2024 Home Sweet Home Automation: [HEX]POD – Climate Tracker And Digital Nose

[eBender] was travelling India with friends, when one got sick. Unable to find a thermometer anywhere during COVID, they finally ended up in a hospital. After being evacuated back home, [eBender] hatched an idea to create a portable gadget featuring a few travel essentials: the ability to measure body temperature and heart rate, a power bank and an illumination source. The scope evolved quite a lot, with the concept being to create a learning platform for environmental multi-sensor fusion. The current cut-down development kit hosts just the air quality measurement components, but expansion from this base shouldn’t be too hard.

ML for Hackers: Fiddle with that Tensor Flow

This project’s execution is excellent, with a hexagon-shaped enclosure and PCBs stacked within. As everyone knows, hexagons are the bestagons. The platform currently hosts SCD41 and SGP41 sensors for air quality, a BME688 for gas detection, LTR-308 for ambient light and motion, and many temperature sensors.

On top sits a 1.69-inch IPS LCD, with an OLED display on the side for always-on visualization. The user interface is completed with a joystick and a couple of buttons. An internal blower fan is ducted around the sensor array to pull not-so-fresh air from outside for evaluation. Control is courtesy of an ESP32 module, with the gory details buried deep in the extensive project logs, which show sensors and other parts being swapped in and out.

On the software side, some preliminary work is being done on training TensorFlow to learn the sensor fusion inputs. This is no simple task. Finally, we would have a complete package if [eBender] could source a hexagonal LCD to showcase that hexagon-orientated GUI. However, we doubt such a thing exists, which is a shame.

There are many air quality sensors on the market now, so we see a few hacks based on them, like this simple AQ sensor hub. Let’s not forget the importance of environmental CO2 detection; here’s something to get you started.

Build Your Own Nanoleaf-Like Hex Lights

Nanoleaf makes a variety of beautiful LED lighting products, with their hexagon tiles particularly popular with gamers and streamers alike. However, they do come at a significant cost, particularly if you want to put together a larger display. [Giovanni Aggiustatutto] decided to build his own version from scratch, with a nice wooden finish to boot.

The benefit of the wooden design is that the panels look nice both when they’re switched on, and when they’re switched off. [Giovanni] selected attractive okumè plywood for the build, which is affordable and has a lovely grain. The hexagons were then fitted on their back side with strips of WS2812B LEDs. The first hexagon is fitted with an ESP32 that runs the lights, with the other hexagons having their LEDs daisychained from there. 3D printed frames were then fitted to each hexagon to allow them to be connected together into a larger wall-hanging piece.

Ultimately, building your own wall lights lets you customize them to operate exactly as you want, and often lets you save a lot of money, too. We’ve featured other similar builds before, too. Video after the break.

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Voidstar’s Vitals, Visualized For Video

Great news for fans of [Voidstar Labs] — [Zack] is going to be streaming future builds live on YouTube instead of trying to keep up with a grueling and limiting schedule of releasing a build video every week. The only problem is that the wall behind him is totally blank and boring, which matters quite a bit for pretty much any streamer that doesn’t broadcast from a hot tub. Well, not anymore! Now the wall has twenty square feet of rainbow hexagons, because blinkenlights.

But these aren’t just any blinkenlights. They’re informative. They dance to the beat of [Zack]’s bio-metrics, or in other words, they are visualizing how sweaty and anxious [Zack] may be at a given moment, and turning that information into art.

At the heart of this build is a brand-new bio-metric board called the EmotiBit which boasts sixteen sensors in a small package, including a pulse oximeter. The EmotiBit sends vitals to [Zack]’s PC, which is running an oscilloscope app to interpret the signals. Then they are sent over Open Sound Control to an ESP32, which runs the light show.

Like [Zack] says in the video after the break, this isn’t a terribly difficult project, but the construction takes time. [Zack] used aluminum extrusion meant for under-cabinet lighting and ran forty strips of fourteen DotStar LEDs each. The nodes are printed in carbon-fiber PLA and hold the lights away from the wall so it looks cooler. Worried about the current draw? It’s okay, because the brightness and number of lit LEDs at any one time is limited. Add in the fact that none of the LEDs are ever turned off — they fade by one percent each loop — and you have some really cool animations. Check them out after the break.

Want some localized blinkenlights to wear about town? Wear your heart on your sleeve and show them how hard you’re crushing the elliptical at the gym.

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Hex Matrix Clock Does It With Six Sides

LED matrixes were once a total headache, requiring careful consideration to make the most of limited I/O pins and available microcontroller resources. These days, addressable LED strings have made it all a cinch. Thus, going a little out of the box isn’t so daunting. [w.r.simpson] did just that with this hex-matrix clock.

