When a project has outgrown using a small microcontroller, almost everyone reaches for a single-board computer — with the Raspberry Pi being the poster child. But doing so leaves you stuck with essentially a headless Linux server: a brain in a jar when what you want is a Swiss Army knife.
It would be a lot more fun if it had a screen attached, and of course the market is filled with options on that front. Then there’s the issue of designing a human interface: touch screens are all the rage these days, so why not buy a screen with a touch interface too? Audio in and out would be great, as would other random peripherals like accelerometers, WiFi, and maybe even a cellular radio when out of WiFi range. Maybe Bluetooth? Oh heck, let’s throw in a video camera and high-powered LED just for fun. Sounds like a Raspberry Pi killer!
And this development platform should be cheap, or better yet, free. Free like any one of the old cell phones that sit piled up in my “hack me” box in the closet, instead of getting put to work in projects. While I cobble together projects out of Pi Zeros and lame TFT LCD screens, the advanced functionality of these phones sits gathering dust. And I’m not alone.
Why is this? Why don’t we see a lot more projects based around the use of old cellphones? They’re abundant, cheap, feature-rich, and powerful. For me, there’s two giant hurdles to overcome: the hardware and the software. I’m going to run down what I see as the problems with using cell phones as hacker tools, but I’d love to be proven wrong. Hence the “Ask Hackaday”: why don’t we see more projects that re-use smartphones?
Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Why Aren’t We Hacking Cellphones?”
If you’re heading off on a trip to Alaska, you need to make sure you have plenty of supplies on hand for the wilderness that awaits. If you’re [Bryce], that supply list includes some interesting photography equipment, including a camera dolly that he made to take time-lapse video of the fantastic scenery.
On the hardware side, the dolly carries the camera on a rail that is set up on a slant. The camera starts on one side and moves up and towards the otherside which creates a unique effect in the time-lapse. The rig is driven by a stepper motor, and rides on some pretty fancy bearings. The two cameras [Bryce] plans to use are a Canon T2i and a EOS-M which sit on the top from a tripod.
The software and electronics side is interesting as well. Instead of the usual Arduino, [Bryce] opted for controlling the rig through Android and a IOIO board. This gives the project a lot of options for communications, including Bluetooth. The whole thing is powered by a 19V battery pack. If you’re looking for something a little simpler, you might want to check out the egg timer for time lapse! Check out the video of [Bryce]’s rig in action after the break.
Continue reading “Timelapse Photography on an Android-Powered Dolly”
When his 6 years old induction cooker recently broke, [Johannes] decided to open it in an attempt to give it another life. Not only did he succeed, but he also added Bluetooth connectivity to the cooker. The repair part was actually pretty straight forward, as in most cases the IGBTs and rectifiers are the first components to break due to stress imposed on them. Following advice from a Swedish forum, [Johannes] just had to measure the resistance of these components to discover that the broken ones were behaving like open circuits.
He then started to reverse engineer the boards present in the cooker, more particularly the link between the ‘keyboards’ and the main microcontroller (an ATMEGA32L) in charge of commanding the power boards. With a Bus Pirate, [Johannes] had a look at the UART protocol that was used but it seems it was a bit too complex. He then opted for an IOIO and a few transistors to emulate key presses, allowing him to use his phone to control the cooker (via USB or BT). While he was at it, he even added a temperature sensor.
[Kay Choe] can’t play the piano. Rather, he couldn’t, until he converted his keyboard to include LED-guided instruction. [Kay] is a microbial engineering graduate student, and the last thing a grad student can afford is private music lessons. With $70 in components and a cell phone, however, he may have found a temporary alternative.
The build works like a slimmed-down, real-world Guitar Hero, lighting up each note in turn. We’ve seen a project like this before, with the LEDs mounted above the keys. [Kay]’s design, however, is much easier to interpret. He embedded the LEDs directly into the keys, including ones above each black key to indicate the sharps/flats. An Android app takes a MIDI file of your choice and parses the data, sending the resulting bits into an IOIO board via USB OTG. A collection of shift registers then drives the LEDs.
For a complete novice, [Kay] seems to benefit from these lights. We are unsure whether the LEDs give any indication of which note to anticipate, however, as it seems he is pressing the keys after each one lights up. Take a look at his video demonstration below and help us speculate as to what the red lights signify. If you’re an electronics savant who wants to make music without practicing a day in your life, we recommend that you check out [Vladimir’s] Robot Guitar.
Continue reading “LED-Guided Piano Instruction”
Here’s an Android powered pen plotter that does it all. It was built by [Ytai Ben-Tsvi] to take with him to Maker Faire. He’s the creator of IOIO, a hardware interface module designed to communicate with an Android device via USB (host or OTG are both supported).
The physical hardware is simple enough. He draws on a pad of white paper using a felt-tipped marker. Located at the top of the easel are two wheels with stars etched on them. They are reels which spool and dole-out string to control the pen’s movements. The pen tip can be lifted by a ball bearing mounted just below it.
But the project really takes off when you watch [Ytai’s] demonstration. The Android tablet controlling the device captures a picture of an object — in this case it’s a toy truck. The app then processes it using edge detection to establish how to plot the image.
Continue reading “Android pen plotter snaps, processes, and prints pictures”
A reverse geocache – a box that only opens in a specific geographical area – is a perennial favorite here at Hackaday. We see a ton of different implementations, but most of the time, the builds are reasonably similar. Of course dedicating a GPS receiver solely to a reverse geocache isn’t an inexpensive prospect, so [Eric] came up with a better solution. He’s using a smart phone as the brains of his geocache, allowing him to keep the GPS and display outside the locked box.
The build began by finding an old box and modifying it so it can be locked with a servo. The only other bits of electronics inside the box are an IOIO board, a battery pack, and an I2C EEPROM for storing a few settings. On the phone side of things, [Eric] wrote an Android app to serve as both the programming interface, UI, and GPS hardware for his reverse geocache. It’s exactly like all the other reverse geocaches we’ve seen, only this time the controls are wireless.
[Eric] put up a video demoing his reverse geocache. You can check that out after the break.
Continue reading “Putting the brains of a reverse geocache on the outside”
For the last few years, [Ytai] has been working on the IOIO, a device that connects your Android devices to the other homebrew peripherals. There’s a new version of this really cool board out now that includes a few much-needed features like USB-OTG and a lower component cost that is passed on in savings to you.
A few months ago, our own [Mike Szczys] caught a glimpse of this new IOIO board. It’s the same size as the previous revision, but with USB-OTG, the new IOIO can be a master when connected to a phone, or a slave when connected to a PC.
In addition to USB-OTG, [Ytai] improved the power regulation circuit, and even went so far as to refuse royalties to the board to get the costs down. It’s currently available at Sparkfun for $40.
[Ytai] says he’s working on a few software upgrades to the IOIO, including making capacitive sensing a possibility and including support for stepper motors and controllers. There’s also support for the Raspberry Pi coming up, but we’re just glad [Ytai] managed to put a yo-yo graphic on the bottom silkscreen. Finally, and hopefully, everyone will know how to pronounce IOIO.