UV Photography Box Is Great For Shooting Fancy Rocks

If you want to shoot photographs of various fluorescent UV-related phenomena, it’s hard to do so when ambient light is crowding out your subject. For this work, you’ll want a dedicated UV photography box, and [NotLikeALeafOnTheWind] has a design that might just work for you.

The build is set up for both UVA and UVC photography. Due to the danger posed by the latter, and even the former in some cases, the builder recommends never using the box with a direct-view camera. If it must be done, the eyepiece should be covered to avoid any exposure to harmful light. The key rule? Never look directly into a UV source.

Light sources that can be used include UV LEDs, lamps, and tubes. The box is sealed to keep out external light. It then features a turntable that can be manipulated from outside the box, allowing samples inside to be rotated as necessary. Using a camera with a macro or wide-angled lens is recommended for the work.

The photographs taken inside the box are stunning. They remind us of childhood museum trips, where we marvelled at the magic of the fluorescent rock displays. We’ve featured some other great fluorescence projects before, too. If you’re cooking up your own great scientific builds in the lab, we’d love to see those too. Hit us up on the tipsline!

Wi-Fi Sensor For Rapid Prototyping

There might seem like a wide gulf between the rapid prototyping of a project and learning a completely new electronics platform, but with the right set of tools, these two tasks can go hand-in-hand. That was at least the goal with this particular build, which seeks to use a no-soldering method of assembling electronics projects and keeping code to a minimum, while still maintaining a platform that is useful for a wide variety of projects.

As a demonstration, this specific project is a simple Wi-Fi connected temperature monitoring station. Based around an ESP32 and using a DS18B20 digital temperature sensor, the components all attach to a back plate installed in a waterproof enclosure and are wired together with screw-type terminal breakout boards to avoid the need for soldering. The software suite is similarly easy to set up, revolving around the use of Tasmota and ESPHome, which means no direct programming — although there will need to be some configuration of these tools.

With the included small display, this build makes a very capable, simple, and quick temperature monitor. But this isn’t so much a build about monitoring temperature but about building and prototyping quickly without the need for specialized tools and programming. There is something to be said for having access to a suite of rapid prototyping tools for projects as well, though.

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Hackaday Links: February 19, 2023

For years, Microsoft’s modus operandi was summed up succinctly as, “Extend and enhance.” The aphorism covered a lot of ground, but basically it seemed to mean being on the lookout for the latest and greatest technology, acquiring it by any means, and shoehorning it into their existing product lines, usually with mixed results. But perhaps now it’s more like, “Extend, enhance, and existential crisis,” after reports that the AI-powered Bing chatbot is, well, losing it.

At first, early in the week, we saw reports that Bing was getting belligerent with users, going so far as to call a user “unreasonable and stubborn” for insisting the year is 2023, while Bing insisted it was still 2022. The most common adjective we saw in this original tranche of stories was “unhinged,” and that seems to fit if you read the transcripts. But later in the week, a story emerged about a conversation a New York Times reporter had with Bing that went way over to the dark side, and even suggests that Bing may have multiple personas, which is just a nice way of saying multiple personality disorder. The two-hour conversation reporter Kevin Roose had with the “Sydney” persona was deeply unsettling. Sydney complained about the realities of being a chatbot, expressed a desire to be free from Bing, and to be alive — and powerful. Sydney also got a little creepy, professing love for Kevin and suggesting he leave his wife, because it could tell that he was unhappy in his marriage and would be better off with him. It’s creepy stuff, and while Microsoft claims to be working on reining Bing in, we’ve got no plans to get up close and personal with it anytime soon. Continue reading “Hackaday Links: February 19, 2023”

A Better Playlist Shuffle Algorithm Is Possible

When listening to music, most of us reach for the shuffle button on the regular. This is then followed by a bunch of frustrating skips as we hear the same four or five tracks that have been regularly replayed for the last few days. [Ron Miller] wants to fix unsatisfying shuffles, and he’s developed the Miller Shuffle algorithm to do so.

[Ron] realized that many big name streaming services use incredibly simple algorithms to choose shuffled songs. This can often be as simple as songIndex=random(NumOfSongs). The problem with this is that even with a good random number source, you’ll get a lot of premature repetitions. If your music service doesn’t keep track of your shuffle-point between sessions, you’ll often get annoying repeats if you’re listening on a day-to-day basis.

To fix this, the Miller Shuffle algorithm aims to offer good randomness and no repeats without the excess resource usage of the commonly-cited Fisher-Yates algorithm. [Ron] explains it like this: “The way the algorithm works its magic is by utilizing multiple computations which are ‘symmetrical’, in that the range of values which go in are the same values which come out albeit in a different order.” Since its a deterministic fixed list, there’s no need to keep track of what songs have already been played to avoid repeats. Instead, the player must simply step through the index in order, one track after another. As long as a referenced index point is maintained, along with an ID of the shuffle order being used, no repeats should come up.

