Teardown: Queercon 15 Badge (and the Game Hidden Within)

Queercon is a conference within a conference. Taking place within DEF CON, Queercon is a social network of LGBT hackers that gathers each year to host events, talks, and a kickin’ pool party. Since 2012 they have also been building electronic badges as part of the fun and I can vouch that they’re contenders for most creative badge design every single year.

A total of 450 electronic badges were made this year, and the aesthetic is as close to a polished consumer product as I have ever seen in a badge, yet they also retain the charm and feel of unique electronics built for hardware geeks. With wireless communication that delivers a complex and clever game to the badges, the designers are encouraging interaction between people (not just between badges). I had the chance to do a teardown of one of these glorious badges, and also gathered quite a bit of info on the puzzles within during Friday’s badge talk in the QC suite.

Join me after the break as I tear down the Queercon 15 hardware badge. If you haven’t yet looked over my review of the official DC26 badge, check that out as well!

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First Look at DEF CON 26 Official Badge

To the delight of everyone, this year’s official DEF CON badge is an electronic badge chock full of entertainment. Of course there is blinky, the board is artistic, and everyone hopefully maybe gets one (it’s rumored 27,000+ were manufactured) if they don’t run out. But the badge contest at DEF CON is legendary — solve all the puzzles you are awarded the coveted black badge.

The creators of this badge are no strangers to the Hackaday community. Displayed proudly on the board and in the firmware, we discover that The Toymakers are the ones who have put it all on this line this year. Kudos to the dynamic hardware collective from Minnesota. There is no larger pressure cooker in the world of badges than this, and they pulled it off marvelously. Let’s take a look at all the goodies inside.

Most importantly, become a team member of the Hackaday.io DC26 badge solving project page to help discover all that’s involved in this badge. Okay, now let’s dive in!

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Programmable Badge uses E-Ink and ESP8266

You’ve probably noticed that the hacker world is somewhat enamored with overly complex electronic event badges. Somewhere along the line, we went from using a piece of laminated paper on a lanyard to custom designed gadgets that pack in enough hardware that they could have passed for PDAs not that long ago. But what if there was a way to combine this love for weighing down one’s neck with silicon jewelry and the old school “Hello my name is…” stickers?

[Squaro Engineering] might have the solution with Badgy, their multi-function e-ink name…well, badge. Compatible with the Arduino SDK, it can serve as anything from a weather display to a remote for your smart home. Oh, and we suppose in an absolute emergency it could be used to avoid having to awkwardly introduce yourself to strangers.

Powered by an ESP-12F, Badgy features a 2.9″ 296×128 E-Ink display and a five-way tactical switch for user input. The default firmware includes support for WiFiManager and OTA updates to make uploading your own binaries as easy as possible, and a number of example Sketches are provided to show you the ropes. Powered by a LIR2450 3.6 V lithium-ion rechargeable coin cell, it can run for up to 35 days in deep sleep or around 5 hours of heavy usage.

Schematics, source code, and a Bill of Materials are all available under the MIT license if you want to try your hand at building your own, and assembled badges are available on Tindie. While it might not be as impressive as a retro computer hanging around your neck, it definitely looks like an interesting platform to hack on.

Unofficial Badges Get Official Recognition at DEF CON: Badge Life Contest

Badge·Life (noun): the art of spending too much time, energy, money, and creativity to design and produce amazing custom electronics and get them into the hands of those who appreciate incredible craftsmanship.

Brand new to DEF CON 26 is the Badge Life Contest to celebrate the creativity and ingenuity that gets poured into a custom badge.

For years, #BadgeLife has been flying under the radar at DEF CON. A growing movement of creative designers have put in late nights, emptied pocket books, and agonized over production, shipping, lanyards, boxes, batteries, programming woes, and every other kind of problem you can image to bring hundreds of unofficial badges to the conference. These aren’t a secret, the whole point is to wear blinky badges, often loaded with cryptographic puzzles and wireless interactivity, around your neck. For many, acquiring an awesome badge is a must-do to make their con a successful one. But DEF CON hasn’t officially recognized BadgeLife, until now.

