Low-Cost Computer Gesture Control With An I2C Sensor

Controlling your computer with a wave of the hand seems like something from science fiction, and for good reason. From Minority Report to Iron Man, we’ve seen plenty of famous actors controlling their high-tech computer systems by wildly gesticulating in the air. Meanwhile, we’re all stuck using keyboards and mice like a bunch of chumps.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As [Norbert Zare] demonstrates in his latest project, you can actually achieve some fairly impressive gesture control on your computer using a $10 USD PAJ7620U2 sensor. Well not just the sensor, of course. You need some way to convert the output from the I2C-enabled sensor into something your computer will understand, which is where the microcontroller comes in.

Looking through the provided source code, you can see just how easy it is to talk to the PAJ7620U2. With nothing more exotic than a switch case statement, [Norbert] is able to pick up on the gesture flags coming from the sensor. From there, it’s just a matter of using the Arduino Keyboard library to fire off the appropriate keycodes. If you’re looking to recreate this we’d go with a microcontroller that supports native USB, but technically this could be done on pretty much any Arduino. In fact, in this case he’s actually using the ATtiny85-based Digispark.

This actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen somebody use a similar sensor to pull off low-cost gesture control, but so far, none of these projects have really taken off. It seems like it works well enough in the video after the break, but looks can be deceiving. Have any Hackaday readers actually tried to use one of these modules for their day-to-day futuristic computing?

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Tiny pomodoro timer starts as soon as you plug it in.

Cherry Pomodoro Timer Forces You To Follow

If you have trouble staying focused and getting work done, the Pomodoro Technique of working in 25-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks is pretty hard to beat. The only problem is that it requires a lot of input from the user, and all that timer-setting can get in the way of actually getting down to business. The absolute worst is when you find yourself working hard, but see that forgot to set the damn timer (ask us how we know). In essence, the tomato itself can only do so much — you have to actually use it and honor the timer, put in the work, and believe in the system.

A tiny Pomodor Timer that starts automatically when plugged into a USB port.But what if you didn’t have to do as much? With [Erfan Sn]’s design, all you have to do is plug it in to a USB port and the countdown starts automatically. Not only does this Pomodoro timer force you to get with the program, it also makes you take breaks from the screen by putting the computer into sleep mode when the 25 minutes (or whatever time you set in the software) are up. This thing even keeps track of your Pomodoro count.

At the heart of this build is the Digispark ATtiny85 dev board, which has a handy onboard USB plug. It can be built with or without the OLED screen, which is good if you are easily distracted by the timer itself. This cherry tomato only costs about $10 to make, it’s tiny, and you can take it anywhere.

As you will see in the gifs on GitHub, [Erfan Sn] has it plugged into a female USB-A to male USB-C, which is probably better for the computer long-term, what with all the plugging and unplugging. When we make ours, we’ll probably plug it into a hub that has power switches for each port.

If all of this sounds like too much work, check out this build that senses whether or not you’re in the chair.

Digispark Spoofs IR To Get Speakers Under Control

The Microlab 6C are a pretty nice pair of speakers, but [Michał Słomkowski] wasn’t too thrilled with the 8 watts they consume when on standby. The easy fix is to just unplug them when they aren’t in use, but unfortunately the digital controls on the front panel mean he’s got to turn them on, select the correct input, and turn the volume up to the appropriate level every time they’re plugged back in. Surely there must be a better way.

His solution was to use a Digispark to fire off the appropriate IR remote codes so they’d automatically be put back into a usable configuration. But rather than putting an IR LED on one of the GPIO pins, he simply spliced it into the wire leading back from the speaker’s IR receiver. All his code needs to do is generate the appropriate pulses on the line, and the speaker’s electronics think its a signal coming in from the remote.

Distinctive patterns on the IR sensor wires.

Power for the Digispark is pulled from the speaker itself, so it turns on once [Michał] plugs them back in. The code waits five seconds to make sure the hardware has had time to start up, then proceeds with the “Power On”, “Change Input”, and “Volume Up” commands with a few seconds in between each for good measure.

Not only was it easier to skip the IR and inject the signals directly, but it also made for a cleaner installation. Since the microcontroller doesn’t need line of sight to the IR receiver, [Michał] was able to hide it inside the speaker’s enclosure. From the outside, the modification is completely invisible.

We’ve seen similar code injection tricks used before, and it’s definitely one of those techniques you should file away mentally for future reference. Even though more and more modern devices are embracing WiFi and Bluetooth control, the old school IR remote doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon.

Door Mutes Microphone To Prevent Remote Learning Humiliation

In a kind of reverse twist on the doorbell, [TheStaticTurtle] whipped up a system to mute his computer’s microphone whenever someone opens the door to his room. He lives in France, where the government announced a strict lockdown last Friday. Like many university students around the world these days, he is now forced to take online classes. Even though he has his own room, occasionally someone will barge in and announce something, often to [TheStaticTurtle]’s embarrassment.  When his classmates suddenly heard “Do you want some pie?” the other day, it was the last straw.

