Toilet Paper Chase And Indoor Cycling Race With Unity And Arduino

While we’re still far away from returning to a pre-Corona everyday life, people seem to have accepted that toilet paper will neither magically cease to exist, nor become our new global currency. But back at the height of its madness, like most of us, [Jelle Vermandere] found himself in front of empty shelves, and the solution seemed obvious to him: creating a lifelike toilet paper chasing game in hopes to distract the competition.

Using Unity, [Jelle] created a game world of an empty supermarket, with the goal to chase after distribution tubes and collect toilet paper packs into a virtual cart. Inspired by the Wii Wheel, he imitated a shopping cart handle built from — as it appears — a sunshade pole that holds an Arduino and accelerometer in a 3D-printed case as game controller. For an even more realistic feel, he added a sound sensor to the controller, and competing carts to the game, which can be pushed out of the way by simply yelling loud enough. You can witness all of this delightful absurdity in his build video after the break.

From racing shopping carts to racing bicycles

But that’s not all. With the toilet paper situation sorted out, [Jelle] found himself in a different dilemma: a cloud foiled his plans of going for a bicycle ride. In the same manner, he ended up building a cycling racing game, once again with Unity and Arduino. From a 3D-scanned model of himself and his bicycle, to automatically generating tracks on the fly and teaching an AI to ride a bike, [Jelle] clearly doesn’t joke around while he’s joking around.

However, the best part about the game has to be the controller, which is his actual bicycle. Using a magnetic door sensor to detect the speed, and a potentiometer mounted with an obscure Lego construction to the handlebar, it’s at least on par with the shopping cart handle — but judge for yourself in another build video, also attached after the break. The only thing missing now is to level up the difficulty by powering the Arduino with the bicycle itself.

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A Broken Inductor As A Bike Chain Sensor

If you have ever broken the ferrite core of an inductor, you’ll probably sympathize with [Oliver Mattos]. He accidentally stood on a ferrite-cored component, breaking it and rendering it useless. But utility is in the eye of the beholder, and instead of throwing it away he’s repurposed it as a chain sensor for his electric bicycle.

The broken inductor was positioned on the rear frame of the machine such that the chain passed through the area where the broken half of its core would once have been. As each link passes through the magnetic field it causes the inductance to change, and from this the speed, direction, and tension of the chain can be read.

Adding a 180 nF capacitor in parallel with the inductor creates a tuned circuit, and measuring the inductance is as straightforward as firing a single pulse at it and measuring the time it takes to go negative. Chain speed can be read by sensing the change in inductance as each link passes, tension by sensing the change in inductance as the chain is closer or further away, and direction by whether the chain is slack or not. It’s an ingenious and simple solution to measuring a bicycle chain, and we like it.

A lot of bicycle measurement systems have passed our way over the years, but it’s fair to say they have been more concerned with displays than sensors.

Bike Lock Secures Car

[Buttim] loses his car a lot, which might sound a little bit like the plot from an early-00s movie, but he assures us that it’s a common enough thing. In a big city, and after several days of not driving one’s car, it can be possible to at least forget where you parked. There are a lot of ways of solving this problem, but the solution almost fell right into his lap: repurposing a lock from a bike share bicycle. (The build is in three parts: Part 2 and Part 3.)

These locks are loaded with features, like GPS, a cellular modem, accelerometers, and in this case, an ARM processor. It took a huge amount of work for [Buttim] to get anything to work on the device, but after using a vulnerability to dump the firmware and load his own code on the device, spending an enormous amount of time trying to figure out where all the circuit traces went through layers of insulation intended to harden the lock from humidity, and building his own Python-based programmer for it, he has basically free reign over the device.

To that end, once he figured out how it all worked, he put it to use in his car. The device functions as a GPS tracker and reports its location over the cellular network so it can’t become lost again. As a bonus, he was able to use the accelerometers to alert him if his car was moving without him knowing, so it turned into a theft deterrent as well. Besides that, though, his ability to get into the device’s firmware reminded us of a recent attempt to get access to an ARM platform.

A Super-Brain For An E-bike

There’s no better way of improving a project than logging data to make informed decisions on future improvements. When it came to [Brian]’s latest project, an electric bike, he wanted to get as much data as he could from the time he turned it on until the time he was finished riding. He turned to a custom pyBoard-based device (and wrote it up on, but made it stackable in order to get as much information from his bike as possible.

