Meat-Seeking Raspberry Pi Leads you to Flavortown

[Patrick McDavid] and his wife had a legitimate work-related reason for writing some Python code that would pull the exact latitude and longitude of the individual locations within a national retain chain from Google’s Geocoding API. But don’t worry about that part of the story. What’s important now is that this simple concept was then expanded into a pocket-sized device that will lead the holder to the nearest White Castle or Five Guys location.

The device, which [Patrick] lovingly referrers to as the “Cheeseburger Compass”, uses a Raspberry Pi 3, an Adafruit 16×2 LCD with keypad, a GPS module, and the requisite battery and charger circuit to make it mobile. With the coordinates for the various places one can obtain glorious artery clogging meat circles loaded up, the device will give the user the cardinal direction and current distance from the nearest location of the currently selected chain.

[Patrick] has published the source code for this meat-seeking gadget on GitHub, but notes that most of it is just piecing together existing libraries and tools. As with many Python projects, it turns out there’s already a popular library to do whatever it is you were trying to do manually, so his early attempts at calculating distances and bearings were ultimately replaced with turn-key solutions. Though he did come up with a quick piece of code that would convert a compass heading in degrees to a cardinal direction that he couldn’t find a better solution for. Maybe he should make it a library…

Sadly the original Cheeseburger Compass got destroyed from being carried around so much, but at least it died doing what it loved. [Patrick] says a second version of the device would likely switch over to a microcontroller rather than the full Raspberry Pi experience, as it would make the device much smaller and greatly improve on the roughly two hour battery life.

This project reminds us of the various geocache devices we’ve covered in the past, but with the notable addition of hot sizzling meat. Talk about approving on a good thing.

Digital Picture Frame Turned Vectrex Overlay

For Hackaday readers which might not be so well versed in the world of home video gaming before the 1983 crash, the Vectrex was an interesting attempt at bringing vector graphics into player’s living rooms. Priced around $500 in today’s dollars, the machine was unique in that it included its own black and white CRT display rather than requiring the owner to plug it into their television. To spice things up a little bit, games would include a thin plastic overlay you could put over the screen to give the game faux colors. What can we say? It was the 1980’s.

Like many vintage gaming systems, the Vectrex still commands a devoted following of fans, some of which continue to find ways to hack and mod the system nearly 40 years after its release. One such fan is [Arcade Jason], who’s recently been fiddling with the idea of creating a modern take on the overlay concept using a hacked LCD display. While it’s still a bit rough around the edges, it does hold promise. He hopes somebody might even run with the idea and turn it into a marketable product for the Vectrex community.

[Jason] started by getting an old digital picture frame and tearing it down until he liberated the LCD panel. By carefully disassembling it, he was able to remove the backlight and was left with a transparent display. He then installed the panel over the display of the Vectrex, leaving the picture frame’s PCB and controls dangling off to the side. Extending the display’s ribbon cable should be easy enough for a more robust installation.

He then loaded the frame with random psychedelic pictures he found online, as well as some custom overlays which he quickly whipped up using colored blocks in an art program. In the video after the break, [Jason] shuffles through images on the frame using the buttons on the PCB while loading different demos to show the kind of visual effects that are possible.

While a neat concept, there are a couple of issues that need to be resolved before this could really be put into practice. For one, the LCD panel isn’t the proper size or aspect ratio to match the Vectrex display, so it doesn’t cover the whole CRT. It’s also rather difficult to select images to show on the LCD panel; an improved version might use something like the Raspberry Pi to load images on the panel while exposing a control interface on a secondary screen of some type.

This isn’t the first time [Jason] has experimented with the Vectrex, or even the first time he’s tried to add color to the classic system. We’re interested to see what he comes up with next.

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Spooky Animated Eyes for Your Frightening Needs

Unless you have an incredibly well-stocked parts bin, it’s probably too late to build these spooky animated eyes to scare off the neighborhood kiddies this year. But next year…

It’s pretty clear that Halloween decorating has gone over the top recently. It may not be as extreme as some Christmas displays, but plenty of folks like to up the scare-factor, and [wermy] seems to number himself among those with the spirit of the season. Like Christmas lights, these eyes are deployed as a string, but rather than just blink lights, they blink creepy eyes from various kinds of creatures. The eyes are displayed on individual backlit TFT-LCD displays housed in 3D-printed enclosures. Two pairs of eyes can be driven by the SPI interface of one ItsyBitsy M0 Express; driving more displays works, but the frame rate drops to an unacceptable level if you stretch it too far. Strung together on scraps of black ethernet cable, the peepers can live in the shrubs next to the front door or lining the walk, and with surprisingly modest power needs, you’ll get a full night of frights from a USB battery bank.

We like the look of these, and maybe we’ll do something about it next year. If you’re still in the mood to scare and don’t have the time for animated eyes this year, try these simple Arduino blinky eyes for a quick hit.

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Trashed TV Gets RGB LED Backlight

It might not be obvious unless you’ve taken one apart, but most of the TVs and monitors listed as “LED” are simply LCD panels that use a bank of LEDs to illuminate them from behind. Similarly, what are generally referred to as “LCDs” are LCD panels that use fluorescent tubes for illumination. To get a true LED display with no separate backlight, you need OLED. Confused? Welcome to the world of consumer technology.