If you’re a badge creator, you should show off your badge as part of the contest. It’s an opportunity to let more people see all the details that make each badge a work of art. During the con, most people will only see badges as they walk past them in the hallway. For the contest, all badges will be on display in the Hardware Hacking Village during the weekend to provide a close look for everyone.

The judging panel for this is an incredible slate of talented and well-known people from the hardware community. It doesn’t look like those names have been made public yet, but I’m honored and humbled to be among them. Help kick this inaugural year of the Badge Life Contest off right. You can submit your badge information now and deliver one badge (which will be returned to you) for display by 5 pm PDT on Friday 8/10.

Video Review: AND!XOR DEF CON 26 Badge

The AND!XOR team have somehow managed to outdo themselves once again this year. Their newest unofficial hardware badge for DEF CON 26 just arrived. It’s a delightful creation in hardware, software, and the interactive challenges built into both.

They call this the “Wild West of IoT”, a name that draws from the aesthetic as well as the badge-to-badge communications features. Built on the ESP32-WROVER module which brings both WiFi and Bluetooth to the party, the badges are designed to form a wireless botnet at the conference. Anyone with a badge can work to advance their level and take more and more control of the botnet as they do.

Check out the video overview and then join me below for a deeper dive into all this badge has to offer.

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IHC badge: It’s Not (Quite) a Nokia

Electronic conference badges are an integral part of our culture, and have featured many times here. The norm for a badge is an exquisitely designed printed circuit board with some kind of microcontroller circuit on it, often a display, and some LEDs.

This is not enough though for [Mastro Gippo], for he has given us an interesting alternative, the shell of a Nokia 3310 mobile phone fitted with a new motherboard holding an ESP32 module, and of course that classic display. It is to be the badge for IHC Camp, which initialism if you hadn’t guessed stands for Italian Hacker Camp, and which will run from the 2nd to the 5th of August 2018 in Padova, Italy. It’s worth reminding readers, at the time of writing IHC tickets are still available, so get ’em while they’re hot!

The board itself is a beautiful piece of work, and aside from the Nokia’s keyboard and display it holds the ESP module and an STM32F103 microcontroller that handles all the peripherals. There is no microphone, after all this is a badge rather than a phone, but there is space for a LoRa module. He’s done another fascinating post about the PCB design, including the on-board wireless antenna.

We have seen a lot about badges from the #BadgeLife scene surrounding the USA’s DEFCON courtesy of our colleague [Brian Benchoff], so it is particularly interesting to see badges from the opposite side of the Atlantic. This is an artform whose journey still has a way to go, and we’ll be along for the ride!

Belgrade Badge Hacks

We’re still coming off the Hackaday Belgrade conference right now. If you were there, you know it was the greatest hardware conference ever. If you weren’t there, you missed out. Sorry. (Make sure you get in on the Hackaday Superconference in November.)

One of the many highlights of the Belgrade conference was, of course, the badge. The 2018 Hackaday Belgrade Badge is a masterpiece of hardware with a 55-key keyboard, RGB TFT LED, speaker, and a BASIC interpreter.

This badge is a masterpiece of electronic design by Voja Antonic. Just to take one small example from the design, check out the placement of the buttons. Think the slightly rotated buttons that make up the keyboard is only a stylistic choice? It’s not; by carefully rotating each button, the legs of each switch can fit in between each other. It’s brilliant.

Starting hardware this good, adding amazing software by Jaromir Sukuba to bring it to life, and distributing a badge to each hacker through the door is the perfect recipe for some amazing hacks. What were the best badge hacking tricks we saw at the 2018 Hackaday Belgrade conference? Check out the video of the badge hacking ceremonies and then join us below for a few of our favorites.

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