Robotic Laser Keeps Cat Entertained While You Hack

Whether it’s our own cat or a neighbor’s, many of us have experienced the friendly feline keeping us company while we work, often contributing on the keyboard, sticking its head where our hands are for a closer look, or sitting on needed parts. So how to keep the crafty kitty busy elsewhere? This roboticized laser on a pan-tilt mechanism from the [circuit.io team] should do the trick.

The laser is a 650 nm laser diode mounted on a 3D printed pan-tilt system which they found on Thingiverse and modified for attaching the diode’s housing. It’s all pretty lightweight so two 9G Micro Servos do the grunt work just fine. The brain is an Arduino UNO running an open-source VarSpeedServo library for smooth movements. Also included are an HC-05 Bluetooth receiver and an Android app for controlling the laser from your phone. Set it to Autoplay or take a break and use the buttons to direct the laser yourself. See the video below for build instructions and of course their cat, [Pepper], looking like a Flamenco dancer chasing the light.

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Curing a Parrot’s Amnesia with BLEAH

[Dandu] recently wrote in to tell us how he managed to revive his Parrot Flower Power after the manufacturer told him it couldn’t be repaired. To save you the trouble of opening Google in another tab, the Parrot Flower Power is a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) “smart” device for your flower pot. Because of course that’s a thing.

A healthy Flower Power connected

When [Dandu] noticed his Flower Power was no longer being detected by his iOS devices, he contacted support who told him that sadly this was a hardware failure and that he should just throw it away. But he had his doubts about this diagnosis as other devices such as his Raspberry Pi could still communicate with it. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the Flower Power didn’t have a name, and could only be contacted by its MAC address directly. Reasoning the lack of a name might be upsetting the “It Just Works” sensibility of his iGadget, [Dandu] started researching if there was some way to get the device to take a new name remotely.

Luckily for our hero, BLE is kind of broken. Searching for a solution to his problem brought him to a blog post by the creator of BLEAH which demonstrated exactly what [Dandu] was looking to do. Following along, it took only a single command to push a new name to the Flower Power’s BLE configuration. With that, his “broken” device was brought back to life. Why the device lost its name, or how to prevent it from happening in the future are questions for another day. [Dandu] will take the win.

If you’re interested in the popular new technology that’s compromising our security in the name of convenience and improved battery life, the rabbit hole starts here.

HandHolo: A Homebrew ARG

Taking a dive into VR or augmented reality — once, dreamed-of science fiction — is not only possible for the average consumer, but crafting those experiences is as well! Hackaday.io user [kvtoet]’s HandHolo is a homebrew method to cut your teeth on peeking into a virtual world.

This project requires a smartphone running Android Oreo as its backbone, a Bluetooth mouse, a piece of cardboard and a small mirror or highly reflective surface. The phone is slotted into the cardboard housing — prototype with what you have! — above the mouse, and the mirror angled opposite the screen reflects the image back to the user as they explore the virtual scene.

Within Unity, [kvtoet]’s used a few scripts that access phone functions — namely the gyroscope, which is synchronised to the mouse’s movements. That movement is translated into exploration of the virtual space built in Unity and projected onto the portal-like mirror. Check it out!

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Play A Few Games of Smash Brothers On The Go With A Portable Wii

How would you approach a build that required you to hack apart a perfectly good console motherboard? With aplomb and a strong finish. [jefflongo] from [BitBuilt.net] — a forum dedicated to making consoles portable — has finished just such a task, unveiling his version of a portable Wii to the world.

While this bears the general appearance of a portable GameCube, it’s what inside that counts. A heavily modified   Wii motherboard — to reduce size — forms this portable’s backbone, and it includes two infrared LEDs on its faceplate for Wii Remotes.  A single player can use the built-in controller, but [jefflongo] has included four GameCube controller ports for maximum multiplayer mayhem. Although he’ll likely plan on taking advantage of the built-in AV Out port to play on a TV and charge port for those extended gaming sessions, four 3400mAh batteries — with an estimated four hour battery life — should keep him satisfied on the go until he can recharge.

While the electronics display an impressive amount of work, but the final piece is a sight to behold. Check out the demo video after the break!

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An Indoor Garden? That’s Arduino-licious

Gardening is a rewarding endeavour, and easily automated for the maker with a green thumb. With simplicity at its focus,  Hackaday.io user [MEGA DAS] has whipped up a automated planter to provide the things plants crave: water, air, and light.

[MEGA DAS] is using a TE215 moisture sensor to keep an eye on how thirsty the plant may be, a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor to check the airflow around the plant, and a BH1750FVI light sensor for its obvious purpose. To deliver on these needs, a 12V DC water pump and a small reservoir will keep things right as rain, a pair of 12V DC fans mimic a gentle breeze, and a row of white LEDs supplement natural light when required.

The custom board is an Arduino Nano platform, with an ESP01 to enable WiFi capacity and a Bluetooth module to monitor the plant’s status while at home or away. Voltage regulators, MOSFETs, resistors, capacitors, fuses — can’t be too careful — screw header connectors, and a few other assorted parts round out the circuit. The planter is made of laser cut pieces with plenty of space to mount the various components and hide away the rest. You can check out [MEGA DAS]’ tutorial video after the break!

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Giving Stranger Things For Christmas

[rudolph] was at a loss on what to get his niece for Christmas. It turns out she’s a huge fan of Stranger Things, so the answer was obvious: make her an alphabet wall she can control!

Downsizing the scale to fit inside a document frame, [rudolph] calls their gift rudLights, and a key parameter of this build was to make it able to display any phrases sent from their niece’s Amazon Fire tablet instead of constantly displaying hard-coded phrases. To do so, it has a HC-05 Bluetooth module to forward the commands to the NeoPixel LEDs running on a 5V DC power supply.

[rudolph] enlisted the help of their son to draw up the alphabet display — printed straight onto thematically decorative wallpaper — and cut out holes in the light bulbs for the LEDs.  Next up was cut some fibre board as a firm backing to mount the electronics inside the frame and drill holes for the NeoPixels. It was a small odyssey to cut and solder all the wires to the LEDs, but once done, [rudolph] divided their rudLight alphabet into three rows and added capacitors to receive power directly.

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Tricked-out Barbecue Will Make You Do a Spit Take

[Strn] and his friends love to barbecue no matter what it’s like outside. But something always seems to interrupt the fun: either it’s time to get up and turn the meat, or the music stops because somebody’s phone ran out of juice, or darkness falls and there aren’t enough flashlights or charged-up phones. He had the idea to build the Swiss Army knife of barbecues, a portable powerhouse that solves all of these problems and more (translated).

Most importantly, the E-Mangal rotates the skewers for even cooking. It does this with a 3D-printed worm gear system driven by the heater flap actuator from a car. After 25 minutes of slow rotation, a voice announces that it’s time to eat. [Strn] and friends will never hurt for music options between the pre-loaded tracks, Bluetooth audio, FM antenna, USB, and SD options running through a 3W amp. Two USB lights illuminate nighttime barbecuing, and the 10 Ah battery can do it all and keep everyone’s phone charged. For safety’s sake, [Strn] included a half-liter water tank to extinguish the coals via jet stream. Everything is run by a PIC18F, and it can be controlled at the box or through a simple web interface.

We love the look of this barbecue controller almost as much as the functionality. The sturdy stance of those short, angled legs give it a mid-century appliance feel, and seeing all the guts on display is always a plus. Grab a turkey leg and take the tour after the break.

The E-Mangal has a thermocouple in the coal box to measure the temperature, but there’s no direct control. If you’re more interested in temperature options than entertainment, here’s a project that micromanages everything on the grill.

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