In our drawers, there’s gonna be quite a few old devices that we’ve forgotten about, and perhaps we ought to make them work for us instead. [Jonatron] found a Nook Simple Touch in his drawer – with its E-ink screen, wireless connectivity and a workable Android version, this e-reader from 2011 has the guts for always-on display duty. Sadly, the soft touch covering on the back disintegrated into a sticky mess, as soft touch does, the LiIon battery has gone flat, and the software support’s lackluster. Both of these are likely to happen for a lot of tablets, which is why we’re happy [Jonatron] has shared his story about this e-reader’s revival.
The soft touch layer on the back didn’t go away with help of alcohol, but by sheer luck, an acetone bottle was nearby, and an acetone scrub helped get rid of the unpleasant stickiness. The tablet’s charging circuitry turned out to be unsophisticated – the tablet wouldn’t boot from MicroUSB input, and [Jonathan] wired up 5 volts from a USB cable straight into the battery input. Mind you, this might not be advised, as Lithium-Ion battery range is from 3 volts to 4.2 volts and a regulator would be called for, but [Jonatron] says it’s been working just fine.
Usually, you could just put a webserver on your local network and serve a page with useful information, adding code to refresh the page periodically – but the Nook’s browser didn’t support automatic refreshes. Not to be stopped, [Jonatron] wrote an app for the Nook’s Android install instead; rooting was required but went seamlessly. The Android install is old, and Android Studio for it is no longer downloadable, so he used an older development toolkit somehow still available online. There’s still a small Python-written webserver running on a spare Pi, conditioning the data for the app to fetch. Following best hacker traditions, both the app and the server are open-sourced! With help of a 3D printed stand, this tablet now displays train departure schedules – perfect application for an old e-reader like this.
Got a Nook Simple Touch in a drawer? Now you know you can easily convert it into a hackable E-ink display! We’ve seen numerous tablet restorations before, replacing charger ICs and eMMC drives, turning them into videophones to chat with our relatives and smart home controllers, and there’s even repair databases to help you in your revival efforts. We’ve been getting quite a few projects like these in our last Hackaday Prize installment, Hack It Back, and we hope to see more such rebuilds for our Wildcard round!
With social distancing it can be harder to stay in touch with our relatives, especially those who are elderly and not particularly tech-savvy. Looking for a solution to that end for his own grandmother, [Steve] came up with the idea of using an inexpensive used tablet and a mobile data plan in order to mail her a “video phone” that works out of the box.
Since the tablet is configured to use cellular networks rather than WiFi, it requires no setup process at all to the recipient. And with the Android version of Skype, it’s possible to configure it so that calls are automatically picked up and video chat enabled. That way, whoever gets the tablet after it’s prepared doesn’t have to tap a single button on the screen in order to receive a call.
[Steve] has also developed the simple idea into a full-fledged easy-to-follow tutorial so that just about anyone is able to replicate the process for their own loved ones. And if you’re still having any trouble with it, there’s a team of volunteers right on the website who can help you with tech support. Just remember to disinfect whatever device you’re sending, since viruses can typically stick to surfaces like plastic and glass for longer.
Now, if showing up to your relatives as a disembodied video screen doesn’t cut it for you, then you might want to send them something more substantial like this cute little telepresence robot that can drive around on a desk.
Part performance art and part social experiment, [mocymo]’s Smilemachine V6 helmet is as delightful as it is expressive. The helmet is made primarily from laser-cut MDF assembled around parts from a safety helmet. The display is an Android tablet with fine operation controlled by a Bluetooth mini keyboard, and the helmet cleverly makes use of the tablet’s ability to adjust the display to compensate for head tilt angle. It recently made an appearance at Maker Faire Tokyo, where the creator says the reception (especially by children) exceeded expectations.
There are several interesting things done with this device. One is the handheld controller, which is essentially a mini Bluetooth keyboard. To help allow fine control without needing to look down at the controller, the keyboard sits in a frame with some nuts and bolts used as highly tactile button extensions. By allowing the user to change the physical button layout (and setting up keyboard shortcuts on the device to match) the arrangement can be made more intuitive for the user. Some photos of this assembly are in the gallery after the break.
Another interesting bit is that despite a tablet being right in front of your eyes, it is possible to see out the front of the helmet while wearing it. The solution is completely low-tech: two mirrors form a periscope whose angle can be adjusted by turning a knob on the side of the helmet.
Version 1 of the helmet was started back in 2012; this is version 6 and [mocymo] is already filling out a to-do list for refinements. The nose area is uncomfortable, the angle of periscope is slightly off and the gearing needs to be reworked, among other things. We can’t wait to see Version 7. Video and gallery are embedded below.