Building A Cyberpunk Multi-Touch Input Device

This multi-touch touch panel built by [thiagesh D] might look like it came from the retro-futuristic worlds of Blade Runner or Alien, but thanks to a detailed build video and a fairly short list of required parts, it could be your next weekend project.

The build starts with a sheet of acrylic, which has a grid pattern etched into it using nothing more exotic than a knife and a ruler. Though if you do have access to some kind of CNC router, this would be a perfect time to break it out. Bare wires are then laid inside the grooves, secured with a healthy application of CA glue, and soldered together to make one large conductive array. This is attached to a capacitive sensor module so it’ll fire off whenever somebody puts a finger on the plastic.

With RGB LED strips added to the edges, you could actually stop here and have yourself a very cool looking illuminated touch sensitive panel. But ultimately, it would just be a glorified button. There’s plenty of interesting applications for such a gadget, but it’s not going to be terribly useful attached to your computer.

To turn this into a viable input device, [thiagesh D] is using a Raspberry Pi and its camera module to track the number and position of fingertips from the other side of the acrylic with Python and OpenCV. His code will even pick up on specific gestures, like a three finger drag which changes the colors of the LEDs accordingly in the video below. The camera’s field of view unfortunately means the box the panel gets mounted to has to be fairly deep, but if recessed into the surface of a desk, we think it could look incredible.

Custom multi-touch panels have been a favorite project of hackers for years now, and we’ve got examples going all the way back to the old black and white days. But larger and more modern incarnations like this one have the potential to change how we interface with technology on a daily basis.

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The Righteous Quest To Crack A Canon I9900

[Starhawk] is a man with a problem. More accurately, he’s a man whose mother has a problem, but ultimately that ends up being the same thing. Her wide-format Canon printer recently stopped working after better than a decade of reliable service, and he wants to know why. Rather than spend the money on buying a new printer, he’s determined to find out if she’s been the victim of planned obsolescence by reverse engineering the Canon i9900 to see what makes it tick (or stop ticking, as the case may be).

In the absence of any obvious hardware faults, [Starhawk] has suspicions that the machine’s QY6-0055 printhead has run over some internal “odometer” and simply turned itself off. We’ve all seen similar trickery at play when trying to use third party ink cartridges in our printers, so it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that the Canon i9900 is designed to reject heads once they’ve seen enough usage. Perhaps the biggest clue is that the QY6-0055 has a Seiko S93C56BR EEPROM on the board that’s keeping track of…something.

Right now, [Starhawk] is devoting his energies on trying to make sense of the data he pulled from the EEPROM using his TL866A programmer. But that’s no easy feat with a sample size of just one, which is why he’s looking for help. He’s hoping that other hackers with similar printers (and ideally ones that use the same QY6-0055 head) could submit their own EEPROM dumps and the community could get to work trying to decipher what’s stored on the chips. He’s really hoping that somebody at Canon might be willing to sneak him a couple tips on what he should be looking for, but at this point we think he’ll take whatever assistance he can get.

Now to be fair, there’s really no way to know definitively if there’s some flag stored on the EEPROM that’s keeping the printer from working. It could just be good old fashioned hardware failure, which would hardly be a surprise for a piece of consumer electronics from 2005. But even if the effort to understand the Canon’s EEPROM doesn’t get him any closer to a working printer, we still think it’s a fascinating example of real-world reverse engineering that’s worth it for the experience alone.

There’s a long history of hackers doing battle with their printers, from emulating an ink cartridge with a microcontroller to reinking the ribbon of a vintage 1980s behemoth. We’re interested in seeing where this project takes [Starhawk], but no matter what happens there are likely to be some interesting discoveries made along the way.

When Your Car Breaks Down, Simply Hack It Into A Simulator

When [Nishanth]’s Subaru BRZ came to a sudden halt, he was saddened by the wait to get a new engine installed. Fortunately, he was able to cheer himself up by hacking it into a car simulator in the mean time. This would have the added benefit of not being limited to just driving on the Road Atlanta where the unfortunate mishap occurred, but any course available on Forza and similar racing games.

On paper it seemed fairly straight-forward: simply tap into the car’s CAN bus for the steering, throttle, braking and further signals, convert it into something a game console or PC can work with and you’re off to the races. Here the PC setup is definitely the cheapest and easiest, with a single part required: a Macchina M2 Under the Dash kit ($97.50). The XBox required over $200 worth of parts, including the aforementioned Macchina part, an XBox Adaptive Controller and a few other bits and pieces. And a car, naturally.

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The Macchina M2 is the part that listens to the CAN traffic via the OBD2 port, converting it into something that resembles a USB HID gamepad. So that’s all a matter of plug’n’play, right? Not so fast. Every car uses their own CAN-based system, with different peripherals and addresses for them. This means that with the Macchina M2 acquired, [Nishanth]’s first task was to reverse-engineer the CAN signals for the car’s controls.

At this point the story is pretty much finished for the PC side of things, but the XBox One console is engineered to only accept official peripherals. The one loop-hole here is the Adaptive Controller, designed for people with disabilities, which allows the use of alternative inputs. This also enables using a car as an XBox One controller, which is an interesting side-effect.

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The Zen Of Mechanical Keyboard Wiring

Mechanical keyboards are all the rage right now, but the vast majority of them are purchased commercially. Only the most dedicated people are willing to put in the time and effort required to design and assemble their own custom board, and as you might imagine, we’ve featured a number of such projects here on Hackaday in the past.

But what makes this particular mechanical keyboard build from [kentlamh] so special isn’t the final product (though it’s certainly quite nice), but the care he took when hand-wiring all of the switches to the Teensy 2.0 microcontroller that serves as its controller. There’s no PCB inside this custom board, it’s all rainbow colored wires, individual diodes, and the patience to put it all together with tweezers.

