DIY Switches For People Who Can’t Push Switches

An outstanding number of things most people take for granted present enormous hurdles for people with physical disabilities, including interaction with computers and other digital resources. Assistive technologies such as adaptive switches allow users who cannot use conventional buttons or other input devices to interact with digital devices, and while there are commercial offerings there is still plenty of room for projects like [Cassio Batista]’s DIY Low-cost Assistive Technology Switches.

[Cassio]’s project focuses on non-contact switches, such as proximity and puff-based activations. These are economical, DIY options aimed at improving accessibility for people who are unable to physically push even specialized switches. There are existing products in this space, but cost can be a barrier and DIY options that use familiar interfaces greatly improves accessibility.

Assistive technologies that give people the tools they need to have more control over their own lives in a positive, healthy way is one of the more vibrant and positive areas of open hardware development, and it’s not always clear where the challenges lie when creating solutions. An example of this is the winner of the 2015 Hackaday Prize, the Eyedrivomatic, which allows one to interface the steering of an electric wheelchair to a gaze tracking system while permanently altering neither device; a necessity because users often do not own their hardware.

Now, Finally, We Can Play With Power

In case you’re not a ’90s kid, the Nintendo Power Glove is the greatest device for human-computer interaction ever created. It’s so good, they called it bad, and then they made a movie about it. At its heart, the Power Glove is just some force sensors in the fingers of a glove, but that hasn’t stopped hackers from cracking these gloves open for years. We’ve seen the Power Glove used in Hackaday Prize entries before, we’ve seen it control quadcopters, we’ve seen it used as a Vive controller, and the Ultimate Power Glove comes loaded up with Bluetooth, motion tracking, a 9-axis IMU, and a 20-hour battery life. With all these Power Glove hacks, what more can be done?

Surprisingly, we haven’t seen a Power Glove hack that transmutes this icon of cyberpunk into a usable keyboard and mouse. That’s exactly what [Scott] is doing for his Hackaday Prize entry, and the results are looking good so far.

First up, the mouse. This is actually a joystick-based version of cursor control, capitalizing on the force sensors in the Power Glove to register clicks. Add in a button, some perfboard, and an Arduino, and you have a USB input device that can control a cursor. Without any good solution for a small keyboard, [Scott] turned to a normal ‘ol Bluetooth keyboard mounted to the Power Glove’s wrist.

It might not be as fancy as the great Power Glove hacks out there, but this is certainly the most useful. Who wouldn’t want to wear their keyboard and mouse at all times, all while looking like they stepped out of a time machine controlled by a Commodore 64? This is the heights of early ’90s futurism, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

Modular Keyboards For CAD, Gaming, And Video Editing

Of all the input devices, the keyboard is the greatest. This comes at a cost, though: there were times back in the Before Days, when video and music editing applications came with custom keyboards. There were Pro Tools keyboards, Final Cut keyboards, and innumerable Adobe keyboards. What’s the solution to this problem? More keyboards, obviously, and this time we’ll make them modular.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Cole B] is building modular, programmable USB keyboards. It’s got everything: a standard 3×3 keypad, a keyboard that’s just four potentiometers, a keyboard that’s a rotary encoder, and a keyboard that’s a set of faders.

The design of these keyboards is inherently modular, and that means there needs to be a way to connect all these modules together, preferably without a bunch of USB cables strewn about. Right now, the best idea [Cole] is working with is pogo pins and magnets. It’s a great idea although Apple Thinks Differently™ and probably wouldn’t be too keen on seeing the whole ‘magnets and pins’ idea stolen out from under them.

Nevertheless, it’s an excellent project that shows how far you can go with manufacturing on a limited budget. These are fantastic keyboard modules already, and the connector scheme already pushes this project into the upper echelon of keyboard hacks.

Moving 3D Printed Prosthetic Arms With A Pulse

One of the best uses of 3D printers we’ve seen are custom prosthetics. Even today, custom-built prosthetics cost an arm and a leg, but there’s no reason why they should. Right now, we can scan someone’s arm or leg, import that scan into a 3D-modeling program, and design a custom-fit orthotic that can be spit out on a 3D printer. Now, we’re seeing some interesting methods of turning those 3D-printed parts into the beginnings of a cybernetic design. This is a custom printed robotic hand controlled by a pulse sensor. It’s in its early stages right now, but so far the results are promising and this is a great entry to The Hackaday Prize

This project draws upon a few of the team’s other endeavours. The first is a 3D-printed mini linear actuator, a project that made it into the finals of the Hackaday Prize in the Robotics Module challenge. This tiny linear actuator is actually powered by a tiny hobby servo rigged up for continuous rotation. Add in some 3D printed gears and a well-designed frame, and you have something that’s just as good as fantastically expensive linear actuators as a bargain basement price. This pulse sensor arm also makes use of the team’s TNS 1i, a 3D printed robotic hand that makes use of those tiny little linear actuators.

