Homekit Compatible Sonoff Firmware Without A Bridge

Generally speaking, home automation isn’t as cheap or as easy as most people would like. There are too many incompatible protocols, and more often than not, getting everything talking requires you to begrudgingly sign up for some “cloud” service that you didn’t ask for. If you’re an Apple aficionado, there can be even more hoops to jump through; getting your unsupported smart home devices working with that Cupertino designed ecosystem often involves running your own HomeKit bridge.

To try and simplify things, [Michele Gruppioni] has developed a firmware for the ubiquitous Sonoff WIFI Smart Switch that allows it to speak native HomeKit. No more using a Raspberry Pi to act as a mediator between your fancy Apple hardware and that stack of $4 Sonoff’s from AliExpress, they can now talk to each other directly. In the video after the break you can see that the iPad identifies the switch as unofficial device, but since it’s compliant with the HomeKit API, that doesn’t prevent them from talking to each other.

Not only will this MIT licensed firmware get your Sonoff Basic, Sonoff Slampher, or Sonoff S26 talking with your Apple gadgets, but it also provides a web interface and REST API so it retains compatibility with whatever else you might be running in your home automation setup. So while the more pedestrian users of your system might be turning the porch light on with their iPhones, you can still fire it up with a Bash script as nature intended.

Of course, if you don’t mind adding a Raspberry Pi bridge to the growing collection of devices on your network, we’ve got plenty of other HomeKit-enabled projects for you to take a look at.

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Keep Pesky Cats At Bay With A Machine-Learning Turret Gun

It doesn’t take long after getting a cat in your life to learn who’s really in charge. Cats do pretty much what they want to do, when they want to do it, and for exactly as long as it suits them. Any correlation with your wants and needs is strictly coincidental, and subject to change without notice, because cats.

[Alvaro Ferrán Cifuentes] almost learned this the hard way, when his cat developed a habit of exploring the countertops in his kitchen and nearly turned on the cooktop while he was away. To modulate this behavior, [Alvaro] built this AI Nerf turret gun. The business end of the system is just a gun mounted on a pan-tilt base made from 3D-printed parts and a pair of hobby servos. A webcam rides atop the gun and feeds into a PC running software that implements the YOLO3 localization algorithm. The program finds the cat, tracks its centroid, and swivels the gun to match it. If the cat stays in the no-go zone above the countertop for three seconds, he gets a dart in his general direction. [Alvaro] found that the noise of the gun tracking him was enough to send the cat scampering, proving that cats are capable of learning as long as it suits them.

We like this build and appreciate any attempt to bring order to the chaos a cat can bring to a household. It also puts us in mind of [Matthias Wandel]’s recent attempt to keep warm in his shop, although his detection algorithm was much simpler.

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AI Recognizes And Locks Out Murder Cats

Anyone with a cat knows that the little purring ball of fluff in your lap is one tiny step away from turning into a bloodthirsty serial killer. Give kitty half a chance and something small and defenseless is going to meet a slow, painful end. And your little killer is as likely as not to show off its handiwork by bringing home its victim – “Look what I did for you, human! Are you not proud?”

As useful as a murder-cat can be, dragging the bodies home for you to deal with can be – inconvenient. To thwart his adorable serial killer [Metric], Amazon engineer [Ben Hamm] turned to an AI system to lock his prey-laden cat out of the house. [Metric] comes and goes as he pleases through a cat flap, which thanks to a solenoid and an Arduino is now lockable. The decision to block entrance to [Metric] is based on an Amazon AWS DeepLens AI camera, which watches the approach to the cat flap. [Ben] trained three models: one to determine if [Metric] was in the scene, one to determine whether he’s coming or going, and one to see if he’s alone or accompanied by a lifeless friend, in which case he’s locked out for 15 minutes and an automatic donation is made to the Audubon Society – that last bit is pure genius. The video below is a brief but hilarious summary of the project for an audience in Seattle that really seems quite amused by the whole thing.

So your cat isn’t quite the murder fiend that [Metric] is? An RFID-based cat door might suit your needs better.

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Exploring Basement Humidity With A Raspberry Pi

Sometimes a hack isn’t about building something cool. Sometimes it’s more tactical, where the right stuff is cobbled together to gather the information needed to make decisions, or just to document some interesting phenomenon.

