Smartphone Case Doubles As Chording Keyboard, With Gesture Inputs

Smartphones and other modern computing devices are wonderful things, but for those with disabilities interacting with them isn’t always easy. In trying to improve accessibility, [Dougie Mann] created TypeCase, a combination gestural input device and chording keyboard that exists in a kind of symbiotic relationship with a user’s smartphone.

With TypeCase, a user can control a computer (or the smartphone itself) with gestures, emulate a mouse, or use the device as a one-handed chording keyboard for text input. The latter provides an alternative to voice input, which can be awkward in public areas.

The buttons and motion sensors allow for one-handed button and gestural input while holding the phone, and the Bluetooth connectivity means that the device acts and works just like a wireless mouse or keyboard. The electronics consist mainly of an Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit LE, and [Dougie] used 3D Hub’s on-demand printing service to create the enclosures once the design work was complete. Since TypeCase doubles as a protective smartphone case, users have no need to carry or manage a separate device.

TypeCase’s use cases are probably best expressed by [Dougie]’s demo video, embedded below. Chording keyboards have a higher learning curve, but they can be very compact. One-handed text input does remind us somewhat of a very different approach that had the user make gestures in patterns reminiscent of Palm’s old Graffiti system; perhaps easier to learn but not nearly as discreet.

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Popstick Fan Car Is A Fun Bluetooth Build

Archer fans already know, but for the rest of the world it bears saying – boats are fine, but fan boats are better. It’s much the same with land vehicles, too. [tinkeringtech] felt the same way, and built a Bluetooth-controlled fan car to scoot around the floor. (YouTube, embedded below.)

Construction starts with a series of popsticks glued together to create a chassis. Twist ties are then used to act as axles for bottle cap wheels, while steering is handled by a cardboard rudder controlled by a servo. Propulsion is via a pair of pager-sized motors fitted with fans. An Adafruit Bluefruit Feather M0 runs the show, receiving commands over Bluetooth and driving the motors through an H-bridge chip in the center of the vehicle.

It’s a fun craft-style build that would be a great project for kids interested in electronics and making. It teaches basic electronics, as well as serving as a good introduction into the world of microcontrollers. It’s one of the smaller radio-controlled builds we’ve seen, but you can always go full-scale if that takes your fancy.

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Modern Evolution Of The Classic Water Rocket

Whether it was home-built from scraps or one of the various commercial versions that have popped over up over the years, there’s an excellent chance that the average Hackaday reader spent at least a couple of their more formative summers flying water rockets. You might not have realized it at the time, but with shirt soaked and head craned skywards, you were getting a practical physics lesson that was more relatable than anything out of a textbook. Water rockets are a great STEM tool for young people, but in a post-Fortnite world, the idea could use a little modernization to help keep kids engaged.

With his entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, [Darian Johnson] hopes to breathe some new life into this classic physics toy. His open source kit would provide a modular water rocket intended for a wide range of ages thanks to various payloads and upgrade options. The younger players would be content to simply see it take off, but high school students could outfit the craft with an electronic payload to capture performance data or an automatic parachute.

[Darian] has been building and flying rockets with his own children and other youth in community for years now, and has found them to be a huge hit. They became so popular that he started thinking of a way to not produce them in larger quantities, but make them stronger so they would survive more flights.

Of course, the fuselages are easy enough; there’s no shortage of one-liter bottles you can recycle. But for the nose cone, fins, and ultimately even the launch pad, [Darian] turned to 3D printing. This allows him to continually optimize the design while delivering repeatable performance. When he had a semi-printable water rocket on his hands, he started to wonder if he could get older kids interested by adding some electronics into the mix.

His current proof of concept is a flight data recorder using a Adafruit nRF52 Bluefruit LE Feather, a BMP280 sensor to determine altitude via barometric pressure, and an SD card breakout for local data storage. Long term, [Darian] wants to be able to stream flight data to student’s phones over Bluetooth, with the SD card providing a local copy which can be analyzed after the flight.

[Darian] has leaned heavily on the open source community for the various components of his water rocket kit, and is dedicated to giving back. He hopes that his final kit will allow communities to create engaging STEM activities at little to no cost. This includes creating a repository of lesson plans and designs contributed from others experimenting with water rockets. It’s a noble goal, and we’re excited to see how the project progresses.

Exquisite LED Handbag In The Wild

There is a lot of spectacle on display at Maker Faire. But to be honest, what I love seeing the most are well-executed builds pulled off by passionate hackers. Such is the case with [Debra Ansell]. She wasn’t exhibiting, just taking in all the sights like I was. But her bag was much better than my drab grey camera-equipment filled backpack; she build a handbag with an LED matrix and did it so well you will scratch your head trying to figure out if she bought it that way or not.

