ArdEEG Lowers The Cost Of Brain-Computer Interfaces

Considering the incredible potential offered by brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), it’s no wonder there are so many companies scrambling to make their mark in the field. Some see it as an assistive technology, while others imagine it as the future of interactive entertainment. Regardless of the application, the technology has yet to make much inroads with the DIY crowd — largely due to the complexity and cost of the hardware involved.

But that might change in the near future thanks to projects like ardEEG from [Ildar Rakhmatulin]. This open source shield mounts to the top of the Arduino UNO R4 WiFi and features eight channels for collecting electroencephalogram (EEG) data, such as from a dry electrode cap. The signals can then be processed on the computer using the provided Python example code. From there, the raw data can be visualized or plugged into whatever application you have in mind.

Why target the relatively uncommon WiFi version of the Uno? It’s probably obvious for those with experience with this kind of hardware, but for safety, the system needs complete electrical isolation. The Arduino and shield are powered by a common USB battery bank, and all communication is done over WiFi. Even still, the documentation is clear that the ardEEG is not a medical device, and hasn’t been certified by any regulatory agency — its use is entirely at your own risk.

[Ildar] tells us the hardware will be available soon and should cost under $250, making it one of the most affordable BCI development platforms out there. As with his earlier PiEEG project, the hope is that basing the system around a common device in the hacker and maker scene will help democratize access to BCI research.

Continue reading “ArdEEG Lowers The Cost Of Brain-Computer Interfaces”

How We Got The Scanning Electron Microscope

According to [Asianometry], no one believed in the scanning electron microscope. No one, that is, except [Charles Oatley].The video below tells the whole story.

The Cambridge graduate built radios during World War II and then joined Cambridge as a lecturer once the conflict was over. [Hans Busch] demonstrated using magnets to move electron beams, which suggested the possibility of creating a lens, and it was an obvious thought to make a microscope that uses electrons.

After all, electrons can have smaller wavelength than light, so a microscope using electrons could — in theory — image at a higher resolution. [Max Knoll] and [Ernst Ruska], in fact, developed the transmission electron microscope or TEM.

Continue reading “How We Got The Scanning Electron Microscope”

FLOSS Weekly Episode 782: Nitric — In Search Of The Right Knob

This week Jonathan Bennett and David Ruggles chat with Rak Siva and Steve Demchuck to talk about Nitric! That’s the Infrastructure from Code framework that makes it easy to use a cloud back-end in your code, using any of multiple providers, in multiple programming languages.

The group chatted about the role and form of good documentation, as well as whether a Contributor License Agreement is ever appropriate, and what a good CLA would actually look like. Don’t miss it!
Continue reading “FLOSS Weekly Episode 782: Nitric — In Search Of The Right Knob”

Robotic Platform Turns Shop Vac Into Roomba

The robotic revolution is currently happening, although for the time being it seems as though most of the robots are still being generally helpful to humanity, whether that help is on an assembly line, help growing food, or help transporting us from place to place. They’ve even showed up in our homes, although it’s not quite the Jetsons-like future yet as they mostly help do cleaning tasks. There are companies that will sell things like robotic vacuum cleaners but [Clay Builds] wanted one of his own so he converted a shop vac instead.

The shop vac sits in a laser-cut plywood frame and rolls on an axle powered by windshield wiper motors. Power is provided from a questionable e-bike battery which drives the motors and control electronics. A beefy inverter is also added to power the four horsepower vacuum cleaner motor. The robot has the ability to sense collisions with walls and other obstacles, and changes its path in a semi-random way in order to provide the most amount of cleaning coverage for whatever floor it happens to be rolling on.

There are a few things keeping this build from replacing anyone’s Roomba, though. Due to the less-than-reputable battery, [Clay Builds] doesn’t want to leave the robot unattended and this turned out to be a good practice when he found another part of the build, a set of power resistors meant to limit current going to the vacuum, starting to smoke and melt some of the project enclosure. We can always think of more dangerous tools to attach a robotic platform to, though.

Continue reading “Robotic Platform Turns Shop Vac Into Roomba”

Much Faster Cold Brew Through Cavitation

Some coffee snobs might call this sacrilege. Cold brew is supposed to take a long time — that’s part of how it gets its characteristic smoothness. But a group of engineers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) have figured out a way to cut the time down from several hours to a mere three minutes, using ultrasonic waves.

