What Actually Happens At A Hardware Hacking Con

The Hackaday Superconference was last weekend, and it was the greatest hardware con on the planet. What can you build out of a conference badge? If you answered “a resin-based 3D printer” you would have won a prize. If you decided to put your badge in a conference water bottle and make a stun gun you’d receive adoration of all in attendance. Yeah, it got that crazy.

Yes, there’s a Supercon badge in that bottle and it’s now a stun gun.

At other tech conferences, you’ll find gaggles of nerds sitting around a table with MacBooks and Thinkpads. The Superconference is different. Here, you’ll find soldering irons, tackle boxes filled with components, and loose WS2812s scattered about the floor. The smell of solder flux wafts through the air. You detect a hint of ozone.

The depth and breadth of hacks that came out of this were simply stunning. We a binocular virtual reality hack, an internet trolling badge, blinky add-on boards, audio add-on boards, a film festival was shot on the badge, and much more which you’ll find below.

We have started a Badge Hacks list and want to see details of all of the hacks. So if you were at Supercon be sure to publish them on Hackaday.io and send a DM to be added to the list.

Starting Up An Extra Day of Hacking

To get all of this creativity rolling we did something a bit different for this year’s Superconference. Instead of opening the doors up on Saturday morning, we set up a badge hacking area and party on Friday afternoon. The drinks flowed like the meniscus on a properly soldered lead, and by 2pm on Friday, everyone was hacking firmware on the incredible camera badge for this year’s con.

We didn’t stop on Friday. The Superconference is a hardware hacking conference, and that meant we brought out the soldering irons, experimented with melting aluminum with gallium, reflowed a few boards, and created a few deadbug LED cubes. This went on all weekend.

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The Hacker Village of Supercon

I’m utterly exhausted and still in a state of awe. The Hackaday Superconference has grown in so many ways, but one thing remains the same: the spirit of the Hacker Village — an intangible feeling that grows up around all who attend — is bliss to take part in.

There’s really no substitute for having been there in person. I’ll go into detail below and try to share the experience as best I can. But the gist of the atmosphere is this: everyone at Supercon is the type of person you’d want to be stuck in a rowboat with, or partnered with on an engineering project, or to have next to you while trying to save the world. There are no looky-loos at Supercon. It turns out we are all stuck in a rowboat together, we are all working on engineering projects, and we are all trying to save the world. And when we all get together it feels like a drug our pragmatic minds never knew existed. This is the recharge for that sense of urgency that keeps you going all year long.

So yes, you really missed it. But start now. Become friends with all of these people over the next year. Begin building your Supercon community now and it’ll feel like a reunion when it rolls around again next November.

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The Perils of Developing the Hackaday Superconference Badge

In case you haven’t heard, the best hardware conference in the world was last weekend. The Hackaday Superconference was three days of hardware hacking, soldering irons, and an epic hardware badge. Throw in two stages for talk, two workshop areas, the amazing hallwaycon and the best, most chill attendees you can imagine, and you have the ultimate hardware conference.

Already we’ve gone over the gory details of what this badge does, and now it’s time to talk about the perils of building large numbers of an electronic conference badge. This is the hardware demoscene, artisanal manufacturing, badgelife, and an exploration of exactly how far you can push a development schedule to get these badges out the door and into the hands of eager badge hackers and con attendees.

The good news is that we succeeded, and did so in time to put a completed badge in the hand of everyone who attended the conference (and we do have a few available if you didn’t make it to the con). Join me after the break to learn what it took to make it all happen and see the time lapse of the final kitting process.

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Official Statement Regarding Counterfeit Benchoff Bucks

It was reported, and Hackaday has now confirmed, that counterfeit Benchoff Bucks were being circulated at this weekend’s Hackaday Superconference.

The fake bills were distinguishable by their poor printing quality and vastly smaller size than official ‘Bucks. Their appearance should help to relieve the skyrocketing value of the Benchoff Buck, whose dominance as the preferred paper currency at hardware conferences has caused deflationary forces to take hold as ‘Bucks holders hoard them.

