DIY PECS Board Uses Pictures To Communicate

One way of communicating with autistic and non-verbal people is through the use of a Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS board, which they can use to point out what they need or want throughout the day. However, the commercial versions of these boards have their share of problems — they’re expensive, and they’re fairly rigid as far as the pictures go. [Alain Mauer] has created an open-source PECS board that is far more personalized, and has audio to boot.

The number one requisite here is sturdiness, as [Alain]’s son [Scott] has already smashed two smartphones and a tablet. [Alain] went with a laser-cut MDF enclosure that should last quite a while. Inside is an Arduino Pro Mini and a DF Player Mini that plays corresponding clips from a micro SD card whenever [Scott] presses a button on the 16-key copper foil capacitive keypad. This PECS board is smart, too — it will sound a turn-me-off reminder after a few minutes of inactivity, and issue audible low battery warnings.

So far, [Scott] is responding better to photographs of objects than to drawings. Watch him interact with the board after the break.

This is far from the first thing [Alain] has built to help [Scott]. Be sure to check out this Pi-based media player built to engage and not enrage. Continue reading “DIY PECS Board Uses Pictures To Communicate”

Sunlight-Based Life Clock Predicts Your Darkest Hour

The past year has been quite a ride for everyone on Earth. But you never know which day is going to be your last, so you might as well live a little, eh? This clock doesn’t actually know when you’ll kick off, either. But just for fun, it predicts the number of years remaining until you go to that hackerspace in the sky by hazarding a guess that’s based on your current age and the latest life expectancy tables. Don’t like the outcome? It’s completely randomized, so just push the button and get a set of numbers: the age you might die, and the percentage of life elapsed and remaining.

We love the design of this calculated doom clock, and it’s quite simple inside — an Arduino Pro Mini outputs the graph on an 2.9″ e-paper display, and both are powered with a 5.5 V solar panel. Just suction cup that puppy to the window and you’ll get automatic updates about your impending demise on sunny days, and none on cloudy days.

Want a more realistic picture of your mortality? Here’s a clock that counts down to your 80th birthday.

Auto Strummer Can Plectrum The Whole Flat-Strumming Spectrum

Playing the guitar requires speed, strength, and dexterity in both hands. Depending on your mobility level, rocking out with your axe might be impossible unless you could somehow hold down the strings and have a robot do the strumming for you.

[Jacob Stambaugh]’s Auto Strummer uses six lighted buttons to tell the hidden internal pick which string(s) to strum, which it does with the help of an Arduino Pro Mini and a stepper motor. If two or more buttons are pressed, all the strings between the outermost pair selected will be strummed. That little golden knob near the top is a pot that controls the strumming tempo.

[Jacob]’s impressive 3D-printed enclosure attaches to the guitar with a pair of spring-loaded clamps that grasp the edge of the sound hole. But don’t fret — there’s plenty of foam padding under every point that touches the soundboard.

We were worried that the enclosure would block or muffle the sound, even though it sits about an inch above the hole. But as you can hear in the video after the break, that doesn’t seem to be the case — it sounds fantastic.

Never touched a real guitar, but love to play Guitar Hero? There’s a robot for that, too.

Continue reading “Auto Strummer Can Plectrum The Whole Flat-Strumming Spectrum”

Eyesight Guardian Polices Your Poor Pupils

Don’t know about you, but over the last year or so, we have gone from spending ten or twelve hours a day at this computer to upwards of sixteen or eighteen. Fortunately there’s a window behind the monitor for taking those 20/20/20 breaks that are supposed to prevent eye strain, but it’s so hard to remember (and boring) to do it. And nobody needs yet another thing to remember in the name of self-care.

[Daniel Hingston] certainly agrees. As you’ll see in the delightful video after the break, [Daniel] has made a game out of the whole process of stopping every twenty minutes to spend twenty seconds looking at a point that’s at least twenty feet away. Once the break is over, [Daniel] uses the dual-purpose start button to acknowledge having looked away for 20 seconds. The device is meant to clip onto the corner of any monitor, and [Daniel] has provided several sizes of the bridge piece so that everyone can find their fit.

The Guardian’s guts are pretty simple — an Arduino Pro Mini runs the stop watch and a TFT display to show the graphics that live on an SD card. This is a great way to preserve your eyesight by gamifying something we all know we should be doing. It might be nice to add a break timer that counts up to 25 or thereabouts so you have time to stand up and come back. If you press the button too soon, it scolds you and you have to start your eye break over.

Need some more self-care lately? Our own [Jenny List] has your back in these interesting times.

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Handheld Farkle Really Sparkles

Farkle is a classic dice game that only requires 6 dice and a way to write down scores based on the numbers rolled. Even so, this type of game isn’t inherently portable — it would be fairly difficult to play on a road trip, for instance. [Sunyecz22] decided that Farkle would make an excellent electronic game and got to work designing his first PCB.

This little game has everything you could want from a splash screen introduction to a handy scoring guide on the silkscreen. After choosing the number of players, the first player rolls using the momentary button and the electronic dice light up to indicate what was rolled. As long as the player rolled at least one scoring die, they can take the points by selecting the appropriate die/dice with the capsense pads, and either pass or keep going. The current player’s score is shown on the 7-segment, and the totals for each player are on the OLED screen at the bottom.

The brains of the operation is an Arduino Pro Mini. It controls two MAX7219s that drive the 42 LEDs plus the 7-segment display. A game like this is all in the code, and lucky for us, [Sunyecz22] made it available. We love how gorgeous the glossy 3D printed enclosure looks — between the glossy finish and the curved back, it looks very comfortable to hold. In the future, [Sunyecz22] plans to make a one player versus the computer mode. Check out the demo and walk-through video after the break.

The capsense modules are a great touch, but some people want a little more tactility in their handheld games. We say bring on the toggle switches.

Continue reading “Handheld Farkle Really Sparkles”

Slot Machine Has A Handle On Fun

For some reason, when slot machines went digital, they lost their best feature — the handle. Who wants to push a button on a slot machine, anyway? Might as well just play video poker. [John Bradnam] seems to agree, and has built an open-source three-color matrix slot machine complete with handle.

In this case, you’ll be losing all of your nickels to an Arduino Pro Mini. The handle is an upgrade to an earlier slot machine project that uses three 8×8 matrices and a custom driver board. When the spring-loaded handle is pulled, it strikes a micro switch to spins the reels and then snaps back into place. Between each pull, the current score is displayed across the matrix. There’s even a piezo buzzer for victory squawks. We only wish the button under the handle were of the clickier variety, just for the feels. Check out the short demo video after the break.

If you’re not a gambler, you could always turn your slot machine into a clock.

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A Digital Magic 8-Ball? Signs Point To Yes

[FacelessTech] was recently charmed by one of our prized possessions as a kid — the Magic 8-Ball — and decided to have a go at making a digital version. Though there is no icosahedron or mysterious fluid inside, the end result is still without a doubt quite cool, especially for a project made on a whim with parts on hand.

It’s not just an 8-ball, it also functions as a 6-sided die and a direct decider of yes/no questions. Underneath that Nokia 5110 screen there’s an Arduino Pro Mini and a 3-axis gyro. Almost everything is done through the gyro, including setting the screen contrast when the eight ball is first powered on. As much we as love that aspect, we really like that [FacelessTech] included a GX-12 connector for easy FTDI programming. It’s a tidy, completely open-source build, and there’s even a PCB. What’s not to like? Be sure to check out the video after the break to see it in action.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the smallest Magic 8-Ball build we’ve seen. Have you met the business card version?

Continue reading “A Digital Magic 8-Ball? Signs Point To Yes”