On the left side, there's a smartphone. On the right side, there's a hairdryer turned on. On the smartphone screen, you can see the working end of the hairdryer shown, as well as a jet of air coming out of that end. In the background, there's an LCD screen showing a noise pattern.

Observe Airflow Using Smartphone And Background-Oriented Schlieren

Multiple people have recently shared this exciting demonstration (nitter) with us – visualizing airflow using a smartphone, called ‘background-oriented schlieren’. On a hot summer day, you might see waves in the air – caused by air changing density as it warms up, and therefore refracting the light differently. Schlieren photography is an general set of techniques for visualizing fluid flow, but of course, it can also be applied to airflow. In this case, using some clever optical recognition tricks, this schlieren method lets you visualize flow of air using only your Android smartphone’s high resolution camera and a known-pattern printed background! Continue reading “Observe Airflow Using Smartphone And Background-Oriented Schlieren”

Building A Serial Bus To Save An Old Hard Drive

Universal Serial Bus has been the de facto standard for sending information to and from computer peripherals for almost two decades, but despite the word “universal” in the name this wasn’t always the case. Plenty of competing standards, including USB, existed in the computing world in the decades before it came to dominance, and if you’re trying to recover data from a computer without USB you might have to get creative with how it’s done.

[Ben] recently came across a 80486 with this problem, so he had to get creative to recover the contents of the drive. He calls it the “lunchbox” computer due to its form factor, and while it doesn’t have USB it does have a tried-and-trusted serial port to communicate with other computers. [Ben] wrote up a piece of software for both the receiving computer and the sending computer in order to copy the drive sectors one by one across a serial link to a standalone computer running Windows XP, and was able to recover the contents of the drive that way instead.

All of the code [Ben] wrote is available on his GitHub page for anyone looking to boot up a 30-year-old computer again. While it might sound uncommon, computers of this vintage are still around running things like CNC machines or old mainframes.

Gaming Mouse Becomes Digital Camera

Ever since the world decided to transition from mechanical ball mice to optical mice, we have been blessed with computer pointing devices that don’t need regular cleaning and have much better performance than their ancestors. They do this by using what is essentially a tiny digital camera to monitor changes in motion. As we’ve seen before, it is possible to convert this mechanism into an actual camera, but until now we haven’t seen something like this on a high-performance mouse designed for FPS gaming.

For this project [Ankit] is disassembling the Logitech G402, a popular gaming mouse with up to 4000 dpi. Normally this is processed internally in the mouse to translate movement into cursor motion, but this mouse conveniently has a familiar STM32 processor with an SPI interface already broken out on the PCB that could be quickly connected to in order to gather image data. [Ankit] created a custom USB vendor-specific endpoint and wrote a Linux kernel module to parse the data into a custom GUI program that can display the image captured by the mouse sensor on-screen.

It’s probably best to not attempt this project if you plan to re-use the mouse, as the custom firmware appears to render the mouse useless as an actual mouse. But as a proof-of-concept project this high-performance mouse does work fairly well as a camera, albeit with a very low resolution by modern digital camera standards. It is much improved on older mouse-camera builds we’ve seen, though, thanks to the high performance sensors in gaming mice.

CNC Toolpath Visualisation With OpenCV

[Tony Liechty] has been having a few issues getting into CNC machining — starting with a simple router, he’s tripped over the usual beginners’ problems, you know, things like alignment of the design to the workpiece shape, axis clipping and workpiece/clamp collisions. He did the decent hacker thing, and turned to some other technologies to help out, and came up with a rather neat way of using machine vision with OpenCV to help preview the toolpath against an image of the workpiece in-situ (video, embedded below.)

ChArUco (a combined chessboard and ArUco marker pattern) boards taped to the machine rails were used to give OpenCV a reference of where points in space are with respect to the pattern field, enabling identification of pixel locations within the image of the rails. A homography transformation is then used to link the two side references to an image of the workpiece. This transformation allows the system to determine the physical location of any pixel from the workpiece image, which can then be overlaid with an image of the desired toolpath. Feedback from the user would then enable adjustment of the path, such as shifts, or rotates to be effected in order to counter any issue that can be seen. The reduction of ‘silly’ clamping, positioning and other such issues, means less time wasted and fewer materials in scrap bin, and that can only be a good thing.

[Tony] says this code and setup is just a demo of the concept, but such ‘rough’ code could well be the start of something great, we shall see. Checkout the realWorldGcodeSender GitHub if you want to play along at home!

We’ve seen a few uses of OpenCV for assisting with CNC applications, like this cool you draw it, i’ll cut it hack, and this method for using machine vision to zero-in a CNC mill onto the centre of a large hole.

Continue reading “CNC Toolpath Visualisation With OpenCV”

Digital Painting On An IPad With Real Brushes

Drawing tablets are a great way to make digital art, and iPads and other tablets are similarly popular in this area. However, they all typically involve using some sort of special stylus for input. [Richard Greene] developed another method, with Light Strokes for the iPad letting one “paint” with real paint brushes instead!

The system uses a Fresnel prism in view of the iPad’s camera. This allows the camera to see only the parts of a paint brush, sponge, or other implement, as they make contact with the surface of the prism itself. This is via the principle known as total internal reflection.

Thus, simply wetting a paintbrush, sponge, or even a finger, allows one to paint quite authentically on the surface of the prism. The corresponding Light Strokes app on the iPad turns this into the pretty pixels of your creation. The app also allows one to experiment with all manner of fancy brush effects, too.

The build requires some finesse, with the lamination of the special Fresnel film onto glass using liquid optically clear adhesive, or LOCA. A series of mirrors are then assembled in an enclosure, allowing the iPad to be mounted with the camera having a good view of the glass painting area.

The project takes advantage of a simple physical effect in order to create a great artistic tool. Alternatively, if you prefer to draw directly, consider whipping up your own screen-based drawing tablet. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Digital Painting On An IPad With Real Brushes”

What Exactly Is A Gaussian Blur?

Blurring is a commonly used visual effect when digitally editing photos and videos. One of the most common blurs used in these fields is the Gaussian blur. You may have used this tool thousands of times without ever giving it greater thought. After all, it does a nice job and does indeed make things blurrier.

Of course, we often like to dig deeper here at Hackaday, so here’s our crash course on what’s going on when you run a Gaussian blur operation. Continue reading “What Exactly Is A Gaussian Blur?”

Liquid Lite Brite Robot

Liquid handling workstations are commonly used in drug development, and look like small CNC machines with droppers on the ends which can dispense liquid into any container in a grid array. They are also extraordinarily expensive, as is most specialty medical research equipment. This liquid handling workstation doesn’t create novel drugs, though, it creates art, and performs similar functions to its professional counterparts at a much lower cost in exchange for a lot of calibration and math.

The art is created by pumping a small amount of CMYK-colored liquids into a 24×16 grid, with each space in the grid able to hold a small amount of the colored liquid. The result looks similar to a Lite-Brite using liquids instead of small pieces of plastic. The creator [Zach Frew] created the robot essentially from scratch using an array of 3D printers, waterjets, and CNC machines. He was able to use less expensive parts, compared to medical-grade equipment, by using servo-controlled valves and peristaltic pumps, but makes up for their inaccuracies with some detailed math and calibration.

The results of the project are striking, especially when considering that a lot of hurdles needed to be cleared to get this kind of quality, including some physical limitations on the way that the liquids behave in the first place. It’s worth checking out not just for the art but for the amount of detail involved as well. And, for those still looking to scratch the 90s nostalgia itch, there are plenty of other projects using the Lite Brite as inspiration.

Thanks to [Thane Hunt] for the tip!