Gerrit and I walked right up and asked if she’d show it to us. We weren’t the only ones either. [Debra’s] bag started drawing a crowd as she pulled out her cellphone and sent “Hackaday” to the 10×15 matrix over Bluetooth. Check out our video interview below.

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Break Your Wrist? Twitter-Enable That Plaster Cast

Plaster casts are blank canvases for friends and family to post their get well messages. But if it’s holiday season, adding blinky LED lights to them is called for. When [Dr Lucy Rogers] hurt her hand, she put a twitter enabled LED Christmas tree on her cast.

The hardware is plain simple – some RGB LEDs, an Arduino, a blue tooth module and a battery. The LEDs and wires formed the tree, and all the parts were attached to the plaster cast using Velcro. This allowed the electronics to be removed during future X-ray scans. The fun part was in connecting the LEDs to the #CheerLights project. CheerLights is an “Internet of Things” project that allows people’s lights all across the world to synchronize to one color set by a Tweet. To program the Arduino, she used code written by [James Macfarlane] which allowed the LED color to be set to any Cheerlights color seen in blue tooth UART data.

Connectivity is coordinated using MQTT — lightweight standard popular with connected devices. By connecting the MQTT feed to the cheerlights topic from [Andy Stanford-Clark’s] MQTT feed (mqtt://iot.eclipse.org with the topic cheerlights) the lights respond to tweets (Tweet #cheerlights and a color). The LED colors can also be selected via the phone from the color picker tool in the controller, or directly via the UART. If the Bluetooth connection is lost, the LEDs change colors randomly. Obviously, delegates had great fun when she brought her Twitter enabled LED blinky lights plaster cast arm to a conference. It’s not as fun unless you share your accomplishments with others!

Toy Television’s Dreams Come True

A couple of years ago, [Alec]’s boss brought him a souvenir from Mexico City—a small mid-century console television made of scrap wood and cardboard. It’s probably meant to be a picture frame, but [Alec] was determined to give it a better life.

As it turns out, the screen of [Alec]’s old Samsung I9000 was a perfect fit for the cabinet with room to spare. It was on its way to becoming a real (YouTube) TV once [Alec] could find a way to control it remotely. A giant new-old stock remote that’s almost bigger than the TV was just the thing. There’s enough room inside the remote for a non-LE Bluefruit module, which is what the I9000 will accept as input without complaint.

Trouble is, Bluefruit doesn’t support matrix keypads, so [Alec] used a bare ATMega328 running on the internal clock. Since the Bluefruit board provides voltage regulation, the remote was able to keep its native 9V power. [Alec] is happy with the results, though he plans to refine his button choices and maybe make a new overlay for the remote. Stay tuned for a tiny TV tour.

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A Mountain Of Prizes For Projects Using These Parts

Here’s your chance to bring some great stuff home from The Hackaday Prize. For the next 3 weeks we’ll be looking for the best entries using Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, and Texas Instruments parts.

Each of the four contests (yes, four running concurrently) will award the top 50 projects. That’s 200 in total being recognized. The odds are really in your favor — currently some of those lists have less than 50 projects on them — so enter yours right away! Scroll down to see the mountain of prizes that we have for this epic run.

Make Sure We Know About Your Entry

There are two things you need to do to be eligible for this pile of awesome stuff:

  1. Enter your project in the 2015 Hackaday Prize
  2. Leave a comment here with a link to your project and we’ll add it to the list

Do this by the morning of Monday, June 29th to make sure you’re in the running. We’ve been diligent about adding entries to the lists for Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, and Texas Instruments but at the rate new entries have been coming in it’s easy to miss one here or there. Don’t be bashful about asking to be added to these lists!

The prerequisite is to be using a part from one of these four manufacturers. We’ll be looking at these lists for projects using great ideas which have also been well-documented. Tells us why you’re building it, what it does, how you came up with the idea… you know, the whole story!

The Loot

Up for grabs in each of the 4 contests are:

3x Mooshimeters which is a multimeter that uses your smartphone as a wireless readout.

2x DS Logic analyzers which [Adam] reviewed a few weeks back.

15x Stickvise to hold your PCBs (and other things) in place while you work

A continuation of what we’re giving away in each of the 4 contests:

10x Bluefruit LE Sniffers to help you figure out what’s being transmitted by your BTLE devices

10x Cordwood Puzzles; grab your iron and tackle this head-scratching soldering challenge

10x TV-B-Gone is an iconic invention from [Mitch Altman]; one button turns off all TVs


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: