Dice Reader Brings Tech To Your Craps Game… Or, Ya Know, D&D

There are truisms about dice that you’ve probably already heard: if you have just one of them it’s called a “die”, opposite faces of each die always add up to seven, and those dots that you’re adding together are known as “pips”. But what about the infrared properties of those pips? It turns out they reflect less IR than the white body of the die and that trait can be used to build an automatic die reader.

Great projects have a way of bubbling to the surface. The proof of concept comes from way back in 2009, and while the source blog is now defunct, it’s thankfully been preserved by the Internet Archive. In recreating the project based on that barebones description, [Calvin] reached for a set of five IR transmitter/receiver pairs. Take a close look and you’ll see each transmitter is hidden under its partnered receiver. The light shines up through the receiver and the presence of the pip is detected by measuring how much of it bounces back.

This board is only the sensor portion of the design. A 595 shift register provides the ability to control which IR pair is powered, plus five more signals heading out to the analog pins of an Arduino Uno to monitor how much light is being detected by the receivers. Hey, that’s another interesting fact about dice, you only need to read five different pips to establish the value shown!

We wish there were a demo video showing this in action, but alas we couldn’t find one. We were amused to hear [Calvin] mentioned this was a sorting assignment at University and the team didn’t want to build yet another candy sorter. Look, we love an epic M&M sorter just as much as the next electronic geek, but it’s pretty hard to one-up this dice-based random number generator which rolls 1.3 million times each day.

E-Book Reader Gets Page Turn Buttons, Is None The Wiser

Most e-book readers don’t have physical page turn buttons. Why? They just don’t. Virtual page turns are accomplished with a tap at a screen edge. Determined to reduce the awkwardness of one-handed use, [Sagar Vaze] modified a Kobo e-reader with two physical page turn buttons as a weekend project.

[Sagar] points out that since the underlying OS of the Kobo device is Linux, it is possible to fake touches to the screen (and therefore trigger page turns) by recording then replaying the appropriate input event. However, there was a more direct solution available to those willing to tamper slightly with the hardware. Touch sensing on the screen is done via an infrared break-beam system. Along two edges of the screen are IR emitters, and opposite the emitters are receivers. Broadly speaking, when a fingertip touches the display a minimum of two IR beams are broken, and the physical location of the fingertip can therefore be determined by analyzing exactly how the IR pattern has been changed.

To spoof page turns, [Sagar] briefly shorts two IR emitters: one on each axis. The sudden winking out of the IR is interpreted by the device as a crisp tap, and the device obediently turns the page. The only hitch is that both IR emitters must be shorted at the same time. If one is shorted before the other, the device ignores it. Double-pole switches would probably do the trick, but with the part bin coming up empty in that respect, [Sagar] instead used a few transistors to accomplish the same thing. A 3D printed enclosure rounds out the whole mod, and a brief video is embedded below.

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Super Simple Sensor Makes DSLR Camera Motion Sensitive

Do you have a need to photographically document the doings of warm-blooded animals? If so, a game camera from the nearest hunting supplier is probably your best bet. But if you don’t need the value-added features such as a weather-resistant housing that can be chained to a tree, this DIY motion trigger for a DSLR is a quick and easy build, and probably loads more fun.

The BOM on [Jeremy S Cook]’s build is extremely short – just a PIR sensor and an optoisolator, with a battery, a plug for the camera’s remote jack, and a 3D-printed bracket. The PIR sensor is housed in a shroud to limit its wide field of view; [Jeremy] added a second shroud when an even narrower field is needed. No microcontroller is needed because all it does is trigger the camera when motion is sensed, but one could be added to support more complicated use cases, like an intervalometer or constraining the motion sensing to certain times of the day. The video below shows the build and some quick tests.

Speaking of intervalometers, we’ve seen quite a few of those over the years. From the tiny to the tinier to the electromechanical, people seem to have a thing for taking snapshots at regular intervals.

