Input Labs’ mission is to produce open-source Creative Commons hardware and software for creating gaming controllers that can be adapted to anyone. Alpakka is their current take on a generic controller, looking similar to a modern Xbox or PlayStation controller but with quite a few differences. The 3D printed casing has a low-poly count, angular feel to it, but if you don’t like that you can tweak that in blender to just how you want it. Alpakka emulates a standard USB-attached keyboard, mouse, and Xinput gamepad in parallel so should just work out of the box for both Linux and Windows PC platforms. The firmware includes some built-in game profiles, which can be selected on the controller.
The dual D-pads, augmented with an analog stick, is not an unusual arrangement, but what is a bit special is the inventive dual-gyro sensor arrangement –which when used in conjunction with a touch-sensitive pad — emulates a mouse input. Rest your thumb on the right-hand directional pad and the mouse moves, or else it stays fixed, kind of like lifting a mouse off the pad to re-center it.
The wired-only controller is based around a Raspberry Pi Pico, which has plenty of resources for this type of application giving a fast 250 Hz update rate. But to handle no fewer than nineteen button inputs, as well as a scroll wheel, directional switch, and that analog stick, the Pico doesn’t have enough I/O, needing a pair of NXP PCAL6416A I2C IO expanders to deal with it.
The PCB design is done with KiCAD, using a simple 3D printed stand to hold the PCB flat and the through-hole components in place while soldering. Other than a few QFN packages which might be a problem for some people, there is nothing tricky about hand-soldering this design.
For most hackers and makers, building a clock is a rite of passage. Few, though, will be as unusual and engaging as this design by [TerraG2].
By combining addressable LEDs, light pipes and 7-segment displays, [TerraG2] has built a timepiece that looks great and will surely be a great conversation starter as well. It’s packed full of features such as automatic brightness control, an accelerometer controlled user interface, and WiFi to make sure it’s always accurate.
The decision to leave the light pipes visible behind the main display really makes the project stand out from other clock builds, and the methods [TerraG2] has used to achieve this look will no doubt be transferable to a host of other projects.
The LEDs are courtesy of a standard 8×8 RGB matrix, with a custom 3D-printed shroud to hold the light pipes in place and a clever connector at the other end to illuminate the segments. With two LEDs per segment, seven segments per digit, and four digits, there’s even room for some extra features down the line if you can think of a use for those eight spare LEDs.
The brain of the project is an ESP8266 D1 with an MPU6050 inertial measurement unit (IMU) to detect when it’s flipped over to change the color scheme.
Age, we’re told, is just a number, but that number seems to be the ever-increasing count of injuries of a ridiculous nature. Where once the younger version of us could jump from a moving car or fall out of a tree with just a few scrapes to show for the effort, add a few dozen trips around the sun and you find that just “sleeping funny” can put you out of service for a week.
Keen to avoid such woes, [Elite Worm] came up with this sleep posture alarm to watch for nocturnal transgressions, having noticed that switching to a face-down sleeping position puts a kink in his neck. He first considered using simple mechanical tilt switches to detect unconscious excursions from supine to prone. But rather than be locked into a single posture, he decided to go with an accelerometer instead. The IMU and an ATtiny85 live on a custom PCB along with a small vibrating motor, which allows for more discrete alerts than a buzzer or beeper would.
Placed in a 3D printed enclosure and clipped to his shorts, the wearable is ready to go. The microcontroller wakes up every eight seconds to check his position, sounding the alarm if he’s drifting into painful territory. [Elite] did some power analysis on the device, and while there’s room for improvement, the current estimated 18 days between charging isn’t too shabby. The video below has all the details; hopefully, design files and code will show up on his GitHub soon.
Considering that most of us spend a third of our life sleeping, it’s little wonder hackers have attacked sleep problems with gusto. From watching your brainwaves to AI-generated nonsense ASMR, there’s plenty of hacking fodder once your head hits the pillow.
When it comes to interpreting sensor data automatically, it helps to have a large data set to assist in validating it, as well as training when it concerns machine learning (ML). Creating this data set with carefully tagged and categorized information is a long and tedious process, which is where the idea of cross-domain translations come into play, as in the case of using millimeter wave (mmWave) radar sensors to recognize activity of e.g. building occupants with the IMU2Doppler project at Smash Lab of Carnegie Mellon University.
The most commonly used sensor type when it comes to classifying especially human motion are inertial measurement units (IMU) such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, which are found in everything from smartphones to smart watches and fitness bands. For these devices it’s common to classify measurement patterns as matches a particular activity, such as walking, jogging, or brushing one’s teeth. This makes them both well-defined and very accessible.
