Incredibly Slow Films, Now Playing In Dazzling Color

Back in 2018 we covered a project that would break a video down into its individual frames and slowly cycle through them on an e-paper screen. With a new image pushed out every three minutes or so, it would take thousands of hours to “watch” a feature length film. Of course, that was never the point. The idea was to turn your favorite movie into an artistic conversation piece; a constantly evolving portrait you could hang on the wall.

[Manuel Tosone] was recently inspired to build his own version of this concept, and now thanks to several years of e-paper development, he was even able to do it in color. Ever the perfectionist, he decided to drive the seven-color 5.65 inch Waveshare panel with a custom STM32 board that he estimates can wring nearly 300 days of runtime out of six standard AA batteries, and wrap everything up in a very professional looking 3D printed enclosure. The end result is a one-of-a-kind Video Frame that any hacker would be proud to display on their mantle.

The Hackaday.IO page for this project contains a meticulously curated collection of information, covering everything from the ffmpeg commands used to process the video file into a directory full of cropped and enhanced images, to flash memory lifetime estimates and energy consumption analyses. If you’ve ever considered setting up an e-paper display that needs to run for long stretches of time, regardless of what’s actually being shown on the screen, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll find some useful nuggets in the fantastic documentation [Manuel] has provided.

We always love to hear about people being inspired by a project they saw on Hackaday, especially when we get to bring things full circle and feature their own take on the idea. Who knows, perhaps the next version of the e-paper video frame to grace these pages will be your own.

Continue reading “Incredibly Slow Films, Now Playing In Dazzling Color”

E-Paper Pocket Map Goes Where Your Phone Can’t

It’s easy to take for granted the constantly-connected, GPS-equipped, navigation device most of us now carry in our pockets. Want to know how to get to that new restaurant you heard about? A few quick taps in Google Maps, and the optimal route given your chosen transportation method will be calculated in seconds. But if you ever find yourself lost in the woods, you might be in for a rude awakening. With no cell signal and a rapidly dwindling battery, that fancy smartphone can quickly end up being about as useful as a rock.

Enter the IndiaNavi, a modernization of the classic paper map that’s specifically designed to avoid the pitfalls that keeps your garden variety smartphone from being a reliable bushcraft tool. The color electronic paper display not only keeps the energy consumption low, but has unbeatable daylight readability. No signal? No problem, as the relevant maps are pre-loaded on the device.

Besides the 5.65 inch e-paper display from Waveshare, the India Navi features a L96 M33 GPS receiver and ESP32-WROOM-32 microcontroller. The 3D printed enclosure that holds the electronics and the lithium pouch battery that powers them is still in the early stages, but we like the book-style design. The focus on simplicity and reliability doesn’t end with the hardware, either. The software is about a straightforward as it gets: just boot the IndiaNavi and you’re presented with a map that shows your current position.

With the rise of easily hackable e-paper displays, we’re excited to see more concepts like the IndiaNavi which challenge our ideas on how modern electronics have to function and be used.

E-Ink Equipped Sourdough Starter Jar

One of the unexpected side effects of our this pandemic is a sudden growth in the global population of captive colonies of Lactobacillus bacteria and yeast. Also known as sourdough starters, they are usually found in jars with curious names written on top, living off a mixture of flour and water. They require close monitoring to keep them healthy and to determine when they are ready for baking. [Noah Feehan] has been working to instrument and automate the process for the past two years, and has created a high-tech jar to keep an eye on his sourdough starter.

For a sourdough starter to stay active, it must be kept within a certain temperature range, and performance is measured by how much the level inside the jar rises. Existing open source and commercial projects monitor these two parameters and transmit data out, but [Noah] wanted to include a few more features. The height of a sourdough starter rises due to the production of CO2, so he added an SCD-30 sensor module, which includes a temperature and humidity sensor. For level monitoring, an VL6180 time-of-flight sensor is mounted over a hole on top of the jar. [Noah] wanted to be able to see recent CO2 production and height stats right on the jar, a ESP32 module with onboard E-ink display was used. To draw air over the CO2 sensor at a constant rate, a small extraction fan was also added. Power is provided by a small LiPo battery. For long term logging, the data is sent over MQTT to a server running Mycodo environmental regulation software.

There are still several software improvements [Noah] would like to make, including battery life, user interface and alerts, but everything is open-source and available on GitHub, so feel free to jump in and build your own.

Review: Inkplate 6PLUS

While the price of electronic paper has dropped considerably over the last few years, it’s still relatively expensive when compared to more traditional display technology. Accordingly, we’ve seen a lot of interest in recovering the e-paper displays used in electronic shelf labels and consumer e-readers from the likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Unfortunately, while these devices can usually be purchased cheaply on the second hand market, liberating their displays is often too complex a task for the average tinkerer.

