Dry Your Boots With The Internet Of Things

If you live somewhere cold, where the rain, snow and slush don’t abate for weeks at a time, you’ve probably dealt with wet boots. On top of the obvious discomfort, this can lead to problems with mold and cause blisters during extended wear. For this reason, boot dryers exist. [mark] had a MaxxDry model that had a timer, but it wasn’t quite working the way he desired. Naturally, it was begging to be hooked up to the Internet of Things.

The brains of the dryer is an ESP32, a solid choice for such a project. With WiFi on board, connecting the device to the internet is a snap. Relays are used to control the fan and heater inside the boot dryer, while MQTT helps make the device controllable remotely. It can be manually switched on and off, or controlled to always switch on at a certain time of the day.

It’s a simple project that shows how easily a device can be Internet controlled with modern hardware. For the price of a cheap devboard and a couple of relays, [mark] now has a more functional dryer, and toasty feet to boot.

We don’t see a lot of boot hacks here, but this magnet-equipped footwear is quite impressive.

Banana Bomb Is Likely To Get You In Trouble

If there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s a ticking clock to create drama. Nuclear weapons, terrorist bombs, and all manner of other devices have been seen featuring foreboding numbers counting down on a series of 7-segment displays. In this vein, [deshipu] developed a rather ridiculous take on the classic trope.

The project is built around a ticking four-digit display. The blue LEDs give it a modern touch, and it’s attached on top of an Arduino Pro Mini 3.3V. This enables the whole module to be powered by a coin cell, for an incredibly compact and tidy timer that is barely bigger than the display itself. There’s also a buzzer attached, which chirps each second, somewhat heightening the stress level in the immediate vicinity.

With a functioning timer, [deshipu] then went for comedy points, by hooking it up to a trio of bananas. This is widely considered more courteous than attaching it to a detonator circuit and actual dynamite, and is key to staying off government watchlists.

It’s a piece that would be amusing at a Halloween party or similar, and is easily completed by any beginner learning Arduino. It goes without saying that, while this is amusing, it’s a build that should very much not be bandied about in public or used for a prank. In this day and age, even touting a custom clock can draw unwelcome attention, so it’s important to be careful.  Video after the break.

Continue reading “Banana Bomb Is Likely To Get You In Trouble”

Tomorrow Night: HDDG 40, Mechanical And Electronic Ephemera

For the last several years, we’ve hosted a series of meetups for the Bay Area. This week is no different and we’re pleased to announce the fortieth Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic. It’s this Thursday, June 20th, in downtown San Francisco.

The Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic is our monthly IRL meetup, where we ask hardware developers what makes their thing tick. We’ve done dozens of these things, and for those of you in Internet-land, all the talks are available online. Even if you’re not in the Bay Area, all the talks are live streamed. Yes, you too can participate in the event, even if you’re not going to physically attend! It’s an amazing technology called ‘the Internet’ that combines real life with virtual being! It’s like [William Gibson] created some sort of virtual/hyperspace interface.

For this month’s talks, we’ll be joined by Embedded Ninja Shaun Meehan. Shaun has previously given talks that answer the question, what happens when the majority of your work blows up on the Antares space accident? You turn around and get some of your second string units on the next SpaceX launch (9 days later)! Shaun will be talking about his two 300kg robotic arms, FRED & LEFTY, and the project of replacing their 1987 era controllers. This talk includes high power electronics, FPGAs, fixed point algorithms, galvanic isolation, transistor matching, splitting transistors in half, strange position sensors, homemade 3-phase 480 in a garage, and freight LTL shipping.

The live stream for the talks will be available here. Of course, if you can make it to downtown San Francisco (a few blocks south of the Powell Muni/BART stop) we’d be happy to see you. It all goes down Thursday, July 20th, at 6:30 PM.

Open Source Computer Controlled Loom Weaves Pikachu For You

The origin story of software takes us back past punch card computers and Babbage’s Difference Engine to a French weaver called Joseph Marie Jacquard. Jacquard created a way to automate mechanical looms, giving weavers the ability to change a loom’s pattern by simply switching punch cards. This invention not only made it possible to produce detailed fabrics in a vastly simplified way, it was an extremely important conceptual step in the development of computer programming, influencing Babbage’s development of the Analytical Engine amongst many other things.

