A hand holds a LEGO replica of a Polaroid camera. The back of the "camera" has been removed to show the sereies of Technic pieces inside that allow the camera shutter to work.

How A LEGO Set Is Born

LEGOs are the first window into making something in your head become real for many makers. The Verge dug into how a LEGO set itself goes from idea to the shelves.

While most sets come from the minds of LEGO designers, since 2008, fans can submit their own sets to LEGO Ideas for the chance to become a real product. In this case, we follow the journey of [Marc Corfmat]’s Polaroid OneStep Camera from his initial attempts at LEGO stardom with his brother [Nick] to the current set that took off.

While the initial idea and build are the seed for a new set, once the project is in the hands of LEGO, designers meticulously make revision after revision to ensure the set is enjoyable to build and any moving parts continue to function for thousands of cycles. This is all weighed against the total cost of the BOM as well as any licensing required for intellectual property. One particularly interesting part of the article is how designers at LEGO are afforded a certain number of “frames” for custom bricks which leads to some interesting hacks and collaboration as all good constraints do.

For more LEGO hacks, checkout LEGO’s long lost cousin, testing LEGO-compatible axle materials, or these giant LEGO-like pieces.

NASA’s Tech Demo Streams First Video From Deep Space Via Laser

Everyone knows that the most important part of a tech demo is to make the right impression, and the team over at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) definitely had this part nailed down when they showed off streaming a cat video from deep space using laser technology as part of NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC) program. This system consists out of a ground-based laser transmitter and receiver along with a space-based laser transceiver, which for this experiment was positioned at a distance of 31 million kilometers – 80 times the distance between the Moon and Earth – as a part of the Psyche spacecraft.

After a range of tests with the system to shake out potential issues, the team found that they could establish a 267 Mbps link, with a one-way latency of a mere 101 seconds, allowing Psyche’s transceiver to transmit the preinstalled 15-second high-definition video in effectively real-time and making the cat Taters instantly world-famous. Although the potential for space-based cat videos cannot be underestimated, the main purpose of DSOC is to allow spacecraft to send back much larger data sets than they could before.

For robotic and potential future manned missions DSOC would mean high bandwidth video and data links, enabling more science, better communication and possibly the occasional cat video during interplanetary travel.

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Reverse-Engineering The Stadia Controller Bluetooth Switching Procedure

Ever since the demise of Google’s Stadia game streaming service, the associated Stadia controllers have found themselves in limbo, with the only way to switch them from the proprietary WiFi mode to Bluetooth by connecting to a special Google website. Yet as [Gary] found out, all this website does is flash a firmware file via WebUSB and WebHID over the original Stadia firmware with a generic Bluetooth controller firmware image. This is the reason why it’s a one-way process, but this wasn’t to [Gary]’s liking, so he figured out how to flash the controller himself, with the option to flash the original Stadia firmware or something else on it later, too.

[Gary]’s stadiatool follows the same procedure as the Google Stadia website, just implemented in Python and outside the control of Google. Although Google has recently announced that it will keep the Bluetooth switching website online one year longer – until December 31st 2024 – at some point this service will go away and only projects like [Gary]’s together with squirreled away firmware images can still save any stray Stadia controllers that will inevitably discovered in the back of a warehouse in the future.

Although we reported on the demise of Stadia when it happened in January of 2023, as Ars Technica notes it was common in 2022 to buy into Stadia and get a controller manufactured in the 2019 launch year, suggesting massive overproduction.

Robotic Rose Of Enchantment Drops Petals On Command

In Disney’s 1991 film Beauty and the Beast, an enchantress curses the young (10 or 11-year-old) prince to beast-hood for spurning her based solely on her appearance. She gives him a special rose that she says will bloom until his 21st birthday, at which time he’ll be turned back into a prince, provided that he learned to love by then. If not, he’ll be a beast for eternity. As the years go by, the rose drops the occasional petal and begins to wilt under the bell jar where he keeps it.

[Gord Payne] was tasked with building such a rose of enchantment for a high school production and knocked it out of the park. With no budget provided, [Gord] used what he had lying about the house, like nylon trimmer line. In fact, that’s probably the most important part of this build. A piece of trimmer line runs up through the stem made of tubing and out the silk rose head, which connects with a custom 3-D printed part.

