This year, [Thomas]’ neighborhood has gone from a quiet burg to a bustling lane full of families and children who go out walking for exercise and a change of scenery. Early on, a game emerged to distract children from the pandemic by turning these walks into bear hunts — that is, looking for stuffed bears sitting in the windows of houses and keeping count of them.
Bubbles sits in a second-story window and waits for passers-by to press one of the buttons mounted on the utility pole below. Both buttons are wired to a 433MHz remote that sends a signal to an ESP32 in Bubbles’ habitat that says it’s time to perform.
We particularly like the bubble maker that [Thomas] designed, which aims a blower fan with an air concentrator at a carousel of 3D printed bubble wands. Both the fan and the carousel can be controlled with a custom web app, and he gets an email every time Bubbles has a visitor that tells him how much bubble liquid is left. Check out the fun-size demo after the break.
The must-have toy of a couple of decades ago was the Tamagotchi, a virtual pet in an LCD screen on a keyring, that demanded your attention and which would die were you to neglect it. Fortunately it had a reset button on the back through which it could be resuscitated, but even so it lacked a satisfying tactile experience. [Nadine] has done something about this with her Tamagotchi-style Tribble, an anthropomorphic ball of fluff that demands attention and purrs when it receives some.
Inside the ball of fake fur is an Adafruit Circuit Playground with a capacitive touch pad and a haptic motor. After a random time with no attention it “cries”, and its owner strokes it, after which it responds with a purring vibration. It’s quite cute as you can see in the Twitter video below, and fortunately it won’t multiply and fill up your starship. We wonder whether a small resistive heater to give it a body temperature would complete its appeal as a virtual pet.
To be a child in the 1970s and 1980s was to be of the first generations to benefit from electronic technologies in your toys. As those lucky kids battled blocky 8-bit digital foes, the adults used to fret that it would rot their brains. Kids didn’t play outside nearly as much as generations past, because modern toys were seducing them to the small screen. Truth be told, when you could battle aliens with a virtual weapon that was in your imagination HUGE, how do you compete with that.
How those ’80s kids must have envied their younger siblings then when in 1990 one of the best toys ever was launched, a stored-pressure water gun which we know as the Super Soaker. Made of plastic, and not requiring batteries, it far outperformed all squirt guns that had come before it, rapidly becoming the hit toy of every sweltering summer day. The Super Soaker line of water pistols and guns redefined how much fun kids could have while getting each other drenched. No longer were the best water pistols the electric models which cost a fortune in batteries that your parents would surely refuse to replace — these did it better.
You likely know all about the Super Soaker, but you might not know it was invented by an aerospace engineer named Lonnie Johnson whose career included working on stealth technology and numerous projects with NASA.
One of the few positives to come of this pandemic is that the restrictive nature of scarcity can be a boon to creativity. Plus, the doom and gloom of it all is causing people to loosen up and do things they never felt free enough to do before in the demanding world of the before times.
For example, [ossum] makes R/C vehicles on commission to exacting standards, but took a break from perfection to build this remote control hellscape-faring van by the seat of his pants. It’s quite a resourceful build that combines pieces from previous projects with a few standard R/C parts and a handful of clever hacks.
The body is a test print of a 1957 Chevy Suburban van that [ossum] made for someone a few years back. It’s mounted on a scrap metal chassis and moves on printed tank treads designed for a different vehicle.
Since glass is a liability in an apocalypse (and because [ossum] doesn’t have a resin printer yet), the windows have fortified coverings that are printed, patina’d, and detailed with tiny rivet heads.
As far as hacks go, our favorite has to be the clothespin steering. [ossum] only had one electronic speed controller, so he used a servo to actuate a pair of spring-loaded clips, alternating between the two to move the tank-van. There’s a short video after the break that shows the rack and clothes-pinion steering, and it’s loaded up right after a brief demo of the van.
What does one do with tiny 1:35 scale remote controlled off-road vehicles? Build appropriately-tiny tracks for them to drive on, of course. That’s exactly what [David] did when he created his fantastic rock crawling track that he has dubbed the ‘4×4 Arena’, and what’s even better is that he used leftover foam inserts and acrylic paints and materials to do it, and didn’t have to spend a penny.
This isn’t [David]’s first track. He originally made a smaller rock-crawling track he called Rubble Wasteland for the tiny vehicles, and he liked it so much he expanded it considerably. The new track builds on the original and is three levels deep, sports tight cave-like passages, tunnels, tricky climbs, and and realistic terrain textures.
An enormous photo gallery is right here, and other than the first and final images, it’s roughly in chronological build order. If your curiosity has been piqued about the tiny 1:35 scale remote controlled vehicles that this track is built for, around gallery page nine is where pictures of what makes these tiny things tick begins.
Back in the early 1980s, hotshot business types on the go would have used what were referred to at the time as portable computers from companies like Osborne or Kaypro. Due to the technical limitations of the era these so-called “luggables” were only slightly smaller and lighter than contemporary desktop computers, but they had integrated displays and keyboards so they were a bit easier to move around. A few years later the first generation of laptops would hit the market, and the portables predictably fell out of favor. Today they’re relatively rare collectors items; a largely forgotten first step in the steady march towards true mobile computing.
Which makes the 1984 edition of VTech’s “Whiz Kid” educational computer an especially unique specimen. The company’s later entries into the series of popular electronic toys would adopt (with some variations) the standard laptop form factor, but this version has the distinction of being what might be the most authentic luggable computer ever made for children. When this toy was being designed it would have been a reflection of the cutting edge in computer technology, but today, it’s a fascinating reminder that the latest-and-greatest doesn’t always stick around for very long.
The classic luggable hallmarks are all here. The flip down keyboard, the small and strangely offset display, there’s even lugs on the side to attach an included strap so the youngster can sling it over their shoulder. On the other hand, the fact that it’s just a toy allowed for some advantages over the real thing: it can actually run on battery power, and is quite lightweight relative to its size.
If you have a toddler and a mini-tramp you know the rallying cry of “Mama, Count!”. If you don’t don’t have either of these things, become the hero uncle or aunt by building one for your family members who have been social distancing with a three-year-old monster bundle of joy for the last five weeks. This trampoline bounce counter uses a Raspberry Pi and a distance sensor to stream the bounce count to a nice little web GUI.
The hardware couldn’t be more simple, and there’s a good chance you already have everything on hand. The HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor is a staple in beginner microcontroller kits. It simply lays on the floor pointed up at the bottom of the trampoline, connected to a Raspberry Pi via a resistor divider.
The software is where [Eric Escobar’s] project makes your life easy. He’s included a simple calibration routine that marks the low point of a bounce as you stand still on the tramp. There’s even a systemd service file included to ensure the software is always running, even after reboot. Cumulative bounce count can be seen on a webpage served from the Pi via an AJAX script.
Having a running count is a great first step, and surely a magical new feature of the trampoline that will be loved by the little ones. If that sense of wonder runs out, you could always gamify the system by adding in daily or hourly totals and a high-scores board.