Relying on hexes instead of a normal Cartesian grid requires some attention to how the rows and columns are laid out, but the Instructable goes through the necessary coordinate system to address the display. The whole display was built without a 3D printer, instead relying on some basic craft skills and a picture frame as the enclosure. Strips of WS2812B LEDs were used to build the hexagonal matrix, run by a Adafruit Metro Mini 328. To give each hexagonal pixel, or hexel, a crisp outline, a shadow grid was built using black paper to stop the light bleeding between the display segments when switched on. Smoked plexiglas wasn’t available, so instead, tinted window film was used to darken the front of the display.

The result is impressive; while some glue marks from the shadow grid are visible closeup, from a distance the final product looks incredibly futuristic thanks to the hexagonal layout. We can imagine this would make a great set dressing in a futuristic film clip; we fully expect to see this concept in the background of the next Ariana Grande single. If this build isn’t enough six-sided fun to sate your appetite, consider getting into Super Hexagon too!

A Boring Tale With Six Sides

Making a hole in a piece of material is a straightforward process, after all most of us will have some form of drill. If we need a hole that isn’t round though, after the inevitable joke about bad drill control leading to oval holes, what do we do? Get busy with a file perhaps? Or shell out for a shaped punch?  [Skunkworks] has taken a different tack, using LinuxCNC and a vertical mill to machine near-perfect hexagonal and other polygonal holes.

The tool path appears to be more star-shaped than polygon shaped, the reason for which becomes apparent on watching the videos below the break as the rotation of the tool puts its cutting edge in a polygonal path. Anyone who has laboured with a file on a round hole in the past will be impressed with this piece of work.

The latest in the saga takes the work from simple hexes into other shapes like stars, and even tapered polygonal holes. These in particular would be a significantly difficult task by other means, so we look forward to what other developments come from this direction.

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Watching The Watchers: The State Of Space Surveillance

By now you’ve almost certainly heard about the recent release of a high-resolution satellite image showing the aftermath of Iran’s failed attempt to launch their Safir liquid fuel rocket. The geopolitical ramifications of Iran developing this type of ballistic missile technology is certainly a newsworthy story in its own right, but in this case, there’s been far more interest in how the picture was taken. Given known variables such as the time and date of the incident and the location of the launch pad, analysts have determined it was likely taken by a classified American KH-11 satellite.

The image is certainly striking, showing a level of detail that far exceeds what’s available through any of the space observation services we as civilians have access to. Estimated to have been taken from a distance of approximately 382 km, the image appears to have a resolution of at least ten centimeters per pixel. Given that the orbit of the satellite in question dips as low as 270 km on its closest approach to the Earth’s surface, it’s likely that the maximum resolution is even higher.

Of course, there are many aspects of the KH-11 satellites that remain highly classified, especially in regards to the latest hardware revisions. But their existence and general design has been common knowledge for decades. Images taken from earlier generation KH-11 satellites were leaked or otherwise released in the 1980s and 1990s, and while the Iranian image is certainly of a higher fidelity, this is not wholly surprising given the intervening decades.

What we know far less about are the orbital surveillance assets that supersede the KH-11. The satellite that took this image, known by its designation USA 224, has been in orbit since 2011. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has launched a number of newer spacecraft since then, with several more slated to be lifted into orbit between now and 2021.

So let’s take a closer look at the KH-11 series of reconnaissance satellites, and compare that to what we can piece together about the next generation or orbital espionage technology that’s already circling overhead might be capable of.

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Hexagons – The Crazy New Breadboard

A breadboard is a great prototyping tool for verifying the sanity of a circuit design before taking the painstaking effort of soldering it all together permanently. After all, a mistake in this stage can cost a lot of time and possibly material, so it’s important to get it right. [daverowntree] wasn’t fully satisfied with the standard breadboard layout though, with fixed rows and columns. While this might work for most applications, he tried out a new type of prototyping board based on hexagons instead.

The design philosophy here revolves around tessellations, a tiling method for connecting the various components on this unique breadboard rather than using simple rows. The hexagons are tessellated across the board, allowing for some unique combinations that might make it slightly more complicated, but can have some benefits for other types of circuits such as anything involving the use of a three-wire device like a transistor.

The post is definitely worth a read, as [daverowntree] goes through several examples of this method of prototyping where the advantages are shown, like a voltage follower circuit and some other circuits involving transistor biasing. If you’re OK with the general design of breadboards, though, and just wished you didn’t have to do anything after the prototyping stage, we’ve got some help for you there as well.