A Real Star Trek Communicator Badge

Star Trek has never let technology get in the way of a good story. Gene Roddenberry and the writers of the show thought up some amazing gadgets, from transporters to replicators to the warp core itself. Star Trek: The Next Generation brought us the iconic communicator badge. In 1987, a long-range radio device which could fit in a pin was science fiction. [Joe] is bringing these badges a bit closer to the real world with his entry in the 2017 Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest.

trek-thumbThe first problem [Joe] dealt with was finding a radio which could run from watch batteries, and provide decently long-range operations. He chose the HopeRF RFM69HCW. Bringing fiction a bit closer to reality, this module has been used for orbital communications with low-cost satellites.

The Badge’s processor is a Teensy LC. [Joe] is rolling his own Teensy, which means using bootloader chips from PJRC, as well as the main microcontroller. Kicking the main micro into operation is where [Joe] is stuck right now. Somewhere between the breadboard and the first spin of the surface mount PCB things went a bit sideways. The oscillators are running, but there are no USB communications. [Joe] is trying another board spin. He made a few improvements and already has new boards on the way. Switching to a toaster oven or skillet paste and solder setup would definitely help him get the new badges up and running.

Gesture Controlled Sword of Omens Gives Sight Beyond Sight

The 80’s were a golden age of Sci-Fi cartoons. We had Transformers, Voltron, and of course, Thundercats. The story of feline humanoids on third earth has stuck with a few hackers, including [Juan Garcia]. Juan has tunneled his fandom into something amazing – he’s built his own version of Lion-O’s iconic Sword of omens. The modeling and 3D print work are top-notch. While this sword doesn’t have the Eye of Thundera as a power source, it does have some pretty clever electronics. It’s also one of the amazing entries in this year’s Sci-Fi Contest.

[Juan] wanted to create the “sight beyond sight” effect from the TV show. He started with an MPU6050 six axis gyro + accelerometer. These chips are most often found at the heart of quadcopter controllers. An Arduino Pro Mini reads the sensor data. When the sword is lifted vertically, it turns on a row of WS2812 LEDs. The LEDs replicate the pulsing eye effect from the cartoon version of the sword.

[Juan] really made this a neat build. The whole sword is powered by an 18650 Li-Ion battery. Power control and charging circuitry are all concealed inside the 3D print. When it’s time to charge up the eye, the hilt can be unscrewed to reveal a USB charging port. Click past the break to see this hack in action!

Click past the break to see this hack in action, and don’t forget – there’s still time to enter the Sci-Fi Contest!

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Blade Runner’s Voight-Kampff Test Gets Real

You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you.

Any Sci-Fi fan knows this is a question from the iconic Voight-Kampff test, as made famous by the movie Blade Runner. Humans pass the test. Replicants fail and are “retired”. We may not have replicants just yet, but  [Tom Meehan] is building his own version of the Voight-Kampff machine. He’s entered it in the 2017 Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest.

The machine itself is an odd mix of 70’s and 80’s electronics with older technology. Three mini CRT displays, a sensor arm, and a bellows are some of the machine’s best-known features. [Tom] is starting with the sensor arm, an odd mix of belts and telescoping rods. He’s already got a manually operated prototype built. Add a motor, and one part of the machine is ready for action.

[Tom’s] version of the Voight-Kampff test isn’t going to be a just movie prop. He plans to add a sensor suite which will turn his machine something of a modern polygraph. A Non-contact Temperature sensor will measure blush response. Iris images will be captured by a Raspberry Pi NoIR camera. Pulse oxygen and galvanic skin response will also be captured by a separate hand module. All this data will be processed by a Raspberry Pi computer.

There’s quite a lot of work to be completed. Let’s hope for humanity’s sake that [Tom] gets it done before the contest deadline of March 6.

Sci-Fi Contest: Both Wars and Trek Represented

Hackaday’s Sci-Fi Contest is in its third week. We’ve passed warp speed and were heading toward ludicrous speed. There is still almost a month to enter before March 6, when the deadline hits and everything goes to plaid. With 22 submissions all vying for 4 great prizes, there is still plenty of room for new challengers!

This contest is all about projects inspired by science fiction. There is a great mix of projects so far.

BB-8 Using Roll-On Deoderant

bb-8partsStar Wars is well represented with [Tech Flare’s] DIY Phone Controlled BB-8 Droid. [Tech Flare] is improving upon an existing BB-8 build. This is a low-cost build, so many of the parts are sourced from everyday items.

A new one for us is the 11 roll-on deodorant balls that are used as internal bearings. We’re not sure how well this robot will work, but it sure will be the best smelling BB-8 out there and you have to admit that is a creative use of easily source materials!

An Arduino is the brains of this Robot. As the title suggests, control comes from a smartphone. There is some creative work happening to fabricate the ball that makes up the body of the bot so be sure to jump in and check out that writeup.

LCARS In Real Life? Yes, Please!

lcarsAny Star Trek fan knows what the LCARS interface is [Elkentaro] is bringing LCARS life with LCARS NASA ISS Live Stream Viewer. [Elkentaro] is using a Raspberry Pi to display the International Space Station High Definition Eart-Viewing System (ISS HDEV) experiment.

