Digital Dining With Charged Chopsticks

You step out of the audience onto a stage, and a hypnotist hands you a potato chip. The chip is salty and crunchy and you are convinced the chip is genuine. Now, replace the ordinary potato chip with a low-sodium version and replace the hypnotist with an Arduino. [Nimesha Ranasinghe] at the University of Maine’s Multisensory Interactive Media Lab wants to trick people into eating food with less salt by telling our tongues that we taste more salt than the recipe calls for with the help of electrical pulses controlled by everyone’s (least) favorite microcontroller.

Eating Cheetos with chopsticks is a famous lifehack but eating unsalted popcorn could join the list if these chopsticks take hold and people want to reduce their blood pressure. Salt is a flavor enhancer, so in a way, this approach can supplement any savory dish.

Smelling is another popular machine hack in the kitchen, and naturally, touch is popular beyond phone screens. You have probably heard some good audio hacks here, and we are always seeing fascination stuff with video.

Dust to Dust and Jello to Jello: the Journey of a Very Strange Knife

How do you feel about Jello? It’s alright tasting, but it’s much more about how jiggly it gets. Nobody — probably — would eat Jello if it was a hard candy. It would quickly become restricted to the bowl of strawberry candies that Grandma always seems to have. How do you feel about knives? We’re on Hackaday. Most everybody here has at least a couple in their toolbox. Some of them have more than a couple, including the whetstones to sharpen them. It’s safe to say they probably like the concept. Now, what if you could combine the two? Two favorites are always better than one. A Jello knife, while seemingly impossible, would be rather impressive, and [kiwami japan] does just that, as well as so much more.

He starts with a couple dozen adorable Jello snacks (Jellos?), and from the wiggliest of foundations, he builds a masterpiece. The first order of business is to eat a couple of the stragglers while he decides what to do with the rest. A bit of blue food coloring, some more gelatin, and the help of several cow shaped bowls and pitchers later, [kiwami japan] has melted the survivors down and gotten a flat sheet. Once sufficiently cooled, it makes a nice knife-shaped Jello blank.

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No Microcontroller In This Vending Machine, D’oh!

You might think that a microcontroller would be needed to handle a vending machine’s logic. For one thing, only the correct change should activate them and the wrong change should be returned.  If the correct change was detected then a button press should deliver the right food to the dispenser. But if you like puzzles then you might try to think of a way to do with without a microcontroller. After all, the whole circuit can be thought of as a few motors, a power source, and a collection of switches, including the right sized coin.

That’s the way [Little Puffin] approached this donut dispensing vending machine. What’s really fun is to watch the video below and wonder how the logic will all come together as you see each part being put in place. For example, it’s not until near the end that you see how the coin which is a part of the circuit is removed from the circuit for the next purchase (we won’t spoil it for you). Coins which are too small are promptly returned to the customer. To handle coins which are the right size but are too heavy, one enhancement could be to make them fall through a spring-moderated trap door and be returned as well. We’re not sure how to handle coins which are the right size but too light though.

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Algae On Your Plate

For those of us who grow up around natural swimming holes, algae are the reason we have to wash after taking a dip. Swimmer’s itch* or just being covered in green goop is not an attractive way to spend an afternoon. Lumping all algae together is not fair, some of it is nasty but some of it is delicious and humans have been eating it for generations.

If you are thinking that cases of algae cuisine are not widespread and that algae does not sound appealing, you are not alone. It is a tough sell, like convincing someone to try dandelions for the first time. It may not warrant a refrigerator section in the grocery store yet, but algae can produce protein-rich food which doesn’t require a lot of processing.

Currently, there is a lot of work to be done to bring up the efficiency of algae farms, and Qualitas has already started. The leaps they are making signify just how much room we have for improvement. The circulating paddle wheels, which can be seen in the video below the break, use one-third of the energy from their previous version. Their harvester uses one-thirtieth! Right now, their biggest cost comes from tanks of carbon dioxide, which seems off given that places such as power plants pay to get rid of the stuff. That should give some food for thought.

The 2018 Hackaday prize could use some algal submissions and you could take that to the bank. Ready to start growing your own algae, automate the process. It may also keep you from tripping while walking to the grocery store, or you can print with it.

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Oil Barrel Smoker

What would you do with a pair of oil drums and a craving for delicious food? Like any sane person, redditor [Kilgore_nrw] made the logical choice and built a smoker.

To make the build easier, he picked up a double barrel stove kit which came with a door, hinges, legs and flue connectors. While fixing the legs and mounting the stove door — high enough for a bed of bricks in the fire barrel — went as planned, he had to improvise the installation of the smoke flue. It ended up being the exact same diameter as the flue connectors, but notching it enough to slide into place made a satisfactory seal.

Not liking the look of having the stack at the ‘front’ of the smoker, he mounted it above the flue at the rear and added two sandstone slabs in the smoking chamber to evenly distribute the heat. Finishing touches included heavy duty drawer slides for the cooking rack — ensuring easy access to deliciousness — and painstakingly grinding off the old paint to apply a new heat resistant coating. For any fans out there, the finished pictures are a sight to behold.

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3D Printed Cookie Molds for the Best Speculoos

Experiencing nostalgia for the outstanding Belgian cuisine [Adam], currently stuck in Ohio, found himself in craving some home-made speculoos. For the uninitiated, speculoos is what those brown cookies usually served with coffee on planes dream of becoming one day.

To add some extra regional flavour, [Adam] decided to print his own molds featuring motifs from Brussels. The risks of 3D prints in the kitchen are the subject of a lively discussion. They are addressed in this project by recommending the use of food safe filament and sealant for the molds. The fact that the dough will be removed from the molds almost instantly and that the molds don’t go into the oven puts the risks in the vicinity of using plastic cutting boards in your kitchen.

[Adam]’s write up features solid, well illustrated baking instructions that should enable any of you to replicate this delicacy. Some links to additional references and two recipes are thrown in for good measure. The article finishes with detailed instructions for designing your own molds that take the properties of the medium into account, to ensure your custom motif will still be recognizable after baking. Line art with a stroke width of around 2-3 mm seems to work best. It is that time of year and we hope to see a lot more tricks to take your cookie and edible house designs to the next level so don’t forget to send in a tip.

With 3D printed molds having been used to shape resin, silicone and even metal, we are at a point where cookie dough looks like a natural progression.

Making Ice Cream With Heavy Metal

After his last project left him with an eleven-pound block of aluminum, [Jason] got to thinking of what most of us would in that situation: fresh made ice cream. His mind was on the frozen concoctions of the aptly named Cold Stone Creamery, a mall food court staple where a chilled stone is used to turn fresh ingredients into made to order sundaes.

[Jason] did the math and found that an eleven-pound chunk of aluminum can absorb a little over 67,000 joules, which is over twice the energy required to freeze 100 g of water. In place of water he would be using cream, condensed milk, and strawberries, but believed there was a large enough safety factor to account for the differences between his ingredients and pure water.

His first attempt didn’t go exactly as planned, but with his Flir One he was able to back up his theoretical numbers with some real-world data. He found that he needed to start the aluminum block at a lower temperature before adding his ingredients, and through experimentation determined the block only had enough energy to freeze 30 g of liquid.

In the end [Jason] was satisfied with the frozen treat he managed to make from the leftovers of his radial mill project, but theorizes that an ever better solution would be to use a brine solution and drop the aluminum block all together.

Of course, if putting food on a slab of metal from your workshop doesn’t sound too appealing, you could always go the NASA route and freeze dry it. Either method will probably make less of a mess than trying to print objects with it.