In one of the cooler hacks we’ve seen recently, a bunch of hacking academics at the University of Michigan researched the ability to flicker a laser at audible sound frequencies to see if they could remotely operate microphones simply by shining a light on them. The results are outstanding.
While most Hackers will have heard about ‘The Thing’ – a famous hack where Russian KGB agents would aim a radio transmitter at the great seal in the US embassy, almost none of us will have thought of using lasers shined in from distant locations to hack modern audio devices such as Alexa or Google Assistant. In the name of due diligence, we checked it out on Wikipedia: ‘The Photoacoustic Effect’ , and indeed it is real – first discovered in 1880 by Alexander Bell! The pulsing light is heating the microphone element and causing it to vibrate along with the beam’s intensity. Getting long range out of such a system is a non-trivial product of telescopes, lasers, and careful alignment, but it can be made to work.
Digging deeper into the hack, we find that the actual microphone that is vulnerable is the MEMS type, such as the Knowles SPV0842LR5H. This attack is relatively easy to prevent; manufacturers would simply need to install screens to prevent light from hitting the microphones. For devices already installed in our homes, we recommend either putting a cardboard box over them or moving them away from windows where unscrupulous neighbors or KGB agents could gain access. This does make us wonder if MEMS mics are also vulnerable to radio waves.
As far as mobile phones are concerned, the researchers were able to talk into an iPhone XR at 10 metres, which means that, very possibly, anybody with a hand held ultra violet / infra red equipped flashlight could hack our phones at close range in a bar, for example. The counter-measures are simple – just stick some black electrical tape over the microphone port at the bottom of the phone. Or stay out of those dodgy bars. Continue reading “Laser-Based Audio Injection On Voice-Controllable Systems”→
If you’ve worked with a laser cutter before, you might not find much new in [Maker Design Lab’s] recent post about getting started. But if you haven’t, you’ll find a lot of practical advice and clean clear figures. The write up focuses on a tube-style laser cutter that uses a gas-filled tube and mirrors. Some cheap cutters use a diode, and many of the same tips will apply to those cutters.
You can probably guess that a laser cutter can cut like a CNC and also engrave where the cut doesn’t go all the way through. But it can also mark metals and other surfaces by using a marking solution. If you’ve done CNC or 3D printing, the process is similar, but there are a few unique things to know, like the use of the marking solution.
Attention: No pirates maritime wealth redistribution agents were harmed in the making of the video below.
Some projects are for work, some are for fun, and some, like this entirely 3D-printed camera pan-tilt gimbal, start out as work and then turn into fun. As professional digital FX artist [FlorianH] tells the tale, he was in need of such a rig for some motion-control work. Buying off the shelf is always an option, except when it’s boring, so [Florian] invested an untold number of hours in front of Fusion 360 meticulously designing every last part, except for some bearings, the NEMA 17 steppers, and some fasteners. Ten One hundred hours of printing later and the device was ready for assembly and a quick test, which showed that this thing is smooth as silk.
And the pirate snuff-vid? That was just for fun, and we enjoyed it immensely. [Florian] assures us that none of the explosions were added in post; all are practical effects, done with flash cotton and a bit of powdered charcoal. We asked – you know, for reference.
With safety in mind from the beginning, [NightHawkInLight] chose to build the cannon in ways that won’t expose him or people following his footsteps to any toxic fumes. The barrel is formed by securing a roll of terrace board and simply pulling it into a cone. A series of PVC pipes and adapters build the combustion chamber that fits the terrace board barrel on its one end, and the propane torch nozzle on its other end. For easier aim and stability, he also adds a tripod mount.
