[Elenavercher] loves engaging her primary school students, inspiring their imagination as well as teaching them the design thinking process. She has found that the very accessible rapid prototyping culture of 3D printing, micro:bit, and the like are perfect for teaching her students problem-solving and teamwork, and is always coming up with new lessons that will catch their attention. That brings us to her latest design, an interactive lantern and wand, which you could say is of the wizarding variety.
The lantern and the wand each have an integrated micro:bit serving as their brains. When the user shakes the wand, releasing a spell, the micro:bit in the wand, sends a user-defined number to the micro:bit in the lantern. The lantern has NeoPixels built-in, which then turn on, illuminating the lantern. When the user presses a button on the micro:bit instead of shaking it, the wand sends a signal to the lantern that tells it to “turn off.” Pretty simple, right?
The design itself is something any seasoned hacker could recreate; however, the magic in this build is how [Elenavercher] beautifully engages her elementary-aged students in the engineering design process. She starts off by encouraging her students to prototype the lantern and wand using paper which is a very inexpensive way to help them visualize the final product before investing too much time into the 3D design, a critical engineering design step — prototype fast and cheap with whatever you have on hand.
She then helps them design the lantern and wand in Tinkercad, a very beginner-friendly, yet increasingly capable CAD program. We really appreciate her detailed steps for the design as well as for navigating Tinkercad, both of which will help teach any tiny tikes in your life how to recreate the design. What’s really handy about Tinkercad is you can do mechanical CAD as well as write code for the micro:bit all within the same program. But [Elenavercher] also provides the final .hex file if you’d rather just get the build up and running.
Continue reading “Micro:bit Brings 3D Printed Magic Lanterns To Life” →
For those unfamiliar with the details of the expansive work of fiction of Harry Potter, it did introduce a few ideas that have really stuck in the collective conscious. Besides containing one of the few instances of time travel done properly and introducing a fairly comprehensive magical physics system, the one thing specifically that seems to have had the most impact around here is the Weasley family clock, which shows the location of several of the characters. We’ve seen these built before in non-magical ways, but this latest build seeks to drop the price tag on one substantially.
To do this, the build relies on several low-cost cloud computing solutions and smartphone apps to solve the location-finding problem. The app is called OwnTracks and is an open-source location tracker which can report data to any of a number of services. [Simon] sends the MQTT data to a cloud-based solution called HiveMQCloud, but you could send it anywhere in principle. With the location tracking handled, he turns to some very low-cost Arduinos to control the stepper motors which point the clock hands to the correct locations on the face.
While the build does rely on a 3D printer for some of the internal workings of the clock, this does bring the cost down substantially when compared to other options. Especially when compared to this Weasley family clock which was built into a much larger piece of timekeeping equipment, having an option for a lower-cost location-tracking clock face like this one is certainly welcome.
Have you ever tried waving your hand around like a magic wand and summoning a calculator? We would guess not since you’d probably look a little silly doing so. That is unless you had [Andrei’s] cool gesture-controlled calculator. [Andrei] thought it would be helpful to use a calculator in his research lab without having to take his gloves off and the results are pretty cool.
His hardware consists of a PocketBeagle, an OLED, and an MPU6050 inertial measurement unit for capturing his hand motions using an accelerometer and gyroscope. The hardware is pretty straightforward, so the beauty of this project lies in its machine learning implementation.
[Andrei] first captured a few example datasets to train his algorithm by recreating the hand gestures for each number, 0-9, and recording the resulting accelerometer and gyroscope outputs. He processed the data first with a wavelet transform. The intent of the transform was two-fold. First, the transform allowed him to reduce the number of samples in his datasets while preserving the shape of the accelerometer and gyroscope signals, the key features in the machine learning classification. Secondly, he was able to increase the number of features for the classification since the wavelet transform resulted in both approximation and detailed coefficients which can both be fed into the algorithm.
Because he had a small dataset, he used the Stratified Shuffle Split technique instead of the test train split method which is generally more suited for larger datasets. The Stratified Shuffle Split ensured approximately the same number of train and test samples for each gesture. He was also very conscious of optimizing his model for running on a portable processing unit like the PocketBeagle. He spent some time optimizing the parameters of his algorithm and ultimately converted his model to a TensorFlowLite model using the built-in “TFLiteConverter” function within TensorFlow.
Finally, in true open-source fashion, all his code is available on GitHub, so feel free to give it a go yourself. Calculatorium Leviosa!
Continue reading “The Calculator Charm: Calculatorium Leviosa!” →
News from the wizarding world is a little hard to come by for common muggles, but [Deep Tronix] has brought us one step closer to our magical counterparts with their electronic replica of the Daily Prophet newspaper.
Those familiar with the Harry Potter series will no doubt be familiar with the Daily Prophet. In the films, the newspaper is especially eye-catching with its spooky animated images, a reflection of the magic present throughout the wizarding world. This was achieved with post-production special effects for the films, but this fan-made front page of the Prophet brings the concept to life using e-paper technology and a few other interesting gadgets, all hidden away in a picture frame.
