Travel Globe Spins You Around Memory Lane

We all have our own preferences when it comes to travel souvenirs — that little something that brings back the memories and feelings of a past holiday every time we look at it, whether it’s the cliché fridge magnet, some local speciality, or just the collection of photos we took. But then there are those journeys that can’t be summarized into a single item and may require a bit more creativity. For [Jonathan], it was last year’s trip around the world that took him and [Maria] to locations all over Europe, Asia, and Oceania, and he found a great way to remember it: an interactive, laser-cut travel globe displaying all the places they went to.

Building a sphere is of course a bit tricky with a laser cutter, so [Jonathan] went for the icosahedron shaped Dymaxion map projection (think of a large d20 dice) and burnt the world onto it. Inside the globe is an ESP8266, an MPU-6050 IMU, and a bunch of LEDs to light up the travel locations using the WLED library. Taking the data from the IMU, he customized the WLED library to determine which way the globe is positioned, and highlights the top-facing location in a different color.

While that would already make a nice souvenir on its own, [Jonathan] didn’t stop here. Using Google’s My Maps service, which lets you create custom maps with own points of interest and have for example photos attached to them, the ESP8266 hosts the travel map also as a web page. Feeding the IMU data to the JavaScript code that’s handling the map API, the globe itself now doubles as an input device to control the virtual map. So whenever the globe is physically rotated to highlight a certain location, the web page’s map is focused to that same location and shows randomly the pictures they have taken there. Check out the video below to see it all in action.

This is a great way to reminisce about a memorable journey even years down the road, and while it may not be flexible to extend, it seems like the kind of trip that deserves a standalone device anyway. Plus, the Dymaxion map is definitely an interesting projection — so here’a a foldable one, just because. And If you like tracking things on a globe, here’s one that shows the location of the ISS.

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A Robotic Golf Club To (Possibly) Boost Your Game

Golf can be incredibly frustrating even for the well practiced player, and probably one of the leading causes for swearing on Saturday mornings. In effort to solve this global problem [Shane Wighton], is creating the ultimate cheat device robotic golf club, that can eliminate all the clubs in one, and adjust for the desired distance mid-swing.

Different golf clubs are mostly defined by their loft angle, or the angle at which the club face is designed to strike the ball in relation to the ground, with the purpose of changing the takeoff angle and therefor the distance traveled. To eliminate the need for different clubs, [Shane] made a head for which the loft angle can be set using a rotary encoder and display on the shaft. However building a tilting a mechanism that can survive the ±4000 lbs of force generated during impact requires some clever engineering. The first iteration was a rather impressive hydraulic design, but it required a large hydraulic power source and the pressure waves generated in the system caused the pistons in the head to blow out every time. The second iteration uses a hobby servo with a combination of machined and SLA printed parts, but in such a way that no force is transmitted to the servo at impact, similar to how a lead screw works. [Shane] actually managed to play a full 18 holes with no problems.

The second feature on the club is to adjust the loft angle mid-swing for the speed of the club to hit the ball a specified distance. A high precision IMU is used to measure the speed and angle of the club. The servo can’t move instantaneously, so it has to predict the impact velocity based on past data. Unfortunately no two swings are ever exactly the same, which introduces some error into the system. Continue reading “A Robotic Golf Club To (Possibly) Boost Your Game”

Flexible PCB Earrings Put The Art In Art Deco

Earrings have been a hackers’ target for electronic attachment for quite a while, but combining the needed components into a package small enough to wear in that finicky location is quite a challenge. If [Sawaiz Syed]’s Art Deco Earrings are anything to go by, ear computers have a bright future ahead of them!

This is a project unusually well described by its name. It is in fact an earring, with art deco styling. But that sells it way too short. This sliver of a flex circuit board is double sided to host an ATtiny, accelerometer, LDO, and eight 2020 formfactor controller-integrated LEDs. Of course it’s motion sensitive, reacting to the wearer’s movement via LED pattern. [Sawaiz] makes reference to wearing it while dancing, and we can’t help but imagine an entire ballroom all aglow with tiny points of LED light.

The Art Deco Earrings are also set apart by the thoroughness of their documentation (have we mentioned how much we love detailed documentation?). [Sawaiz] not only drops the source in your lap, but the README in the Github repo linked at the top walks the reader through each component of the design in detail. Plus the PCBA render is so complete it includes a model of the wire loop to fit through the wearer’s ear; how cool is that? The single piece that’s still in progress is the battery. The earring itself hosts an LDO, so all that is required is stashing a battery somewhere discrete, perhaps in the user’s hair? We’re looking forward to seeing what [Sawaiz] works out.

For the full effect, check out the gif of an assembled unit in action after the break.

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From Zero To LED Cube In Less Than Seven Months

We know that LED video cubes are so last year, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still love to see them. Any project that incorporates over 24,000 LEDs is bound to be impressive, after all. But the more interesting bit about [Mike Cann]’s self-contained LED cube has more to do with the process he chose to get to the finished product.

