Out With The Circus Animals, In With The Holograms

As futuristic as holographic technology may sound, in a sense it’s actually already in widespread commercial use. Concerts and similar events already use volumetric projection, with a fine mesh (hologram mesh or gauze) acting as the medium on which the image is projected to give the illusion of a 3D image. The widespread availability of this technology has now enabled Germany’s Roncalli circus to reintroduce (virtual) animals to its shows after ceasing the use of live lions and elephants in 1991 and other animals in 2018.

For the sticklers among us, these are of course not true holograms, as they do not use a recorded wavefront, nor do they seek to recreate a wavefront. Rather they employ as mentioned volumetric projection to essentially project in ‘thin air’, giving the illusion of a tangible object being present. By simultaneously projecting multiple views, to an observer standing outside the projection mesh, it would thus appear that there is a physical, three-dimensional object which can be observed. In the case of the Roncalli circus there are 11 projectors lining the circumference of the mesh.

To a circus the benefits of this approach are of course manifold, as not only do they no longer have to carry lots of animals around every time the circus moves to a new location – along with the on-site demands – but they get to experiment with new shows and new visuals that were never before possible. Ironically, this could mean that after 3D fizzled out at movie theaters, circuses and similar venues may be in a position to make it commonplace again for the masses.

This Keyboard Doesn’t Work Without Game Boy Cartridges

Just when we though we’d seen it all when it comes to custom keyboards (or most of it, anyway), along comes [Stu] with the TypeBoy and TypePak. Like the title implies, TypeBoy and TypePak are inseparable.

Let’s talk about TypePak first. Somehow, some way, [Stu] managed to fit the following into an aftermarket Game Boy Advance cartridge: a XIAO BLE microcontroller, a Sharp Memory Display, a shift register, and a LiPo battery. It’s all there in [Stu]’s incredibly detailed blog post linked above.

Amazing, no? And although [Stu] claims that the TypePak is mostly for aesthetics (boy howdy), it will make swapping microcontrollers much easier in the future.

If this looks sort of familiar, you may remember a likely render of [mujimaniac]’s board called the GIGA40 that also employed a cartridge system. Allegedly there is now a working prototype of the GIGA40.

Would you like to give the TypeBoy and TypePak a go? Files are available on GitHub, but this doesn’t seem like a project for the faint of heart.

Speaking of stuffing things in to Game Boy cartridges, check out this SNES cartridge turned hard drive enclosure.


This Arduino Debugger Uses The CH552

One of the things missing from the “classic” Arduino experience is debugging. That’s a shame, too, because the chips used have that capability. However, the latest IDE has the ability to work with external debuggers and if you want to get started with a classic ATMega Arduino, [deqing] shows you how to get started with a cheap CH552 8-bit USB microcontroller board as the debugging dongle.

The CH552 board in question is a good choice, primarily because it is dirt cheap. There are design files on GitHub (and the firmware), but you could probably pull the same trick with any of the available CH552 breakout boards.

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Flip The Switch On This I2C Controlled USB Hub

You’ve probably seen USB hubs with physical switches for each port, they provide a handy way to cut the power to individual devices, but only if you’re close enough to flip them. They won’t do you much good if you want to pull the plug on a USB gadget remotely.

That’s why [Jim Heaney] created the I2C-USB-Hub. The device takes your standard USB 2.0 hub circuit, and adds in a MT9700 P-MOSFET load switch for each port. The enable pin on each of these switches is in turn connected to one of the output pins of a PCA9557PW I2C I/O chip. That means controlling each port is as easy as sending the proper sequence of bits over the wire, though [Jim] says he does plan on writing up an Arduino library to make flipping the digital switches a little more user friendly.

Since the 8-bit chip had a few extra pins left over, [Jim] wired one up to serve as a master control for the LED indicator lights on the PCB. Another is used to adjust the current limit on the MT9700 between 500 mA and 1 A.

While naturally we’re big fans of spinning up your own hardware here at Hackaday, we’ve also seen similar results achieved by modifying an off-the-shelf USB hub.

Cheap LCD Uses USB Serial

Browsing the Asian marketplaces online is always an experience. Sometimes, you see things at ridiculously low prices. Other times, you see things and wonder who is buying them and why — a shrimp pillow? But sometimes, you see something that probably could have a more useful purpose than the proposed use case.

That’s the case with the glut of “smart displays” you can find at very low prices. Ostensibly, these are being sold as system monitors. A business-card-sized LCD hooks up via USB and shows your CPU speed, temperature, and so on. Of course, this requires sketchy Windows software. I don’t run Windows, and if I did, I wouldn’t be keen to put some strange service on just so I could see tiny displays of my system information. But a 3.5-inch IPS LCD screen for $15 or less probably has some other uses. But how to drive it? Turns out, it is easier than you think and the hardware looks reasonably hackable, too.

Like a lot of this cheap stuff, these screens are sold under a variety of names, and apparently, there are some subtle differences. Two of the main makers of these screens are Turing and XuanFang, although you rarely see those names in the online listings. As you might expect, though, someone has reverse-engineered the protocol, and there is Python software that will replace the stock Windows software the devices use. Even better, there is an example of using the library for your own purposes.

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Balloon-Eye View Via Ham Radio

If you’ve ever thought about launching a high-altitude balloon, there’s much to consider. One of the things is how do you stream video down so that you — and others — can enjoy the fruits of your labor? You’ll find advice on that and more in a recent post from [scd31]. You’ll at least enjoy the real-time video recorded from the launch that you can see below.

The video is encoded with a Raspberry Pi 4 using H264. The MPEG-TS stream feeds down using 70 cm ham radio gear. If you are interested in this sort of thing, software, including flight and ground code, is on the Internet. There is software for the Pi, an STM32, plus the packages you’ll need for the ground side.

We love high-altitude balloons here at Hackaday. San Francisco High Altitude Ballooning (SF-HAB) launched a pair during last year’s Supercon, which attendees were able to track online. We don’t suggest you try to put a crew onboard, but there’s a long and dangerous history of people who did.

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