[kentlamh] takes the reader through every step of the wiring process, and drops a number of very helpful hints which are sure to be of interest to anyone who might be looking to embark on a similar journey. Such as bending the diode legs en masse on the edge of a table, or twisting them around a toothpick to create a neat loop that will fit over the pin on the back of the switch.

He also uses a soldering iron to melt away the insulation in the middle of the wires instead of suffering through hundreds of individual jumpers. We’ve seen this trick before with custom keyboards, and it’s one of those things we just can’t get enough of.

Some will no doubt argue that the correct way to do this would be to use an automatic wire stripper, and we don’t necessarily disagree. But there’s something undeniably appealing about the speed and convenience of just tapping the wire with the iron at each junction to give yourself a bit of bare copper to work with.

Even if you aren’t enough of a mechanical keyboard aficionado to travel all the way to Japan to attend the official meetup or discuss the finer points of their design at the Hackaday Superconference, there’s an undeniable beauty to this custom board. With a little guidance from [kentlamh], perhaps it will be your own handwired masterpiece that’s next to grace these pages.

[Thanks to Psybird for the tip.]

Putting 3D Printed Speaker Drivers To The Test

Over the years, we’ve seen numerous projects that attempted to 3D print speaker enclosures that deliver not only a bit of custom flair, but hopefully halfway decent sound. Though as you’d probably expect, the drivers themselves are always standard run-of-the mill hardware mounted into the plastic enclosure. But given the research being conducted by [Paul Ellis], that might not be a safe assumption for much longer.

His quest to develop a full-range 3D speaker has taken him through several design revisions over the last two years, with each one being put through testing procedure that compared its frequency response to “real” speakers from manufacturers like Dayton and Bose. The project is very much ongoing, but a recently completed iteration of the driver design managed to exceed 80 dB at 1 W. In terms of audio quality, [Paul] reports they can hold their own against commercially available drivers. You can hear for yourself in the video after the break.

Ultimately, he hopes to be able to sell his 3D printed speakers in kit form to anyone who’s looking for the last word in bespoke audio hardware. The idea being that the drivers and enclosure will be completely modular, allowing the user to swap out individual components for ones printed (or not) in different materials so they can tune the in-person sound to their exact specifications. To facilitate this rapid reconfiguring of the drivers, the designs use some neat tricks like having the magnets be removable rather than glued in so they could be swapped out non-destructively.

This isn’t the first fully 3D printed speaker driver we’ve ever seen, Formlabs showed one off that was made on their SLA printer back in 2015, and we actually saw a rudimentary take on the same idea earlier this year. But the work that [Paul] has done here is certainly the most thorough, and dare we say practical, take we’ve ever seen on the concept.

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The Ultimate Guide To Artisan USB Cables

If you’ve gone through the trouble of building your own customized mechanical keyboard, the last thing you want to do is plug it into your computer with some plebeian USB cable from the local electronics shop. Your productivity, nay livelihood, depends on all those 1s and 0s being reproduced with the crisp fidelity that’s only possible with a high-end USB cable. Anything less would be irresponsible.

Or at least, that’s what the advertising on the back of the package would say if we tried to sell the custom USB cables built by [Josef Adamčík]. But alas, he’s decided to give away all the details for free so that anyone can build their own delightfully overengineered USB cables. Do you need a paracord USB cable with GX12 aviation connectors in the middle? Of course not. But you still want one, don’t you?

As [Josef] admits in his blog post, there’s nothing particularly special about what he’s doing here. If you can splice wires together, you can build your own bespoke USB cables. But what attracted us to his write-up was the phenomenal detail he goes into. Every step is clearly explained and includes a nice, well-lit, photo to illustrate what he’s doing. Honestly, when the documentation for soldering some USB connectors onto a wire looks this good, there’s no excuse why more substantial projects get little more than a few blurry shots.

Of course, even for those of us who are no stranger to the ways of the soldering iron, there’s likely a few ideas you can pull from this project. We particularly liked his tip for taping the USB connector to the workbench while soldering it rather than trying to get it to stay in a vise, and his method for adding a coil the cable with a wooden jig and a heat gun is definitely something to file away for future use.

Then again in an era where even the lowly-USB cable can potentially be a security threat, or simply not live up to published specifications, rolling your own might not be such a bad idea.

Perfecting A Bluetooth N64 Controller

Love it or hate it, the Nintendo 64 controller doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Dedicated fans are still looking for ways to use the unique trilobed controller with modern systems, and they won’t be satisfied until they perfectly replicate the original experience. [Shyri Villar] has been working on perfecting a blend of original and modern hardware that looks very promising.

The project started when [Shyri] found that you could take the internals from a modern third party Bluetooth N64 controller made by 8BitDo and put them into the original controller’s case. This would give you the original buttons back, and overall a more authentic weight and feel. Unfortunately, this usually means dumping the original N64 joystick for the 8BitDo’s.

What [Shyri] wanted to do was install the 8BitDo PCB into an original N64 controller, but adapt Nintendo’s joystick to communicate with it. Unfortunately, since the original joystick used optical encoders and the 8BitDo version uses potentiometers, there’s something of a language gap.

To bridge the divide, both the X and Y dimensions of the joystick get their own PIC12F675 microcontroller and X9C103S digital potentiometer. The microcontrollers read the X and Y values from the original joystick’s encoders, and use the digital potentiometers to provide the 8BitDo with the expected analog input. Right now the electronics are held on two scraps of perfboard tucked into the side “wings” of the controller, but hopefully we’ll see a custom PCB in the future.

If you’re more interested in going back in time with your trusty N64 controller, then you might be interested in learning more about how one hacker managed to hook it up to the MSX.