Shady Air Umbrella Given New Lease On Life

Many infamous Kickstarter projects have ultimately flopped or failed, leaving backers frustrated and angry. Often pitched with a splashy convincing video that happens to have critical components conveniently offscreen. [Allen Pan] was reminiscing about one such project, the air umbrella, and decide to redeem the project by making his own.

The basic idea of the air umbrella was a device that could create a cone of fast-moving air over your head to deflect air. Going off of the specs listed on the original Kickstarter page, [Allen] made a simple prototype that did nothing. Suspicions confirmed, he decided to keep going by buying a powerful electric leaf blower. A nozzle was 3d printed that could direct the air into the needed disc. Early testing with the mist function on a garden hose seemed promising, and they worked their way up to progressively larger raindrops.

Finally, the clouds of California smiled upon them, and it rained. [Allen] was ecstatic that his umbrella worked. He couldn’t hear much out of one ear as he was holding a leaf blower next to it for a few minutes, but it’s a small price to pay to stay dry with the Air Umbrella.

If you’re curious about more false Kickstarter claims, why not read up on this tiny Arduino compatible board making some dubious claims.

[Header image courtesy of Air Umbrella Kickstarter page]

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Hackaday Links: October 24, 2021

It seems that the engineers of NASA’s Lucy spacecraft have some ‘splaining to do. The $981M asteroid-seeking mission launched without a hitch, but when the two solar panels unfolded, one of them failed to latch into place. Lucy’s two large solar arrays combine to an impressive 51 square meters. Both are critical to this 12-year mission as it will travel farther from the Sun than any previous spacecraft, and be gone for longer. The problem is that Lucy is on an escape route, and so they can’t just sidle up to her with a repair craft. Even so, NASA and Lockheed are “pretty optimistic” that they can fix the problem somehow. On the bright side, both solar arrays are providing power and charging batteries inside the cockpit.

It’s kind of hard to believe, but KDE is turning 25 this year! Well, the actual anniversary date (October 14th) has already passed, but the festivities continue through the 25th when KDE founder Matthias Ettrich delivers a fireside chat at 17:00 UTC. Registration begins here.

EnergyStar, purveyors of appliance efficiency ratings and big yellow stickers, will no longer recommend gas-powered water heaters, furnaces, and clothes dryers on their yearly Most Efficient list. They will continue to give them ratings, however. This move was prompted by several environmentalist groups who pointed out that continuing to recommend gas appliances would not put America on track to reach Biden’s 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal, since they produce greenhouse gases. We totally understand the shift away from gas, but not so much the nitty gritty of this move, which the article presents as exclusive of any appliance that doesn’t run on 100% clean energy. You can’t prove that a user’s electricity is renewable. For example, this consumer is well aware that the energy company in her town still burns coal for the most part. Anyway, here’s the memo. And a PDF warning.

Sure, you can trawl eBay for space rocks, but how do you know for sure that you’re getting a real meteorite? You could play the 1 in 100 billion or so odds that one will just fall in your lap. Just a few weeks ago, a meteorite crashed through a British Columbia woman’s ceiling and landed between two decorative pillows on her bed, narrowly missing her sleeping head. Ruth Hamilton awoke to the sound of an explosion, unaware of what happened until she saw the drywall dust on her face and looked back at the bed. The 2.8 pound rock was the size of a large man’s fist and was one of two meteorites to hit Golden, BC that evening. The other one landed safely in a field.

Hackaday alum Jeremy Cook wrote in to give us a heads up that his newest build, the JC Pro Macro 2, is currently available through Kickstarter. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a Pro Micro-powered macro pad. But this version is packed with extra keyswitches, blinkenlights, and most importantly for the Hackaday universe, broken out GPIO pins. Do what you will with the eight switches, rotary encoder, and optional OLED screen, and do it with Arduino or QMK. Jeremy is offering a variety of reward levels, from bare boards with SMT LEDs soldered on to complete kits, or fully assembled and ready to go.

Inputs Of Interest: Marsback M1 Is A Portable Party Peripheral

Again, let’s just get this out of the way up front: I got this lovely little 75% keyboard for free from a gaming accessories company called Marsback. It’s a functioning prototype of a keyboard that they have up on Kickstarter as of March 2nd. It comes in three color schemes: dark, white and sakura pink, which is white and pink with cherry blossoms.

This illustration of the lube points is from my email string with Marsback.

Marsback found me through my personal website and contacted me directly to gauge my interest in this keyboard. I’ll admit that I wasn’t too excited about it until I scrolled further in the email and saw that they are producing their own switches in-house.

I think that’s a really interesting choice given that Cherry MX and other switches exist, and there so many Cherry MX clones out there already. Naturally, I had to investigate, so following a short review, I’ll take it apart.

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XChange Promises Inexpensive Tool Changes For 3D Printers

[Teaching Tech] has been interested in adding a tool changer to his 3D printer. E3D offers a system that allows you to switch print heads or even change out a hot end for a laser or a (probably) light-duty CNC head. The price of the entire device, though, is about $2,500, which put him off. But now he’s excited about a product from PrinterMods called XChange. This is a kit that will allow rapid tool changes on many existing printers and costs quite a bit less. Preorder on KickStarter is about $150, but that probably won’t be the final price.