His first decision was to sense the door opening with a magnet and sensor, which he stuck to the door and frame with hot glue. He then ran a long cable to his desk, where it connected to an ATTiny 85 with a DigiSpark boot-loader. He wrote firmware to simulate special key combinations, which were then registered with his audio routing software Voicemeeter Potato. We presume he isn’t using an external mic, in which case muting might have been easier to accomplish with a hardware switch. All in all, this is a pretty clever and timely hack. Should you be in a similar predicament and want to try this out, he’s published the source code on GitHub.

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This 3D Printed “Bladeless” Fan Gets It Done Cheap

Not long after Dyson unveiled their “bladeless” fan, a fairly steady stream of ever cheaper clones have been hitting the market. But this 3D printed version created by [Elite Worm] must surely be one of the most budget-friendly takes on the concept. If you’ve got a 3D printer, we’d wager you’ve already got most of the parts required to build your own.

See, there’s a blade.

To be clear, of course there’s a blade. They aren’t magic, obviously. The fan is just small, and hidden inside the base. Air is pulled from the sides and bottom, and into the ring mounted to the top of the unit. When the air eventually exits the thin slit in the ring, it “sticks” to the sides due to the Coandă effect and produces a low pressure zone in the center. That’s all a fancy way of saying that the air flow you get from one of these gadgets is several times greater than what the little dinky fan would be capable of under normal circumstances. That’s the theory, anyway.

We can’t promise that all the physics are working as they should in this 3D printed version, but in the video after the break it certainly appears to be moving a considerable amount of air. It’s also quite loud, but that’s to be expected given it’s using a brushless hobby motor. To get it spinning, [Elite Worm] is using a Digispark ATtiny85 connected to a standard RC electronic speed control (ESC). The MCU reads a potentiometer mounted to the side of the fan and converts that to a PWM signal required by the ESC.

Beyond the electronics, essentially every piece of this project has been printed on a standard desktop 3D printer. An impressive accomplishment, though we probably would have gone with a commercially available propeller for safety’s sake. On the other hand, the base of the fan should nicely contain the shrapnel created should it explode at several thousand RPM. Probably.

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Bolt-On Clog Detection For Your 3D Printer

Desktop 3D printing technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, but they can still be finicky beasts. Part of this is because the consumer-level machines generally don’t offer much in the way of instrumentation. If the filament runs out or the hotend clogs up and stops extruding, the vast majority of printers will keep humming along with nothing to show for it.

Looking to prevent the heartache of a half-finished print, [Elite Worm] has been working on a very clever filament detector that can be retrofitted to your 3D printer with a minimum of fuss. The design, at least in its current form, doesn’t actually interface with the printer beyond latching onto the part cooling fan as a convenient source of DC power. Filament simply passes through it on the way to the extruder, and should it stop moving while the fan is still running (indicating that the machine should be printing), it will sound the alarm.

Inside the handy device is a Digispark ATtiny85 microcontroller, a 128 x 32  I2C OLED display, a buzzer, an LED, and a photoresistor. An ingenious 3D printed mechanism grabs the filament on its way through to the extruder, and uses this movement to alternately block and unblock the path between the LED and photoresistor. If the microcontroller doesn’t see the telltale pulse after a few minutes, it knows that something has gone wrong.

In the video after the break, [Elite Worm] fits the device to his Prusa i3 MK2, but it should work on essentially any 3D printer if you can find a convenient place to mount it. Keep a close eye out during the video for our favorite part of the whole build, using the neck of a latex party balloon to add a little traction to the wheels of the filament sensor. Brilliant.

Incidentally, Prusa tried to tackle jam detection optically on the i3 MK3 but ended up deleting the feature on the subsequent MK3S since the system proved unreliable with some filaments. The official line is that jams are so infrequent with high-quality filament that the printer doesn’t need it, but it does seem like an odd omission when even the cheapest paper printer on the market still beeps at you when things have run afoul.

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Aladdin Lamp Shoots Flames With A Snap Of Your Fingers

Despite their dangers, even Marie Kondo would not convince us to abandon flamethrower projects because they literally spark joy in us. To make this flame shooting Aladdin lamp [YeleLabs] just used a 3D printer and some basic electronics.

The lamp body consists of two 3D-printed halves held together by neodymium magnets. They house a 400 kV spark generator, a fuel pump plus tank, and a 18650 Li-ion battery. The fuel pump is actually a 3 V air pump but it can also pump liquids at low pressure. As fuel [YeleLabs] used rubbing alcohol that they mixed with boric acid to give the flame a greenish tint. The blue base at the bottom of the lamp houses the triggering mechanism which magically lights up the lamp when you snap your fingers. This is achieved by a KY-038 microphone module and KY-019 relay module connected to a Digispark ATTiny85 microcontroller. When the microphone signal is above a certain threshold the relay module will simultaneously switch on the spark generator and fuel pump for 150 ms.

Although they proclaim that the device is a hand sanitizer it is probably safer to stick to using soap. The project still goes on the list of cool flamethrower props right next to the flame shooting Jack-o-Lantern.

Video after the break.

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