Hackaday Links: December 8, 2019

Now that November of 2019 has passed, it’s a shame that some of the predictions made in Blade Runner for this future haven’t yet come true. Oh sure, 109 million people living in Los Angeles would be fun and all, but until we get our flying cars, we’ll just have to console ourselves with the ability to “Enhance!” photographs. While the new service, AI Image Enlarger, can’t tease out three-dimensional information, the app is intended to sharpen enlargements of low-resolution images, improving the focus and bringing up details in the darker parts of the image. The marketing material claims that the app uses machine learning, and is looking for volunteers to upload high-resolution images to improve its training set.

We’ve been on a bit of a nano-satellite bender around here lately, with last week’s Hack Chat discussing simulators for CubeSats, and next week’s focusing on open-source thrusters for PocketQube satellites. So we appreciated the timing of a video announcing the launch of the first public LoRa relay satellite. The PocketCube-format satellite, dubbed FossaSat-1, went for a ride to space along with six other small payloads on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket launched from New Zealand. Andreas Spiess has a short video preview of the FossaSat-1 mission, which was designed to test the capabilities of a space-based IoT link that almost anyone can access with cheap and readily available parts; a ground station should only cost a couple of bucks, but you will need an amateur radio license to uplink.

We know GitHub has become the de facto standard for source control and has morphed into a collaboration and project management platform used by everybody who’s anybody in the hacking community. But have you ever wished for a collaboration platform that was a little more in tune with the needs of hardware designers? Then InventHub might be of interest to you. Currently in a limited beta – we tried to sign up for the early access program but seem to have been put on a waiting list – it seems like this will be a platform that brings versioning directly to the ECAD package of your choice. Through plugins to KiCad, Eagle, and all the major ECAD players you’ll be able to collaborate with other designers and see their changes marked up on the schematic — sort of a visual diff. It seems interesting, and we’ll be keeping an eye on developments.

Amazon is now offering a stripped-down version of their Echo smart speaker called Input, which teams up with speakers that you already own to satisfy all your privacy invasion needs on the super cheap — only $10. At that price, it’s hard to resist buying one just to pop it open, which is what Brian Dorey did with his. The teardown is pretty standard, and the innards are pretty much what you’d expect from a modern piece of surveillance apparatus, but the neat trick here involved the flash memory chip on the main board. Brian accidentally overheated it while trying to free up the metal shield over it, and the BGA chip came loose. So naturally, he looked up the pinout and soldered it to a micro-SD card adapter with fine magnet wire. He was able to slip it into a USB SD card reader and see the whole file system for the Input. It was a nice hack, and a good teardown.

Hunting Replicants With The 2019 LayerOne Badge

Blade Runner showed us a dystopian megatropolis vision of Los Angeles in the far-off future. What was a distant dream for the 1982 theater-goes (2019) is now our everyday. We know Los Angeles is not perpetually overcast, flying cars are not cruising those skies, and replicants are not hiding among the population. Or… are they?

The LayerOne conference takes place in greater Los Angeles and this year it adopted a Blade Runner theme in honor of that landmark film. My favorite part of the theme was the conference badge modeled after a Voight-Kampff machine. These were used in the film to distinguish replicants from humans, and that’s exactly what this badge does too. In the movies, replicants are tested by asking questions and monitoring their eyes for a reaction — this badge has an optional eye-recognition camera to deliver this effect. Let’s take a look!

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Visual Futurist Syd Mead Will Keynote At Hackaday Superconference

What does the future actually look like? Chances are what you see in your mind when presented with that question is heavily influence by Syd Mead. He is an industrial designer, but his body of work — which includes some of the most iconic Sci-Fi movies ever filmed — built a much more interesting job title for him: Visual Futurist.

Meet Syd Mead as he presents a keynote talk at the 2017 Hackaday Superconference this November 11 and 12 in Pasadena, California.

