If you have a cheap laptop and you realize you can’t connect a second monitor to it, what do you do? Well, if you are [Pierre Couy], you grab a Raspberry Pi and put together a virtual screen solution.
Like all good projects, this one started with some goals and requirements:
- Low latency
- Redable text
- At least 10 frames per second
- Fast catch up if the remote screen falls behind
- Low-bitrate encoding; no hardware acceleration
- A DHCP server on the Pi to manage the network
- Power control for the attached monitor
Continue reading “Raspberry Pi Adds Second Laptop Monitor” →
While some might say we’re living in a cyberpunk future already, one technology that’s conspicuously absent is wetware. The Unconventional Computing Laboratory is working to change that.
Previous work with slime molds has shown useful for spatial and network optimization, but mycelial networks add the feature of electrical spikes similar to those found in neurons, opening up the possibility of digital computing applications. While the work is still in its early stages, the researchers have already shown how to create logic gates with these fantastic fungi.
Long-term, lead researcher [Andrew Adamatzky] says, “We can say I’m planning to make a brain from mushrooms.” That goal is quite awhile away, but using wetware to build low power, self-repairing fungi devices of lower complexity seems like it might not be too far away. We think this might be applicable to environmental sensing applications since biological systems are likely to be sensitive to many of the same contaminants we humans care about.
We’ve seen a other efforts in myceliotronics, including biodegradable PCB substrates and attempts to send sensor signals through a mycelial network.
Via Tom’s Hardware.
Just like the clock clock of old, there’s something magical about a giant wall of smaller pieces working together to make a larger version of that thing. The E-Paper Wall 2.0 by [Aaron Christophel] is no exception as it has now upgraded from 2.9″ to 7.4″ screens.
On the 1.0 version, the bezels made it harder to make out the image. The larger screens still have bezels but the larger screen area makes it much easier to make out the image. 3D-printed clips hold the displays onto a plywood backer. We can marvel that e-ink price tags brought the price of e-ink down so that building a wall is still expensive but not eye-wateringly so. The 5×9 array likely uses a module sold on DigiKey for $47 each.
So aside from being willing to drop some money on a custom piece of art, what’s special about this? The real magic comes with the firmware and tooling that [Aaron] developed to flash custom firmware onto each of the 45 displays. A 100MHz ZBS243/SEM9110 8051-based controller lives inside each display and [Aaron] even has a Ghidra plugin to reverse-engineer the existing firmware. It only has 64kb of flash onboard, so [Aaron] devised a clever compression technique that enabled him to store complex images on the displays. A 3D-printed jig with pogo pins means flashing them doesn’t require soldering pins or headers, just drop it on and flash it with an Arduino with a helpful library [Aaron] wrote. A central station communicates with the various displays over ZigBee to send image updates.
The 8051 has a funny way of showing up in projects like this portable soldering iron or the TV Guardian. In many ways, it is a boon for us hackers as it makes it easier to reverse engineer and write new custom firmware when so many devices use the same architecture.
Continue reading “E-Paper Wall Paper” →
A stroboscope is not the most common tool, and while they can be purchased fairly inexpensively from various online stores, they are straightforward enough tools that plenty of us could build our own mostly from parts laying around. The basic idea is to shine a flashing light on a spinning object, and when it appears stationary the stroboscope will indicate the rotational speed. There are a few specialty parts that might not be in everyone’s parts drawers, though, and [John] shows us the ins-and-outs of his own DIY stroboscope.
The effect relies on extremely precise timing, and as such the most important part of a build like this is making sure to get the LED circuitry correct so its duty cycle and frequency can be tightly controlled. [John] is using a PT4115E driver board for the LED, and is using it to power a 1W white LED which also includes its own heat sink and lens. The controls for the stroboscope are handled by an ATtiny1614 microcontroller which shows its pulse rate on a small screen. The user can control the rate the LED flashes with simple controls, and when the spinning object appears to come to a stop the only thing left to do is read this value off of the screen.
While it might seem like an overly niche tool, stroboscopes have plenty of day-to-day uses. Older cars that used a central distributor made use of a specialty stroboscope called a timing light in order to properly advance the ignition timing of the engine. They also retain some use in medical applications, and plenty of older readers may be familiar with their use adjusting the speed on record players. They can also be used to make sure the shutter speeds on cameras are calibrated correctly.
Continue reading “Spin Up To Speed With This Stroboscope” →
Voice recognition is becoming more and more common, but anyone who’s ever used a smart device can attest that they aren’t exactly fool-proof. They can activate seemingly at random, don’t activate when called or, most annoyingly, completely fail to understand the voice commands. Thankfully, researchers from the University of Tokyo are looking to improve the performance of devices like these by attempting to use them without any spoken voice at all.
The project is called SottoVoce and uses an ultrasound imaging probe placed under the user’s jaw to detect internal movements in the speaker’s larynx. The imaging generated from the probe is fed into a series of neural networks, trained with hundreds of speech patterns from the researchers themselves. The neural networks then piece together the likely sounds being made and generate an audio waveform which is played to an unmodified Alexa device. Obviously a few improvements would need to be made to the ultrasonic imaging device to make this usable in real-world situations, but it is interesting from a research perspective nonetheless.
The research paper with all the details is also available (PDF warning). It’s an intriguing approach to improving the performance or quality of voice especially in situations where the voice may be muffled, non-existent, or overlaid with a lot of background noise. Machine learning like this seems to be one of the more powerful tools for improving speech recognition, as we saw with this robot that can walk across town and order food for you using voice commands only.
Continue reading “Voice Without Sound” →
While you might think the military doesn’t have a sense of humor with names. Take the AN/MSQ-19 “automated tactical operations central” for example. (Video, embedded below.) But then, when you find out that the truck-sized computer at the heart of it was MOBIDIC — yes, that’s pronounced Moby Dick — you know someone had a good chuckle somewhere. The video below was a promotional video from the early 1960s, and although it shows the unit in operation, it was most likely a mockup and not fully functional.
The MOBIDIC program ran from 1960-1964 and cost a whopping $25 million in 1960-era money. In 1964, testing revealed the system was too unwieldy, requiring at least five tractor-trailers, eight generators, portable buildings, and several large trucks to move around.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Military Graphics In The 1960s” →
The folks over at the [Barkhausen Institut] are doing research into controlling autonomous fleets of RC cars and had been using off the shelf electronic speed controllers (ESCs) to control the car motors. Unfortunately they required more reliable feedback for closed loop control of the motors, so they created their own open source hardware brushless DC (BLDC) controller.
The motor controller they developed uses an STM32 microcontroller that talks to a TMC6140 3 phase MOSFET driver to drive 6 IRLR 2905 MOSFETs. The [Barkhausen Institut] researchers went with the SimpleFOC library as the basis to program the STM32, with installed hall effect sensors indicating motor orientation for their closed loop control.
Designing a functioning BLDC and ESC controllers can be subtle, and their post goes into details about the problems and solutions they came up with to deal with with what was ultimately improper isolation of the MOSFETs interfering with the power rail for the STM32. The source for their BLDC motor controller is available through their GitLab page. For more information on the parent project that uses the BLDC driver, be sure to check out their work on a connected convoy of RC cars.
There’s now a wealth of open source BLDC drivers and projects, many of which we’ve featured in the past, like the Moteus and haptic smart knob, and it’s nice to see other projects explore different options.