Safe Cracking is [Nate’s] Latest R&D Project

We love taking on new and awesome builds, but finding that second part (the “awesome”) of each project is usually the challenge. Looks like [Nathan Seidle] is making awesome the focus of the R&D push he’s driving at Sparkfun. They just put up this safe cracking project which includes a little gamification.

The origin story of the safe itself is excellent. [Nate’s] wife picked it up on Craig’s List cheap since the previous owner had forgotten the combination. We’ve seen enough reddit/imgur threads to not care at all what’s inside of it, but we’re all about cracking the code.

The SparkX (the new rapid prototyping endeavor at Sparkfun) approach was to design an Arduino safe cracking shield. It has a motor driver for spinning the dial and can drive a servo that pulls the lever to open the door. There is a piezo buzzer to indicate success, and the board as a display header labeled but not in use, presumably to show the combination currently under test. We say “presumably” because they’re not publishing all the details until after it’s cracked, a process that will be live streamed starting Wednesday. This will keep us guessing on the use of that INA169 current sensor that plugs into the safecracking shield. There is what appears to be a reflectance sensor above the dial to keep precise track of the spinning dial.

Electrically this is what we’d expect, but mechanically we’re in love with the build. The dial and lever both have 3D printed adapters to interface with the rest of the system. The overall framework is built out of aluminum channel which is affixed to the safe with rare earth magnets — a very slick application of this gear.

The gamification of the project has to do with a pair of $100 giveaways they’re doing for the closest guess on how long it’ll take to crack (we hope it’s a fairly fast cracker) and what the actual combination may be. For now, we want to hear from you on two things. First, what is the role of that current sensor in the circuit? Second, is there a good trick for optimizing a brute force approach like this? We’ve seen mechanical peculiarities of Master locks exploited for fast cracking. But for this, we’re more interested in hearing any mathematical tricks to test likely combinations first. Sound off in the comments below

[Joe Grand’s] Toothbrush Plays Music That Doesn’t Suck

It’s not too exciting that [Joe Grand] has a toothbrush that plays music inside your head. That’s actually a trick that the manufacturer pulled off. It’s that [Joe] gave his toothbrush an SD card slot for music that doesn’t suck.

The victim donor hardware for this project is a toothbrush meant for kids called Tooth Tunes. They’ve been around for years, but unless you’re a kid (or a parent of one) you’ve never heard of them. That’s because they generally play the saccharine sounds of Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers which make adults choose cavities over dental health. However, we’re inclined to brush the enamel right off of our teeth if we can listen to The Amp Hour, Embedded FM, or the Spark Gap while doing so. Yes, we’re advocating for a bone-conducting, podcasting toothbrush.

[Joe’s] hack starts by cracking open the neck of the brush to cut the wires going to a transducer behind the brushes (his first attempt is ugly but the final process is clean and minimal). This allows him to pull out the guts from the sealed battery compartment in the handle. In true [Grand] fashion he rolled a replacement PCB that fits in the original footprint, adding an SD card and replacing the original microcontroller with an ATtiny85. He goes the extra mile of making this hack a polished work by also designing in an On/Off controller (MAX16054) which delivers the tiny standby current needed to prevent the batteries from going flat in the medicine cabinet.

Check out his video showcasing the hack below. You don’t get an audio demo because you have to press the thing against the bones in your skull to hear it. The OEM meant for this to press against your teeth, but now we want to play with them for our own hacks. Baseball cap headphones via bone conduction? Maybe.

Update: [Joe] wrote in to tell us he published a demonstration of the audio. It uses a metal box as a sounding chamber in place of the bones in our head.

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We’re Hiring

Hackaday has been expanding into all kinds of new areas. We find ourselves stretched a bit thin and it’s time to ask for help. Want to lend a hand while making some extra dough to plow back into your projects? These are work-from-home (or wherever you like) positions and we’re looking for awesome, motivated people to help guide Hackaday forward!