Benchoff Nickel (contains no crypto)

Hackaday’s resident economists hope that the appearance of the counterfeits will begin to devalue the currency. Diminishing the strength of Benchoff Bucks has long been the goal for the portion of the Hackaday community who believe we need to move off of fiat Benchoff currency in favor of Benchoff-based cryptocurrency.

We anticipate seeing the long-rumored ICO early in 2018, likely in conjunction with other live Hackaday events. No word yet on the name of the new cryptocoins, but it is worth mentioning that the ‘Benchoff Nickel‘ has already been taken.

After an exhaustive investigation, the forger has been identified. They were given a pat on the back, a firm handshake, and charged with the responsibility of documenting the forgery effort as a Hackaday.io project. You know who you are… and we have our eye on you.

Stay tuned for reports on other shenanigans that took place at the Hackaday Superconference over the weekend. In the meantime, you can check out some of the epic talks that were live-streamed as they happened.

Hackaday Links: Supercon Sunday

This is not your normal Sunday links post. This is Superconference Sunday, and right now there are dozens of awesome projects floating around our conference in Pasadena. This links post will be mostly the projects from Supercon, but before that there’s some stuff we need to clear out of the queue:

Concerning other conferences, the Sparklecon site is up. Why go to Sparklecon? It’s a blast.

Tindie is worldwide! There were a bunch of Tindie sellers at the Maker Faire Adelaide this weekend. YouTuber MickMake is a friend of Tindie and we’re teaming up to give away a few prizes from Australian Tindie sellers. You can check out the full details here.

There’s an Internet of Things thing from 4D Systems. It’s an ESP8266 and a nice small display.

Well, crap. It might have finally happened. [Maxim Goryachy] and [Mark Ermolov] have obtained fully functional JTAG for Intel CSME via USB DCI. What the hell does that mean? It means you can plug something into the USB port of a computer, and run code on the Intel Management Engine (for certain Intel processors, caveats apply, but still…). This is doom. The Intel ME runs below the operating system and has access to everything in your computer. If this is real — right now we only have a screenshot — computer security is screwed, but as far as anyone can tell, me_cleaner fixes the problemAlso, Intel annoyed [Andy Tanenbaum].

With that out of the way, here’s some stuff from this weekend’s Supercon:

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Open Source Underwater Glider Wins 2017 Hackaday Prize

The Open Source Underwater Glider has just been named the Grand Prize winner of the 2017 Hackaday Prize. As the top winner of the Hackaday Prize, the Open Source Underwater Glider will receive $50,000 USD completes the awarding of more than $250,000 in cash prizes during the last eight months of the Hackaday Prize.

More than one thousand entries answered the call to Build Something That Matters during the 2017 Hackaday Prize. Hardware creators around the globe competed in five challenges during the entry rounds: Build Your Concept, Internet of Useful Things, Wings-Wheels-an-Walkers, Assistive Technologies, and Anything Goes. Below you will find the top five finisher, and the winner of the Best Product award of $30,000.

Open Source Underwater Glider

Grand Prize Winner ($50,000 USD): The Open Source Underwater Glider is an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) capable of long-term underwater exploration of submarine environments. Where most AUVs are limited in both power and range, the Open Source Underwater Glider does not use active propulsion such as thrusters or propellers. This submersible glides, extending the range and capabilities of whatever task it is performing.

The Open Source Underwater Glider is built from off-the-shelf hardware, allowing anyone to build their own copy of this very capable underwater drone. Extended missions of up to a week are possible, after which the Glider would return home autonomously.

Connected Health: Open source IoT patient monitor

Second Place ($20,000): The Connected Health project aims to bring vital sign monitoring to the masses with a simple, inexpensive unit built around commodity hardware. This monitoring system is connected to the Internet, which enables remote patient monitoring.

