Hackaday Links: December 10, 2017

We have a contest going on right now challenging you to do the most with a coin cell. There are already quite a few interesting entries, and a few Hackaday writers are getting into the action by asking the question, ‘how do you open up a coin cell?’. The first thoughts were to open a lithium coin cell up while submerged in oil, but eBay came to the rescue with the cases for CR2025 cells. Of course that’s a thing.

Also falling into the, ‘of course that’s a thing’ category, there’s a project on Hackaday.io to execute arbitrary code on a calculator. A small group of calculator hackers have discovered an exploit on a line of Casio calculators running the obscure nX-U8/100 architecture. Right now, there’s not much to the project — just an LCD filled with bits of memory. However, this is a project we’re keenly watching, and we can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Hold onto your butts, because the ultimate multimeter is here. [Dave Jones] of the EEVBlog has released the 121GW Multimeter on Kickstarter. What’s cool about this meter? SD card logging, the ability to send data over Bluetooth, a 15V diode test voltage, a burden voltage display, and a whole bunch of hackable features. If you have a Fluke on your Christmas list, you would do well to check out the 121GW.

Also on Kickstarter, a new LattePanda board has been released. What’s a LattePanda? It’s a small single board computer built around a low-voltage Intel processor. This board features an Intel m3-7Y30 processor, comparable to the processor you’d get in a proper laptop that doesn’t have an i3, 8 gigs of DDR3, 64 gigs of eMMC, 802.11ac, BlueTooth 4.2, USB 3.0 with a Type C connector, HDMI, and a whole bunch of GPIOs. Yes, it runs Windows (but why would you?). If you need a somewhat beefy x86 system in a small form factor, there ‘ya go.

We’ve seen 3D printed remote-controlled airplanes, but never one this big. The guys at Flite Test printed a 1.6 meter Spitfire. It’s got flaps, it’s got retracts, and it’s friggin’ huge. The files for the print came from 3DLabPrint, and it flies beautifully, despite being a Spitfire. Want to see the video? Here ya go.

Real-Life Electronic Neurons

All the kids down at Stanford are talking about neural nets. Whether this is due to the actual utility of neural nets or because all those kids were born after AI’s last death in the mid-80s is anyone’s guess, but there is one significant drawback to this tiny subset of machine intelligence: it’s a complete abstraction. Nothing called a ‘neural net’ is actually like a nervous system, there are no dendrites or axions and you can’t learn how to do logic by connecting neurons together.

NeruroBytes is not a strange platform for neural nets. It’s physical neurons, rendered in PCBs and Molex connectors. Now, finally, it’s a Kickstarter project, and one of the more exciting educational electronic projects we’ve ever seen.

Regular Hackaday readers should be very familiar with NeuroBytes. It began as a project for the Hackaday Prize all the way back in 2015. There, it was recognized as a finalist for the Best Product, Since then, the team behind NeuroBytes have received an NHS grant, they’re certified Open Source Hardware through OSHWA, and there are now enough NeuroBytes to recreate the connectome of a flatworm. It’s doubtful the team actually has enough patience to recreate the brain of even the simplest organism, but is already an impressive feat.

The highlights of the NeuroBytes Kickstarter include seven different types of neurons for different sensory systems, kits to test the patellar reflex, and what is probably most interesting to the Hackaday crowd, a Braitenberg Vehicle chassis, meant to test the ideas set forth in Valentino Braitenberg’s book, Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology. If that book doesn’t sound familiar, BEAM robots probably do; that’s where the idea for BEAM robots came from.

It’s been a long, long journey for [Zach] and the other creators of NeuroBytes to get to this point. It’s great that this project is now finally in the wild, and we can’t wait to see what comes of it. Hopefully a full flatworm connectome.

CNC Robot Makes a Move

Another day, another Kickstarter. While we aren’t often keen on touting products, we are keen on seeing robotics and unusual mechanisms put to use. The Goliath CNC has long since surpassed its $90,000 goal in an effort to put routing robots in workshops everywhere.

Due to their cost and complexity, you often only find omni-wheels on robots scurrying around universities or the benches of robotics hobbyists, but the Goliath makes use of nine wheels configured as three sets in a triangular pattern. This is important as any CNC needs to make compound paths, and for wheeled robots an omni-wheel base is often the best bet for compound 2D translation.

coordinate drawingWhat really caught our eye is the Goliath’s unique positioning system. While most CNC machines have the luxury of end-stops or servomotors capable of precise positional control, the Goliath has two “base sensors” that are tethered to the top of the machine and mounted to the edge of the workpiece. Each sensor connects to the host computer via USB and uses vaguely termed “Radio Frequency technology” that provides a 100Hz update for the machine’s coordinate system. This setup is sure to beat out dead-reckoning for positional awareness, but details are scant on how it precisely operates. We’d love to know more if you’ve used a similar setup for local positioning as this is still a daunting task for indoor robots.