Take this impromptu but thorough exploration of basement humidity undertaken by [Matthias Wandel]. Like most people with finished basements in their homes, [Matthias] finds the humidity objectionable enough to warrant removal. But he’s not one to just throw a dehumidifier down there and forget about it. Seeking data on how well the appliance works, [Matthias] wired a DHT22 temperature/humidity sensor to a spare Raspberry Pi to monitor room conditions, and plugged the dehumidifier into a Kill-A-Watt with a Pi camera trained on the display to capture data on electrical usage.

His results were interesting. The appliance does drop the room’s humidity while raising its temperature, a not unexpected result given the way dehumidifiers work. But there was a curious cyclical spike in humidity, corresponding to the appliance’s regular defrost cycle driving moisture back into the room. And when the dehumidifier was turned off, room humidity gradually increased, suggesting an unknown source of water. The likely culprit: moisture seeping up through the concrete slab, or at least it appeared so after a few more experiments. [Matthias] also compared three different dehumidifiers to find the best one. The video below has all the details.

We always appreciate [Matthias]’ meticulous approach to problems like these, and his field expedient instrumentation. He seems to like his creature comforts, too – remember the target-tracking space heater from a few months back?

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Turn A Ceiling Fan Into A Wind Turbine… Almost

It’s not uncommon to drive around the neighborhood on trash day and see one or two ceiling fans haphazardly strewn onto a pile of garbage bags, ready to be carted off to the town dump. It’s a shame to see something like this go to waste, and [Giesbert Nijhuis] decided he would see what he could do with one. After some painstaking work, he was able to turn a ceiling fan into a wind turbine (of sorts).

While it’s true that some generators and motors can be used interchangeably by reversing the flow of electricity (motors can be used as generators and vice-versa) this isn’t true of ceiling fans. These motors are a type called induction motors which, as a cost saving measure, have no permanent magnets and therefore can’t simply be used as a generator. If you make some modifications to them, though, like rewiring some of the windings and adding permanent magnets around them, you can get around this downside of induction motors.

[Giesbert] does note that this project isn’t a great way to build a generator. Even after making all of the changes needed to get it working, the motor just isn’t as efficient as one that was built with its own set of magnets. For all the work that went into it, it’s not that great of a time investment for a low-quality generator. However, it’s interesting to see the theory behind something like this work at all, even if the end result wasn’t a complete wind turbine. Perhaps if you have an old ceiling fan lying around, you can put it to better use.

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Electronic Candle Charges Inductively

Humans like things that look like other things. A great example are faux LED tea light candles, with a plastic “flame” and flickering orange LED to recreate the effect of their waxy brethren. [gzumwalt] wanted to take the concept a little further, however, and got down to work.

The design harvests the orange LED and flame lens from an existing LED candle, but the rest is all original. [gzumwalt] printed a full-size candle, and fitted it with inductive charging hardware and a lithium-polymer battery. A corresponding charging base is used to supply power to the candle when it’s not in use. This is all handled automatically, with neodymium magnets used to activate reed switches to turn the charger on and the LED off.

It’s a tidy build that can be easily replicated with a 3D printer and some off-the-shelf parts. It’s also less wasteful than using disposable batteries, and safer than using real candles – so if you find yourself routinely shooting candle scenes in your budget film studio, it might be worth printing up a set of these.

LED candles range from the basic to the extreme – we’ve seen builds so realistic, you can light them with a match.

You’re Sitting On An Engineering Masterpiece: Chairs As A Design Challenge

If you move as a hardware hacker through the sometimes surprisingly similar world of artists, craftspeople, designers, blacksmiths, and even architects, there’s one piece of work that you will see time and time again as an object that exerts a curious fascination. It seems that designing and building a chair is a rite of passage, and not just a simple chair, but in many cases an interesting chair.

An American-made Windsor chair from the turn of the 19th century. Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain]
An American-made Windsor chair from the turn of the 19th century. Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain]
Some of the most iconic seating designs that you will be instantly familiar with through countless mass-produced imitations began their lives as one-off design exercises. Yet we rarely see them in our community of hackers and makers, a search turns up only a couple of examples. This is surprising, not least because there is more than meets the eye to this particular piece of furniture. Your simple seat can be a surprisingly complex challenge.

Moving Charis From Artisan to Mass Market

The new materials and mass production techniques of the 19th and 20th centuries have brought high-end design into the hands of the masses, but while wealthy homes in earlier centuries had high-quality bespoke furniture in the style of the day, the traditional furniture of the masses was hand-made in the same way for centuries often to a particular style dependent on the region in which it was produced.

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