The BornHack Badge Gets A Bubble

In a year of semiconductor shortages it’s a difficult task to deliver an electronic conference badge, so this year’s BornHack camp in Denmark had an SAO prototyping board as its badge. Some people made blinkies with theirs, but that wasn’t enough for [Inne] who had to go a step further with a light-up pneumatic bubble badge. It’s based upon a previous project producing silicone inflatable bubbles, but in a portable badge form.

On the front of the PCB is a multi-colour LED for illumination, while on the back is a small microcontroller board, a pressure sensor, and a motor driver circuit. A small air pump and battery sits in a pocket connected by a cable and a flexible tube, allowing the bubble to inflate at will. An interesting detail was the use of a cut-down hypodermic needle to carry the air through the silicone wall of the bubble. When seen up close at the camp it was an unnervingly organic effect, if there’s an uncanny valley of badges this is it.

We don’t see much in the way of soft robotics on these pages, so this happy crossover with BadgeLife is a special treat. It’s not entirely alone here though.

Hands-On: Whiskey Pirates DC29 Hardware Badge Blings With RISC-V

The Whiskey Pirates have once again dropped an excellent electronic badge for DEF CON 29. This is, of course, unofficial, but certainly makes the list of the hottest custom bling seen so far this year.

I’m not able to make it to the con in person, but the Pirates sent over one of these badges anyway for an early look. It’s gorgeous, and peering into the circuit board it would be easy to think that the chip shortage ain’t got nothin’ on this badge. But this was possible only because of some very creative parts sourcing, and a huge dose of inspired design work.

Continue reading “Hands-On: Whiskey Pirates DC29 Hardware Badge Blings With RISC-V”

Hands On: DEF CON 29 Badge Embraces The New Normal

To say that 2020 was a transformative year would be something of an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way we worked, learned, and lived. Despite all those jokes about how much time people spend on their devices rather than interacting face-to-face with other humans, it turns out that when you can’t get more than a few people together in the same room, it throws our entire society into disarray.

Our community had to rethink how we congregated, and major events like HOPE, DEF CON, and even our own Hackaday Supercon, had to be quickly converted into virtual events that tried with varying degrees of success to capture the experience of hundreds or thousands of hackers meeting up in real life. While few would argue that a virtual hacker convention can ever truly replace a physical one, we learned there are undeniable benefits to embracing the advantages offered by cyberspace. If nothing else, the virtual hacker meetups of 2020 saw a far larger and more diverse array of attendees and presenters than ever before.

As we begin seeing the first rays of light at the end of the long, dark, tunnel we’ve been stuck in, it’s clear that some of the changes that COVID-19 forced on our community are here to stay. As eager as we all are to get back to the epic hackfests of old, nobody wants to close the door on all those who would be unable to attend physically now that they’ve gotten to peek behind the curtain.

With this in mind, this year’s DEF CON is being presented in both physical and virtual forms simultaneously. If you made to Las Vegas, great. If not, you can follow along through chat rooms and video streams from the comfort of your own home. Following the theme, the DC29 badge is not only a practical tool for virtual attendees, but an electronic puzzle for those who are able to bring a few of them together physically. Let’s take a closer look at this socially distanced badge and the tech that went into it.

Continue reading “Hands On: DEF CON 29 Badge Embraces The New Normal”

AND!XOR’s DEF CON 29 Electronic Badge Is An Assembly Puzzle

For years I’ve looked forward to seeing each new unofficial hardware badge that comes out of the #Badgelife powerhouse known as AND!XOR. A mix of new and interesting components, alternate-reality game, and memes, you never know what they’re going to throw down.

A bubble pack landed on my desk on Thursday with the newest offering, the AND!XOR electronic badge built for DEF CON 29, happening this weekend as a hybrid in-person and online conference. While each previous year upped the ante on complexity and manufacturing magic tricks, it’s no surprise considering the uncertainty of both the global pandemic and global chip shortage that they took a different tack. What we have here is a badge hacking puzzle that challenges you to just figure out how to put the thing together!