A re-skinned DeWalt 611 router makes for the core of the robot, which is a common option for many a desktop milling machine and other bizarre, mobile CNCs like the Shaper Origin. While we’re certain that traditional computer controlled routers and proper machining centers are here to stay, we certainly wouldn’t mind if the future of digital manufacturing had a few more compact options like these.

A Slew Of NYC Meetups With Tindie And Hackaday This Week

This is a busy, busy week for Tindie and Hackaday. We’re going to New York, and we have a ton of events planned.

First up is the monthly Hackaday meetup. This time, we’re teaming up with Kickstarter for a pre-Maker Faire Meetup. We’ll be hosting this at Kickstarter’s HQ, and already we have an impressive line of speakers set up to talk about Assistive Technology. These speakers include:

  • Anita Perr and R. Luke Dubois from the NYU Ability Project
  • Andrew Chepaitis from ELIA Life Technology

Also on deck for the for the Hackaday x Kickstarter meetup are live demos from WearWorks, who are developing the WAYBAND, a haptic navigation device and from Elia Frames, a tactile reading system.

The Hackaday x Kickstarter meetup will be Thursday, September 21st, starting at 6:30pm. Here’s the link to RSVP.

This weekend is also World Maker Faire New York and Tindie will be out in force showcasing all the wonderful bits and bobs developed by the Tindie community.

On deck will be [Jasmine] and [Brandon] from Tindie, and of course we’re inviting Tindie sellers to drop by the booth throughout the weekend and showcase their wares.

Also on deck for the World Maker Faire will be [Shulie], [Shayna] and myself. We’ll be tossing brand new Tindie stickers into the audience and giving out Tindie Blinky Badges. If you’ve ever wanted to show your enthusiasm for DIY hardware, now you can with an electronic blinky lapel pin. Solder it up and listen to Benchoff rationalize why it doesn’t need a current limiting resistor! Such fun!

Hackaday Links: August 27, 2017

Hulk Hands! Who remembers Hulk Hands? These were a toy originally released for the 2003 Hulk movie and were basically large foam clenched fists you could wear. Hulk Hands have been consistently been re-released for various Marvel films, but now there’s something better: it’s the stupidest tool ever. Two guys thought it would be fun and not dangerous at all to create cast iron Hulk Hands and use them as demolition and renovation equipment. This is being sold as a tool comparable to a sledgehammer or a wrecking bar.

New Pogs! We’re up to 0x0C. Is your collection complete?

[Peter] is building an airplane out of foam in his basement. He’s also doing it as a five or six-part series on his YouTube channel. Part two is now up. This update covers the tail surfaces, weighing and balancing the fuselage, and a general Q&A with YouTube comments.  Yes, [Peter] still has a GoFundMe up for a parachute, and it’s already about half funded. With any luck, he’ll have the $2600 for a parachute before he builds the rest of the plane. Another option is a ballistic parachute system — a parachute for the whole plane, like a Cirrus. That would be a bit more than $4000, so we’ll see how far the GoFundMe goes.

Hey, remember the Nvidia Jetson TX1? It’s a miniATX motherboard running a fast ARM core with a GPU housing 256 CUDA cores. It’s cool, and the new version — the TX2 — is designed for ‘machine learning at the edge’. They’re on sale now, for only $199.

Primitive Technology has another video out. This time, he’s improving his bow string blower into something that kinda, sorta resembles a modern forge. This time, the experiment was a success when it comes to pottery — he’s now able to fire clay at a much higher temperature, bringing him reasonably close to modern ceramics. At least, as close as you can get starting with the technology of a pointed stick. The experiment was marginally successful when it came to creating iron. He’s using iron-bearing bacteria (!) for his source of ore and was able to smelt millimeter-sized pellets of iron. This guy needs a source of copper or tin. Zinc is also surprisingly possible given his new found capabilities for ceramics.

False Claims On Kickstarter: What’s New?

Kickstarter and its ilk seem like the Wild West when it comes to claims of being “The world’s most (Insert feature here) device!” It does add something special when you can truly say you have the world record for a device though, and [MellBell Electronics] are currently running a Kickstarter claiming the worlds smallest Arduino compatible board called Pico.

We don’t want to knock them too much, they seem like a legit Kickstarter campaign who have at time of writing doubled their goal, but after watching their promo video, checking out their Kickstarter, and around a couple of minutes research, their claim of being the world’s smallest Arduino-compatible board seems to have been debunked. The Pico measures in at an impressive 0.6 in. x 0.6 in. with a total area of 0.36 sq.in. which is nothing to be sniffed at, but the Nanite 85 which we wrote up back in 2014 measures up at around 0.4 in. x  0.7in. with a total area of around 0.28 sq.in.. In this post-fact, fake news world we live in, does it really matter? Are we splitting hairs? Or are the Pico team a little fast and loose with facts and the truth?

There may be smaller Arduino compatible boards out there, and this is just a case study between these two. We think when it comes to making bold claims like “worlds smallest” or something similar perhaps performing a simple Google search just to be sure may be an idea.

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