Of course, if you’re going to build a prosthetic robotic arm, you have to have some sort of brain-machine interface. Previously, the team was using Myoware muscle sensors to control the opening and closing of the fingers. This changed, however, when [Giovanni] was trying to get his Samsung gear S3 to detect his pulse. Apparently, moving your wrist when trying to get a smartwatch to listen in on your heartbeat is an acceptable substitute for a muscle sensor.

Count To F Easily With This DIY Calculator

Some of the greatest electronic calculators of all time, including the venerable HP-16C, included functionality to convert numbers between different bases. 3735928559 might not mean much in base 10, but convert that to hex, and you’ll offend vegetarians. If the great calculators of yore had a way to convert between number bases, that means someone must make a standalone device to do the same, right? That’s what [leumasyerrp] is doing for their entry into the Hackaday Prize, anyway.

The Base Convert project is a simple desktop calculator designed to convert between hexadecimal, decimal, and binary. To do this, there’s an 8×8 key matrix for the numbers 0 through F. There are sixteen single LEDs, four seven-segment LEDs for the hex display, and six seven-segment LEDs for the decimal display.

While this is really just a project [leumasyerrp] came up with to learn the MSP430 microcontroller, this looks like a fantastic project given it’s great use of milled PCB for a front panel, careful selection of standoff height, and everything is tucked away into a package that looks about as professional as you can expect from a device made entirely from PCBs. Of course, the Base Convert calculator works as expected, and can easily change between number bases.

Sometimes it’s not about building the hardest or most complex project, but instead simply putting the most amount of polish into a simple project. This is a project that does that well, and we’re happy to have this in the running for the Hackaday Prize.

Twenty Projects That Just Won the Human Computer Interface Challenge

The greatest hardware competition on the planet is going on right now. The Hackaday Prize is the Oscars of Open Hardware. It’s the Nobel Prize of building a thing. It’s the Fields Medal of firmware development, and simply making it to the finals grants you a knighthood in the upper echelon of hardware developers.

Last week, we wrapped up the fourth challenge in The Hackaday Prize, the Human Computer Interface challenge. Now we’re happy to announce twenty of those projects have been selected to move onto the final round and have been awarded a $1000 cash prize. Congratulations to the winners of the Human Computer Interface Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize. Here are the winners, in no particular order:

Human Computer Interface Challenge Hackaday Prize Finalists:

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This Is Your Solution For Open Source Motion Tracking

The HTC Vive Tracker adds real-world objects to your virtual world. While these real-world objects in virtual environments are now mostly limited to a Nintendo Zapper for a Duck Hunt clone and a tennis racket, the future is clear: we’re going to be playing Duck Hunt and Wii Sports while wearing headsets. The future is so bright, it burns.

Of course, with any piece of neat computing hardware, there’s an opportunity for building an Open Source clone. That’s what [Drix] is doing with his Hackaday Prize entry. He’s created an Open Source Vive Tracker. It’s called the HiveTracker, and it is right now the best solution for tracking objects in a 3D space.

After a few missteps with ultrasonic and magnetic approaches, the team decided to piggyback on the HTC Vive lighthouses. These two base stations scan a laser beam across the room, first vertically, then horizontally. It’s an incredible piece of technology that [Alan Yates] talked about at the 2016 Hackaday Superconference.

While most microcontrollers don’t operate fast enough to see these laser sweeps, the team behind the HiveTracker found one microcontroller, with Bluetooth, and a feature called ‘PPI’. This programmable peripheral interconnect is kinda, sorta like a cross-bar, but designed for more real-time control of applications. With the right software, the team behind the HiveTracker was able to detect the lighthouses and send position and orientation data back to a computer.

This is a stupendous amount of work, and the results are remarkable. You can check out the video below and see that, yes, this is a real, Open Source Vive Tracker.

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