The ISS is constantly streaming live views of the earth from one of 4 cameras. The Pi takes the stream and adds an LCARS image overlay. Everything is displayed on a 7″ TFT LCD. The same view Wesley Crusher would have seen at the helm of the NCC-1701D.

The overlay really brings the content to life and it has us thinking. If you have a refrigerator with one of those questionably-useful built-in montiors, it needs LCARS. Show us what you got!

Use the Schwartz

So what is missing from this contest? You of course! There is plenty of time left to create a great Sci-Fi inspired project. The deadline is Monday, March 6, 2017, 09:00 pm PST (+8 UTC). We dropped some Spaceballs references at the top of this article but haven’t actually seen an entry for that theme. Who’s going to build a voice-changing Dark Helmet?

[Phaser shown in the main image is the Original Series Phaser which Think Geek used to carry]

The Ultimate FPV Cleans House

With much of the world in the doldrums of the winter, hackers are getting a bit stir crazy. [Notamed Closed] would much rather be outside flying his First Person View (FPV) quadcopters. Sure there are indoor drones, but [Notamed] wanted to keep grounded. He grabbed his R/C equipment, his Roomba, and of course an Arduino to build the ultimate FPV experience.

There aren’t many details on this build, but it’s not too hard to deduce what [Notamed] has done. He’s using a standard R/C transmitter and receiver. Instead of driving servos, the receiver plugs into an Arduino Uno. The Uno translates the PPM R/C signals to serial commands. Most Roomba’s include a serial port made especially for hackers. [Notamed] simply sends the proper iRobot Serial Command Interface (SCI) messages, and the robot is his to control.

The FPV side of things is a bog standard FPV camera and transmitter, sending standard definition video to his goggles. A GoPro is along for the ride to capture high-quality video.

Sure this is a quick hacked together build. All the parts are taped on to the Roomba. We’re sure this is on purpose. When the weather warms up, the R/C equipment goes back in the air, and the Roomba becomes just another vacuuming robot – once again a danger to pet messes everywhere.

Check out the video after the break.

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LiftLocker Keeps Your Lift Safe from Attacking Garage Doors

Car lifts used to be a tool reserved for professional mechanics. Times are a-changing though. With the advent of reasonably priced four-post hydraulic lifts, more and more shade tree mechanics are joining the five-foot high club. Installing a lift in a home garage creates a few hazards, though. What happens when a family remotely opens the garage door while there is a car up on the lift? Garage door and lifted vehicle will meet – with expensive and/or dangerous results. [Joe Auman] saw this problem coming a mile away. He built the LiftLocker to make sure it never happens to him.

At its core, LiftLocker is a set of switched extension cords. Two cast-aluminum boxes hide the electronics. One box plugs in-line with the lift. The other box plugs in-line with the garage door opener. Each box includes a Sparkfun Redboard Arduino compatible, an RFM22 433 MHz Radio, and a relay. Input comes from a security system magnetic reed-switch. Both boxes are identical in hardware and code.

Operation is simple. One box and reed switch goes on the lift, the other on the garage door. If the lift is going up, its reed switch will open. The lift’s Arduino detects this and commands its RFM22 to send a signal to the other box on the garage door. Upon receiving this signal, the garage door controller will open its relay, disconnecting power to the garage door opener. Communication is two-way, so if the Lift controller doesn’t hear an ACK message from the garage door controller, everything will shut down. Click past the break to see the system in action.

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Stadium Sized Cellphone Light Show Is Controlled By Sound

18 months ago, [Jameson Rader] didn’t know how to code. He had an economics degree and worked for a minor league hockey team. He did have a dream, though. Broadcasting data through sound. When we say broadcast, we mean broadcast – as in one sender and thousands of receivers.

[Jameson] didn’t have the money to hire a team to build his application. So he did what any self-respecting hacker would do. He bought a few books and taught himself to code. We’re talking about a smartphone app here, so Java and Objective-C were necessary to cover Android and iOS devices. The result is XT Audio Beacons.

[Jameson] has created a light show for stadiums which requires no new hardware infrastructure. Ultrasonic cues are added to a pre-recorded soundtrack and played over the PA system. Fans attending the show simply run an app and hold up their smartphone. The app listens for the cues and turns on the camera flash. The result is a light show which can be synchronized to music, sound effects, or whatever the event calls for. Since the system relies on sound, the App only needs permissions to access the microphone. The system would still work even if the phones were in airplane mode.

Transmitting data to smartphones via ultrasonics isn’t exactly new. Amazon uses it in their Dash Buttons, and Google uses it in their OnHub. Using it as a broadcast medium in a stadium is a novel application, though. [Jameson] also has demos showing XT Audio Beacons being used for more mundane purposes – such as troubleshooting electronics, or even as an acoustic version of an iBeacon.

Most important here is that [Jameson] isn’t keeping all this new knowledge to himself. He’s published the source to his application on Github under the MIT license.

You can see the system in action – and even try it yourself, in the video after the break.

If you want to learn more about [Jameson] and his journey, definitely check out his AMA on Reddit.

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