Since air vortices are, well, air, and therefore not visible by themselves, they don’t offer the most visual excitement. [NightHawkInLight] solved this with a fog machine attached to the barrel, and a laser line module, which you can see for yourself in his build video after the break. In a previous vortex cannon project we could also see a more outdoorsy approach to add visibility to it. Continue reading “Blowing Rings With Cannons, Fogs, And Lasers”→
If you even think about hacking with lasers, you’re going to hear about eye safety. “Be careful” they’ll say. “Don’t look into laser with remaining eye” is a joke you’ll not be able to avoid. You’ll hear “Where are your goggles”, and about 1000 other warnings. Don’t get us wrong, laser/eye safety is important. However, the constant warnings can get a bit old — especially when you’re working with a “low power” class 3a laser — you know, the kind with a warning label that says “AVOID DIRECT EYE EXPOSURE” in big black letters on a yellow background.
[Michael Reeves] got fed up, and went a bit nuts. He built a robot specifically to shine a laser into human eyes. No, not a medical robot. This ‘bot lives in a pizza box, is built from servos, duct tape, and [Michael’s] tears. It just shoots lasers at people’s eyes. Needless to say, please, don’t try this at home, or at all.
Designing such a diabolical beast was actually rather simple. The software is written in C#. Frames are captured from an old Logitech webcam, then passed into Emgu CV, which is a .NET wrapper for OpenCV. [Michael] runs a simple face detection algorithm, and uses the results to aim a laser. The laser is mounted on two R/C style servos. An Arduino forms the glue between the servos and the PC.
[Michael] has a great deadpan delivery and it all makes for a great video. Think of him of a younger [Medhi] over at Electroboom. But we can’t condone this behavior. Properly labeled and characterized red laser pointers have never been shown to cause eye damage. Yet if the laser is out-of-spec or reflects of something that further focuses the beam it is certainly capable of damaging eyesight.
We want [Michael’s] eyesight to remain intact so he can make more videos — he’s entertaining, even if ignoring safety warnings isn’t.
[Philip Nicovich] has been building laser sequencers over at the University of New South Wales. His platform is used to sequence laser excitation on his fluorescence microscopy systems. In [Philip]’s case, these systems are used for super-resolution microscopy, that is breaking the diffraction limit allowing the imaging of structures of only a few nanometers (1 millionth of a millimeter) in size.
Using an Arduino shield he designed in Eagle, [Philip] was able to build the system for less than half the cost of a commercial platform.
The control system is build around the simple Arduino shield shown to the right, which uses simple 74 series logic to send TTL control signals to the laser diodes used in his rig. The Arduino runs code which allows laser firing sequences to be programmed and executed.
[Philip] also provides scripts which show how the Arduino can be interfaced with the open source micro manager control software.
As well as the schematics [Philip] has provided STEP files and drawings for the enclosure and mounts used in the system and a detailed BOM.
More useful than all this perhaps is the comprehensive write-up he provides. This describes the motivation for decisions such as the use of aluminum over steel due to its ability to transfer heat more effectively, and not to use thermal paste due to out-gassing.
While I can almost hear the cries of “not a hack”, the growing use of open source platforms and tool in academia fills us with joy. Thanks for the write-up [Philip] we look forward to hearing more about your laser systems in the future!
As we mentioned he starts off with a really succinct and well written tutorial on celestial coordinates that antiquity would have killed to have. If we were writing a bit of code to do our own positional astronomy system, this is the tab we’d have open. Incidentally, that’s exactly what he encourages those who have followed the tutorial to do.
The star pointer itself is a high powered green laser pointer (battery powered), 3D printed parts, and an amalgam of fourteen dollars of Chinese tech cruft. The project uses two Arduino clones to process serial commands and manage two 28byj-48 stepper motors. The 2nd Arduino clone was purely to supplement the digital pins of the first; we paused a bit at that, but then we realized that import arduinos have gotten so cheap they probably are more affordable than an I2C breakout board or stepper driver these days. The body was designed with a mixture of Tinkercad and something we’d not heard of, OpenJsCAD.
Once it’s all assembled and tested the only thing left to do is go outside with your contraption. After making sure that you’ve followed all the local regulations for not pointing lasers at airplanes, point the laser at the north star. After that you can plug in any star coordinate and the laser will swing towards it and track its location in the sky. Pretty cool.