High Voltage Protects Low Denominations

How do you keep people out of your change jar? If you didn’t say with a 3D printed iris mechanism and high-voltage spark gap, then clearly you aren’t [Vije Miller]. Which is probably for the best, as we’re not sure we actually want to live in a world where there are two of these things.

Regular Hackaday readers will know that [Vije] has a way of using electromechanical trickery to inject a bit of excitement, and occasionally a little danger, into even the most mundane aspects of life. His latest project is an automated change jar that uses a pinpad to authenticate users, while everyone else gets the business end of a spark gap if the PIR sensor detects them getting to close.

You can see a demonstration of the jar in the video after the break, where he shows the jar’s ability to stop…himself, from getting access to it. Hey, nobody said it was meant to keep out real intruders. Though we do think a similar gadget could be a fun way to keep the kids out of the cookie jar before dinner, though we’d strongly suggest deleting the high-voltage component from the project before deploying it with a gullet full of Keebler’s best.

[Vije] was able to adapt a printable iris design he found on Thingiverse to fit over the mouth of the jar, and uses servos in the base to rotate the whole assembly around and open it up. The internal Arduino Nano handles reading from the pinpad, controlling the stepper, and of course firing up the spark generator for 1000 milliseconds each time the PIR sensor detects somebody trying to be cute. Just the sound of the arc should be enough to get somebody to reconsider the value of literal pocket change.

Some of the design elements used in this change jar’s high voltage components were influenced by the lessons learned when [Vije] was building his plasma-powered toilet air freshener. There’s a sentence we bet you never expected to read today.

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Fail Of The Week: Toilets And High Voltage Do Not Mix

Imagine if you will that you are enthroned upon the porcelain, minding your own business while doing your business. You’re catching up on Hackaday on your phone – c’mon, admit it – when a whir and a buzz comes from behind you. You sit up in alarm, whereupon your lower back suddenly feels as if someone is scrubbing it with a steel wool pad. Then the real pain sets in as super-hot plasma lances into your skin, the smell of burning flesh fills the bathroom, and you crack your head on the towel bar trying to escape this torture chamber in a panic.

Sound good? Then [Vije Miller]’s plasma-powered toilet air freshener is a must-build for you. We’re not entirely sure where this was going, but the name of the project seems to indicate a desire to, ahem, clear the air near your derrière with the power of ions. While that might work – we’ve recently seen an electrostatic precipitator for 3D-printer fumes – the implementation here is a bit sketchy. The ball of steel wool? It was possibly intended as a way to disperse the ions, but it served as nothing more than fuel when touched by the plasma. The Contact-esque gimballed rings? Not a clue what they’re for, but they look cool. And hats off to [Vije] for the intricate 3D-printed parts, the geartrain and linkages, and the DIY slip rings.

It may be a head-scratcher of a build, but the video below is entertaining. Check out some of [Vije]’s other projects of dubious value, like his licorice launcher or the smartphone back scratcher.

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Voice Controlled Stereo Balance With ESP8266

A stereo setup assumes that the listener is physically located between the speakers, that’s how it can deliver sound equally from both sides. It’s also why the receiver has a “Balance” adjustment, so the listener can virtually move the center point of the audio by changing the relative volume of the speakers. You should set your speaker balance so that your normal sitting location is centered, but of course you might not always be in that same position every time you listen to music or watch something.

[Vije Miller] writes in with his unique solution to the problem of the roving listener. He’s come up with a system that can adjust the volume of his speakers without having to touch the receiver’s setup, in fact, he doesn’t have to touch anything. By leveraging configurable voice control software running on his computer, his little ESP8266-based devices do all the work.

Each speaker has its own device which consists of a NodeMCU ESP8266 and X9C104 digital potentiometer inside of a 3D printed case. The audio terminal block on the gadget allows him to connect it inline between the speaker and the receiver, giving [Vije] the ability to adjust the volume through software. The source code, which he’s posted on the Hackaday.io project page, uses a very simple REST-style API to change speaker volume based on HTTP requests which hit the ESP8266’s IP address.

The second part of the project is a computer running VoiceAttack, which lets [Vije] assign different actions based on what the software hears. When he says the appropriate command, the software goes through and fires off HTTP requests to the nodes in the system. Everything is currently setup for two speakers, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to expand to more speakers (or even rooms) with some adjustment to the software.

