into the models that makes them even more accurate for the future.

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