RoboTray Is A Secret Tea Butler

How far would you go for your cup of tea? [samsungite]’s missus doesn’t like clutter on her countertops, so away the one-cup kettle would go back into the cupboard for next time while the tea steeped. As long as there’s room for it in there, why not install it there permanently? That’s the idea behind RoboTray, which would only be cooler if it could be plumbed somehow.

RoboTray went through a few iterations, most importantly the switch from 6mm MDF to 4 mm aluminum plate. A transformer acts as a current sensor, and when the kettle is powered on, the tray first advances forward 7 cm using a 12 VDC motor and an Arduino. Then it pivots 90° on a lazy Susan driven by another 12 VDC motor. The kettle is smart enough to turn itself off when finished, and the Arduino senses this and reverses all the steps after a ten-second warning period. Check it out in action after the break.

If [samsungite] has any more Arduinos lying around, he might appreciate this tea inventory tracker.

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An assortment of whole-mouth toothbrushes that brush all of your teeth at once, in the span of 30 seconds.

Don’t Bristle; Teethbrush Won’t Hurt You

A whole-mouth toothbrush that brushes all of your teeth at once, in the span of 30 seconds.Good dental hygiene is the first line of defense when it comes to your health, and– you’re already bored, aren’t you? It’s totally true, though. Take care of your teeth, and the rest of you has a better chance of staying fairly healthy.

This is like, the one thing we have control over after diet and exercise, and most people just plain fail on this front. They brush for 30 seconds, tops. Or they rarely floss. Maybe they’ve never even considered brushing or scraping their tongue.

Okay, fine. You don’t want to spend the recommended two minutes twice a day working the brush around your mouth. The good news is, technology has finally caught up with you and your habits, if you can call them that. How about using something that can truly be called a teethbrush? As in, it brushes all of your teeth at once? Well, half of your teeth anyway. Allegedly, you can spend as little as 10 seconds on each arch and effectively scour your smile — that’s because the thing vibrates at an astonishing 40,000 per minute or so.

Sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? Wait ’til you hear how much they cost. One brand is $150 off the bat, and replacement heads are close to $40 each, although they’re supposed to last for six months each (eww!). Most of them have some fancy extras that make the cost more palatable, such as a tooth-whitening mode.

What do you think? Would you use a teethbrush? We’re still on the fence. It could be interesting to develop our own, but you have to crawl before you can run. Guess we’ll start with a manual.

Troubleshooting: A Method For Solving Problems The Right Way

We’ve all experienced that magic moment when, after countless frustrating hours of experimentation and racking your brain, the object of our attention starts working. The 3D printer finally produces good output. The hacked up laptop finally boots. The car engine finally purrs. The question is, do we know why it started working?

This is more important than you might think. Knowing the answer lets you confirm that the core problem was solved, otherwise you may have just fixed a symptom. And lack of understanding means fixing one problem may just create another.

The solution is to adopt a methodical troubleshooting method. We’re talking about a structured problem solving technique that when used properly can help us solve a problem at its core without leaving any loose ends. Such methodology will also leave you knowing why any solution did or didn’t work in the end, and will give you reproducible results.

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Ask Hackaday: What Is Amazon Thinking By Entering The Palm-Reading Business?

Have you heard about this One? At least three United States senators have, and they want to know what Amazon plans to do with all the biometric data collected by the Amazon One program. It’s their new contactless payment method that uses your unique palm print instead of cards or phones to make purchases, gain access to venues of work and play, and enter or pay in whatever other spaces Amazon can invade down the line. The idea is that one day, we’ll all be able to leave our homes without any form of money or ID of any kind, because we’ll all be stored away in Bezos’ big biometric file cabinet.

We tossed this one around in the writer’s room back when the Amazon One concept was nothing but a pile of buzzwords and a render or two, but these kiosks are now active in 50+ Whole Foods and Amazon 4-Star locations across the US. Here’s the deal: you can only sign up at a participating store that has a kiosk, because they have to scan your palms into the system. We were worried that the signup kiosk could easily take fingerprint scans at the same time, but according to the gifs in Morning Brew’s review, it just uses another of their point-of-sale palm scanners along with a touch screen and a card reader. But you still have to hover your entire hand over it, so who’s to say that the scan ends where the fingers begin?

