The average Hackaday reader likely knows, at least in the academic sense, what a magnetic field looks like. But as the gelatinous orbs in our skull can perceive only a tiny fraction of the EM spectrum, we have to take those textbook diagrams at face value. That is, unless you’ve got one of these nifty magnetic field visualizers developed by [Dr.Stone].
Using an XMC1100 microcontroller development board and a TLV49 3D magnetic sensor, the device is able to track the poles of a magnet in real-time and produce an approximation of what the field lines would look like on its electronic paper display. Relative field strength is indicated by the size of the visualization, which allows the user to easily compare multiple magnets. Incidentally, [Dr.Stone] notes that the current version of the hardware and software can only handle one magnet at a time; visualizing complex magnetic fields and more than two poles would take an array of sensors and likely a more powerful processor.
Do you need to visualize the field lines around a magnet? Perhaps not. But being able to quickly get an idea of how strong a magnet is and identify where its poles are could certainly come in handy. We’d like to see [Dr.Stone] take the project to the next phase and turn this into a handheld device for convenient workbench use. It would be a lot less messy than some of the previous methods we’ve seen for visualizing magnetic fields, though if you’re only worried about field strength, there’s arguably more straightforward ways to display it.
Continue reading “See The Unseen With This Magnetic Field Visualizer”
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.
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”
[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”
Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of hackers repurpose their Kindle or similar e-reader to reap the benefits of its electronic paper display. Usually this takes the form of some software running on the reader itself, since cracking the firmware is a lot easier than pulling out the panel and figuring out how to operate it independently. But what if somebody had already done that hard work for you?
Enter the Inkplate. By pairing a recycled Kindle display with an ESP32, Croatian electronics company e-radionica says they’ve not only created an open hardware e-paper display that’s easy for hackers and makers to use, but keeps electronic waste out of the landfill. Last year the $99 USD 6 inch version of the Inkplate ended its CrowdSupply campaign at over 920% of its original goal. The new 9.7 inch model is priced at $129, and so far managed to blow past its own funding goal just hours after the campaign went live. Clearly, the demand is there.
The new model’s e-paper display isn’t just larger, it also features a higher 1200 x 825 resolution and reduced refresh time. Outside of the screen improvements, you’ll also find more GPIO pins, an RTC module to keep more accurate time, and a USB Type-C port for both programming and power. You also get a choice of languages to use, with both Arduino and MicroPython libraries available for interfacing with the display. Interestingly, the Inkplate also features a so-called “Peripheral Mode” that allows you to draw graphics primitives on the screen using commands sent over UART.
While we’ve recently seen some very promising efforts to repurpose old e-paper displays, the turn-key solution offered by the Inkplate is admittedly very compelling. If you’re looking for an easy way to jump on the electronic paper bandwagon that works out of the box, this might be your chance.
[Thanks to Krunoslav for the tip.]
As e-paper modules have become more affordable, we’ve started to see them pop up more and more in hacker projects. It used to be that you had to force a second-hand Kindle to do your bidding, but now you can buy just the screen itself complete with a header to plug right into your Raspberry Pi. It will still cost you as much as a used Kindle…but at least it comes with some documentation and there are Python libraries to talk to it.
But where to start? If you need some inspiration, and perhaps a little source code, this very slick weather display put together by [James Howard] is a great as baseline. Not that it really needs any additional refinement, as we think it already looks gorgeous. But rather than starting from scratch for your own project, it would be much easier to graft some additional functionality onto his code.
A lot of that has to do with how concise and well commented his code is. We’ve seen enough of these projects to know the kind of spaghetti that’s often running on the backend, but there’s none of that here. [James] assembles the display using the powerful Pillow graphics library, which lets you draw primitives and drop in text and icons with just a couple lines of code.
Once all the data is plugged in, the entire screen is saved as an image file which is then opened up on the e-paper display. Even if you aren’t a Python expert, you should be able to understand what’s happening and how to bend it to your will.
We’ve always had high hopes for electronic paper, and it seems the technology might finally be hitting critical mass. While it’s still a bit expensive, we’ve started seeing it pop up in unexpected places to great effect. Hopefully projects like this one will inspire others to take the B&W plunge.
While the full steampunk aesthetic might be a bit much for most people, those antique gauges do have a certain charm about them. Unfortunately, implementing them on a modern project can be somewhat tricky. Even if you’ve got a stock of old gauges laying around, you’ve still got to modify the scale markings and figure out how to drive them with digital electronics. While we’ve seen plenty of people do it over the years, there’s no debating it’s a lot harder than just wiring up an I2C display.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be. With his Rad-O-Matic, [Hans Jørgen Grimstad] created a pretty convincing “analog” gauge using a small e-ink panel. Of course it won’t fool anyone who gives it a close look, but at a glance, you could certainly be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of vintage indicator. Especially with the cracked and stained Fresnel lens he put in front of it.
For this project [Hans] used a LilyGo T5, which combines an ESP32 with a 2.13 inch electronic paper display. These are presumably meant to be development boards for digital signage applications, but they occasionally show up in hacker projects since they’re so easy to work with. The board pulls data from a RD200M radon sensor over a simple UART connection, and the current reading is indicated by a “needle” that moves across a horizontal scale on the display.
On its own, it wouldn’t look very vintage. In fact, quite the opposite. But [Hans] really helped sell the look on this project by designing and 3D printing a chunky enclosure and then weathering it to make it look like it’s been kicking around since the Cold War.
If you don’t feel like faking it, we’ve seen some very impressive projects based on authentic vintage gauges. As long as you don’t mind tearing up hardware that’s likely older than you are, putting in the extra effort necessary for a convincing modification can really pay off.
[Thanks to Tarjei for the tip.]