Cat-o-Matic 3000 Serves Your Feline Masters

When you have three cats and three humans, you have one problem: feeding them on a schedule without over or under feeding them. Even if there was only one human in the equation, the Cat-o-Matic 3000 would still be a useful tool.

Essentially, it’s a traffic light for cats — where green means you are go for feeding, and red means the cat was just fed. Yellow, of course, means the cat is either half-full or half-empty, depending on your outlook.

The brains of this operation is an ATmega88PA leftover from another project. There’s a no-name voltage regulator that steps up the two AA cells to 5 volts. Timing comes from a 32 kHz crystal that allows the microcontroller to stay in power-saving sleep mode for long periods of time.

Creator [0xCAFEAFFE] says the firmware was cobbled together from other projects. Essentially, it wakes up once per second to increment the uptime counter and then goes back to sleep. Short-pressing a button shows the feeding status, and long-pressing it will reset the timer.

Wanna make a cat status indicator without electronics? Give flexures a try.

Machine Learning Baby Monitor Prevents The Hunger Games

Newborn babies can be tricky to figure out, especially for first-time parents. Despite the abundance of unsolicited advice proffered by anyone who ever had a baby before — and many who haven’t — most new parents quickly get in sync with the baby’s often ambiguous signals. But [Caleb] took his observations of his newborn a step further and built a machine-learning hungry baby early warning system that’s pretty slick.

Normally, babies are pretty unsubtle about being hungry, and loudly announce their needs to the world. But it turns out that crying is a lagging indicator of hunger, and that there are a host of face, head, and hand cues that precede the wailing. [Caleb] based his system on Google’s MediaPipe library, using his baby monitor’s camera to track such behaviors as lip smacking, pacifier rejection, fist mouthing, and rooting, all signs that someone’s tummy needs filling. By putting together a system to recognize these cues and assign a weight to them, [Caleb] now gets a text before the baby gets to the screaming phase, to the benefit of not only the little nipper but to his sleep-deprived servants as well. The video below has some priceless bits in it; don’t miss [Baby Caleb] at 5:11 or the hilarious automatic feeder gag at the end.

We’ve seen some interesting videos from [Caleb] recently, mostly having to do with his dog’s bathroom habits and getting help cleaning up afterward. We can only guess how those projects will be leveraged when this kid gets a little older and starts potty training.

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Katrina Nguyen Automates Her Mice

When embarking on a career in the life sciences, it seems like the choice of which model organism to study has more than a little to do with how it fits into the researcher’s life. I once had a professor who studied lobsters, ostensibly because they are a great model for many questions in cell biology; in actuality, he just really liked to eat lobster. Another colleague I worked with studied salt transport in shark rectal glands, not because he particularly liked harvesting said glands — makes the sharks a tad grumpy — but because he really liked spending each summer on the beach.

Not everyone gets to pick a fun or delicious model organism, though, and most biologists have had to deal with the rats and mice at some point. It’s hard to believe how needy these creatures can be in terms of care and feeding, and doubly so when feeding is part of the data you’re trying to collect from them. Graduate student Katrina Nguyen learned this the hard way, but rather than let her life be controlled by a bunch of rodents, she hacked a solution that not only improved her life, but also improved her science. She kindly dropped by the Hackaday Superconference to tell us all about how she automated her research.

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