So, when [Kurt] saw his son’s enthusiasm for weaving on a simple loom, he started thinking about how he could pay homage to the roots of software by designing and building an open source computer controlled loom. He knew this was going to be difficult: looms are complex machines with hundreds of small parts. [Kurt] wrestled with wonky carriage movements, cam jams, hook size disasters and plenty of magic smoke from motor control boards. After a year and a half of loom hacking he succeeded in making a 60 thread computer controlled loom, driven by an iPhone app using Bluetooth.

As well as writing up the story of this build on his blog, linked above, [Kurt] has also has made all of his design files, PCB layouts, firmware and code available on GitLab.

We’ve featured a few weaving hacks over the years, including this cheap, simple 3D printable loom and a Jacquard inspired bitmap display.

Fun, informative build video after the cut.

Continue reading “Open Source Computer Controlled Loom Weaves Pikachu For You”

Surfing Diorama Makes For A Neat Desk Toy

In 1994, Weezer famously said that “you take your car to work, I’ll take my board”. Obviously, for the office-bound, surfing is simply out of the question during the working day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with a desk toy inspired by the waves.

The crux of the build is a watery diorama, which interacts with a faux-surfboard. The diorama consists of a tank constructed out of plexiglas, sealed together to be watertight. It’s then filled with blue-dyed water, and topped off with baby oil. The tank is then mounted on a cam controlled by a servo, which rocks the tank back and forth to create waves. This is controlled by the motion of the rider on the plywood surfboard, which can be rocked to and fro on the floor thanks to its curved bottom. An Arduino built into the board monitors a three-axis accelerometer, and sends this information to the Arduino controlling the tank.

By riding the board, the user can shake the tank. Get the motion just right, and smooth rolling waves are your reward. Jerk around with no real rhythm, and you’ll just get messy surf. We reckon it would be even better with a little surfer floating in the tank, too. It’s a fun build, and one that might help stave off the negative health effects of sitting at a desk all day. You might prefer a more shocking desk toy, however. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Surfing Diorama Makes For A Neat Desk Toy”

Augmented Arthropod Gets A Self-Balancing Ride

There are many people who find being around insects uncomfortable. This is understandable, and only likely to get worse as technology gives these multi-legged critters augmented bodies to roam around with. [tech_support], for one, welcomes our new arthropod overlords, and has even built them a sweet new ride to get around in.

The build follows the usual hallmarks of a self-balancing bot, with a couple of interesting twists. There’s twin brushed motors for drive, an an Arduino Uno running the show. Instead of the more usual pedestrian IMUs however, this rig employs the Bosch BNO055 Absolute Orientation Sensor. This combines a magnetometer, gyroscope, and accelerometer all on a single die, and handles all the complicated sensor fusion maths onboard. This allows it to output simpler and more readily usable orientation data.

The real party piece is even more interesting, however. Rather than radio control or a line following algorithm, this self-balancer instead gets its very own insect pilot. The insect is placed in a small chamber with ultrasonic sensors used to determine its position. The insect may then control the movement of the bot by moving around this chamber itself. The team have even developed a variety of codes to dial in the sensor system for different types of insect.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen insects augmented with robotic hardware, and we doubt it will be the last. If you’re working on a mad science project of your own, drop us a line. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Augmented Arthropod Gets A Self-Balancing Ride”

Well-Built Sentry Gun Addresses The Menace Of Indoor Micro-UAVs

What is this world coming to when you can’t even enjoy sitting in your living room without some jamoke flying a drone in through the window? Is nothing sacred? Won’t someone think of the children?

Apparently [Drew Pilcher] did, and the result is this anti-drone sentry gun.  It’s a sturdily built machine – one might even say it’s overbuilt. The gimbal is made from machined steel pieces, and the swivels are a pair of Sherline stepper-controlled rotary tables with 1/40 of a degree accuracy selling for $400 each. Riding atop that is a Nerf rifle, which is cocked by a stepper-actuated linear slide, as well as a Kinect for object tracking. The tracking app is a little rough – just OpenCV hacked onto the Kinect SDK – but good enough for testing. The gun tracks as smoothly as one would expect given the expensive hardware, and the auto-cocking feature works well if a bit slowly. Based as it is on Nerf technology, this sentry is only indicated for the control of the micro-drones seen in the snuff video below, but really, anyone afflicted by indoor infestations of Phantoms or Mavics has bigger problems to worry about.

Over-engineered? Perhaps, but it’s better than letting the menace of indoor drones go unanswered. And it’s far from the first sentry gun we’ve seen, targeting everything from cats to squirrels using lasers, paintballs, and even plain water.

Continue reading “Well-Built Sentry Gun Addresses The Menace Of Indoor Micro-UAVs”