Minimal Tic Tac Toe Business Card

The PCB business card has long been a way for the aspiring electronics engineer to set themself apart from their peers. Handing out a card that is also a two player game is a great way to secure a couple minutes of a recruiter’s time, so [Ryan Chan] designed a business card that, in addition to his contact information, also has a complete Tic-Tac-Toe game built in.

[Ryan] decided that an OLED display was too expensive for something to hand out and an LED matrix too thick, so he decided to keep it simple and use an array of 18 LEDs—9 in each of two colors laid out in a familiar 3×3 grid. An ATmega328p running the Arduino bootloader serves as the brains of the operation. To achieve a truly minimal design [Ryan] uses a single SMD pushbutton for control: a short press moves your selection, a longer press finalizes your move, and a several-second press switches the game to a single-player mode, complete with AI.

If you’d like to design a Tic-Tac-Toe business card for yourself, [Ryan] was kind enough to upload the schematics and code for his card. If you’re still pondering what kind of PCB business card best represents you, it’s worth checking out cards with an updatable ePaper display or a tiny Tetris game.

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DIY Haptic-Enabled VR Gun Hits All The Targets

This VR Haptic Gun by [Robert Enriquez] is the result of hacking together different off-the-shelf products and tying it all together with an ESP32 development board. The result? A gun frame that integrates a VR controller (meaning it can be tracked and used in VR) and provides mild force feedback thanks to a motor that moves with each shot.

But that’s not all! Using the WiFi capabilities of the ESP32 board, the gun also responds to signals sent by a piece of software intended to drive commercial haptics hardware. That software hooks into the VR game and sends signals over the network telling the gun what’s happening, and [Robert]’s firmware acts on those signals. In short, every time [Robert] fires the gun in VR, the one in his hand recoils in synchronization with the game events. The effect is mild, but when it comes to tactile feedback, a little can go a long way.

The fact that this kind of experimentation is easily and affordably within the reach of hobbyists is wonderful, and VR certainly has plenty of room for amateurs to break new ground, as we’ve seen with projects like low-cost haptic VR gloves.

[Robert] walks through every phase of his gun’s design, explaining how he made various square pegs fit into round holes, and provides links to parts and resources in the project’s GitHub repository. There’s a video tour embedded below the page break, but if you want to jump straight to a demonstration in Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx, here’s a link to test firing at 10:19 in.

There are a number of improvements waiting to be done, but [Robert] definitely understands the value of getting something working, even if it’s a bit rough. After all, nothing fills out a to-do list or surfaces hidden problems like a prototype. Watch everything in detail in the video tour, embedded below.

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How To Be A Stinkin’ Chess Cheat — Sockfish

[James Stanley] enjoys chess, isn’t terribly good at it, and has some dubious scruples. At least, that’s the setup for building Sockfish, a shoe-to-Pi interface to let you cheat at chess. We’re pretty sure only the first point is true, but the build is impressive all the same. It’s a pair of 3D printed shoe inserts, with two pressure-sensitive inputs on each insert, coupled with a vibration motor in each. Tap out your opponent’s moves during the game, and the Stockfish software will buzz instructions back to you. Just follow the instructions, and you too can be a chess master.

In practice things went a bit awry, as poking in encoded move data with one’s feet isn’t the easiest task, and discerning the subtle tickles on the toes is error-prone at best. [James] arranged a match against an unsuspecting friend (in the name of science), and managed to fat-finger (fat-toe?) the inputs on both games, leading to Sockfish instructing him to make illegal moves.

This seemed like too much cheating, even for [James], so he played the rest of each game on his own abilities, winning one of the two. Once the deed was done, our anti-hero gladly doffed his shoes to show off his gadgetry. After some debate, they concluded the device might “bring the game into disrepute” if used for greater evil. Naturally [James] is already working on an improved version.

Thanks to [Abe Tusk] for the tip!

Why You’ve Never Heard About Nintendo’s U-Force

90’s kids think that the Power Glove was the coolest game peripheral of the epoch. We might have thought so too, until we heard about Don’t Touch: The Story of the U-Force from [The Gaming Historian].

The device itself folded up like a laptop, and on the two surfaces had four IR LED/sensor pairs. All of these combined would localize your fist in space for playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, or would work with various other passive controller add-ons like a flight yoke for playing Top Gun. (One of the coolest bits is the flip-out IR reflectors triggered by the buttons in the yoke.)

All-in-all, the video’s take is that a number of factors doomed the U-Force to play second fiddle to the Power Glove. Battling Mattel’s marketing prowess is obvious, but other things like manufacturing problems due to bad hinges and inconsistent IR sensors delayed release and added cost. In the end, though, [Dave Capper], the U-Force’s inventor, puts it down simply to non-convincing gameplay. There were no blockbuster games that used it to its full potential.

At the time, the U-Force utilized more IR LEDs than any other consumer electronic device.

