The Smart Home Gains An Extra Dimension

With an ever-growing range of smart-home products available, all with their own hubs, protocols, and APIs, we see a lot of DIY projects (and commercial offerings too) which aim to provide a “single universal interface” to different devices and services. Usually, these projects allow you to control your home using a list of devices, or sometimes a 2D floor plan. [Wassim]’s project aims to take the first steps in providing a 3D interface, by creating an interactive smart-home controller in the browser.

Note: this isn’t just a rendered image of a 3D scene which is static; this is an interactive 3D model which can be orbited and inspected, showing information on lights, heaters, and windows. The project is well documented, and the code can be found on GitHub. The tech works by taking 3D models and animations made in Blender, exporting them using the .glTF format, then visualising them in the browser using three.js. This can then talk to Hue bulbs, power meters, or whatever other devices are required. The technical notes on this project may well be useful for others wanting to use the Blender to three.js/browser workflow, and include a number of interesting demos of isolated small key concepts for the project.

We notice that all the meshes created in Blender are very low-poly; is it possible to easily add subdivision surface modifiers or is it the vertex count deliberately kept low for performance reasons?

This isn’t our first unique home automation interface, we’ve previously written about shAIdes, a pair of AI-enabled glasses that allow you to control your devices just by looking at them. And if you want to roll your own home automation setup, we have plenty of resources. The Hack My House series contains valuable information on using Raspberry Pis in this context, we’ve got information on picking the right sensors, and even enlisting old routers for the cause.

Journey Through The Inner Workings Of A PCB

Most electronics we deal with day to day are comprised of circuit boards. No surprise there, right? But how do they work? This might seem like a simple question but we’ve all been in the place where those weird green or black sheets are little slices of magic. [Teddy Tablante] at Branch Eduction put together a lovingly crafted walkthrough flythrough video of how PCB(A)s work that’s definitely worth your time.

[Teddy]’s video focuses on unraveling the mysteries of the PCBA by peeling back the layers of a smartphone. Starting from the full assembly he separates components from circuit board and descends from there, highlighting the manufacturing methods and purpose behind what you see.

What really stands out here is the animation; at each step [Teddy] has modeled the relevant components and rendered them on the PCBA in 3D. Instead of relying solely on hard to understand blurry X-ray images and 2D scans of PCBAs he illustrates their relationships in space, an especially important element in understanding what’s going on underneath the solder mask. Even if you think you know it all we bet there’s a pearl of knowledge to discover; this writer learned that VIA is an acronym!

If you don’t like clicking links you can find the video embedded after the break. Credit to friend of the Hackaday [Mike Harrison] for acting as the best recommendation algorithm and finding this gem.

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Behold A 3D Display, Thanks To A Speeding Foam Ball

We’ve seen 3D image projection tried in a variety of different ways, but this is a new one to us. This volumetric display by Interact Lab of the University of Sussex creates a 3D image by projecting light onto a tiny foam ball, which zips around in the air fast enough to create a persistence of vision effect. (Video, embedded below.) How is this achieved? With a large array of ultrasonic transducers, performing what researchers call ‘acoustic trapping’.

This is the same principle behind acoustic levitation devices which demonstrate how lightweight objects (like tiny polystyrene foam balls) can be made to defy gravity. But this 3D display is capable of not only moving the object in 3D space, but doing so at a high enough speed and with enough control to produce a persistence of vision effect. The abstract for their (as yet unreleased) paper claims the trapped ball can be moved at speeds of up to several meters per second.

It has a few other tricks up its sleeve, too. The array is capable of simultaneously creating sounds as well as providing a limited form of tactile feedback by letting a user touch areas of high and low air pressure created by the transducers. These areas can’t be the same ones being occupied by the speeding ball, of course, but it’s a neat trick. Check out the video below for a demonstration.
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Watch A 3D Printer Get Designed From The Ground Up

Too often when you see a build video, you only get to see the final product. Even if there’s footage of the build itself, it’s usually only the highlights as a major component is completed. But thankfully that’s not the case with the “V-Baby” CoreXY 3D printer that [Roy Berntsen] has been working on.