With those distinctions in mind, the hack that [Zenodilodon] recently performed on a broken “LED TV” is really rather brilliant. By removing the dead white LED backlights and replacing them with RGB LED strips, he not only got the TV working again, but also imbued it with color changing abilities. Perfect for displaying music visualizations, or kicking your next film night into high gear with a really trippy showing of Seven Samurai.

In the video after the break, [Zenodilodon] starts his RGB transplant by stripping the TV down to its principal parts. The original LEDs were toasted, so they might as well go straight in the bin alongside their driver electronics. But the LCD panel itself was working fine (tested by shining a laser pointer through it to see if there was an image), and the plastic sheets which diffuse the LED backlight were easily salvaged.

With the old LEDs removed, [Zenodilodon] laid out his new strips and soldered them up to the external controller. He was careful to use all white wires, as he was worried colored wires might reflect the white light and be noticeable on the display. After buttoning the TV back up, he went through a few demonstrations to show how the image looked with the white LEDs on, as well as some interesting effects that could be seen when the LEDs are cycling through colors.

The RGB strips don’t light up the display as well as the original backlight did, as there are some obvious dark spots and you can see some horizontal lines where the strips are. But [Zenodilodon] says the effect isn’t too bad in real-life, and considering it was a cheap TV the image quality was probably never that great to begin with.

On the flip side, if you find an LED TV or monitor in the trash with a cracked screen, it might be worth taking it home to salvage its super-bright white LEDs for your lighting projects.

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Custom LCD Module is Unexpectedly Cheap and Easy

Looking to take your project to the next level in terms of functionality and appearance? A custom LCD display might be the thing that gets you there, at least compared to the dot-matrix or seven-segment displays that anyone and their uncle can buy from the usual sources for pennies. But how does one create such a thing, and what are the costs involved? As is so often the case these days, it’s simpler and cheaper than you think, and [Dave Jones] has a great primer on designing and specifying custom LCDs.

The video below is part of an ongoing series; a previous video covered the design process, turning the design into a spec, and choosing a manufacturer; another discussed the manufacturer’s design document approval and developing a test plan for the module. This one shows the testing plan in action on the insanely cheap modules – [Dave] was able to have a small run of five modules made up for only $138, which included $33 shipping. The display is for a custom power supply and has over 200 segments, including four numeric sections, a clock display, a bar graph, and custom icons for volts, amps, millijoules, and watt-hours. It’s a big piece of glass and the quality is remarkable for the price. It’s not perfect – [Dave] noted a group of segments on the same common lines that were a bit dimmer than the rest, but was able to work around it by tweaking the supply voltage a bit.

We’re amazed at how low the barrier to entry into custom electronics has become, and even if you don’t need a custom LCD, at these prices it’s tempting to order one just because you can. Of course, you can also build your own LCD display completely from scratch too.

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Recycle LCDs into LEDs

We always find it funny when we see ads for modern LED TVs. These TVs don’t use LEDs to show the picture. They are nothing more than LCD screens with LED backlighting instead of cold cathode fluorescent lamps. [Akshaylals] had a few LCD laptop and phone panels that were defunct and decided to recycle them to get to the LEDs within.

Most panels are lit from one or two edges with a bar of LEDs. You only have to peel off some tape and plastic. If you wonder what all those plastic sheets do, see the [Engineer Guy’s] video, below.

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Hacked LCD Shutter Glasses See The Light

It’s always a little sad to see a big consumer technology fail. But of course, the upside for us hacker types is that the resulting fire sale is often an excellent source for hardware that might otherwise be difficult to come by. The most recent arrival to the Island of Unwanted Consumer Tech is 3D TV. There was a brief period of time when the TV manufacturers had nearly convinced people that sitting in their living room wearing big dorky electronic glasses was a workable solution, but in the end we know how it really turned out.

Those same dorky glasses are now available for a fraction of their original price, and are ripe for hacking. [Kevin Koster] has been playing around with them, and he’s recently came up with a circuit that offers the wearer a unique view of the world. Any reflective surface will look as though it is radiating rainbows, which he admits doesn’t show up as well in still images, but looks cool enough that he thought it was worth putting the board into production in case anyone else wants in on the refraction action.

To explain how it works, we need to take a couple of steps back and look at the mechanics of the LCD panels used in these type of glasses. At the risk of oversimplification, one could say that LCDs are sort of like capacitors: when charged the crystals align themselves in such a way that the polarization of the light passing through is changed. Combined with an external polarization filter, this has the end result of turning the panel opaque. To put the crystals back in their original arrangement, and let the light pass through again, the LCD panel is shorted out in the same way you might discharge a capacitor.

What [Kevin] found was that if he slowly discharged the LCD panel rather than shorting it out completely, it would gradually fade out instead of immediately becoming transparent. His theory is that this partial polarization is what causes the rainbow effect, as the light that’s passing through to the wearers eyes is in a “twisted” state.

[Kevin] has provided all of the information necessary to build your own “Rainbow Adapter”, but you can also purchase a kit or assembled board from Tindie. If you’re looking for other projects to make use of those 3D glasses collecting dust, how about turning them into automatic sunglasses or having a go at curing your lazy eye.