We think there’s interesting hacker potential in a simple interface like this. Perhaps its biggest Achilles heel outside of the lack of a killer application was the fact that it required calibration. We can imagine all sorts of awesome interactions, and we’re not afraid of a little tweaking. Or maybe we would update the sensors to something more modern, like those inexpensive time-of-flight distance units.

Thanks [Karl Koscher] for bringing this documentary to our attention in the comments about the very similarly interesting laser theremin project we featured last year. It’s definitely opened our eyes to an old interaction of the past that would seem no less magical today.

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A Primer For The Homebrew Game Boy Advance Scene

As video game systems pass into antiquity, some of them turn out to make excellent platforms for homebrew gaming. Not only does modern technology make it easier to interact with systems that are now comparatively underpowered and simpler, but the documentation available for older systems is often readily available as well, giving the community lots of options for exploration and creativity. The Game Boy Advance is becoming a popular platform for these sorts of independent game development, and this video shows exactly how you can get started too.

This tutorial starts with some explanation of how the GBA works. It offered developers several modes for the display, so this is the first choice a programmer must make when designing the game. From there it has a brief explanation of how to compile programs for the GBA and execute them, then it dives into actually writing the games themselves. There are a few examples that [3DSage] demonstrates here including examples for checking the operation of the code and hardware, some simple games, and also a detailed explanation the framebuffers and other hardware and software available when developing games for this console.

While the video is only 10 minutes long, we recommend watching it at three-quarters or half speed. It’s incredibly information-dense and anyone following along will likely need to pause several times. That being said, it’s an excellent primer for developing games for this platform and in general, especially since emulators are readily available so the original hardware isn’t needed. If you’d like to build something from an even more bygone era than the early 2000s, though, take a look at this tutorial for developing games on arcade cabinets.

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A tennis racket and a tennis ball with a spinning motor inside

A Self-Spinning Tennis Ball To Surprise Your Opponent

In many ball sports like golf, football and tennis, controlling the ball’s spin is an important skill. Expert players can make golf balls curve around obstacles, launch footballs towards goal posts from impossible angles, or confuse their opponents by making a tennis ball bounce in a completely unexpected direction.

[Luis Marx], by his own admission, is not an expert tennis player at all, so when he found himself humiliated on the court by his roommate he set about finding a different way to win. In other words, to cheat. The basic idea was to make a tennis ball that would start spinning at the push of a button, rather than by skillful wielding of a racket: a spinning ball that flies through the air will follow a curved trajectory, so if you can make a ball spin at will, you can change its direction in mid-air.

Making a ball spin by itself is not as hard as it may sound. All you need is an electric motor that’s small enough to fit inside, along with a power source and some way to turn it on. When the motor inside the ball starts to spin, Newton’s third law ensures that the outside will spin in the opposite direction. [Luis] found a suitable DC motor and mounted it on a small custom-designed PCB along with an ESP8266 controller and powered it with a tiny lithium battery. A pushbutton mounted on his tennis racket operates the wireless interface to turn the motor on and off.

Although getting this setup to work wasn’t as easy as [Luis] had hoped, turning it into a ball that’s good enough to play tennis with was not straightforward either. [Luis] decided to 3D-print the outer shell using flexible filament in order to create something that would have the same amount of bounce as an ordinary rubber tennis ball. It took several rounds of trial and error with various types of filament to end up with something that worked, but the final result, as you can see in the video (in German, embedded below), was quite impressive.

Tests on the tennis court showed that [Luis] could now easily beat his roommate, although this was mostly due to the erratic bouncing caused by the ball’s spin rather than any aerodynamic effects. Still, the magic tennis ball achieved its objective and even survived several games without breaking. If you’re looking for a more brute-force approach to cheating at tennis, this 180 mph tennis ball trebuchet might come in handy.

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TVout Library Brings Cardboard Arcade To Life

Recycling old CRTs is a true Hackaday tradition, and [Rob’s] mini arcade is sure to grab your attention.

First of all, you’ll probably appreciate [Rob] circumventing the supply shortage by getting all his components from recycled material. That’s probably the only way to get anything these days. He salvaged a small CRT from an old-school video intercom system and snagged the buttons, speakers, and switches from other unused devices laying around. Not all is lost, however, as [Rob] was able to purchase an Arduino Nano and a few resistors online. So maybe things are turning around in that category, who knows?

You’ll probably also appreciate how remarkably simple this hack is. No need for a Raspberry Pi as your standard 8-bit microcontroller will do the trick. And, fortunately, [Rob] found a nice library to help him generate the composite video signal, doing most of the work for him. All that was left to do was to build the arcade cabinet. Recreating the classic design was a pretty easy step, but you might opt for something a little nicer than cardboard though. But, hey, if it does the trick, then why not?

Cool project, [Rob]! We’re definitely happy to add this project to our retro collection here at Hackaday.

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