Did Grandma Remember Her Pills? This Dispenser Tells You!

Everything has to be smart these days, and while smartening things up is a good incentive to tip your own toes into the whole IoT field, many of these undertakings are oftentimes just solutions looking for a problem. Best case, however, you actually make someone’s life easier with it, or help a person in need. For [Guli Morad] and [Dekel Binyamin], it was a bit of both when they built their automated pill dispenser: help people dependent on taking medication, and ease the mind of those worrying whether they actually remembered to.

Using an ESP8266 and a rather simple construct comprised of a set of servos with plastic sheets attached, and a plastic tube with strategically placed cuts for each pill type, a predefined amount of each of the pills can be automatically dispensed into a box — either at a given time, or on demand — using a Node-RED web interface. A reed switch mounted on the box then monitors if it was actually opened within a set time, and if not, informs emergency contacts about it through the Telegram app. Sure, a tenacious medication recipient might easily fool the system, but not even adding a precision scale to make sure the pills are actually taken out could counter a pill-reluctant patient of such kind, so it’s safe to assume that this is primarily about preventing simple forgetfulness.

Their proof of concept is currently limited to only two different types of pills, but with enough PWM outputs to control the servos, this should be easily scalable to any amount. And while the built may not be as sophisticated as some pill dispensers we’ve seen entering the Hackaday Prize a few years back, it still gets its main task done. Plus, when it comes to people’s health, a good-enough solution is always better than a perfect idea that remains unimplemented.

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Clear Some Space And Build A Cosmo Clock

Like many of us, [Artistikk] is inspired by astronauts and space travel in general. To keep the inspiration coming, he made the Cosmo Clock — a sleek little clock that changes color whenever an astronaut is launched into space.

As awesome as space is, we’re inspired by the amount of Earth-saving reuse going on in this project. The actual time-telling is coming from a recycled wristwatch movement. [Artistikk] cut a bigger set of hands for it out of a plastic container, and used the lid from another container for the clock’s body.

The launch inquiries are handled by an ESP8266, which uses a Blynk app and some IFTTT magic to get notified whenever NASA yeets an astronaut into space. Then the ESP generates random RGB values and sends them to a single RGB LED. The clock body is small enough that a single LED is bright enough to light up all the parts that aren’t blacked out with thick paper. In case you’re wondering, the pattern around the edge isn’t random, it’s Morse code for ‘sky’, but you probably already knew that, right? Make a dash past the break to take the tour.

Clocks that wind up in space are much more complicated. Check out this tear-down of the clock from a late-90s Soyuz spacecraft.

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21st Century Cheating: WiFi In A Calculator

Obviously, we would never endorse cheating on an exam, but sometimes a device is just too tempting to be left untouched. For [Neutrino], it was an old Casio calculator that happened to have a perfectly sized solar panel to fit a 128×32 OLED as replacement. But since the display won’t do much on its own, he decided to connect it to an ESP8266 and mount it all inside the calculator’s housing, turning it into a spy-worthy, internet-connected cheating device, including a stealthy user interface controlled by magnets instead of physical buttons. (Video, embedded below.)

Editor’s Update: Please read our follow-up coverage to the copyright claims made against this project. The video linked above and embedded below are unavailable due to these claims, despite widespread belief that this project does not violate copyright. For now, the original video is available via the Internet Archive.

To achieve the latter, [Neutrino] added two Hall effect sensors and a reed switch inside each end of the calculator. Placing a magnet — possibly hidden in a pen cap — near the reed switch will turn the display on, and placing another magnet near the Hall-effect sensors will navigate through the display’s interface, supporting two inputs with long, short, and multi-tap gestures each. To obtain information through WiFi, the ESP8266 connects to Firebase as backend, allowing to set up predefined content to fetch, as well as a possibility to communicate with your partner(s) in crime through a simple chat program.

As the main idea was to keep visible modifications to a minimum, one shortcoming is that charging the additional battery that powers the whole system would require an additional, external charging circuit. But [Neutrino] had a solution for that as well, and simply exposed two wires to the back, which could easily be mistaken for random solder splatters. And well, of course, requiring WiFi might also be tricky in some situations, so maybe you might want to consider a mobile network upgrade for yourself.

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Three-Dollar Router Rebooter Has One Job

Sometimes connectivity problems go away by power cycling a router. It’s a simple but inconvenient solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist, but that didn’t stop [Mike Diamond] from automating it for a few bucks in parts. The three-dollar router rebooter may be a simple device with only one job, but it’s well documented and worth a look.

The device is an ESP8266 board configured to try to reach Google periodically via the local wireless network. If Google cannot be reached, the board assumes a reboot is needed and disconnects the 12 V power supply from the router by using a relay. Then, after a delay, power is re-connected and all of one’s problems are over until the next time it happens. [Mike] used a relay module that has built-in screw terminals and a socket for the ESP8266-01, so it looks like the whole device can be put together without soldering a thing.