Contributors are hired as private contractors and paid for each post. You should have the technical expertise to understand the projects you write about, and a passion for the wide range of topics we feature. If you’re interested, please email our jobs line, and include:

  • Details about your background (education, employment, etc.) that make you a valuable addition to the team
  • Links to your blog/project posts/etc. which have been published on the Internet
  • One example post written in the voice of Hackaday. Include a banner image, at least 150 words, the link to the project, and any in-links to related and relevant Hackaday features

What are you waiting for? Ladies and Gentlemen, start your applications!

The Think Tank at the Chicago Unconference

On Saturday the Hackaday community turned out in force to try something new. The first Hackaday Unconference was held in three places at the same time, and I was in Chicago and was amazed at the turnout and variety of presentations. The image above sums up the concept quite well, everyone shows up ready to give an eight minute talk, but as a whole, no one knows what to expect. Well, we should have known to expect awesome and that’s what we got.

As usual, people are excellent… to one another and in adapting to the fluid nature of the day. Pumping Station: One, a renowned Hackerspace in the Avondale neighborhood near downtown Chicago, opened their doors for us. Not knowing how many people to expect we set up two presentation rooms with a third on deck just in case it was needed.

We just barely squeezed everyone in one room for the first track but ended up splitting into two for part of the day. Here you can see that second room filling up. Even so we still had a handful of presentations that didn’t get a chance to shine — we simply must do this again so they can have the chance and because I had such a great time!

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Your VR Doesn’t Stink (Yet)

What does it smell like when the wheels heat up on that Formula 1 car you drive at night and on the weekends? You have no idea because the Virtual Reality experience that lets you do so doesn’t come with a nasal component. Yet.

Shown here is an olfactory device that works with Oculus Rift and other head-mounted displays. The proof of concept is hte work of [Kazuki Hashimoto], [Yosuke Maruno], and [Takamichi Nakamoto] and was shown of at last year’s IEEE VR conference. It lets the wearer smell the oranges when approaching a tree in a virtual environment. In other words, it makes your immersive experience smelly.

As it stands this a pretty cool little device which atomizes odor droplets while a tiny fan wafts them to the wearer’s nose. There is a paper which presumably has more detail but it’s behind a pay wall so for now check out the brief demo video below. Traditionally an issue with scent systems is the substance stuck in the lines, which this prototype overcomes with direct application from the reservoir. Yet to be solved is the availability for numerous different scents.

This build came to our attention via an UploadVR article that does a good job of covering some of the scent-based experiments over the years. They see some of the same hurdles we do: odors linger and there is a limited palette that can be produced. We assume the massive revenue of the gaming industry is going to drive research in this field, but we won’t be lining up to smell gunpowder and dead bodies (or rotting zombies) anytime soon.

The more noble effort is in VR applications like taking the elderly and immobile back for another tour of places they’ll never again be able to visit in their lives. Adding the sense of smell, which has the power to unlock so many memories, makes that use case so much more powerful. We think that’s something everyone can be hopeful about!

Continue reading “Your VR Doesn’t Stink (Yet)”

2017 Hackaday Prize Begins Right Now

Today the 2017 Hackaday Prize begins!

This is Hackaday’s global engineering initiative that encourages people to direct their skill and energy to make the world a better place. We call it the Hackaday Prize, but it’s far more than that. Join a community of talented people who enrich their own lives by seeking out new challenges and new technologies, then pioneers a way to combine them to Build Something that Matters. Show us your build by starting a Hackaday.io project page and enter today!

You Have Every Reason to Get Involved

The Hackaday Prize truly has something for everyone. Making the world a better place doesn’t end with a grand prize for a single build. Just by talking about your ideas and sharing your excitement you become the inspiration for this and every successive generation of problem solvers. But yes, there are prizes — a lot of prizes — and they’re spectacular.

We have over $250,000 in cash going out to hundreds of entries this year. The Grand Prize of $50,000 is joined once again this year by the Best Product Prize of $30,000. Four other entries will place second through fifth and receive $20k, $15k, $10k, and $5k respectively.