Enter the Inkplate. With their open hardware ESP32 development board that plugs into the e-paper displays salvaged from old e-readers, the team at e-radionica is able to turn what was essentially electronic waste into a WiFi-enabled multipurpose display that can be easily programmed using either the Arduino IDE or MicroPython. The $99 Inkplate 6 clearly struck a chord with the maker community, rocketing to 926% of its funding goal on Crowd Supply back in 2020. A year later e-radionica released the larger and more refined Inkplate 10, which managed to break 1,000% of its goal.

For 2021, the team is back with the Inkplate 6PLUS. This updated version of the original Inkplate incorporates the design additions from the Inkplate 10, such as the Real-Time-Clock, expanded GPIO, and USB-C port, and uses a display recycled from newer readers such as the Kindle Paperwhite. These e-paper panels are not only sharper and faster than their predecessors, but also feature touch support and LED front lighting; capabilities which e-radionica has taken full advantage of in the latest version of their software library.

With its Crowd Supply campaign recently crossing over the 100% mark, we got a chance to go hands-on with a prototype of the Inkplate 6PLUS to see how e-radionica’s latest hacker friendly e-paper development platform holds up.

Continue reading “Review: Inkplate 6PLUS”

Reverse-Engineering An Unknown Microcontroller In E Ink Displays

For a monochrome display where refresh rate isn’t particularly important, there’s almost no better option than an E Ink display. They’re available in plenty of sizes and at various price points, but there’s almost no option cheaper than repurposing something mass-produced and widely available like an E Ink (sometime also called eInk or ePaper) price tag. At least, once all of the reverse engineering is complete.

[Dmitry Grinberg] has been making his way through a ton of different E Ink modules, unlocking their secrets as he goes. In this case he set about reverse engineering the unknown microcontroller on the small, cheap display show here. Initial research showed an obscure chip from the ZBS24x family, packaged with a SSD1623L2 E Ink controller. From there, he was able to solder to the communications wires and start talking to the device over ISP.

This endeavor is an impressive deep dive into the world of microcontrollers, from probing various registers to unlocking features one by one. It’s running an 8051 core so [Dmitry] gives a bit of background to help us all follow along, though it’s still a pretty impressive slog to fully take control of the system.

If you happen to have one of these price tags on hand it’s an invaluable resource to have to reprogram it, but it’s a great read in general as well. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in reverse-engineering various displays, take a look at this art installation which spans 50 years of working display technologies.

Paper Pi Is An Ergonomic Cyberdeck Meant For Thumbs

What’s the fastest way to master console stuff like screen or emacs? Force yourself to use it exclusively, of course. But maybe you’d be tempted to cheat with a desktop. We know we would be. In that case, you ought to build a console-only cyberdeck like this sweet little thing by [a8skh4].

This cyberdeck serves another purpose as well — the keyboard layout is Miryoku, so [a8ksh4] can get more practice with that at the same time. Fortunately, the layout is built for emacs.

Inside is a Raspberry Pi 4 and what looks to be an Arduino handling the keyboard input. The Paper Pi spotlights a 4.2″ e-ink screen between a split thumb keyboard that’s made of soft, silent, tactile switches.

Since they’re SMD, [a8ksh4] made clever use of header pins to get them to work with protoboard. As much as we love the keyboard, it would be awesome to see a few switches on the shoulders or even the back that make use of the rest of the fingers. Check out more build pictures in the gallery.

We love to see cyberdecks with split keyboards, because you shouldn’t have to sacrifice ergonomics in a portable computer. Here’s one that comes in three pieces, making it easy to get the spacing between the halves just right.

Via r/cyberdeck

A Fresh E-Ink Newspaper Delivered Every Morning

[Greg Raiz] recently set out to make it easy to read multiple newspapers in the morning over breakfast. Inspired by a similar project, he built an e-ink newspaper that hangs on his wall, delivering fresh news every ten minutes.

The project started with a 32″ Visionect e-ink display configured as a thin client. With a battery life measured in months thanks to the low power electronics, most of the work here was focused on the backend. A docker container running on a local NAS server collects newspapers via freedomforum.org, formats them to fit the aspect ratio of the display, and serves them up. [Greg] is really trying to preserve the design and thought that goes into the front page of each of these publications as traditional newspaper layouts are often designed by hand.

We love the simplicity and the “it-just-works” feel of this project as there are no buttons, wires, or anything that you need to fiddle with. [Greg] points out that it could also be used for other purposes, and we’d love to see a large calendar such as this e-ink calendar or perhaps even a 32″ version of this e-ink laptop. The code for this is on his GitHub with a video after the break.

Continue reading “A Fresh E-Ink Newspaper Delivered Every Morning”