Parking Assistant Helps Back Up The Car Without Going Too Far

Sure, [Ty Palowski] could have just hung a tennis ball from the ceiling, but that would mean getting on a ladder, testing the studfinder on himself before locating a ceiling joist, and so on. Bo-ring. Now that he finally has a garage, he’s not going to fill it with junk, no! He’s going to park a big ol’ Jeep in it. Backwards.

The previous owner was kind enough to leave a workbench in the rear of the garage, which [Ty] has already made his own. To make sure that he never hits the workbench while backing into the garage, [Ty] made an adorable stoplight to help gauge the distance to it. Green mean’s he’s good, yellow means he should be braking, and red of course means stop in the name of power tools.

Inside the light is an Arduino Nano, which reads from the ultrasonic sensor mounted underneath the enclosure and lights up the appropriate LED depending on the car’s distance. All [Ty] has to do is set the distance that makes the red light come on, which he can do with the rotary encoder on the side and confirm on the OLED. The distance for yellow and green are automatically set from red — the yellow range begins 24″ past red, and green is another 48″ past yellow. Floor it past the break to watch the build video.

The humble North American traffic signal is widely recognized, so it’s a good approach for all kinds of applications. Teach your children well: start them young with a visual indicator of when it’s okay to get out of bed in the morning.

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Facing The Coronavirus

Some of us are oblivious to how often we touch our faces. The current finding is we reach for our eyes, nose, or mouth every three to four minutes. Twenty times per hour is an awful lot of poking, picking, itching, and prodding when we’re supposed to keep our hands away from glands that can transmit and receive disease. To curb this habit and enter the 2020 Hackaday Prize, [Lloyd lobo] built a proof-of-concept device that sounds the alarm when you reach for your face.

We see an Arduino Uno connected to the classic HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor, an LED, and we have to assume a USB battery pack. [Lloyd] recommends the smaller Nano, we might reach for the postage-stamp models and swap the ultrasonic module out for the much smaller laser time of flight sensor. At its soul, this is an intruder alarm. Instead of keeping siblings out of your room, you will be keeping your hands out of the area below the bill of the hat where the sensor is mounted. If you regularly lift a coffee cup to your lips, it might chastise you, and if you chew sunflower seeds, you might establish a tempo. *crunch* *chip* *beep* *crunch* *chip* *beep*

We have reviewed technology to improve our habits like a bracelet that keeps a tally, and maybe there is a book that will help shirk some suboptimal behaviors.

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XLIDAR Is A Merry-Go-Round Of Time-Of-Flight Sensors

[JRodrigo]’s xLIDAR project is one of those ideas that seemed so attractively workable that it went directly to a PCB prototype without doing much stopping along the way. The concept was to mount a trio of outward-facing VL53L0X distance sensors to a small PCB disk, and then turn that disk with a motor and belt while taking readings. As the sensors turn, their distance readings can be used to paint a picture of the immediate surroundings (at least within about 1 meter, which is the maximum range of the VL53L0X.)

The hardware is made to be accessible and has a strong element of “what you see is what you get.” The distance sensors are on small breakout boards, and the board turns the sensor disk via a DC motor and 3D printed belt drive. Even the method of encoding the disk’s movement and zero position has the same WYSIWYG straightforwardness: a spring contact and an interrupted bare copper trace on the bottom of the sensor disk acts as a physical switch. In fact, exposed copper traces in concentric circular patterns and spring pins taken from an SD card socket are what provide power and communications as the disk turns.

The prototype looks good and sounds like it should work, but how well does it hold up? We’ll find out once [JRodrigo] does some testing. Until then, the board designs are available on the project’s GitHub repository if anyone wants to take a shot at their own approach without starting from scratch.

Hackaday Prize Entry: MappyDot, A Micro Smart LiDAR Sensor

[Blecky]’s entry to the Hackaday Prize is MappyDot, a tiny board less than a square inch in size that holds a VL53L0X time-of-flight distance sensor and can measure distances of up to 2 meters.

MappyDot is more than just a breakout board; the ATMega328PB microcontroller on each PCB provides filtering, an easy to use  I2C interface, and automatically handles up to 112 boards connected in a bus. The idea is that one or a few MappyDots can be used by themselves, but managing a large number is just as easy. By dotting a device with multiple MappyDots pointing in different directions, a device could combine the readings to gain a LiDAR-like understanding of its physical environment. Its big numbers of MappyDots [Blecky] is going for, too: he just received a few panels of bare PCBs that he’ll soon be laboriously populating. The good news is, there aren’t that many components on each board.

It’s great to see open sourced projects and tools in which it is clear some thought has gone into making them flexible and easy to use. This means they are easier to incorporate into other work and helps make them a great contestant for the Hackaday Prize.

Testing Distance Sensors

I’m working on a project involving the need to precisely move a tool based on the measured distance to an object. Okay, yeah, it’s a CNC mill. Anyway, I’d heard of time of fight sensors and decided to get one to test out, but also to be thorough I wanted to include other distance sensors as well: a Sharp digital distance sensor as well as a more sophisticated proximity/light sensor. I plugged them all into a breadboard and ran them through their paces, using a frame built from aluminum beams as a way of holding the target materials at a specific height.

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Ultrasonic Raspberry Pi Piano

Cheap stuff gets our creative juices flowing. Case in point? [Andy Grove] built an eight-sensor HC-SR04 breakout board, because the ultrasonic distance sensors in question are so affordable that a hacker can hardly avoid ordering them by the dozen. He originally built it for robotics, but then it’s just a few lines of code to turn it into a gesture-controllable musical instrument. Check out the video, embedded below, for an overview of the features.

His Octasonic breakout board is just an AVR in disguise — it reads from eight ultrasonic sensors and delivers a single SPI result to whatever other controller is serving as the brains. In the “piano” demo, that’s a Raspberry Pi, so he needed the usual 5 V to 3.3 V level shifting in between.

The rest is code on the Pi that enables gestures to play notes, change musical instruments, and even shut the Pi down. The Pi code is written in Rust, and up on GitHub. An Instructable has more detail on the hookups.

All in all, building a “piano” out of robot parts is surely a case of having a hammer and every problem looking like a nail, but we find some of the resulting nail-sculptures arise that way. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an eight-sensor ultrasonic setup before, either. Is 2017 going to be the year of ultrasonic sensor projects? Continue reading “Ultrasonic Raspberry Pi Piano”

Smart Eyeglasses That Auto Focus Where You Look

A University of Utah team have a working prototype of a new twist on fluid-filled lenses for correction of vision problems: automatic adjustment and refocus depending on what you’re looking at. Technically, the glasses have a distance sensor embedded into the front of the frame and continually adjust the focus of the lenses. An 8 gram, 110 mAh battery powers the prototype for roughly 6 hours.

Eyeglasses that can adapt on the fly to different focal needs is important because many people with degraded vision suffer from more than one condition at the same time, which makes addressing their vision problems more complex than a single corrective lens. For example, many people who are nearsighted or farsighted (where near objects and far objects far objects and near objects are seen out of focus, respectively) also suffer from a general loss of the eye’s ability to change focus, a condition that is age-related. As a result, people require multiple sets of eyeglasses for different conditions. Bifocal or trifocal or progressive lenses are really just multiple sets of lenses squashed into a smaller form factor, and greatly reduce the wearer’s field of view which is itself a significant vision impairment. A full field of view could be restored if eyeglass lenses were able to adapt to different needs based on object distance, and that is what this project achieves.

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