Bluetooth Wearable Becomes Rad Synth Controller

Once upon a time, a watch was just a watch. These days, though, smartwatches have all kinds of tricks built in, from heartrate sensors, to accelerometers, gyros, and tons of networking capability. Take advantage of just some of that hardware, and you have yourself a pretty nifty controller. And that’s precisely what [Simon Brem] did.

The project is based around the capable PineTime smartwatch, which [Simon] has been using with the InfiniTime firmware. On this platform, he created an app that sends out Bluetooth MIDI commands straight from the watch. It can be used as a motion controller, where waving and angling the watch can be used to control MIDI parameters, or it can be used to sync BPM to the wearer’s heartrate. [Simon] demonstrates an example use case in a demo video, where the watch is used to control filters in pleasant ways.

We’ve seen a lot of neat watch hacks lately, as it turns out! To say nothing of the brilliant MIDI controllers that have come through these doors, as well. Video after the break.

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An illustration of jellyfish swimming in the ocean by Rebecca Konte. The jellyfish are wearing cones on their "heads" to streamline their swimming that contain some sort of electronics inside.

The Six Million Dollar Jellyfish

What if you could rebuild a jellyfish: better, stronger, faster than it was before? Caltech now has the technology to build bionic jellyfish.

Studying the ocean given its influence on the rest of the climate is an important scientific task, but the wild pressure differences as you descend into the eternal darkness make it a non-trivial engineering problem. While we’ve sent people to the the deepest parts of the ocean, submersibles are much too expensive and risky to use for widespread data acquisition.

The researchers found in previous work that making a cyborg jellyfish was more effective than biomimetic jellyfish robots, and have now given the “biohybrid robotic jellyfish” a 3D-printed, neutrally buoyant, swimming cap. In combination with the previously-developed “pacemaker,” these cyborg jellyfish can explore the ocean (in a straight line) at 4.5x the speed of a conventional moon jelly while carrying a scientific payload. Future work hopes to make them steerable like the well-known robo-cockroaches.

If you’re interested in some other attempts to explore Earth’s oceans, how about drift buoys, an Open CTD, or an Open ROV? Just don’t forget to keep the noise down!

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A USB3SUN adapter, connected to a SPARCstation on one end and to a keyboard on another, with the OLED screen showing status icons

An Open SPARCstation USB Keyboard&Mouse Adapter

Got a SPARCstation? You might have had to deal with the proprietary DIN port used for keyboard and mouse input. However, you need not look for outdated hardware anymore – we’ve recently found an adapter project called [usb3sun], which lets you use a regular USB keyboard and mouse instead! Designed by [delan] from [the funny computer museum], the usb3sun adapter is featureful, open-source, and even comes with four blog posts describing its inner workings and development process!

Based on a Pi Pico board, this adapter has a ton of quality of life features – an OLED screen for status display, extra USB port and headers for debugging, a buzzer to emulate bell and click functions, power LEDs, and all the ports you would expect. The OLED screen is needed just because of how many features this adapter’s firmware has, and you’re bound to get more – the [usb3sun] firmware is being actively updated to this day. It’s as if this adapter aims to do all it possibly could help you with – for instance, one of the firmware updates has added idprom reprogramming features, which, as [delan] tells us, lets you boot your workstation with a dead NVRAM battery.

You can order the adapter PCBs yourself, you can breadboard it by following detailed instructions from [delan], or you can get a fully assembled and tested [usb3sun] adapter on Tindie! This adapter will seriously help you in your SPARCstation forays, and, if you don’t happen to own a SPARCstation, you can always emulate SunOS.

Educational Arduino Clock Uses Analog Meters For Display

When it comes to educational electronic projects, it’s hard to go past building a clock. You learn tons about everything from circuit concepts and assembly skills to insights about the very nature of time itself. And you get a clock at the end of it! [hamblin.joe] wanted to do a simple project for kids along these lines, so whipped up a neat design using analog meters to display the time.