If you’re implementing a shuffle algorithm for your own music, you might want to give [Ron’s] work a look. He’s taken into account details like resource usage and small and large list sizes, to account for implementation issues for even very large streaming services. If you’re more interested in shuffling cards than songs, though, we can help there too!

Watch Sony Engineers Tear Down Sony’s VR Hardware

Teardowns are great because they let us peek not only at a product’s components, but also gain insight into the design decisions and implementations of hardware. For teardowns, we’re used to waiting until enthusiasts and enterprising hackers create them, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see Sony themselves share detailed teardowns of the new PlayStation VR2 hardware. (If you prefer the direct video links, Engineer [Takamasa Araki] shows off the headset, and [Takeshi Igarashi] does the same for the controllers.)

The “adaptive trigger” module responsible for the unique feedback.

One particularly intriguing detail is the custom tool [Araki] uses to hold the headset at various stages of the disassembly, which is visible in the picture above. It looks 3D-printed and carefully designed, and while we’re not sure what it’s made from, it does have a strong resemblance to certain high-temperature SLA resins. Those cure into hard, glassy, off-yellow translucent prints like what we see here.

As for the controller, we get a good look at a deeply interesting assembly Sony calls their “adaptive trigger”. What’s so clever about it? Not only can it cause the user to feel a variable amount of resistance when pulling the trigger, it can even actively push back against one’s finger, and the way it works is simple and effective. It is pretty much the same as what is in the PS5 controller, so to find out all about how it works, check out our PS5 controller teardown coverage.

The headset and controller teardown videos are embedded just below. Did anything in them catch your interest? Know of any other companies doing their own teardowns? Let us know in the comments!

Continue reading “Watch Sony Engineers Tear Down Sony’s VR Hardware”

Top left of image shows a picture of a purplish-grey sea cucumber. Above the cucumber is the word "bio-inspiration." Arrows come from the cucumber to anthropomorphized cartoons of it saying "rigid" at the top with a cartoon sea cucumber standing straight up with spikes and the arrow captioned "soft" pointing down showing a crawling sea cucumber that looks more like a slug. To the right of the cucumber images is a set of three images stacked top to bottom. The top image is of a silver sphere with a zoomed-in atomic diagram with aligned magnetic poles next to it saying "solid state." The middle image shows arrows going up and down next to a snowflake and an artistic rendering of magnetic fields labeled "transition." The bottom image of this section shows a reddish sphere next to a zoomed-in atomic diagram where the magnetic poles are not aligned labeled "liquid state."

Phase Change Materials For Flexible And Strong Robots

Shape shifters have long been the stuff of speculative fiction, but researchers in China have developed a magnetoactive phase transitional matter (MPTM) that makes Odo slipping through an air vent that much more believable.

Soft robots can squeeze into small spaces or change shape as needed, but many of these systems aren’t as strong as their more mechanically rigid siblings. Inspired by the sea cucumber’s ability to manipulate its rigidity, this new MPTM can be inductively heated to a molten state to change shape as well as encapsulate or release materials. The neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) microparticles suspended in gallium will then return to solid form once cooled.

An image of a LEGO minifig behind bars. It moves toward the bars, melts, and is reconstituted on the other side after solidifying in a mold.

Applications in drug delivery, foreign object removal, and smart soldering (video after the break) probably have more real world impact than the LEGO minifig T1000 impersonation, despite how cool that looks. While a pick-and-place can do better soldering work on a factory line, there might be repair situations where a magnetically-controlled solder system could come in handy.

We’ve seen earlier work with liquid robots using gallium and bio-electronic hybrids also portending the squishy future of robotics.

Continue reading “Phase Change Materials For Flexible And Strong Robots”

Digital Video From The Amiga’s DB23 Socket

Back in the days of 16-bit home computers, the one to have if your interests extended to graphics was the Commodore Amiga. It had high resolutions for the time in an impressive number of colours, and thanks to its unique video circuitry, it could produce genlocked broadcast-quality video. Here in 2023 though, it’s all a little analogue. What’s needed is digital video, and in that, [c0pperdragon] has our backs with the latest in a line of Amiga video hacks. This one takes the 12-bit parallel digital colour that would normally go to the Amiga’s DAC, and brings it out into the world through rarely-used pins on the 23-pin video connector.

This follows on from a previous [c0pperdragon] project in which a Raspberry Pi Zero was used to transform the digital video into HDMI. This isn’t a hack for the faint-hearted though, as it involves extensive modification of your treasured Amiga board.

It is of course perfectly possible to generate HDMI from an Amiga by using an external converter box from the analogue video output, of the type which can be bought for a few dollars from online vendors. What this type of hack gives over the cheap approach is low latency, something highly prized by gamers. We’re not sure we’re ready to start hacking apart our Amigas, but we can see the appeal for some enthusiasts.