Assistance System for Vein Detection

Third Place ($15,000): This Assistance System for Vein Detection uses off-the-shelf components and near-IR imaging to detect veins under the skin. This system uses a Raspberry Pi and camera module or a modified webcam and yet is just as reliable as professional solutions that cost dozens of times more than this team’s prototype.

Adaptive Guitar

Fourth Place ($10,000): The Adaptive Guitar is an electromechanical system designed to allow disabled musicians to play the guitar with one hand (and a foot). This system strums the strings of a guitar while the musician frets each string.

Tipo : Braille Smartphone Keypad

Fifth Place ($5,000): Tipo is effectively a Braille USB keyboard designed for smartphones. The advent of touchscreen-only phones has unfortunately left the visually impaired without a modern phone. Tipo allows for physical interaction with modern smartphones.

Best Product Winner: Tipo : Braille Smartphone Keypad

The winner of the Best Product is Tipo : Braille Smartphone Keypad. Tipo is the solution to the problem of the increasingly buttonless nature of modern smartphones. A phone that is only a touchscreen cannot be used by the visually impaired, and Tipo adds a Braille keypad to the back of any phone. It is effectively a USB keypad, designed for Braille input, that attaches to the back of any phone.

The Best Product competition ran concurrently with the five challenge rounds and asked entrants to go beyond prototype to envision the user’s needs, manufacturing, and all that goes into getting to market. By winning the Best Product competition, the creators of Tipo will refine their design, improve their mechanical build, start looking at injecton molding, and turn their 3D printed prototype into a real product that has the ability to change lives.

Congratulations to all who entered the Hackaday Prize. Taking time to apply your skill and experience to making the world better is a noble pursuit. It doesn’t end with the awarding of a prize. We have the ability to change lives by supporting one another, improving on great ideas, and sharing the calling to Build Something that Matters.

These Are The Top Projects In The 2017 Hackaday Prize

For the last eight months, Hackaday has been running the greatest hardware competition on Earth. The Hackaday Prize is a challenge to Build Something That Matters, make an impact, and create the hardware that will transform the world. These projects range from reliable utensils for the disabled, a way to clean drinking water for rural villages, refreshable Braille displays, and even a few high voltage Tesla coil hats. The Hackaday Prize is the preeminent hardware hackathon with a goal of making the world a better place, and this weekend we’re going to see the fruits of everyone’s labor.

Watch It Live

We will announce the winners of the Hackaday Prize live on stage at the Hackaday Superconference this weekend. Even if you can’t make it to the conference, you can join in by watching the livestream (broadcast on YouTube and Facebook) and by joining the Supercon chat room.

What the Judges Have to Say

Over the last few weeks, our fantastic team of judges have been combing over the finalists in the Hackaday Prize. We’ve put together this video roundup with judges discussing the top ten finishers:

These ten projects are the best the Hackaday Prize has to offer, and one of these projects will walk away with the Grand Prize of $50,000 USD. The second, third, fourth, and fifth place winners will take away $20,000, $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. The top ten projects in the Hackaday Prize are, in no particular order:

 

5 Top Finishers for Best Product

The Hackaday Prize isn’t just about finding the best projects. We’re also looking for the best products. For that, the Hackaday Prize includes a Best Product award. This promises to awaken the hardware entrepreneurs to build a manufacturable thing that will shake up an industry. Here’s an overview of the five top finishers in the Best Product Category:

From a field of the twenty best product finalists entered into the Hackaday Prize our fantastic panel of judges have winnowed these down to five incredible finalists. They are, in no particular order:

The winner of the Best Product competition will walk away with $30,000 USD and an opportunity to interview for a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab. Here, the hackers behind the Best Product will have a materials budget, mentoring, and access to some world-class tools that will enable them to turn their prototype into a real product.

These are the best projects and products the 2017 Hackaday Prize has to offer, and we couldn’t ask for more. Watch live as the Hackaday Prize is awarded tomorrow at 6:30pm Pacific. It’s going to be a blast, and a few lucky projects will take away a pile of prize money and the respect of their peers. It really doesn’t get better than that.