Hacked LCD Shutter Glasses See The Light

It’s always a little sad to see a big consumer technology fail. But of course, the upside for us hacker types is that the resulting fire sale is often an excellent source for hardware that might otherwise be difficult to come by. The most recent arrival to the Island of Unwanted Consumer Tech is 3D TV. There was a brief period of time when the TV manufacturers had nearly convinced people that sitting in their living room wearing big dorky electronic glasses was a workable solution, but in the end we know how it really turned out.

Those same dorky glasses are now available for a fraction of their original price, and are ripe for hacking. [Kevin Koster] has been playing around with them, and he’s recently came up with a circuit that offers the wearer a unique view of the world. Any reflective surface will look as though it is radiating rainbows, which he admits doesn’t show up as well in still images, but looks cool enough that he thought it was worth putting the board into production in case anyone else wants in on the refraction action.

To explain how it works, we need to take a couple of steps back and look at the mechanics of the LCD panels used in these type of glasses. At the risk of oversimplification, one could say that LCDs are sort of like capacitors: when charged the crystals align themselves in such a way that the polarization of the light passing through is changed. Combined with an external polarization filter, this has the end result of turning the panel opaque. To put the crystals back in their original arrangement, and let the light pass through again, the LCD panel is shorted out in the same way you might discharge a capacitor.

What [Kevin] found was that if he slowly discharged the LCD panel rather than shorting it out completely, it would gradually fade out instead of immediately becoming transparent. His theory is that this partial polarization is what causes the rainbow effect, as the light that’s passing through to the wearers eyes is in a “twisted” state.

[Kevin] has provided all of the information necessary to build your own “Rainbow Adapter”, but you can also purchase a kit or assembled board from Tindie. If you’re looking for other projects to make use of those 3D glasses collecting dust, how about turning them into automatic sunglasses or having a go at curing your lazy eye.

Automatic Sunglasses, No Battery!

There are some projects that are so simple they require very little description, and [Bobricius’s] automatic sunglasses definitely fit into that category. Their story starts with the fad for 3D displays a few years ago, a resurfacing of the movie business’s periodic flirtation with the third dimension in the hope of using the gimmick to bring in more moviegoers. There was a time when you could hardly encounter a new TV or graphics card without it coming with a pair of cheap plastic glasses with LCD panels instead of lenses that would alternately shutter the view for each eye to create the 3D illusion.

Of course, once everyone had seen the film with the blue aliens and tried a few other titles on their new toy, they grew tired of headaches, nausea, and half-brightness. The glasses gathered dust, and the fancy 3D telly never ventured beyond two dimensions again. Except for [Bobricius’s] glasses, that is, for he’s levered out the 3D driver electronics and replaced them with a tiny SOIC-8 solar cell. Light hits the cell, the LCD gets a charge and darkens, no light and they remain transparent. Similar to welding goggles — though they usually use a battery. It’s unclear whether they can get a little too dark on a really bright day and whether they are something akin to [Zaphod Beeblebrox]’s peril-sensitive sunglasses, but we really applaud the idea. They are so simple that this Hackaday write-up is probably longer than their write-up, but they remain a neatly executed idea and we like that.

You can, of course, use a battery, or achieve the same effect by more complex means. But if the [Beeblebrox] glasses are closer to your requirements, we’ve got that covered too.

Sonar in Your Hand

Sonar measures distance by emitting a sound and clocking how long it takes the sound to travel. This works in any medium capable of transmitting sound such as water, air, or in the case of FingerPing, flesh and bone. FingerPing is a project at Georgia Tech headed by [Cheng Zhang] which measures hand position by sending soundwaves through the thumb and measuring the time on four different receivers. These readings tell which bones the sound travels through and allow the device to figure out where the thumb is touching. Hand positions like this include American Sign Language one through ten.

From the perspective of discreetly one through ten on a mobile device, this opens up a lot of possibilities for computer input while remaining pretty unobtrusive. We see prototypes which are more capable of reading gestures but also draw attention if you wear them on a bus. It is a classic trade-off between convenience and function but this type of reading is unique and could combine with other bio signals for finer results.

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Rachel Wong Keynote: Growing Eyeballs in the Lab and Building Wearables that Enhance Experience

The keynote speaker at the Hackaday Belgrade conference was Rachel “Konichiwakitty” Wong presenting Jack of All Trades, Master of One. Her story is one that will be very familiar to anyone in the Hackaday community. A high achiever in her field of study, Rachel has learned the joy of limiting how much energy she allows herself to expend on work, rounding out her life with recreation in other fascinating areas.

There are two things Rachel is really passionate about in life. In her professional life she is working on her PhD as a stem cell researcher studying blindness and trying to understand the causes of genetic blindness. In her personal life she is exploring wearable technology in a way that makes sense to her and breaks out of what is often seen in practice these days.

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This Is The Year Conference Badges Get Their Own Badges

Over the last few years, the art and artistry of printed circuit boards has moved from business cards to the most desirable of all disposable electronics. I speak, of course, of badgelife. This is the community built on creating and distributing independent electronic conference badges at the various tech and security conferences around the globe.

Until now, badgelife has been a loose confederation of badgemakers and distributors outdoing themselves each year with ever more impressive boards, techniques, and always more blinky bling. The field is advancing so fast there is no comparison to what was being done in years past; where a simple PCB and blinking LED would have sufficed a decade ago, now we have customized microcontrollers direct from the factory, fancy new chips, and the greatest art you’ve ever seen.

Now we have reached a threshold. The badgelife community has gotten so big, the badges are getting their own badges. This is the year of the badge add-on. We’re all building tiny trinkets for our badges, and this time, they’ll all work together. We’re exactly one year away from a sweet Voltron robot made of badges.

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Joe Grand is Hiding Data in Plain Sight: LEDs that Look Solid but Send a Message

Thursday night was a real treat. I got to see both Joe Grand and Kitty Yeung at the HDDG meetup, each speaking about their recent work.

Joe walked us through the OpticSpy, his newest hardware product that had its genesis in some of the earliest days of data leakage. Remember those lights on old modems that would blink when data is being transmitted or received? The easiest way to design this circuit is to tie the status LEDs directly to the RX and TX lines of a serial port, but it turns out that’s broadcasting your data out to anyone with a camera. You can’t see the light blinking so fast with your eyes of course, but with the right gear you most certainly could read out the ones and zeros. Joe built an homage to that time using a BPW21R photodiode.

Transmitting data over light is something that television manufacturers have been doing for decades, too. How do they work in a room full of light sources? They filter for the carrier signal (usually 38 kHz). But what if you’re interested in finding an arbitrary signal? Joe’s bag of tricks does it without the carrier and across a large spectrum. It feels a bit like magic, but even if you know how it works, his explanation of the hardware is worth a watch!

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Stretching My Skills: How (and Why) I Made My Own Compression Sleeves

Have you ever noticed how “one size fits all” often means “one size poorly fits all”? This became especially clear to me when I started using a compression sleeve on my arm. Like any hacker, this seemed like something I could fix, so I gave it a shot. Boy, did I learn a lot in the process.

A little over a year ago, I started dropping things. If I was holding something in my left hand, chances were good that it would suddenly be on the ground. This phenomenon was soon accompanied by pain and numbness, particularly after banging on a keyboard all day.

At best, my pinky and ring fingers were tired all the time and felt half dead. At worst, pain radiated from my armpit all the way to my fingertips. It felt like my arm had been electrocuted. Long story short, I saw a neurologist or two, and several co-pays later I had a diagnosis: cubital tunnel syndrome.

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