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PLA Foils Homemade Tachometer

[Integza] built a Tesla turbine and wanted to know how fast it was spinning. However, he didn’t have a tachometer, and didn’t want to buy one. After a false start of trying to analyze the audio to measure the speed, he decided to use a tried-and-true method. Let the wheel break an infrared (IR) optointerruptor and count the spokes of the wheel as they go by. If you know the spacing between the spokes, you can compute the speed. There was only one problem: it didn’t work.

Turns out, PLA is at least somewhat transparent to IR. Knowing that it was a simple matter to fix some tape to the wheel that would block IR and that made things work much better. If you missed the video where he built the turbine, you might want to watch it first.

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The Portable, Digital, Visual Theremin

The theremin is, for some reason, what people think of first when they think of electronic musical instruments. Maybe that’s because it was arguably the first purely electronic musical instrument, or because there’s no mechanical analog to something that makes sound simply by waving your hand over it. This project takes that idea and cranks it up to eleven. It’s a portable synthesizer that’s controlled by IR reflectors. Just wave your hand in front of it, and that’s what pitch is going to sound.

The audio hardware for this synth is, like so many winners in the Musical Instrument Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize, based on the Teensy and its incredible Audio library. The code consists of two oscillators and a pink noise generator. Pressing down button one activates the oscillators, and the frequency is determined by the IR sensor. Button two cycles through various waveforms, while the third and fourth buttons shift the octaves up and down. The output is I2S, and from there everything is out to an amplifier and speaker.

Of course, it’s really not a musical instrument unless it looks cool, and that’s where this project is really great. It’s a fully 3D printed enclosure that actually looks good. There’s an 8×8 LED array to display the current waveform, and this is something that could actually be a product instead of a project. It’s a great synth, and we’re happy to have it in the running for the Hackaday Prize.

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Air Conditioner Remote Reverse Engineered Despite Esoteric Protocol

Infra-red remote control is something of a Done Deal when it comes to hardware hacking, it has been comprehensively reverse engineered, and there exist libraries and software packages to seamlessly take care of all its quirks. Just occasionally though, along comes an IR remote whose protocol doesn’t follow that well-worn path

[William Dudley] found himself in this position with an air-conditioning unit remote control. He found it sent a stream of data with all settings of the machine rather than the single command codes you might expect from a familiar TV remote. The solution was to reverse engineer and reimplement the IR codes.

His reverse engineering relied on an Arduino and IR receiver which he used to sniff the packets coming out of the remote. Eventually he was able to recognise some of the functions from the remote, and create his own protocol that can recreate most of the remote’s functions. This was pushed over to a Raspberry Pi Zero which uses an IR LED to command the air conditioner, joining the ranks of his growing home automation setup.

The write-up makes for a fascinating primer on analysis of obscure IR protocols, and is well worth a read for anybody with an interest in the topic. Meanwhile if you want more IR reverse engineering stories, try this tale of a bathroom scale.

Internet Of Tea: Coaster Watches For Optimum Drinking Temperature

Ah, the age-old question: at what temperature does one’s tea need to be for maximum enjoyment? It’s subjective, of course, but subjective in a way that makes everyone else’s opinion demonstrably wrong. What’s worse, the window of opportunity for optimum tea temperature is extremely narrow. What’s a tea drinker to do?

Throw a little technology at the problem, of course, in the form of this Internet of Tea smart coaster. Through careful experimentation, [Benjojo] determined the temperature of his favorite mug when the tea within was just right for drinking and designed a coaster to alert him to that fact. The coaster is 3D-printed and contains an MLX90616 IR temperature sensor looking up at the bottom of the mug. An ESP8266 lives inside the coaster too and watches for the Optimum Tea Window to open, sending an alert via Discord when the time is right. Yes, he admits that a simple blinking LED on the coaster would keep his tea habit metadata from being slurped up by the international tea intelligence community, but he claims he has nothing to hide. Good luck with that.

What’s next for [Dane]’s tea preparation? Perhaps he can close the loop and automate the whole pre-consumption process.