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Homemade electric fan showing a small camera peeking up above the central hub.

Keep Cool With This Face-Following Fan

[AchillesVM] decided to build a tabletop electric fan so it would track him as he moves around the room. Pan and tilt control is provided by a pair of servos controlled by a Raspberry Pi 3b+. How does it know where [AchillesVM} is? It captures the scene using a Raspberry Pi v2 Camera and uses OpenCV’s default face-tracking algorithm to find him. Well, strictly speaking, it tracks anyone’s face around the room. If multiple faces are detected, it follows the largest — which is usually the person closest to the fan.

The whole processing loop runs at 60 ms, so the speed of the servo mechanism is probably the limiting factor when it comes to following fast-moving house guests. At first glance it might look like an old fan from the 1920s, in fact [AchillesVM] built the whole thing by himself, 3D-printing case and using a few off-the-shelf parts (like the 25 cm R/C plane propeller).

It’s a work in progress, so follow his GitHub repository (above) for updates. Hopefully, there will be a front-mounted finger guard coming soon. If you like gadgets that interact with you as you move about, we’ve covered the face-tracking confectionery cannon back in 2014, and the head-tracking water blaster last year. In the “don’t try this” file goes the build that started a career — the eye-tracking laser robot.

Solar Fueled Emergency Power Pack

Heavy rainfall in Northern Europe last month caused disastrous flooding in several countries. [Daniel Jedecke] was on assignment in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany during the floods and saw the damage firsthand. He was struck by the lack of emergency power, and set about the task of designing a simple, portable power pack.

[Daniel] wanted his system to be as simple and maintenance-free as possible, and well as inexpensive. He passed by the traditional solutions such as gasoline fueled generators or advanced chemistry battery packs. Instead, he settled on the ordinary car battery — they’re easy to obtain in a pinch, and he found a used 45 Ah one sitting in his basement. To keep the system portable, he decided on a single 80 W monocrystalline solar panel which comes with a smart battery charge controller. An inverter provides standard (for Germany) 240 VAC in addition to the +12 VDC output.

The whole thing, except the panel, is installed in an off-the-shelf toolbox with the pieces secured to a custom-made wood frame. We think [Daniel]’s goals were met: made from standard materials, long-lasting without excessive maintenance, portable, and providing both DC and AC outputs for everyday use. Way back in 2015 we wrote about an emergency battery pack using rechargeable drill batteries. Do you keep an emergency power pack handy in case of outages or disasters?

Pomodachi: A Productivity Pet You Feed By Working

Being productive doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. Even if you’re a lone wolf, who wouldn’t benefit from having a cute little productivity pet to cheer them on? That’s the idea behind [droxpopuli]’s Pomodachi, which combines a hardware implementation of the Pomodoro technique with a virtual pet. It adds some fun, but doesn’t overly gamify time tracking to the point of distraction. And this is way more fun than just sticking a pair of googly eyes on a tomato-shaped timer.

Inside the box is an Adafruit HalloWing M4 Express and a NeoKey FeatherWing with two Kailh box white switches for a satisfying clack. [droxpopuli] printed up a PyPortal-inspired case and added a glass lens for a spiffy tube TV look.

Pomo himself is a cute little jack-o-lantern looking creature with a teddy bear face and no arms or legs. He could eat with his face, but prefers to be fed. That’s where you come in. You feed him by completing a set of four 20-minute work intervals.

Don’t worry about keeping track of time, because he does that for you and spends the time foraging for food. When it’s break time, Pomo lets you know and suggests an activity. This is when you press the button and feed him. If your productivity begins to flag a bit, don’t freak out — there’s a multiplier for catching up, and you have seven chances before Pomo runs away forever.

The Pomodoro Technique is pretty great for productivity, and it’s versatile, too. Here’s a hydration-based Pomodoro that will flood your desk if you don’t drink enough water.