Eyecam Is Watching You In Between Blinks

We will be the first to admit that it’s often hard to be productive while working from home, especially if no one’s ever really looking over your shoulder. Well, here is one creepy way to feel as though someone is keeping an eye on you, if that’s what gets you to straighten up and fly right. The Eyecam research project by [Marc Teyssier] et. al. is a realistic, motorized eyeball that includes a camera and hangs out on top of your computer monitor. It aims to spark conversation about the sensors that are all around us already in various cold and clinical forms. It’s an open source project with a paper and a repo and a how-to video in the works.

The eyebrow-raising design pulls no punches in the uncanny department: the eye behaves as you’d expect (if you could have expected this) — it blinks, looks around, and can even waggle its brow. The eyeball, brow, and eyelids are actuated by a total of six servos that are controlled by an Arduino Nano.

Inside the eyeball is a Raspberry Pi camera connected to a Raspi Zero for the web cam portion of this intriguing horror show. Keep an eye out after the break for the Eyecam infomercial.

Creepy or fascinating, it succeeds in making people think about the vast amount of sensors around us now, and what the future of them could look like. Would mimicking eye contact be an improvement over the standard black and gray oblong eye? Perhaps a pair of eyes would be less unsettling, we’re not really sure. But we are left to wonder what’s next, a microphone that looks like an ear? Probably. Will it have hair sprouting from it? Perhaps.

Yeah, it’s true; two eyes are more on the mesmerizing side, but still creepy, especially when they follow you around the room and can shoot frickin’ laser beams.

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Nixie Shot Timer Adds Useful Elegance To Espresso Machine

Once you’ve ground the beans and tamped the grounds just so, pulling the perfect shot of espresso comes down to timing. Ideally, the extraction should last 20-30 seconds, from the first dark drips to the tan and tiger-striped crema on top that gives the espresso a full aftertaste.

[Marco] has a beautiful espresso machine that was only missing one thing: an equally beautiful shot timer with a Nixie tube display. Instead of messing with the wiring, [Marco] took the non-invasive approach and is using a DIY coil to detect the magnetic field of the espresso machine’s pump and start a shot timer.

An LM358-based op-amp magnifies the current induced by the machine and feeds it to an Arduino Nano, which does FFT calculations. [Marco] found a high-voltage interface driver to switch 170 V to the Nixies instead of using two handfuls of transistors. Grab yourself a flat white and check it out after the break.

The last Nixies may have been mass-produced in the 1980s, but never fear — Dalibor Farny is out there keeping the dream alive and making new Nixies.

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Negative Reinforcement: Drill Bits Edition

In theory, it’s fun to have a lot of toys tools around, but the sad reality is that it’s only as fun as the organization level applied. Take it from someone who finds organization itself thrilling: it really doesn’t matter how many bits and bobs you have, as long as there’s a place for everything and you put away your toys at the end of the day.

[Cranktown City] is always leaving drill bits lying around instead of putting them back in their bit set boxes. Since he responds well to yelling, he decided to build an intelligent drill bit storage system that berates him if he takes one out and doesn’t put it back within ten minutes.

But [Cranktown City] did much more than that. The system is housed in a really nice DIY stand that supports his new milling and drilling machine and has space to hold a certain type of ubiquitous red tool box beneath the drill bits drawer.

All the bits now sit in a 3D-printed index that fits the width of the drawer. [Cranktown City] tried to use daisy-chained pairs of screws as contacts behind each bit that could tell whether the bit was home or not, but too much resistance interfered with the signal. He ended up using a tiny limit switch behind each bit instead. If any bit is removed, the input signal from the index goes low, and this triggers the Arduino Nano to do two things: it lights up a strip of red LEDs behind the beautiful cut out letters on the drawer’s lip, and it starts counting upward. Every ten minutes that one or more bits are missing, the drawer complains and issues ad hominem attacks. Check out the demo and build video after the break, but not until you put your tools away. (Have you learned nothing?)

Okay, so how do you deal with thousands of jumbled drill bits? Calipers and a Python script oughta do it.

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Motor-Driven Movement Modernizes POV Toy

Just as we are driven today to watch gifs that get better with every loop, people 100+ years ago entertained themselves with various persistence of vision toys that used the power of optical illusions to make still images come to life. [jollifactory] recently recreated one of the first POV devices — the phenakistoscope — into a toy for our times.

The original phenakistoscopes were simple, but the effect they achieved was utterly amazing. Essentially a picture disk with a handle, the user would hold the handle with one hand and spin the disk with the other while looking in a mirror through slits in the disk. Unlike the phenakistoscopes of yore that could only be viewed by one person at a time, this one allows for group watching.

Here’s how it works: an Arduino Nano spins a BLDC motor from an old CD-ROM drive, and two strips of strobing LEDs provide the shutter effect needed to make the pictures look like a moving image.The motor speed is both variable and reversible so the animations can run in both directions.

To make the disks themselves, [jollifactory] printed some original phenakistiscopic artwork and adhered each one to a CD that conveniently snaps onto the motor spindle. Not all of the artwork looks good with a big hole in the middle, so [jollifactory] created a reusable base disk with an anti-slip mat on top to spin those.