It’s not the first voice controlled speaker we’ve ever seen, but it does solve a very specific problem in a unique way. We’d be interested in seeing the next logical step, which would see this technology integrated into the speaker itself.

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Talk To The Faucet

Your hands are filthy from working on your latest project and you need to run the water to wash them. But you don’t want to get the taps filthy too. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell them to turn on hot, or cold? Or if the water’s too cold, you could tell them to make it warmer. [Vije Miller] did just that, he added servo motors to his kitchen tap and enlisted an AI to interpret his voice commands.

Look closely at the photo and you can guess that he started with a single-lever type of tap, the kind which can be worked with an elbow, so this project was probably just for fun and judging by his video below, he does have a sense of humor. But the idea is practical for dual taps with rotating knobs. He did realize, however, that in future versions he should move the servo motor openings from the top plate to the bottom instead, to avoid any water getting in. A NodeMCU ESP8266 ESP-12E board serves for communicating with the speech recognition side but other than the name, JacobAI, he’s keeping the speech part to himself. We secretly suspect that he has a friend named Jacob.

However, we can think of a number of options for it such as DeepSpeech and Wit.ai which we covered when talking about natural language phone bots, and the ubiquitous Alexa as used here with another NodeMCU for turning on Christmas tree lights.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Room-Tracking Red Vines Flinger

[Vije Miller]’s Arduino Licorice Launcher is based on the simple and logical premise that one must always have a voice-activated Red Vines catapult in the workshop. When he calls out to the robot, it turns to aim at him and flings a piece of licorice at his head.

The chassis is CNCed out of quarter-inch MDF and the spring-loaded catapult arm is managed by two servos, one to tension the arm and one to secure it until it’s triggered.  Third and fourth servos aim the catapult and dispense another piece of licorice from the magazine. His robot adapts a radio homing technique [Vije] learned about from RoboWarner, which allows a robot to track a moving RF signal.

[Vije]’s first prototype uses an Arduino Uno connected to a serial port on a PC, but he hopes to acquire an MKR1000 WiFi module, which combines a Arduino Zero with WiFi. Already, this Red Vines launcher is a complete success; the marketing team at Red Vines sent him a huge pile of swag and free licorice for his efforts. You can check out [Vije]’s promo video of the project below.

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Fail Of The Week: Arduino Sand Matrix Printer

NYC beaches are where tropical beaches addicted to meth go to die. So says [Vije Miller] in his write-up for his Arduino sand matrix printer. It’s a clever idea, five servo-operated cardboard plungers that indent a pattern of dots in the sand as the device is pulled forward, resulting in something not unlike a dot matrix printer that can write messages in the sand.

He’s submitted it to us as a Fail Of The Week, because it doesn’t do a very good job of writing in the sand, and it’s burned out a servo. But we feel this isn’t entirely fair, because whether or not it has delivered the goods it’s still an excellent build. Cardboard isn’t a material we see much of here at Hackaday, but in this case he’s mastered it in a complex mechanism that while it may have proved a little too flexible for the job in hand is nevertheless a rather impressive piece of work.

You can see a brief video below the break showing it in action. He tells us his motivation has waned on this project, and expresses the hope that others will take up the baton and produce a more viable machine.

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Anatomically Correct Plotter Avoids Back Scratch Fever

Everybody needs somebody sometimes, even if it’s just for when your back itches. But directing your itchy interlocutor to the correct spot can be a spatial relations challenge: “Right in the middle… no, down a bit… left… no, the other left! Harder! Wait, not that hard!” Why bother with all that messy interpersonal communication and human contact when you can build an automated, precision-guided back scratcher?

[VijeMiller] has aluminum extrusion tastes on a cardboard budget, but don’t let that put you off this clever build. The idea is pretty simple: a two-axis plotter that moves a rotary-action business end to any point within a V-shaped work envelope. The Arduino in the base talks to a smartphone app that lets you point to exactly the spot in need of attention on what for most of us would be an incredibly optimistic photorealistic map of the dorsal aspect of the body (mildly NSFW photo in the link above dips below the posterior border). Point, click, sweet relief.

The video below shows the rig in action, along with the Thespian skills we’ve come to know and love from [VijeMiller] with such classics as the fake floating 19th green, the no-idling-while-texting alert, and the more recent ker-sploosh fighting foam filled toilet. It does seem like he changed his name from [TVMiller] somewhere along the line, but he can’t throw us off the trail that easily.

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