The build relies on that old stalwart, the Arduino Uno, to run the show. It’s hooked up to a DS3231 real-time clock module so it can keep accurate time for long periods, as is befitting a clock. Displaying the time is done via the use of two analog meters, each fitted with a custom backing card. One displays hours, the other, minutes. The analog meters are simply driven by the PWM outputs of the Arduino.

It’s not a hugely complex project, but it teaches so much. It provides an opportunity to educate the builders about real-time clocks, microcontroller programming, and even the concepts behind pulse width modulation. To say nothing of the physical skills, like learning to solder or how to assemble the laser-cut enclosure. Ultimately, it looks like a really great way for [hamblin.joe] and his students to dive into the world of modern electronics.

Build Yourself A Little Mangonel, You Deserve One

If you’re of a certain age, you almost certainly learned about mangonels by playing Age of Empires II. Any intermediate player will tell you they are a powerful siege weapon that nevertheless cannot destroy trees (in game). However, why limit yourself to experiencing this capable siege engine in digital form? With the help of [Arry Koster’s] design, you can build a little mangonel of your very own!

A good-looking siege engine is, more often than not, a well-performing one.

The build is intended for a student or hobbyist audience, and is for a mangonel roughly the size of a shoebox. That’s big enough to have some fun, without being so large as to get you into trouble. The project also comes complete with a useful spreadsheet that lets you simulate the performance of a mangonel hurling a projectile so you can better understand the physics involved.

The mangonel is constructed out of wood, just as medieval examples were. The guide explains how to put the the design together, including the use of graphite to lubricate moving parts — a technique also used historically. Beyond building the siege weapon itself, there are also instructions on how to instrument it with an Arduino to measure its performance accurately.

The only thing this project is missing is a brilliant video of the titchy siege machine in action. We want to see it knocking down some appropriately-sized castles! If you happen to be building your own siege engines, miniature or otherwise, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. Do include some excellent footage of your antics, to boot!

Hackaday Podcast Episode 260: KiCad 8, Two Weather Stations, And Multiple I2Cs

It’s a leap year, so Elliot and Dan put the extra day to good use tracking down all the hottest hacks from the past week and dorking out about them. There’s big news in the KiCad community, and we talked about all the new features along with some old woes. Great minds think alike, apparently, since two different e-ink weather stations made the cut this week, as did a floating oscilloscope, an automated film-developing tank, and some DIY solar panels.

We talked about a hacker who figured out that water makes a pretty good solar storage medium, and it’s cheaper than lithium, another who knows that a crappy lathe is better than no lathe, and what every hacker should know about Ethernet. Is there a future for room-temperature superconductors? Maybe it just depends on how cold the room is.


Grab a copy for yourself if you want to listen offline.

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If You Thought Sega Only Made Electronic Games, Think Again

Most of us associate the name Sega with their iconic console gaming systems from the 1980s and 1990s, and those of us who maintain an interest in arcade games will be familiar with their many cabinet-based commercial offerings. But the company’s history in its various entities stretches back as far as the 1950s in the world of slot machines and eventually electromechanical arcade games. [Arcade Archive] is starting to tell the take of how one of those games is being restored, it’s a mid-1960s version of Gun Fight, at the Retro Collective museum in Stroud, UK.

The game is a table-style end-to-end machine, with the two players facing each other with a pair of diminutive cowboys over a game field composed of Wild West scenery. The whole thing is very dirty indeed, so a substantial part of the video is devoted to their carefully dismantling and cleaning the various parts.

This is the first video in what will become a series, but it still gives a significant look into the electromechanical underpinnings of the machine. It’s beautifully designed and made, with all parts carefully labelled and laid out with color-coded wiring for easy servicing. For those of us who grew up with electronic versions of Sega Gun Fight, it’s a fascinating glimpse of a previous generation of gaming, which we’re looking forward to seeing more of.

This is a faithful restoration of an important Sega game, but it’s not the first time we’ve featured old Sega arcade hardware.

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