Video Review: AND!XOR DEF CON 26 Badge

The AND!XOR team have somehow managed to outdo themselves once again this year. Their newest unofficial hardware badge for DEF CON 26 just arrived. It’s a delightful creation in hardware, software, and the interactive challenges built into both.

They call this the “Wild West of IoT”, a name that draws from the aesthetic as well as the badge-to-badge communications features. Built on the ESP32-WROVER module which brings both WiFi and Bluetooth to the party, the badges are designed to form a wireless botnet at the conference. Anyone with a badge can work to advance their level and take more and more control of the botnet as they do.

Check out the video overview and then join me below for a deeper dive into all this badge has to offer.

Continue reading “Video Review: AND!XOR DEF CON 26 Badge”

Grbl Ported to the ESP32

If you’re building a CNC or laser, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be using Grbl to get moving. It’s also a pretty safe bet you’d end up running it on some variation of the Arduino sitting in a motor controller breakout board. It’s cheap, easy to setup and use, and effectively the “industry” standard for DIY machines so there’s no shortage of information out there. What’s not to love?

Well, quite a few things in fact. As [bdring] explains, Grbl pushes the capability of the Arduino to the very limit; making it something of a dead-end for future development. Plus the Arduino needs to be plugged into the host computer via USB to function, a rather quaint idea to many in 2018. These were just some of the reasons he decided to port Grbl to the ESP32 board.

Price wise the Arduino and ESP32 are around the same, but the ESP does have the advantage of being much more powerful than the 8-bit Italian Stallion. Its got way more flash and RAM as well, and perhaps most importantly, includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth out of the box. It still needs to be plugged into a board to hold the motor drivers like the Arduino, but beyond that [bdring] opines the ESP32 is about as close to the perfect Grbl platform as you can get.

[bdring] reports that porting the code over to the ESP32 wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. The bulk of the code went by without too much trouble, but when it came to the parts that needed precise timing things got tricky. The ESP32 makes use of a Real Time Operating System (RTOS) that’s not too happy about giving up control of the hardware. Turning off the RTOS was an option, but that would nuke Bluetooth and Wi-Fi so obviously not an ideal solution. Eventually he figured out how to get interrupts more or less playing nicely with the RTOS, but mentions there’s still some more work to be done before he’s ready to release the firmware to the public.

If you’ve been browsing Hackaday for a while you may remember [bdring]. He’s got a real knack for making things move, and has created a number of fantastic little CNC machines recently which have definitely caught our eye.

[Thanks to Jon and Craig for the tip.]

Continue reading “Grbl Ported to the ESP32”

A Sneak Preview Of The Hacker Warehouse Badge

We were lucky enough to get our hands on a hand-soldered prototype of the new Hacker Warehouse badge, and boy is this one a treat. It’s fashionable, it’s blinky, and most impressively, it’s a very useful tool. This badge can replace the Google Authenticator two factor authentication app on your phone, and it’s a USB Rubber Ducky. It’s also a badge. Is this the year badges become useful? Check out the video below to find out more.

This is the time of year when hardware hackers from all across North America are busy working on the demoscene of hardware and manufacturing. This is badgelife, the celebration of manufacturing custom wearable electronics for one special weekend in Las Vegas. In just about a month from now, there will be thousands of independent badges flooding Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, complete with blinkies, custom chips, innovative manufacturing processes, and so many memes rendered in fiberglass and soldermask.

Continue reading “A Sneak Preview Of The Hacker Warehouse Badge”

Carousel of Cereals Mixes and Matches Custom Breakfast Blends

There are those who reckon the humble bowl of breakfast cereal to be the height of culinary achievement. Look askance if you must, but cereal junkies are a thing, and they have a point. The magic comes not from just filling a bowl and adding a splash of milk, but by knowing which cereals to mix together.