But the breadth of entries is too great to stop at that. We’ll select 120 projects as finalists and award each $1000. You can even get in on Seed Funding starting right away. We’re saving those details for the end of this announcement.

How Do I Build Something that Matters?

Whoa, all this talk of prizes, but you want to know what kind of hardware will be a hit for the Hackaday Prize? Here’s what you need to know: you can enter your project at any time from now until October 16th. But the exact time that you enter matters.

Your best bet is to get started right away. The first challenge of the Hackaday Prize is: Design Your Concept. Every great build starts with a plan and this is the time to show us what you got. The key is to consider if the project benefits society in some way. Show us how, document your build plan, and you can be one of the first twenty finalists to receive $1k cash and move on to compete for the big prizes.

We’ll have four more challenges that focus on different types of entries. You only need to enter one challenge, but you may choose to enter (and win) as many of the five challenges as you wish. We’ll be looking for connected devices that don’t suck Internet of Useful Things during the IuT ! IoT challenge. After that, it’s on to all things mobile with the Wheels, Wings, and Walkers challenge. Assistive Technology challenges you to make the world a better place for the physically or mentally challenged and aging or sick people of the world. And finally, a Hackaday favorite closes the challenge rounds with Anything Goes — as long as it clearly benefits society. Each of these five challenges will yield twenty finalists who receive $1000. That’s $100k!

The Return of Best Product

Two years ago we tried something new by adding the Best Product Prize to the mix and it was an enormous hit. We’re happy to be able to bring it back again this year.

There is a difficult path from a working prototype to a product ready for its audience. As hardware development is unlocked for an ever wider engineering community, we want to see the path made wider so that the journey becomes easier. Best Product is designed to do just that.

Any Hackaday Prize entry may also choose to compete and be named the Best Product (receiving much deserved recognition as well as the addition $30k prize). You need to submit your entry no later than July 24th, which includes full documentation of the project as well as a bill of materials used in the build. We’ll select twenty finalists (sending $1k to each) who will then need to deliver three working beta test units for the final judging round of the Best Product.

How Can We Pick the Top Entries?

One amazing part of the Hackaday Prize family are the world-renowned experts who donate their time and talent as Judges. They are just as eager as everyone else to see all of this creative energy focused on solving the problems facing our civilization.

Learn more about all of these amazing people on the Hackaday Prize page.

One Last Thing: Seed Funding

When realized to their full potential, design concepts should knock the socks off of anyone who reads through them. Because of this we have one more thing in store for you during the first challenge which starts right now.

Entries with the most likes at the end of the first round will split $4,000. Each time someone on Hackaday.io “likes” your project it will move a bit higher on the leaderboard found on the Hackaday Prize page. The top projects will receive $1 for each like, with a max of $200 per entry so that at least twenty will win (but likely many more).

This seed funding is a little push to help offset the cost of building prototypes. But it really comes down to your decision to make the time and to make a difference. Enter your project in the Hackaday Prize now.

Hackaday Unconference Begins!

This afternoon we are hosting the Hackaday Unconference in three locations at once. Hundreds of creative minds are coming together in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco for an amazing day of shared inspiration.

You can get a little taste of what is happening by following along with the pulse of the events. Each will be doing some Facebook Live streams so look for that and regular posts on Hackaday Facebook. We’ll be regularly Tweeting and posting to Instagram. It would be absolutely fantastic if you would like and share those messages. Check out the Hackaday TweetWall for a collection of all the #HackadayUncon updates.

The goal is to break down barriers for sharing great ideas which will become the inspiration for new projects to come. Today’s overarching theme is “Build Something That Matters. Everyone attending is ready to give an eight-minute talk about something that interests them, without the pressure of a strict talk order or expectations of polished decks and eloquent delivery. As the Unconference progresses, new discussion groups and impromptu talks take bloom as everyone in attendance guides the direction of the day.