Not all printers are compatible. It appears the unit attaches to printers that have linear rails and there is an adapter for printers that have V rollers in extrusions. Supposedly, there is an adapter in the works for printers that use rods and bearings.

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Open Source Lego Controller

A mechanical and manufacturing engineer by day, [Tyler Collins] taught himself electronics and firmware development in his spare time and created an open source Lego controller called Evlōno One. It is based on the STM32 and Arduino ecosystems, and compatible with a impressive variety of existing Lego controllers, sensors and actuators. [Tyler] encountered Lego Mindstorms while helping in an after-school program, and got to wondering whether he could make a more flexible controller. We’d have to say he succeeded, and it’s amazing how much he has packed into this 4 x 4 single-height brick format.

The Evlōno One is based on an ESP32 dual-core MCU, and has WiFi, Bluetooth, and an IR transmitter for wireless connectivity. It also boasts USB-C power delivery, three motor controllers, speakers, LEDs and a button. Dig through the Kickstarted page for more details on these interfaces and specifications. Both the firmware and the hardware will be published as open source on GitHub.

Although [Tyler] has the prototypes all running, he notes this is his first big production effort. FCC certification testing and production mold tooling are the two biggest items driving the scheduled Feb 2021 shipments. If computer driven Lego modeling is one of your hobbies, definitely check out [Tyler]’s project. And if you missed our [Daniel Pikora]’s FOSSCON 2018 presentation about the intersection (collision) of Legos and Open Source, our article must-read for you folks in the Adult Fan of Lego (AFOL) community.

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Crowd Funded Jumping Cubes

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently contributed their Int-Ball  technology to a Kickstarter campaign operated by the Japanese electronics manufacturer / distributor Bit Trade One (Japanese site). This technology is based on the Cubli project out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), which we covered back in 2013. The Cubli-based technology has been appearing in various projects since then, including the Nonlinear Mechatronic Cube in 2016.  Alas, the current JAXA-based “3-Axis Attitude Control Module” project doesn’t have a catchy name — yet.

One interesting application of these jumping cubes, presumably how JAXA got involved with these devices, is a floating video camera that was put to use on board the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017.  The version being offered by the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t include the cameras, and you will need to provide your own a gravity-free environment to duplicate that application.  Instead, they seem to be marketing this for educational uses.  You’d better dig deep in your wallet if you want one — a fully assembled unit requires a pledge of over $5000 ( there is a “some assembly required” kit that can save you about $1000 ).  Most of us won’t be backing this project for that reason alone, but it is nice to see the march of progress of such a cool technology:  from inception to space applications to becoming available to the general public.  Thanks to [Lincoln Uehara] for sending in this tip.

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Vizy “AI Camera” Wants To Make Machine Vision Less Complex

Vizy, a new machine vision camera from Charmed Labs, has blown through their crowdfunding goal on the promise of making machine vision projects both easier and simpler to deploy. The camera, which starts around $250, integrates a Raspberry Pi 4 with built-in power and shutdown management, and comes with a variety of pre-installed applications so one can dive right in.

The Sony IMX477 camera sensor is the same one found in the Raspberry Pi high quality camera, and supports capture rates of up to 300 frames per second (under the right conditions, anyway.) Unlike the usual situation faced by most people when a Raspberry Pi is involved, there’s no need to worry about adding a real-time clock, enclosure, or ensuring shutdowns happen properly; it’s all taken care of.

‘Birdfeeder’ application can automatically identify and upload images of visitors.

Charmed Labs are the same folks behind the Pixy and Pixy 2 cameras, and Vizy goes further in the sense that everything required for a machine vision project has been put onboard and made easy to use and deploy, even the vision processing functions work locally and have no need for a wireless data connection (though one is needed for things like automatic uploading or sharing.) For outdoor or remote applications, there’s a weatherproof enclosure option, and wireless connectivity in areas with no WiFi can be obtained by plugging in a USB cellular modem.

A few of the more hacker-friendly hardware features are things like a high-current I/O header and support for both C/CS and M12 lenses for maximum flexibility. The IR filter can also be enabled or disabled via software, so no more swapping camera modules for ones with the IR filter removed. On the software side, applications are all written in Python and use open software like Tensorflow and OpenCV for processing.

The feature list looks good, but Vizy also seems to have a clear focus. It looks best aimed at enabling projects with the following structure:

Detect Things (people, animals, cars, text, insects, and more) and/or Measure Things (size, speed, duration, color, count, angle, brightness, etc.)

Perform an Action (for example, push a notification or enable a high-current I/O) and/or Record (save images, video, or other data locally or remotely.)

The Motionscope application tracking balls on a pool table. (Click to enlarge)

A good example of this structure is the Birdfeeder application which comes pre-installed. With the camera pointed toward a birdfeeder, animals coming for a snack are detected. If the visitor is a bird, Vizy identifies the species and uploads an image. If the animal is not a bird (for example, a squirrel) then Vizy can detect that as well and, using the I/O header, could briefly turn on a sprinkler to repel the hungry party-crasher. A sample Birdfeeder photo stream is here on Google Photos.

Motionscope is a more unusual but very interesting-looking application, and its purpose is to capture moving objects and measure the position, velocity, and acceleration of each. A picture does a far better job of explaining what Motionscope does, so here is a screenshot of the results of watching some billiard balls and showing what it can do.