Let the Musical Instrument Challenge Begin!

Today is the start of the Musical Instrument Challenge. This newest part of the 2018 Hackaday Prize asks you to go far beyond what we’re used to seeing from modern musical instrumentation. Twenty entries will be awarded $1,000 each and go on to compete in the final round of the Hackaday Prize.

Imagine music without the electric guitar amp, violin, two turntables and a microphone, the electric drum pad, or in the absence of autotune. Maybe that last one made you groan, but autotune is a clever use of audio manipulation and when used to augment the music (rather than just to correct off-key voices) it shows its value as a new tool for creativity.

Musicians have always been hackers. The story of Brian May’s handmade guitar — the Red Special — is one of not being able to buy it, so he built it. Unlocking emotion in the listener has always meant finding new and different ways to use sound. This is a natural motivator to re-imagine and invent new ways of doing that. That first hand-built guitar got him in the door, but iterative improvements to the tremolo bar, the pickups, and even just the mechanical engineering of the neck made it a new instrument that you’ve heard in every Queen performance since.

So what’s next? What does a brand new instrument, interface, tool, or trick look like? That’s what we want to see from this Hackaday Prize challenge. From instrument makers to the people who write software for sampling, synthesizing, sequencing, and manipulating sound, we’re looking for things that let others make music. These creations are the tools of the trade that help more people unlock their musical creativity. Show off your work by sharing all the details of your design, and demonstrate the music you can make with it.

You have until October 8th to put your entry up on Hackaday.io. The top twenty entries will each get $1,000 and go on to the finals where cash prizes of $50,000, $20,000, $15,000, $10,000, and $5,000 await.

You Can Add Wireless Charging to iPhone… Kinda

We could watch cellphone teardown videos all day long. There’s something pleasing about seeing how everything is packed into such a small enclosure. From the connectors, to that insidious glue, to the minuscule screws, [Scotty Allen] has a real knack for giving us a great look at the teardown process. Take a look at his latest video which attempts to add wireless charging to an iPhone. I think there’s a lot to be said for superb lighting and a formidable camera, but part of this is framing the shots just right.

Now of course we’ve taken apart our fair share of phones and there’s always that queasy “I think I’m going to break something” feeling while doing it. It’s reassuring that [Scotty] isn’t able to do things perfectly either (although he has the benefit of walking the markets for quick replacement parts). This video is a pretty honest recounting of many things going wrong.

The iPhone 6 and 7 are not meant to have wireless charging, but [Scotty’s] working with a friend named [Yeke] who created an aftermarket kit for this. The flexible PCB needs to be folded just right, and adhesive foam added (along with a magical incantation) to make it work. That’s because the add-on is a no-solder job. Above you can see it cleverly encircles one of the mating connectors and relies on mechanical pressure to make contact with the legs of that connector. Neat!

In the second half of the video [Scotty] meets up with [Yeke] to discuss the design itself. We find it interesting that [Yeke] considers his work a DIY item. Perhaps it’s merely lost in translation, but perhaps [Yeke’s] proximity to multiple flexible PCB manufacturers makes him feel that this is more like playing around for fun than product design. Any way you look at it, the ability to design something that will fit inside that crazy-tight iPhone case is both impressive and mesmerizing. Having seen some of the inductive charging hacks over the years, this is by far the cleanest way to go about it.

We caught up with [Scotty] during last year’s Supercon. We may not be able to drop everything and move to Shenzhen, but hearing about the experience is just enough to keep us wanting to!

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Call For Proposals: Hackaday Superconference

It’s time to submit your proposal for a talk or workshop at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference!

Yep, it’s easy to procrastinate with the late days of summer upon us, but don’t miss out on your chance to present at the Ultimate Hardware Conference. We’re hungry for great stories about hardware creation. Before you have the chance to ask “should I submit a proposal?” — YES! We’re talking to you!

Some of the general topics that have been really popular in the past include:

  • Hardware custom built for research labs
  • Clever methods for prototyping
  • Engineering heroics that met a deadline, kept on budget, or just made the thing work
  • Ins and outs of product development
  • Stories of elite hacks that deserve to be shared and preserved

This is your time. Send in your proposal now and get ready to have an incredible weekend at the Hackaday Superconference!

All the Badges of DEF CON 26 (vol 2)

There were so many amazing unofficial badges at DEF CON this year that I can’t possibly cover them all in one shot. I tried to see every badge and speak with every badge maker — like a hardware safari. Join me after the jump for about fourteen more badges that I saw at DEF CON 26!

If you missed the first batch, check those badges out too — there’s even a Badgelife Documentary that you need to add to your watch list. Okay, let’s dig in.

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Breakfast at DEF CON — The Greatest Illicit Meetup of All

Every year we host Breakfast at DEF CON on the Sunday morning of the largest hacker conference in the United States. I think it’s a brilliant time to have a meetup — almost nobody is out partying on Sunday morning, and coffee and donuts is a perfect way to get your system running again after too much excess from Saturday evening.

This year marks our fourth Breakfast and we thought this time it would be completely legit. Before we’ve just picked a random coffee shop and showed up unannounced. But this year we synced up with some of our friends running the Hardware Hacking Village and they were cool with us using the space. Where we ran afoul was trying to wheel in coffee and pastries for 100+ people. The casino was having none it.

But to their credit, we were forbidden from bringing the food into the conference center, not into the greater casino. We ended up squatting in a restaurant seating area that wasn’t open until 5pm. The awesome Hackaday Community rolled with the venue change, and a fantastic time was had by all! For what it’s worth, this ended up being the best space for a Breakfast yet! There was plenty of room with many tables, and we had no problem filling all of the space.

Tindie and Hackaday were sponsors of the SMD Challenge this year (a timed soldering challenge going all the way down to 0201 packages that was also judged for quality). Jasmine announced the winner live at the meetup, that’s the image at the top of this article. I thought the award the Solder Skills Village made for the Most Dropped Parts was pretty epic. It’s a round pendant with a piece of carpet and a bunch of components that was on display during the meetup.

The number one piece of hardware people brought with them was badges. Since we’re doing in-depth badge coverage I won’t go into that here. But I’d like to mention that for the second year in a row, Brian McEvoy brought some epic hardware. Last year it was an OpenSCAD controller demo, this year it’s a custom mechanical keyboard design system.

Taking wide shots of crowds is frowned upon at DEF CON so what follows are posed shots. I made sure to ask all involved before snapping the image. DC27 is a long way away, I’m hoping to see many of these awesome folks much sooner than that when Supercon gets going this November.

All the Badges of DEF CON 26 (vol 1)

Two or three years back you would see a handful of really interesting unofficial badges at DEF CON. Now, there’s a deluge of clever, beautiful, and well executed badges. Last weekend I tried to see every badge and meet every badge maker. Normally, I would publish one megapost to show off everything I had seen, but this year I’m splitting it into volumes. Join me after the break for the first upload of the incredible badges of DC26!

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Car Hacking at DEF CON 26

A great place to get your feet wet with the data-network-wonderland that is modern-day automobiles is the Car Hacking Village at DEF CON. I stopped by on Saturday afternoon to see what it was all about and the place was packed. From Ducati motorcycles to junkyard instrument clusters, and from mobility scooters to autonomous RC test tracks, this feels like one of the most interactive villages in the whole con.

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