AI Creates Your Spreadsheets, Sometimes

We’ve been interested in looking at how AI can process things other than silly images. That’s why the “Free AI Bot that Generates the Excel Formula for Any Problem” caught our eye. Based on GPT-3, it supposedly transforms your problem description into a formula suitable for Excel or Google Sheets.

Our first prompt didn’t work out very well. But that was sort of our fault. When they say “Excel formula” they mean that quite literally. So trying to describe the actual result you want in terms of columns or rows seems to be beyond it. Not realizing that, we asked:

If the sum of column H is greater than 50, multiply column A by 0.33

And got:


A Better Try

Which is close, but not really how anyone even mildly proficient with Excel would interpret that request. But that’s not fair. It really needs to be a y=f(x) sort of problem, we suppose.

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Infant is wearing sensor vest as she is held by her mom. ECG, respiration, and accelerometry data is also showing.

Open Source Wearables For Infants

We’ve seen plenty of hacks that analyze biometric signals as measures of athletic performance, but maybe not as many hacks that are trying to study behavior. Well, that’s exactly what developmental psychologists at Indiana University and the University of East Anglia have done with their open-source, wireless vest for measuring autonomic function in infants.

infant biosensor vest for heart rate, motion, and respiratory rateTheir device includes a number of components we’ve seen already. There is an HC-05 Bluetooth module, AD8232 electrocardiography (ECG) analog front-end, LIS3DH 3-axis accelerometer, MCP73831 LiPo charger, a force-sensitive resistor for measuring respiration, and a Teensy microcontroller. Given how sensitive an infant’s skin can be, they opted for fabric electrodes for the ECG instead of those awful sticky ones that we’re accustomed to. They then interfaced the conductive fabric with copper plates using snap fasteners (or press studs or snap buttons, whichever terminology you’re more familiar with). The copper plates were connected to the circuit board using standard electrical wire. Then, they embedded the sensors into a vest they sewed together themselves. It’s basically a tiny weighted vest for infants but it seems well-padded enough to be somewhat comfortable.

They did a short test analyzing heart and breathing rates during a period of “sustained attention,” basically when you’re quietly fixated on a single object or activity for a period of a few minutes or longer. They were really pleased with the vest’s ability to collect consistent data and noted that heart and respiratory rate variability decreased during the sustained activity test, which was an expected outcome. Apparently, when you’re pretty fixated on a singular task, your body naturally calms down, so to speak, and the variability in some of your physiological responses decreases. Well, unless someone slowly walks up behind you and pinches you, of course.

They provided detailed instructions for recreating the vest, so be sure to check those out. They probably want their device to look a lot less than body armor though. Maybe the Sewbo can help them out with their next iteration.

Junkbox Build Keeps Tesla Coils Perfectly Varnished

Admittedly, not a lot of people have a regular need to varnish coils. It’s mainly something that Tesla coil builders and other high-voltage experimenters are concerned with. But since that group probably constitutes a not insignificant fraction of the Hackaday audience, and because there are probably more applications for this homebrew coil varnishing setup, we figured it would be a good idea to share it.

For [Mads Barnkob], coil maintenance isn’t something to take lightly. If you check out his Kaizer Power Electronics channel on YouTube, you’ll see that he has quite a collection of large, powerful Tesla coils, some of which are used for demos and shows, and others that seem to be reserved mainly for blowing stuff up. To prevent one of his coils from joining the latter group, keeping the coat of insulating varnish on the secondary coil windings in tip-top condition is essential.

The setup seen in the video below helps with that tedious chore. Built entirely from scraps and junk bin parts, the low-speed, low-precision lathe can be set up to accommodate coils of all sizes. In use, the lathe turns the coil very slowly, allowing [Mads] to apply an even coat of varnish over the coil surface, and to keep it from sagging while it dries.

[Mads]’ setup is probably not great for coil winding as it is, but for coil maintenance, it’s just the thing. If your needs are more along the lines of a coil winder, we’ve got a fully automated winder that might work for you.

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