Each loose petal hangs from the tubing using a short length of wire. Down at the base, the trimmer line is attached to a servo horn, which is connected to an Adafruit Circuit Playground. When the button is pressed on the remote, the servo retracts the trimmer line a little bit, dropping a petal. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.

Dropping petals is an interesting problem to solve. Most of the flower hacks we see around here involve blooming, which presents its own set of troubles.

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Raspberry Pi Zero Powers Custom Camera Platform

These days, most of us are carrying a fairly impressive digital camera with us at all times. But as capable as the hardware and software of a modern smartphone may be, there’s still plenty of reasons you may want a “real” camera to go along with it. The larger sensor, advanced controls, and selection of lenses that you’ll get with even a relatively cheap camera opens up a world of artistic possibilities.

If you’re really into chasing that perfect shot, you can even build your own digital camera these days. This design from [Jacob Cunningham] may not be able to go shot-for-shot against a Canon or Nikon in its current state, but we think you’ll agree there’s a lot of potential here — especially for something pieced together with modular components and perfboard.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure is a Raspberry Pi Zero, a Pi HQ Camera module, an 1.5″ OLED display, a lithium-ion battery pouch cell, and the charging and voltage regulation boards necessary to keep everything powered up. There’s also a handful of tactile buttons to work through the settings and menus, and a 10-axis IMU to help you keep your horizon level.

[Jacob] figures the whole thing comes in at around at $185.00, though naturally that number could go up or down considerably depending on what you’ve already got in the parts bin and what kind of lenses you add to the mix.

The hardware side of things looks more or less complete, at least for a first version, and [Jacob] has provided everything you’ll need to build one of your own. But the software is still a work in progress, with the latest push to the Python code in the project’s GitHub repository just eight hours old at the time of this writing. If you’ve been looking for a DIY camera project to really sink your teeth into, this could provide a great starting point.

If you’re more interested in moving pictures, we recently covered the CinePi project, which aims to develop an open source cinema-quality camera that you won’t need studio backing to afford.

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Australia Bans Engineered Stone, Workers Elsewhere Demand The Same

Engineered stone, also known as artificial stone or composite stone, has become a popular material in the construction and design industries due to its aesthetic appeal and durability. It’s become the go-to solution for benchtops in particular, with modern kitchens and bathrooms heavily featuring engineered stone in this way.

However, this seemingly innocuous material harbors a dark side, posing significant health risks to workers involved in its manufacturing and installation. The hazards associated with engineered stone have gone unnoticed for some time, but the toll is adding up, and calls for action grow louder. Let’s examine why engineered stone is so harmful, and explore the measures being taken across the world to curtail or even ban its use.

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Making A Kit-Kat Clock Even Creepier

If there’s anything as American as baseball and apple pie, it’s gotta be the Kit-Kat clock in the kitchen. For the unfamiliar, the Kit-Kat clock is special in that its pendulum tail and eyes move back and forth with each passing second. They’re equal parts cute and creepy.

But not this particular Kit-Kat, not once [Becky Stern] got a hold of it. The cute/creepy scales have been tipped, because the eyes of this Kat follow you around the room. “You” in this case is fellow maker [Xyla Foxlin], whom [Becky] drew in the Maker Secret Santa pool. See, [Xyla] loves cats, but is deathly allergic to them. So really, what better gift is there?

In order to make this happen, [Becky] started by disconnecting the long lever that link the eyes and the tail, which move together, and connected a servo horn to the eyes. [Becky] drilled out the nose in order to fit the camera, which is connected to a Seeed Grove AI Vision board with a Xiao RP2040 piggybacked on top.

While soldering on the servo wires, [Becky] accidentally detached a tiny capacitor from the AI Vision board, but it turns out that it wasn’t critical. Although she only had to write one line of code to get it to work, it ended up working too well, with the eyes darting around really quickly. By making the servo move in timed increments to the new positions, it’s now much more creepy. Be sure to check out the build video after the break.

You know we can’t resist a clock build around here, especially when those clocks are binary.

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