Philip K. Dick wondered Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but when it came time to build those sheep and the world they live in, director Ridley Scott looked to Syd Mead to determine what the future in Blade Runner actually looked like. He invented a world, one that was actually built through the practical sets and props widely used in the days before computer graphics became the norm. Syd’s work is also seen in Star Trek: The Motion PictureAlien, and the iconic designs for the movie Tron. And his prolific work has continued to appear on the silver screen ever since, with Elysium and Tomorrowland as some of his more recent work.

How does one invent the future, even through decades of progress? That’s the role of hardware creators — to envision what we want and need tomorrow, not today or yesterday. Syd Mead is a hardware creator and his hardware has been built time and again to inspire all of us for where we’re going with technology. Take that ride along with Syd at the Hackaday Superconference. Get your tickets now.

[Main image credit: Blade Runner concept art by Syd Mead]

 

Blade Runner’s Voight-Kampff Test Gets Real

You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you.

Any Sci-Fi fan knows this is a question from the iconic Voight-Kampff test, as made famous by the movie Blade Runner. Humans pass the test. Replicants fail and are “retired”. We may not have replicants just yet, but  [Tom Meehan] is building his own version of the Voight-Kampff machine. He’s entered it in the 2017 Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest.

The machine itself is an odd mix of 70’s and 80’s electronics with older technology. Three mini CRT displays, a sensor arm, and a bellows are some of the machine’s best-known features. [Tom] is starting with the sensor arm, an odd mix of belts and telescoping rods. He’s already got a manually operated prototype built. Add a motor, and one part of the machine is ready for action.

[Tom’s] version of the Voight-Kampff test isn’t going to be a just movie prop. He plans to add a sensor suite which will turn his machine something of a modern polygraph. A Non-contact Temperature sensor will measure blush response. Iris images will be captured by a Raspberry Pi NoIR camera. Pulse oxygen and galvanic skin response will also be captured by a separate hand module. All this data will be processed by a Raspberry Pi computer.

There’s quite a lot of work to be completed. Let’s hope for humanity’s sake that [Tom] gets it done before the contest deadline of March 6.

Sci-Fi Contest Roundup: The Voight-Kampff Machine

Voight-Kampff

You’re watching a stage play – a banquet is in progress. The guests are enjoying an appetizer of raw oysters. The entrée consists of boiled dog stuffed with rice. The raw oysters are less acceptable to you than a dish of boiled dog.

The Voight-Kampff Machine, or VK, from Blade Runner is an extremely advanced form of lie detector that functions on blush response, pupil dilation, respiration, heart rate, and other physiological factors in response to emotionally charged questions to determine if the interrogation subject does or does not dream of electric sheep. It’s also an awesome prop, making it a great subject for our Sci-Fi contest.

You’ve got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar. What do you do?

[Aven] is building a Voight-Kampff Machine built around a Raspberry Pi with a few small LCDs to display simulated vital signs. There will, of course, be a small webcam showing the subjects face or eye, and a few LEDs that will flash with the same pattern the original had.

You’re reading a magazine. You come across a full-page nude photo of a girl.

[Aven] still has a little bit of work to complete the VK, but there’s still a week and a half left in the contest. More than enough time for you to come up with your own Sci-Fi project and get your grubby mitts on some really awesome prizes.

Blade Runner Umbrella Saber

Here’s a Blade Runner umbrella build that is done just a little bit too right. It delivers a double-dose of geekery with its lightsaber-gone-rain-protector look but where we think it crosses the line is at the built-in audio system. When you turn it on it plays recordings of popular lines from Blade Runner, something that might not fly in public. But the quality is in a different galaxy compared to the dollar store illuminated umbrella that we looked at last year.

[Erv’ Plecter] replaced the central support rod for the umbrella with a clear polycarbonate tube. An optic cable snakes through the hollow tube, illuminated by a Luxeon LED in the handle. The custom PCB and 900 mAh battery are both housed there as well. Take a look at (and listen to) the demo after the break. We’ll need to add this to our future projects list right after that Lightsaber movie replica build.

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