Smart Station Runs Entertainment, Is Entertainment

It’s that special time of year—time for the parade of student projects from [Bruce Land]’s embedded microcontroller design course at Cornell. [Timothy], [Dhruv], and [Shaurya] are all into remote sensing and control applications, so they built a smart station that combines audiovisual entertainment with environmental sensing.

As with the other projects in this course, the smart station is built on a PIC32 dev board. It does Bluetooth audio playback via RN-52 module and has a beat-matching light show in the form of a NeoPixel ring mounted atop the 3D-printed enclosure. But those blinkenlights aren’t just there to party. They also provide visual feedback about the environment, which comes from user-adjustable high and low trigger values for the mic, an accelerometer, a temperature and humidity sensor, and a luminosity sensor.

The group wanted to add an ultrasonic wake-up feature, but it refused to work with the 3.3V from the PIC. The NeoPixel ring wanted 5V too, but isn’t as picky. It looks to be plenty bright at 3.3V. Another challenge came from combining I²C, UART, analog inputs, and digital outputs. They had to go to the chip’s errata to verify it, but it’s there: whenever I²C1 is enabled, the first two analog pins are compromised, and there’s no official solution. The team got around it by using a single analog pin and a multiplexer. You can check out those blinkenlights after the break.

Maybe you prefer working in wood. If so, you might like this hexagonal take on audio-visualization.

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A Bluetooth Speaker For Babies

[Mike Clifford] of [Modustrial Maker] had not one, not two, but five friends call him to announce that their first children were on the way, and he was inspired to build them a Bluetooth speaker with a unique LED matrix display as a fitting gift. Meant to not only entertain guests, but to audio-visually stimulate each of their children to promote neurological development.

Picking up and planing down rough maple planks, [Clifford] built a mitered box to house the components before applying wood finish. The brain inside the box is an Arduino Mega — or a suitable clone — controlling a Dayton Bluetooth audio and 2x15W amp board. In addition to the 19.7V power supply, there’s a step down converter for the Mega, and a mic to make the LED matrix sound-reactive. The LED matrix is on a moveable baffle to adjust the distance between it and a semi-transparent acrylic light diffuser. This shifts the light between sharp points or a softer, blended look — perfect for the scrolling Matrix text and fireplace effects! Check it out!

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Light Switch For The Lazy

[Will Donaldson] has whipped up a quick hack for anyone thinking of dipping their toe into home automation — or otherwise detest flicking off the bedroom light before navigating their way to their bed: a remote control light switch!

This remote switch uses a sg90 servo, an Arduino Uno, and pairs of ATtiny85s with HC-05 Bluetooth modules assembled on protoboards. The 3D printed mount screws easily on top of a standard light switch cover while still allowing the switch to be flipped the old-fashioned way. It’s also perfect as a temporary solution — [Donaldson] is presently renting his apartment — or for those unwilling to mess with the mains power of their abode.

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Spice up your dice with Bluetooth

There’s no shortage of projects that replace your regular board game dice with an electronic version of them, bringing digital features into the real world. [Jean] however goes the other way around and brings the real world into the digital one with his Bluetooth equipped electronic dice.

These dice are built around a Simblee module that houses the Bluetooth LE stack and antenna along with an ARM Cortex-M0 on a single chip. Adding an accelerometer for side detection and a bunch of LEDs to indicate the detected side, [Jean] put it all on a flex PCB wrapped around the battery, and into a 3D printed case that is just slightly bigger than your standard die.

While they’ll work as simple LED lighted replacement for your regular dice as-is, their biggest value is obviously the added Bluetooth functionality. In his project introduction video placed after the break, [Jean] shows a proof-of-concept game of Yahtzee displaying the thrown dice values on his mobile phone. Taking it further, he also demonstrates scenarios to map special purposes and custom behavior to selected dice and talks about his additional ideas for the future.

After seeing the inside of the die, it seems evident that getting a Bluetooth powered D20 will unfortunately remain a dream for another while — unless, of course, you take this giant one as inspiration for the dimensions.

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Bluetooth Speaker In A Bag

[VanTourist] — irked by what he sees as complicated project videos — has demonstrated that you can build a high quality, multi-function Bluetooth speaker inside three hours.

Using simple hand tools — primarily a crimper, wire stripper, razor cutter and some glue — he’s packed this repurposed GoPro accessory bag with quite a bit of tech. The main components are a Bluetooth amplifier with a spiffy knob, and a pair of 15W speakers, but he’s also added a 1W LED flashlight, 1A and 2.1A charging ports, a battery charge monitor display, and pilot cover toggle switches for style points. Despite all that crammed into the bag, there’s still a bit of room left to pack in a few possessions! You can check out the build pictures here, or the video after the break.

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Spoof a Skimmer for Peace of Mind

It’s a sad commentary on the state of the world when it becomes a good practice to closely inspect the card reader on every ATM and gas pump for the presence of a skimmer. The trouble is, even physically yanking on the reader may not be enough, as more sophisticated skimmers now reside safely inside the device, sipping on the serial comms output of the reader and caching it for later pickup via Bluetooth. Devilishly clever stuff.

Luckily, there’s an app to detect these devices, and the prudent consumer might take solace when a quick scan of the area reveals no skimmers in operation. But is that enough? After all, how do you know the smartphone app is working? This skimmer scammer scanner — or is that a skimmer scanner scammer? — should help you prove you’re being as safe as possible.

The basic problem that [Ben Kolin] is trying to solve here is: how do you prove a negative? In other words, one could easily write an app with a hard-coded “This Area Certified Zebra-Free” message and market it as a “Zebra Detector,” and 99.999% of the time, it’ll give you the right results. [Ben]’s build provides the zebra, as it were, by posing as an active skimmer to convince the scanner app that a malicious Bluetooth site is nearby. It’s a quick and dirty build with a Nano and a Bluetooth module and a half-dozen lines of code. But it does the trick.

Need a primer on the nefarious world of skimming? Here’s an overview of how easy skimming has become, and a teardown of a skimmer captured in the wild.

NodeConf EU Hackable Badge

During conferences, a name-tag is one of the first things people look at when bumping in to others – mentally trying to keep track of faces and names. But gone are the days when your name tag was a post-it stuck on your arm. Over the years, conference badges have become increasingly interesting and complex. Hackable electronic badges are becoming the norm, and not just at hardware cons. For the recently concluded NodeConfEU conference in Ireland, [Gordon Williams], of Espruino fame, designed a JavaScript centric hackable badge.

NodeConf EU is the key Node.js event in Europe, providing a forum for the Node.js community. So when they brain-stormed ideas for a conference badge, they obviously gravitated towards a design that could run JS. [Gordon]’s Puck.js fit the requirements perfectly, and he was tasked with creating a new design based on the Puck.js. The feature list included BlueTooth Low Energy, low power consumption so it could run off a CR2032 battery, a high contrast LCD, some buttons, NFC, and a prototyping area – all packaged in a beautiful hexagonal shaped PCB (obviously) to resemble the Node.js logo. The badges were programmed with attendee names, but the fun, juicy part could be accessed by pressing buttons in the Konami code sequence.

Easy to follow, detailed documentation helped hackers quickly get started with code examples. They were also presented several challenges to work through allowing them to get familiar with the badge. Hacked badges were entered for a Grand Challenge with a chance to win a free ticket to next years conference. The badge hardware and firmware are open source and source files are hosted in a Github repository. Check out a short overview of the badge in the video after the break.

Thanks to [Conor] from nearForm for letting us know about this awesome badge.

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