If you just want to watch the thing in action, check out the first video below that is all demonstration. There be strobing lights ahead, so consider yourself warned. The second and third videos show [jollifactory] soldering up the custom PCB and building the acrylic stand.

There are plenty of modern ways to build old-fashioned POV toys, from all-digital to all-printable.

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Linear Pong Loses A Dimension But Remains Challenging

When Pong hit the scene in the early 70s, there was something about the simplicity of the 2D monochrome tennis game that made it engaging enough that enthusiastic proto-gamers shorted-out machines by stuffing their coin boxes to overflowing.  But even with the simplicity of Pong’s 2D gameplay, the question becomes: could it by made simpler and still be playable?

Surprisingly, if this one-dimensional Pong game is any indication, it actually seems like it can. Where the original Pong made you line up your paddle with the incoming ball, with the main variable being the angle of the carom from your opponent, [mircemk]’s version, limited to a linear game field, makes the ball’s speed the variable. Players take control of the game with a pair of buttons at the far ends of a 60-LED strip of WS2812s. The ball travels back and forth along the strip, bouncing off a player’s paddle only if they push their button at the exact moment the ball arrives. Each reflection back to the opponent occurs at a random speed, making it hard to get into a rhythm. To add some variety, each player has a “Boost” button to put a little spice on their shot, and score is kept by LEDs in the center of the play field. Video of the game play plus build info is below the break.

With just a Neopixel strip, an Arduino Nano, and a small handful of common parts, it should be easy enough to whip up your own copy of this surprisingly engaging game. But if the 2D-version is still more your speed, maybe you should check out the story of its inventor, [Ted Dabney]. Or, perhaps building a clock that plays Pong with itself to idle the days away is more your speed.

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Multi-Channel Battery Monitor Aces First Sea Trial

A little over a a year ago, we covered an impressive battery monitor that [Timo Birnschein] was designing for his boat. With dedicated batteries for starting the engines, cranking over the generator, and providing power to lights and other amenities, the device had to keep tabs on several banks of cells to make sure no onboard systems were dipping into the danger zone. While it was still a work in progress, it seemed things were progressing along quickly.

But we know how it is. Sometimes a project unexpectedly goes from having your full attention to winning an all-expense-paid trip to the back burner. In this case, [Timo] only recently put the necessary finishing touches on his monitor and got it installed on the boat. Recent log entries on the project’s Hackaday.io page detail some of the changes made since the last time we checked in, and describe the successful first test of the system on the water.

Certainly the biggest issue that was preventing [Timo] from actually using the monitor previously was the lack of an enclosure and mounting system for it. He’s now addressed those points with his 3D printer, and in the write-up provides a few tips on shipboard ergonomics when it comes to mounting a display you’ll need to see from different angles.

The printed enclosure also allowed for the addition of some niceties like an integrated 7805 voltage regulator to provide a solid 5 V to the electronics, as well as a loud piezo beeper that will alert him to problems even when he can’t see the screen.

Under the hood he’s also made some notable software improvements. With the help of a newer and faster TFT display library, he’s created a more modern user interface complete with a color coded rolling graph to show voltages changes over time. There’s still a good chunk of screen real estate available, so he’s currently brainstorming other visualizations or functions to implement. The software isn’t using the onboard NRF24 radio yet, though with code space quickly running out on the Arduino Nano, there’s some concern about getting it implemented.

As we said the first time we covered this project, you don’t need to have a boat to learn a little something from the work [Timo] has put into his monitoring system. Whether you’re tracking battery voltages or temperatures reported by your BLE thermometers, a centralized dashboard that can collect and visualize that data is a handy thing to have.

A Tubular Fairy Tale You Control With Your Phone

At first glance, this might appear to be a Rube Goldberg machine made of toys. The truth isn’t far off — it’s a remote-control animatronic story machine driven by its spectators and their phones. [Niklas Roy] and a team of volunteers built it in just two weeks for Phaenomenale, a festival centered around art and digital culture that takes place every other year.

A view of the tubes without the toys.

A red ball travels through a network of clear acrylic tubes using 3D printed Venturi air movers, gravity, and toys to help it travel. Spectators can change the ball’s path with their phones via a local website with a big picture of the installation. The ball triggers animations along its path using break beam detection and weaves a different story each time depending on the toys it interacts with.

Here’s how it works: a Raspberry Pi 4 is responsible for releasing the ball at the beginning of the track and for controlling the track switches. The Pi also hosts a server for smartphones and the 25 Arduino Nanos that control the LEDs and servos of the animatronics. As a bonus animatronic, there’s a giant whiteboard that rotates and switches between displaying the kids’ drawings and the team’s plans and schematics. Take a brief but up-close tour after the break.

This awesome art project was a huge collaborative effort that involved the people of Wolfsburg, Germany — families in the community donated their used and abandoned toys, groups of elementary school kids were brought in to create stories for the toys, and several high school kids and other collaborators realized these drawings with animatronics.

Toys can teach valuable lessons, too. Take this body-positive sushi-snarfing Barbie for example, or this dollhouse of horrors designed to burn fire safety into children’s brains.

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