As mentioned, the heart of this project is the e-paper display and a Teensy microcontroller. While e-paper displays are excellent for displaying static text and simple graphics, they are usually not suitable for moving images due to suffering from a form of ‘burn in’, which can leave errant pixels on the screen. This means that e-paper technology typically has a relatively low frame rate for video. [Deep Tronix] has used a custom dithering library to somewhat mitigate this issue, and the results are impressive. Moving images are loaded from an external SD card, processed, and then displayed on the e-paper display, which is almost indistinguishable from the newspaper print that surrounds it.
The seemingly magical newspaper also has a face detection feature, which is enabled by a hidden camera and the venerable ESP32 microcontroller. This system integrates with the Teensy to record and then display the reader’s face on the e-paper display. A neat trick, which is made all the more eerie when these faces are later displayed at random.
We’ve seen Daily Prophet replicas before using more traditional display technology, however the move to an e-paper display goes a long way to improving the overall aesthetics, despite the lower frame rates. With Halloween just around the corner, you might just end up tricking a few people with this clever prop – check out all the build details here.
Continue reading “Muggle Uses E-Paper For Daily Prophet Replica” →
We all know we shouldn’t use 1234 as our password. But we often don’t do the absolute best practice when it comes to passwords. After all, you should have some obscure strange password that is unique for every site. But we all have lots of passwords, so most of us use
$pock2020 or something like that. If you know I’m a Star Trek fan, that wouldn’t be super hard to guess. [Phani] writes about a technique called Horcruxing — a term taken from the literary realm of Harry Potter that allowed Voldemort to preserve life by splitting it into multiple parts, all of which were required to bring an end to his villany. [Phani’s] process promises to offer better security than using a single password, without the problems associated with having hundreds of random passwords.
Most people these days use some form of password manager. That’s great because the manager can create 48 character passwords of random words or symbols and even you don’t know the password. Of course, you do know the master password or, at least, you better. So if anyone ever compromised that password, they’d have all your passwords at their fingers. Horcruxing makes sure that the password manager doesn’t know the entire password, just the hard parts of it.
Continue reading “Better Security, Harry Potter Style” →
What’s the coolest thing you could build for a Harry Potter fan, aside from a working magic wand or Quidditch broomstick? We would have to say a Weasley clock that shows the whereabouts of everyone in the family is pretty high on the list, especially if that fan is a wife and mother.
Here’s how it works: they’ve set up geofences to define the boundaries of home, each person’s school or workplace, and so on. The family’s locations are tracked through their phones’ GPS using Home Assistant, which is hosted on a Raspberry Pi. Whenever someone’s location changes, the Pi alerts the clock over MQTT, and it moves the 3D-printed hands with servos.
The clock has some interesting granularity to it as well. As someone gets closer to home, their pointer’s distance reflects that in its proximity to the Home slice. And Home itself is divided into the main house and the shop and reflected by the pointer’s position.
We particularly like the attention to detail here, like the art poster used for the clock’s face that includes all the Weasley’s whereabouts in the background. It’s built into a thrift store grandmother clock, which is smaller than a grandfather clock but no less majestic. In the future there are plans to implement the clock’s chimes to announce that someone is back home.
No matter what you’re into, the whereabouts clock idea can probably fit that universe. For instance, here’s one that uses LEGO mini-fig heads to locate roommates.
Any sufficiently advanced hack is indistinguishable from magic, a wise man once observed. That’s true with this cool build from [Jasmeet Singh] that magically opens a box when you wave a Harry Potter magic wand in the right way. Is it magic? No, it’s a neat hack that uses computer vision to track the wand and recognize when you make the magic gesture.
The trick is based on the same technique that Universal Studios use in their Harry Potter theme park, as detailed in a patent with the snappy title of “System and method for tracking a passive wand and actuating an effect based on a detected wand path“. The basic idea is that a retroreflective dot on the end of the wand reflects light from a set of infra-red LEDs around the camera. An infra-red sensitive camera detects this reflected light as a bright dot. This camera is tied into a computer vision system that tracks the path of the dot, then triggers the action if it follows a certain pattern.
The version that [Jasmeet] built uses a Raspberry Pi NoIR camera, and a Raspberry Pi 3 running OpenCV. This feeds into a machine learning graph that detects the letters of the alphabet. If the detected letter is an A (for Alomahora, the Harry Potter open spell), then the box opens. If it is a C, the box closes. This is all tied together using Python.
It’s a neat build that ties together a number of interesting techniques, and which could keep the kids amused for a while. You could also expand it further, such as adding a death ray that triggers if you trace an S for Sectumsempra. That’ll teach them not to mess with the dark arts.
Continue reading “Harry Potter Wand Hack Makes Magic Real” →