Santa Claws: Sharpen Your Skills For A Good Cause

Want to do a bit of good this holiday season without leaving your couch or battle station? Well step right up and try your hand at Santa Claws, the charitable claw machine created by UK-based firm Liberty Games. For every toy you can maneuver to the chute, Liberty Games will donate money to Crisis, a national charity devoted to ending homelessness.

The machine is filled with special Christmas-themed stuffed animals that represent different cash values from £1 to £5. And these toys are doing double duty — after the holiday, they’ll all be donated to a good cause. In order to make this playable worldwide, Liberty used a Raspberry Pi, two Pi Face boards to interface the claw machine’s controls, and a Pi Face rack to everything together. They have the machine set on ‘generous’, so go have fun.

Has this rekindled a longing for your own claw machine? Yeah, us too. Here’s a full-size machine that runs on a Teensy.

Avoiding The Engineer-Saviour Trap

The random seaside holidays of Hackaday staffers rarely sow the seeds of our articles, but my most recent trip had something slightly unusual about it. I was spending a couple of days in a resort town on the Isle of Wight, just off the coast of Southern England, and my hotel was the local outpost of a huge chain that provides anonymous rooms for travelling salesmen and the like. I could probably find an identical place to lay my head anywhere in the world from Anchorage to Hobart and everywhere in between.

My room though was slightly different to the norm. By chance rather than necessity I’d been assigned one of the hotel’s accessible rooms, designed with people with disabilities in mind. And once I’d reached the limit of the free amusement that the digital TV channels of Southern England could provide, my attention turned to the room itself, eyeing up its slightly unfamiliar design features as an engineer.

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Here Comes Santa Claws

Liberty Games in the UK was looking for a fun way to support charity for the holidays, and we think they succeeded. They decided to set up an arcade crane machine to run over the internet, with each type of toy snagged earning  a donation. Snag a bear, and they will donate £5 to St Mungos, a UK charity that works with homeless or at risk people. Snag one of the rarer Santa toys, and they will donate £20. It’s a great cause, and a nice hack. Behind the scenes, the Internet side of things runs on a Raspberry Pi connected to a PiRack and a couple of PiFace digital interface cards that are wired into the electronics of the crane machine so they could control the buttons on the machine from a Web interface. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be running when we tried it, but hopefully someone will give the machine a swift kick shortly to get it going until the Hackaday traffic invariably brings it down again.

One of the interesting thing that they discovered while working on these hacks: they have a pay-out ratio that is determined by the strength of the grabbing arm. The owner can tweak this so that the arm does not grab very firmly, which means a dropped bear. Want to torture your friends with hopes of snagging the best stuffed animals?. Follow the example of this claw machine build all from parts on hand.