Continue reading “AND!XOR’s DEF CON 29 Electronic Badge Is An Assembly Puzzle”

Joker Monitor Keeps An Eye On Hazardous Gas Levels

The Joker is a popular character in theĀ BatmanĀ franchise, and at times uses poisonous gases as part of his criminal repertoire. That inspired this fun project by [kutluhan_aktar], which aims to monitor the level of harmful gases in the air.

The project doesn’t use just one gas sensor, but several! It packs the MQ-2, MQ-3, MQ-4, MQ-6, and MQ-9. This gives it sensitivity to a huge variety of combustible gases, as well as detecting carbon monoxide. The sensors are read by an Arduino Nano, which displays results on an RGB LED as well as an attached IPS screen.

Readings from each sensor can be selected by using an infrared remote. In order to best work as a safety device, however, it could be more useful to have the Arduino automatically cycle through each sensor, checking them periodically and raising an alarm in the event of a high reading.

The whole project is built on a custom PCB which is artfully constructed with an image of the Joker himself. It helps to make the project a bit more of a display piece, and speaks to the aesthetic skills of its creator.

It’s a fun build, and one that could be mighty capable with a few software tweaks. With that said, if you’re working in a space with real hazards from combustible gases, it may be worth investing in some properly rated safety equipment rather than relying on an Arduino project.

Incidentally, if you’d like to improve the results from using such gas sensors, we’ve looked at that in the past. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Joker Monitor Keeps An Eye On Hazardous Gas Levels”

Hiding Behind The Silkscreen: The Carolinacon 2021 Badge Has A Secret

The pandemic may have taken away many of our real-world events, but as they’ve gone online their badge teams have often carried on regardless. One of these comes from Carolinacon, and it’s decided to eschew the bleeding edge of electronic wizardry and instead push slightly at the boundaries of PCB art. It contains a hidden message in a copper layer behind a band of white silkscreen, which is revealed by a set of LEDs on the reverse of the board shining through the translucent FR4.

Electronics-wise it’s a pretty simple design, sporting only an ATtiny microcontroller and a photoresistor alongside the LEDs, and with the secret message being triggered when the badge is placed in the dark. The conference’s pig logo is eye-catching, but it has no pretences towards being a dev board or similar. The technique of LEDs behind copper and silkscreen is an interesting one though, and something that we think could bear more investigation in future designs. It’s pleasing to see that there are still new avenues to be taken in the world of PCB-based art.

This isn’t the first time this event has had an eye-catching badge, we’ve covered one of their previous offerings.

WebSerial: Browser Based Development For Your Boards And Electronic Badges

For years, one of the most accessible and simplest-to-implement methods of talking to a dev board has been to give it a serial port. Almost everything has serial in some form, so all that’s needed is to fire up a terminal. But even with that simplicity, there are still moments when the end user might find a terminal interface a little daunting. Think of a board aimed at kids for example, or an event badge which must be accessible to as many people as possible.

We’ve seen a very convenient solution to this problem in the form of WebUSB, but for devices without the appropriate USB hardware there’s WebSerial, an in-browser API for communicating with serial ports including USB-to-serial chips. [Tom Clement] argues that this could serve as the way forward for event badges. Best of all it can be a retro-fit to enable in-browser development for older badges or dev boards with a serial port.

The boards on which he demonstrates the technique are the series of event badges running the badge.team firmware platform including his own i-Pane from CampZone 2019 and going right back to the SHA 2017 badge, but there’s no reason why the same technique can’t be extended to other boards.

There’s a snag with all this though, sadly only browsers in the Chrome family support it at the time of writing, with no plans from Mozilla and apple, and silence from Microsoft. So things look likely to stay that way. It is however inevitable that in time there will be commercial products taking advantage of it via the use of cheap USB to serial chips, so perhaps the case to incorporate it will make itself.

Header: Mobius, Public domain.