Watching through his playlist of videos, you’re able to see him tackle his various design goals. For example he’d like the final design to be both machinable and printable, which is possible, but it certainly adds complexity and time. He also transitions from a triangular base to a rectangular one at some point. These decisions, and the reasons behind them, are all documented and discussed.

Towards the end of the series we can see the final testing and torturing process as he ramps up to a final design release. This should definitely demystify the process for anyone attempting their first 3D printer design from scratch.

Hang Ten With Help From The Surf Window

Unless you live in a special, unique place like Hawaii or Costa Rica it’s unlikely you’ll be able to surf every day. It’s not easy to plan surf sessions or even surf trips to most locations because the weather conditions will need to be just right. Not only the wave height (swell) but also the wind speed and direction, tide, water and air temperature, and even amount and type of marine life present can all impact your surf session. You’ll want something which can easily tell you right away if conditions are good.

This project from [luke] is called the Surf Window shows the surf conditions at the local beach with just one glance. Made out of various pieces of wood, each part represents one of the weather conditions at the beach. A rotating seagull gives the wind direction, for example, and the wave height is represented by 3D, moving waves. All of the parts are connected with various motors and linkages to an Arduino Mega +WiFi R3 which grabs all of its information from Magicseaweed, a surf forecasting site.

The Surf Window can show the current conditions at virtually any surfable beach in the world, so if you really want to know how Jaws, Mavericks, or even Reef Road is breaking right now, you could use this to give you a more nuanced look. Don’t forget to take the correct board for the conditions!

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Knitting Software Automatically Converts 3D Models Into Machine-knit Stuffies

We’ve seen our fair share of interesting knitting hacks here at Hackaday. There has been a lot of creative space explored while mashing computers into knitting machines and vice versa, but for the most part the resulting knit goods all tend to be a bit… two-dimensional. The mechanical reality of knitting and hobbyist-level knitting machines just tends to lend itself to working with a simple grid of pixels in a flat plane.

However, a team at the [Carnegie Mellon Textiles Lab] have been taking the world of computer-controlled knitting from two dimensions to three, with software that can create knitting patterns for most any 3D model you feed it. Think of it like your standard 3D printing slicer software, except instead of simple layers of thermoplastics it generates complex multi-dimensional chains of knits and purls with yarn and 100% stuffing infill.

The details are discussed and very well illustrated in their paper entitled Automatic Machine Knitting of 3D Meshes and a video (unfortunately not embeddable) shows the software interface in action, along with some of the stuffing process and the final adorable (ok they’re a little creepy too) stuffed shapes.

Since the publication of their paper, [the Textiles Lab] has also released an open-source version of their autoknit software on GitHub. Although the compilation and installation steps look non-trivial, the actual interface seems approachable by a dedicated hobbyist. Anyone comfortable with 3D slicer software should be able to load a model, define the two seams necessary to close the shape, which will need to be manually sewn after stuffing, and output the knitting machine code.

Previous knits: the Knit Universe, Bike-driven Scarf Knitter, Knitted Circuit Board.

Get Great 3D Scans With Open Photogrammetry

Not long ago, photogrammetry — the process of stitching multiple photographs taken from different angles into a 3D whole — was hard stuff. Nowadays, it’s easy. [Mikolas Zuza] over at Prusa Printers, has a guide showing off cutting edge open-source software that’s not only more powerful, but also easier to use. They’ve also produced a video, which we’ve embedded below.

Basically, this is a guide to using Meshroom, which is based on the AliceVision photogrammetry framework. AliceVision is a research platform, so it’s got tremendous capability but doesn’t necessarily focus on the user experience. Enter Meshroom, which makes that power accessible.

Meshroom does all sorts of cool tricks, like showing you how the 3D reconstruction looks as you add more images to the dataset, so that you’ll know where to take the next photo to fill in incomplete patches. It can also reconstruct from video, say if you just walked around the object with a camera running.

The final render is computationally intensive, but AliceVision makes good use of a CUDA on Nvidia graphics cards, so you can cut your overnight renders down to a few hours if you’ve got the right hardware. But even if you have to wait for the results, they’re truly impressive. And best of all, you can get started building up your 3D model library using nothing more than that phone in your pocket.

If you want to know how to use the models that come out of photogrammetry, check out [Eric Strebel]’s video. And if all of this high-tech software foolery is too much for you, try a milk-based 3D scanner.

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