While the code for making this happen may sound trivial, [Mike] nevertheless delves into documenting it. It makes a great example of how to implement a simple event-driven finite state machine in a way that’s clear and concise. By structuring the code so that there is a finite number of specific states the device can be in (router power on, router power off, and testing connection) and by defining exactly how and when the device switches between those states, operation and troubleshooting becomes a much more manageable job. Another great example is this IoT Garage Door Opener project. If you’re programming devices that interface to physical things, these techniques are definitely good practice.

Quarantine Clock Answers The Important Question

For many people, these last few weeks have been quite an adjustment. When the normal routine of work or school is suddenly removed, it’s not unusual for your internal clock to get knocked out of alignment. It might have started with struggling to figure out if it was time for lunch or dinner, but now it’s gotten to the point that even the days are starting to blur together. If it takes more than a few seconds for you to remember whether or not it’s a weekday, [whosdadog] has come up with something that might help you get back on track.

Rather than showing the time of day, this 3D printed clock tells you where you are in the current week. Each day at midnight, the hand will advance to the center of the next day. If you wanted, a slight reworking of the gearing and servo arrangement on the rear of the device could allow it to sweep smoothly through each day. That would give you an idea of your progress through each 24 hour period, but then again, if you don’t even know if it’s morning or night you might be too far gone for this build anyway.

The clock’s servo is driven by a Wemos D1 Mini ESP8266 development board, which naturally means it has access to WiFi and can set itself to the current time (or at least, day) with NTP. All you’ve got to do is put your network information into the Sketch before flashing it to the ESP, and you’re good to go.

Naturally this project is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but we do think the design has practical applications. With a new face and some tweaked code, it could be an easy way to show all sorts of data that doesn’t require a high degree of granularity. Our very own [Elliot Williams] recently built a display to help his young son understand his new at-home schedule which operates on a similar principle.

ESP32-S2 Hack Chat With Adafruit

Join us on Wednesday, May 6 at noon Pacific for the ESP32-S2 Hack Chat with Limor “Ladyada” Fried and Scott Shawcroft!

When Espressif released the ESP8266 microcontroller back in 2014, nobody could have predicted how successful the chip was to become. While it was aimed squarely at the nascent IoT market and found its way into hundreds of consumer devices like smart light bulbs, hackers latched onto the chip and the development boards it begat with gusto, thanks to its powerful microcontroller, WiFi, and lots of GPIO.

The ESP8266 was not without its problems, though, and security was always one of them. The ESP32, released in 2016, addressed some of these concerns. The new chip added another CPU core, a co-processor, Bluetooth support, more GPIO, Ethernet, CAN, more and better ADCs, a pair of DACs, and a host of other features that made it the darling of the hacker world.

Now, after being announced in September of 2019, the ESP32-S2 is finally making it into hobbyist’s hands. On the face of it, the S2 seems less capable, with a single core and neither Bluetooth nor Ethernet. But with a much faster CPU, scads more GPIO, more ADCs, a RISC-V co-processor, native USB, and the promise of very low current draw, it could be that the ESP32-S2 proves to be even more popular with hobbyists as it becomes established.

To talk us through the new chip’s potential, Limor “Ladyada” Fried and Scott Shawcroft, both of Adafruit Industries, will join us on the Hack Chat. Come along and learn everything you need to know about the ESP32-S2, and how to put it to work for you.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, May 6 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
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Viewing Countrywide Weather At A Glance

For his latest project, weather display aficionado [Richard] has put together a handsome little device that shows the temperatures recorded at nine different airports located all over the British Isles. Of course the concept could be adapted to wherever it is that you call home, assuming there are enough Internet-connected weather stations in the area to fill out the map.

The electronics are fairly minimal, consisting of a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board, a few seven segment LED display modules, and a simple power supply knocked together on a scrap of perfboard. As you might expect, the code is rather straightforward as well. It just needs to pull down the temperatures from an online API and light up the displays. What makes this project special is the presentation.

As [Richard] shows in the video after the break, the key is a sheet of acrylic that’s been sanded so it diffuses the light of 42 LEDs that have been painstakingly installed in holes drilled around the edge of the sheet. Combined with a printed overlay sheet, this illuminates the map and its legend in low-light conditions. It’s a simple technique that not only looks fantastic, but makes the display easy to read day or night. Definitely a tip worth mentally filing away, as it has plenty of possible applications outside of this particular build.

With his projects, [Richard] has shown himself to be a master of unique and data-rich weather displays, and a great lover of the iconic seven segment LED display. While his particular brand of climate data overload might not be for everyone, you’ve got to admire his knack for visualizing data.

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