Who needs all that fussy mixing, though, when you can automate and customize your cereal dispensing chores? That’s the approach [Kevin Obermann] and [Adrian Bernhart] took with their Cereal Dispensing Machine, even if they went a little further than necessary. Laser-cut plywood forms a four-station carousel for off-the-shelf dry-good dispensers, each of which got a stepper motor to replace the wrist-twisting. The original motors were a bit too wimpy to handle the more rugged morning selections and were eventually upgraded to gear motors. The platform that supports the dispensers also holds all the electronics, including an ESP32 to run everything and host the web app needed to choose your poison. Plus RGB LEDs, because breakfast should look like a rave. Sadly, the team ran out of GPIO pins and were unable to run the peristaltic pump needed to add the milk. There will always be version 2.0, though.

If cereal isn’t your automated breakfast of choice, we understand. Perhaps a more [Wallace] and [Gromit] style breakfast machine would do, or a robotic peanut butter sandwich any time of day is a treat.

Continue reading “Carousel of Cereals Mixes and Matches Custom Breakfast Blends”

LoRa With The ESP32

If you are interested in deploying LoRa — the low power long-range wireless technology — you might enjoy [Rui Santos’] project and video about using the ESP32 with the Arduino IDE to implement LoRa. You can see the video below. He uses the RFM95 transceivers with a breakout board, so even if you want to use a different processor, you’ll still find a lot of good information.

In fact, the video is just background on LoRa that doesn’t change regardless of the host computer you are using. Once you have all the parts, getting it to work is fairly simple. There’s a LoRa library by [Sandeep Mistry] that knows how to do most of the work.

Although the project uses an RFM95, it can also work with similar modules such as the RFM96W or RFM98W. There are also ESP32 modules that have compatible transceivers onboard.

This is one of those projects that probably isn’t useful all by itself, but it can really help you get over that hump you always experience when you start using something new. Once you have the demo set up, it should be easy to mutate it into what you really need.

We’ve been talking about LoRa a lot lately. We’ve even seen it commanding drones.

Continue reading “LoRa With The ESP32”

A Nicely Crafted POV Lightsaber

We need to have a talk. As tough a pill as it is to swallow, we have to face that fact that some of the technology promised to us by Hollywood writers and prop makers just isn’t going to come true. We’re never going to have a flux capacitor, actual hoverboards aren’t a real thing, and nobody is going to have sword fights with laser beams.

But just because we can’t have real versions of these devices doesn’t mean we can’t make our own prop versions with a few value-added features, like this cool persistence-of-vision lightsaber. [Luni], better known around these parts as [Bitluni] and for his eponymous YouTube channel where he performs wizardry like turning an ESP32 into a software-defined television station, shows he’s no slouch at more mechanical builds either. The hardware is standard POV fare, with a gyro to sense the position of the lightsaber hilt and an ESP32 to run the long Neopixel strip in the blade. There’s also a LiPo pack and a biggish DC-DC converter; the latter contributes mightily to the look of the prop, with its large heatsinks that stick out from the end of the aluminum tubing hilt. There’s also a small speaker and amp for the requisite sound effects on startup and shutdown, and the position-sensitive thrumming is a nice touch too. Check out the POV action in the video below.

What’s that you say? You recall seeing a real lightsaber here before? Well, sort of, but that’s pushing things a bit. Or perhaps you’ve got this more destructive version in mind.

Continue reading “A Nicely Crafted POV Lightsaber”

ESP32 Boards With Displays: An Overview

The ESP8266 has become practically the 555 chip of WiFi connected microcontrollers. Traditionally, you’d buy one on a little breakout board with some pins and a few connectors, and then wire up anything else you need. The ESP8266’s big brother, the ESP32, hasn’t quite taken over from the ESP8266, but it has a lot more power and many more options. [Andreas] has a new video that shows seven new ESP32 boards that have integral displays. These boards can simplify a lot of applications where you need both WiFi and a user interface.

Of the boards examined, six of them have OLED displays, but one has an E-paper display. To summarize results, [Andreas] summarized his findings on these seven along with others in an online spreadsheet.

Continue reading “ESP32 Boards With Displays: An Overview”