Diagram showing the parts of the faster cold brew system -- the portafilter of a Breville espresso machine, plus a transducer and horn.Typically, the cold brew coffee process takes between 12 and 24 hours. Enough time to steep the grounds and extract the flavors without the benefit of hot water. This is how it differs from iced coffee, which is brewed hot and poured over ice.

Interestingly, the UNSW Sydney engineers’ process uses a typical prosumer-grade espresso machine and involves blasting the portafilter with a transducer and a horn. This transforms the coffee basket into a sonoreactor. Sound waves at a frequency of 38.8 kHz are injected at multiple points through the walls, generating acoustic cavitation within. You can read all about it in Ultrasonics Sonochemistry.

That’s not even the most exciting part. The study found that this arrangement is capable of doubling both the extraction yield and caffeine concentration, compared with non-soundblasted samples. The team sent samples of the coffee off to be evaluated on aroma, texture, flavor, and aftertaste. Although the one-minute extraction samples received similar ratings to a 24-hour brew in terms of flavor and aftertaste, they lacked the intensity and dark chocolate aroma of the longer brew. But the three-minute extraction samples scored quite highly in all areas, suggesting that the average cold brew drinker wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Would you like to roast your own beans at home? You can use a popcorn popper, but you might get tired of semi-uneven roasts and upgrade to a DIY wobble disk roaster.

Continue reading “Much Faster Cold Brew Through Cavitation”

Displays We Love Hacking: LVDS And EDP

There are times when tiny displays no longer cut it. Whether you want to build a tablet or reuse some laptop displays, you will eventually deal with LVDS and eDP displays. To be more exact, these are displays that want you to use either LVDS or eDP signaling to send a picture.

Of the two, LVDS is the older standard for connecting displays, and eDP is the newer one. In fact, eDP has mostly replaced LVDS for things like laptop and tablet displays. Nevertheless, you will still encounter both of these in the wild, so let’s start with LVDS.

The name “LVDS” actually comes from the LVDS signaling standard (Low-Voltage Differential Signaling), which is a fairly generic data transfer standard over differential pairs, just like RS485. Using LVDS signaling for embedded display purposes is covered by a separate standard called FPD-Link, and when people say “LVDS”, what they’re actually talking about is FPD-Link. In this article, I will also use LVDS while actually talking about FPD-Link. Barely anyone uses FPD-Link except some datasheets, and I’ll use “LVDS” because that’s what people actually use. It’s just that you deserve to know the distinction so that you’re not confused when someone mentions LVDS when talking about, say, industrial machinery.

Both LVDS and eDP run at pretty high frequencies – they’re commonly used for color displays with pretty large resolutions, so speed can no longer be a constraint. eDP, as a successor technology, is a fair bit more capable, but LVDS doesn’t pull punches either – if you want to make a 1024 x 768 color LCD panel work, you will use LVDS, sometimes parallel RGB – at this point, SPI just won’t cut it. There’s a lot of overlap – and that’s because LVDS is basically parallel RGB, but serialized and put onto diffpairs. Let me show you how that happened, and why it’s cool.

Continue reading “Displays We Love Hacking: LVDS And EDP”

AI Helps Make Web Scraping Faster And Easier

Web scraping is usually only a first step towards extracting meaningful data. Once you’ve got everything pulled down, you’ve still got to process it into something useful. Here to assist with that is Scrapegraph-ai, a Python tool that promises to automate the process using a selection of large language models (LLMs).

Scrapegraph-ai is able to accept a URL as well as a prompt, which is a plain-English instruction on what to do with the data. Examples include summarizing, describing images, and more. In other words, gathering the data and analyzing or formatting it can now be done as one.

The project is actually pretty flexible in terms of the AI back-end. It’s able to work with locally-installed AI tools (via ollama) or with API keys for services like OpenAI and more. If you have an OpenAI API key, there’s an online demo that will show you the capabilities pretty effectively. Otherwise, local installation is only a few operations away.

This isn’t the first time we have seen the flexibility of AI tools like large language models leveraged to ease the notoriously-fiddly task of web scraping, and it’s great to see the results have only gotten better.