As for why a mmWave-based Doppler radar would be preferred for monitoring e.g. building occupants is the privacy aspect compared to using cameras, and the inconvenience of equipping people with a body-worn IMU. Using Doppler radar it would theoretically be possible for people to track activities within their own home, as well as in a medical setting to ensure patients are safe, or at a gym to track one’s performance, or usage of equipment. All without the use of cameras or personal sensors. In the past, we’ve seen a similar approach that used targeted laser beams.
As promising as this sounds, at this point in time the number of activities that are recognized with reasonable accuracy (~70%) is limited to ten types. Depending on the intended application this may already be sufficient, though as the published paper notes, there is still a lot of room for growth.
For all its ability to advance modern society in basically every appreciable way, science still has yet to explain some seemingly basic concepts. One thing that still has a few holes in our understanding is the method by which a bicycle works. Surely, we know enough to build functional bicycles, but like gravity’s inclusion into the standard model we have yet to figure out a set of equations that govern all bicycles in the universe. To push our understanding of bicycles further, however, some are performing experiments like this self-balancing omniwheel bicycle robot.
Functional steering is important to get the bicycle going in the right direction, but it’s also critical for keeping the bike upright. This is where [James Bruton] is putting the omniwheel to the test. By placing it at the front of the bike, oriented perpendicularly to the direction of travel, he can both steer the bicycle robot and keep it balanced. This does take the computational efforts of an Arduino Mega paired with an inertial measurement unit but at the end [James] has a functional bicycle robot that he can use to experiment with the effects of different steering methods on bicycles.
While he doesn’t have a working omniwheel bicycle for a human yet, we at least hope that the build is an important step on the way to [James] or anyone else building a real bike with an omniwheel at the front. Hopefully this becomes a reality soon, but in the meantime we’ll have to be content with bicycles with normal wheels that can balance and drive themselves.
Sometimes a great hack is great for no other reason than that it’s fun, and [Michael Rechtin]’s DIY Active Aero Spoiler and Air Brake certainly qualifies as a fun hack. This is a mod designed to live in a world where looks are everything, stickers add horsepower, and a good sound system is more important than good wheel alignment. Why is that? Because like the switch that exists only to activate the mechanism that turns it off, the DIY Active Aero Spoiler and Air Brake seen below is almost completely useless. So to understand its allure, we must understand its inspiration.
For a few decades now, luxury sports car manufacturers have been adding active aerodynamic components to their vehicles. For example, several Porsche models feature adaptive spoilers that adjust to driving conditions. Super cars such as the Bugatti Veyron have spoilers that flip up at high angles during braking to increase drag and reduce braking distance. All of these features are sadly missing from the average two or four door family-car-turned-wannabe-track-fiend. Until now!
[Michael] has created a new active spoiler for every mall-bound muffler-challenged hand me down. The build starts with a CNC cut foam wing which is covered with fiberglass, Bondo (an automotive necessity) and some faux carbon fiber for that go-fast feel. An Arduino, IMU, two servos, and a battery pack detect deceleration and automatically increase the spoiler angle just like the big boys, but without needing any integration into the vehicles systems. Or bolts, for that matter.
It’s unlikely that the braking force is enough to slow down the vehicle though, given that it’s not enough to pop the suction cups holding it to the trunk lid. But does it have the “wow” factor that it was designed to induce? Spoiler Alert: It does!
Since the dawn of the age of the automobile, motorheads have been obsessed with using as few wheels as possible. Not satisfied with the prospect of being incompletely maimed by a motorcycle, the monocycle was born. Gracing the covers of Popular magazines and other periodicals, these futuristic wheels of doom have transfixed hackers of all kinds. [James Bruton] is one such hacker, and in the video below the break you can see his second iteration of a 3d printed monowheel.
[James]’ wonderful monowheel is beautifully engineered. Bearing surfaces, gears, idlers, motors, and yes, twin gyroscopes are all contained within the circumference of the tire. The gyroscopes are actuated by a rather large servo, and are tied together by a gear that keeps their positions in sync. Their job is to keep the monowheel balanced at all times.
But as [James] discovered, the chief difficulty of only having one wheel isn’t lateral balancing. Ask any monocyclist and they’ll assure you that it’s possible. The real trick is balancing the machine fore and aft. Unlike a two wheeled velocipede, the monowheel has nothing to exert torque against save for a bit of gravity.
As [James] found out the hard way, it was within this fore-aft balancing act that the gyroscopic precession reared its ugly head. The concept is explained well in the video. We won’t spoil the surprise ending because the explanation and conclusion are quite good so make sure to watch to the end!