There are two ways to approach a new project, especially when you’re new to hardware hacking like [Mike] is. One is to jump in with both feet and just see what happens, for good or for ill. The other is is to ease into it with a starter project, to find out where your limitations lay and work around them gradually. [Mike Cann] wisely chose the latter approach with his LED cube project, starting with an LED sand toy. The single 64 x 64 LED panel was a bit easier to work with, and got him up to speed on the care and feeding of such hardware, as well as the code needed to drive it. The video below tells the tale of scaling that project up by a factor of six to make the cube, a process that had its share of speedbumps. Everything ended up fitting together great, though, letting [Mike] get on to the software side. That’s where this project really shines — the smartphone app running the cube is really slick, and the animations are great.

There’s clearly room for new features on [Mike]’s cube, so here’s hoping he can carve out some time to make a great build even better. For inspiration he might want to check out this side-scrolling Castlevania cube, or perhaps read up on the finer points of OpenGL for LED cubes.

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Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way

Anyone who has ever gone to a bowling alley will know the preferred (but ineffective) technique to telepathically control a bowling ball. [Mark Rober] and [James Bruton] decided to change that and hacked a bowling ball that can be steered remotely (and discreetly), simply by leaning your body.

They started with a standard bowling ball, that was cut in half and hollowed out on a lathe. A beam sits on the centre line of the ball, mounted on a bearing in each half to allow the ball to spin around it. Steering done by shifting the centre of mass, by moving a steel pendulum that hangs below the beam side to side with heavy-duty servo. The servo is controlled with an Arduino, and an IMU to detects the balls orientation. Power is provided by and RC Lipo battery. The wireless controller is a sneaky little device that is taped to [Mark]’s back and covered with clothing, and steers the ball by detecting how far he leans with an IMU module. The brain is an Arduino Mini and an NRF24L01 provides the RF link.

While it’s not an easy build, it’s a fairly simple system electronically, with off the shelf electronics modules and perfboard. The genius is in the implementation and its entertainment value. The look on the kids faces when [Mark] “telepathically” controls the ball, after showing off the fact that he has zero natural ability, is absolutely priceless. [Mark Rober], a former NASA engineer, has made a name for himself with viral Youtube videos on cool projects like a glitter booby trap for package thieves and a liquid sand hot tub. [James Bruton], a former toy designer is known for his robotics prowess that he has put on display with OpenDog and functional Star Wars robots.

For us this hack is a perfect example of one that entertains and inspires, a powerful combination for young and old alike. Check out the awesome video after the break. Continue reading “Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way”

Adding Sensors To Improve Your Curling Game? Turns Out It’s Really Hard

Sometimes, a project turns out to be harder than expected at every turn and the plug gets pulled. That was the case with [Chris Fenton]’s efforts to gain insight into his curling game by adding sensors to monitor the movement of curling stones as well as the broom action. Luckily, [Chris] documented his efforts and provided us all with an opportunity to learn. After all, failure is (or should be) an excellent source of learning.

The first piece of hardware was intended to log curling stone motion and use it as a way to measure the performance of the sweepers. [Chris] wanted to stick a simple sensor brick made from a Teensy 3.0 and IMU to a stone and log all the motion-related data. The concept is straightforward, but in practice it wasn’t nearly as simple. The gyro, which measures angular velocity, did a good job of keeping track of the stone’s spin but the accelerometer was a different story. An accelerometer measures how much something is speeding up or slowing down, but it simply wasn’t able to properly sense the gentle and gradual changes in speed that the stone underwent as the ice ahead of it was swept or not swept. In theory a good idea, but in practice it ended up being the wrong tool for the job.

The other approach [Chris] attempted was to make a curling broom with a handle that lit up differently based on how hard one was sweeping. It wasn’t hard to put an LED strip on a broom and light it up based on a load sensor reading, but what ended up sinking this project was the need to do it in a way that didn’t interfere with the broom’s primary function and purpose. Even a mediocre curler applies extremely high forces to a broom when sweeping in a curling game, so not only do the electronics need to be extremely rugged, but the broom’s shaft needs to be able to withstand considerable force. The ideal shaft would be a clear and hollow plastic holding an LED strip with an attachment for the load sensor, but no plastic was up to the task. [Chris] made an aluminum-reinforced shaft, but even that only barely worked.

We’re glad [Chris] shared his findings, and he said the project deserves a more detailed report. We’re looking forward to that, because failure is a great teacher, and we’ve celebrated its learning potential time and again.

This Heads Up Display Is All Wet

Athletes have a long history of using whatever they can find to enhance their performance or improve their training. While fitness tracker watches are nothing new, swimmers have used them to track their split times, distance, and other parameters. The problem with fitness trackers though is that you have to look at a watch. FORM has swim goggles that promise to address this, their smart goggles present the swimmer with a heads-up display of metrics. You can see a slick video about them below.

The screen is only on one eye, although you can switch it from left to right. The device has an inertial navigation system and is — of course — waterproof. It supposedly can withstand depths up to 32 feet and lasts 16 hours on a charge. It can use Bluetooth to send your data to your phone in addition to the display.

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