Judge Spotlight: Joe Grand

judge-spotlight-joe-grand

We’ve been fascinated by [Joe Grand] for years. His early talks at DEFCON, and extensive work designing badges for it, helped to put the conference on our radar. We’ve seen many pieces of hardware come from his company Grand Idea Studio over the years, and of course there was the television show Prototype This! which must have been way too awesome for some TV exec to allow it to continue.

We asked [Joe], who is a judge for The Hackaday Prize, a few a questions. He sent back the video response embedded below. He talks about what he’s doing these days, the hacker community in Boston, shows off some hardware he uses when teaching about security, and much more.

Continue reading “Judge Spotlight: Joe Grand”

Team Van Gogh Uses OpenXC To Create Art From Your Drive

vangogh

In this video, [Joe Grand] takes us through [Team Van Gogh’s] entry in the OpenXC hackathon event. In what could possibly be the greatest road trip in history, [Joe Grand, Ben Krasnow, TechNinja, and Super Awesome Sylvia] all pile into a car. With them they bring a host of dev boards, wires, a CB Radio, and of course Sylvia’s WaterColorBot.

As their name implies, [Team Van Gogh] took a more artistic approach to the challenge than other teams.  OpenXC steering, gear shift, accelerator and brake data is sent through a ChipKit to an RS-232 link into [TechNinja’s] laptop. The laptop translates the data into commands for the WaterColorBot. With this system, a simple Sunday drive can become abstract art.

The team also showed the concept of what could be done if OpenXC was extended to send data back to the vehicle – something Ford doesn’t support. Their example works when a phone call comes in by using the system to lower the volume on a CB radio standing in for car’s Bluetooth system.

Most of this challenge was completed with simulated data from the OpenXC vehicle interface. The team only had a few minutes to work the bugs out in a real vehicle. However, they proved their concepts well enough to win the grand prize.

Continue reading “Team Van Gogh Uses OpenXC To Create Art From Your Drive”

EMIC2 Text To Speech Module

This is the EMIC2 text-to-speech module. You can see from the logo on the bottom left it’s the latest gadget coming out of [Joe Grand’s] Grand Idea Studios. [Dino] tipped us off about his first experience with a prototype of the board. He’s driving it with an Arduino and the video after the break shows that the sound rendering is high quality and the words are very easy to understand. One of the things that we think is interesting is that the serial communications used to drive the board are not uni-directional. In fact, there’s a serial terminal that provides documentation on how to use the chip. Obviously this is most suited to the Arduino, which always has a PC-side terminal window available to it.

[Joe] himself shows some of the potential for the board. He gave new life to a broken toy by replacing its internals with a PIC-based circuit to drive the EMIC2. That video is also found after the break. He’s just using the demo clips, but from that you will get a good idea of the vocal modulations this device is capable of. The board rings up at $60 and is available from Parallax.

Continue reading “EMIC2 Text To Speech Module”

Amp Hour Interviews [Joe Grand]

The Amp Hour, a podcast of electronics enthusiasts and professionals alike, just did an epic interview with [Joe Grand]. Along with hosts [Chris Gammell] and [Dave Jones], the discussion runs the gamut of points of interest in the hardware hacking world. The first vignette explores the rise, run, and fall of Prototype This, an engineering-centric TV show that [Joe] did along with a group of various engineers for the Discover Channel. He politely discusses some of the goods and bads of the TV business and how that affected the team’s ability to go into great detail about the projects they were building.

From there the guys discuss the development of Hackerspaces through the years. [Joe] has some concerns about the injection of corporate sponsorships in these DIY spaces and what that may mean in the long run. He then talks about the impending release of his 3-year-long laser range-finder project (we’ve seen a project using a prototype of this sensor). The show is rounded out with discussions about hardware fab houses that [Joe] uses and has used over the years for projects like the Defcon Badges (we loved his Defcon 18 badges).

It’s a great episode so download a copy and set aside about an hour to listen to the whole show.

Automotive Backup Alarm

[Dino’s] project of the week is a backup alarm for your car. This is a feature that has become popular on many large vehicles like SUVs where visibility is an issue when moving in reverse. But it doesn’t sound like he was motivated by the need to have this in his own car. Instead, he was looking for something to build using a laser range finder.

[Joe Grand] (the brains behind DEFCON badges) has been working on an inexpensive laser range finder for Parallax. He sent one of the first-run prototype boards to [Dino] for beta testing and we’re glad that [Dino] decided to show it off. It uses a small red laser diode and a camera module to measure distance in millimeters. The board communicates serially and this particular project uses an Arduino along with a character LCD and speaker to display distance and sound an alarm when the car is within a meter of an object.

Check out the video after the break to see the build in its entirety. The system works reasonably well, if the object you’re about to hit is perfectly lined up with the laser dot.

Continue reading “Automotive Backup Alarm”

A Look Back At DefCon 18 Badges

As he does every year, [Joe Grand] gave a talk explaining the development process for Defcon 18 badges. We looked in on these when details started trickling out back in July. They feature a neat bit of tech in the form of an LCD that acts much like ePaper. It doesn’t take any electricity to hold the image, only to change the display. This is a valuable feature for a battery powered device and allowed him to get about 9 days of juice out of a CR2032. This year’s badges also used laser-etched Aluminum as a substrate.

We’ve embedded the talk after the break and found it interesting enough to watch the entire hour. If you’re more interested in the hacks that came out of the badge, we’ve put together a playlist of videos [Joe] took while at the conference.

Continue reading “A Look Back At DefCon 18 Badges”

DefCon 18 Official Badges

The details are out for the DefCon 18 badges. The new design has a lot of goodies packed into it, most notably a 128×32 LCD display. You can’t see it in the image above because it’s on the other side of the badge; the ribbon cable passes through a slit in the substrate to reach the connector on the back. The board has a mini-USB connector and is meant to get even the unseasoned novice up and running with some firmware tweaks. The Freescale processor (which is the same chip as last year’s badge) is running a bootloader that can be accessed and flashed using a terminal program. Yeah… impressive.

But it doesn’t stop with the component selection or firmware mastery, these badges are beautiful too. What you see above is the prototype, but the 7780 badges produced come in seven different flavors (as usual), laser etched on a PCB that uses Aluminum as the substrate. Line up all the badges side-to-side and you get a graphic art storyboard. [Joe] outdid himself this year, and he’s been nice enough to share the development details (PDF) which we spent way too much time drooling over.

[Thanks Kim]