This isn’t so much an ebike project as it is about a microcontroller platform that can be used as a general purpose device. All of the bike’s controls flow through this device as a logic layer, so everything that can possibly be logged is logged, including the status of the motor and battery at any given moment. This could be used for virtually any project, and the modular nature means that you could scale it up or down based on your specific needs. The device is based on an ARM microcontroller so it has plenty of power, too.

While the microcontroller part is exceptionally useful ([Brian] talks about some of its other uses here and gives us even more data on his personal webpage), we shouldn’t miss the incredible bike that [Brian] built either. It has a 3 kW rear hub motor and can reach speeds of around 60 mph. While we let the commenters below hash out the classic argument of “bicycle vs. motorcyle” we’ll be checking out some electric vehicles that are neither.

Generate Power As You Ride With A Bicycle Planar Alternator

For most riders, bicycle lighting consists of an array of LED lamps and flashing gizmos, usually powered by lithium-ion batteries, or coin cells for the smaller ones. Some people though prefer to dispense with batteries and generate their own power, and that’s what [Thomas D] has done by fitting his bike with an alternator. But this is no off the shelf unit that rubs the tire or sits in a wheel hub. Instead, he’s built his own planar alternator that attaches to the spokes.

The design is inspired by those used in some wind generators, a central disk holding a set of planar coils sits between two rotating disks holding magnets. The stator holding the coils is made from laser-cut acrylic, and the rotors holding the magnets are sheet steel. One rotor is attached to the rear wheel spokes of the bicycle in close proximity to the stator which is attached to the rear frame. The second rotor sits on the other side of the stator while attached to the first rotor by its edge.

The coils are wired as two parallel groups in series in a ring with a single-phase output that feeds a rectifier and DC to DC converter. It would be interesting to see the effect of the same alternator with different winding arrangements or multiple phases.

This is the first time we’ve seen one of these on a bicycle, but this type of alternator has appeared here in more than one wind generator.

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An Open Source Ebike

In the ebike world, there are two paths. The first is a homemade kit bike with motors and controllers from China. The second is a prebuilt bike from a manufacturer like Giant, with motors and controllers from China, which will be half as fast and cost three times as much. The choice is obvious, and there are other benefits to taking the first path as well, such as using this equipment which now has an open source firmware option.

The Tong Sheng TSDZ2 drive is popular in the ebike world because it’s an affordable kit motor which has a pedal-assist mode using torque sensors, resulting in a more polished experience. In contrast, other popular kit motors tend to rely on less expensive cadence sensors which are not as smooth or intuitive. This new open source firmware for the TSDZ2 further improves on the ride by improving the motor responsiveness, improving battery efficiency, and opening up the ability to use any of a number of color displays. (More information is available on a separate Wiki.)

If you have a TSDZ2-based ebike it might be time to break out the laptop and get to work installing this firmware. If you’re behind the times and still haven’t figured out that ebikes are one of the best ways to travel, here is the proof you need.

Thanks to [coaxial] for the tip! Photo via Reddit user [PippyLongSausage].

The Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle

Cycling for health and transportation might seem like a good idea, but it unfortunately has the nasty side effect of making you tired. To ease the suffering, many have turned to electric bicycles. But what if you want to really stand out from the crowd? Well then you should look to [Mark Drake] for inspiration, the creator of the beautifully engineered Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle.

[Mark] wanted to create a steam powered bicycle that’s actually usable, instead of just an awkward novelty. To achieve this he made extensive use of modern tech like spreadsheets to model the steam cycle, and CAD for the mechanical design. The engineering design that went into the project really shows in level of refinement of the end product, which is able to comfortably reach 15 mph. Watch the video after the break to see it in action and get all the details.

Petrol is used a fuel source, which is forced to the vaporising burner via air pressure. The fuel is heated by the burner itself to form a vapour before entering the combustion chamber and igniting. The steam generator is a hybrid design, using both mono tube steam generator coils and a small fire tube boiler. This produces superheated steam at over 300 °C, which [Mark] says is key to the bike’s performance. Mineral oil can’t handle the high temperature, so modern synthetic oil is used for lubrication. The steam generator is so well-built that [Mark] managed to get is certified to industrial standards. For safety, it features both a pressure release valve, and a system that automatically shuts of the fuel supply when the steam exceeds a certain pressure. 130 W of power is provided to the wheels by a single cylinder slide valve engine via modern toothed belt. This also drives the air pump to keep the fuel system pressurised, and an adjustable water pump to feed the boiler. Continue reading “The Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle”