The Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control Aims to Mix Magic and Science

Well this is unusual. Behold the Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control, and as a project it is all about altering the response to the instrument, rather than being about hacking the musical instrument itself. It’s [Kurt White]’s entry to the Musical Instrument Challenge portion of The Hackaday Prize, and it’s as intriguing as it is different.

The Raspberry-Pi controlled, IoT Skinner box for rats, named Nicodemus.

[Kurt] has created a portable, internet-connected, automated food dispenser with a live streaming video feed and the ability to play recorded sounds. That device (named Nicodemus) is used as a Skinner Box to train rats — anywhere rats may be found — using operant conditioning to make them expect food when they hear a few bars of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man played on a small recorder (which is a type of flute.)

In short, the flute would allow one to summon hordes of rats as if by magic, because they have been trained by Nicodemus to associate Iron Man with food.

Many of the system’s elements are informed by the results of research into sound preference in rats, as well as their ability to discriminate between different melodies, so long as the right frequencies are present. The summoning part is all about science, but what about how to protect oneself from the hordes of hungry rodents who arrive with sharp teeth and high expectations of being fed? According to [Kurt], that’s where the magic comes in. He seems very certain that a ritual to convert a wooden recorder into a magic flute is all the protection one would need.

Embedded below is something I’m comfortable calling the strangest use case video we’ve ever seen. Well, we think it’s a dramatized use case. Perhaps it’s more correctly a mood piece or motivational assist. Outsider Art? You decide.

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Beating Life-Force Amulet

It’s one thing to see science-fiction slowly become reality, but quite another to take that process into your own hands. Inspired by a movie prop, [Eric Strebel] decided to build himself a 21st science-fiction artifact: a pulsing, life-force amulet.

At the — aheam — heart of this amulet is a blinking LED circuit which [Strebel] modified into a slow pulse with the help of his friends. To add to the surreal quality of the amulet, he sourced a stone from a local gem show, bringing his circuit along to get an idea of what the final product would look like. Once [Strebel] had shaped the stone to a more manageable size, he took a polyester filler mold of its rear face to use as a base from which to cast a durable resin housing for the circuit.

[Strebel] is using a pair of coin cell batteries which fit snugly behind the glowing LED, and in case he ever needs to get inside the amulet, he’s attached the stone to the rear with sew-on straps — super-gluing them to each piece. He went for a bit of an industrial look for the necklace — a braided oil line with a modified quick-release clasp that works like a charm.

How does this amulet stack up to one from the 23rd century? You be the judge!

Click Your Heels Thrice, Hail a Cab Home

If Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz were to wake up in 2017, with her magic Ruby Slippers on her feet, she’d probably believe she had woken up in a magical world. But modern folks will need a little more magic to impress them. Like Clicking your heels thrice to get home with these Uber ruby slippers. [Hannah Joshua] was tasked by her employer to build a quirky maker project. She got an idea when a friend complained about having trouble hailing a cab at the end of a hard day at work.

[Hannah] started with ruby colored slippers with a platform toe and high heels to allow space to stuff in all the magic dust, err, electronic bits. The initial plan was to use an Arduino with a GSM/GPS shield but that would have needed a separate SIM card and data plan for the shoes. Instead, she opted for the 1Sheeld which connects to a smart phone over Bluetooth. The 1Sheeld gets access to all of the smart phone’s sensors including the GPS as well as the data connection. The Arduino and 1Sheeld are put in a cavity carved out in the toe section. The 9 V battery goes inside another cavity in the heel, where an activation switch is also installed. Three LED’s indicate when the shoe is active, the cab request is accepted, and when the cab is on its way.

The code is basic since this one of her first Arduino projects, but it gets the job done. It sends an http request to Uber’s API to request a cab. The destination is hard-coded, so the slippers only allow you to get from your current location to whatever destination is programmed. The GitHub repository provides code, as well as some additional information on construction. [Hannah] has also added notes explaining some of the design choices and things to take care about if you plan to build one of these magic slippers.

We covered the 1Sheeld when it was introduced several years back, and if you get your hands on one, try building this Hand Waving Door Unlocker.

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A Shocking Wizard Duel

You’ve probably heard of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law, suggesting that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Taking this literally and in the best possible way, [Allen Pan] of [Sufficiently Advanced] is using readily available technology to simulate magical wizarding duels in the fashion of Harry Potter.

Entitled the Wizard Analogue No-Magic Dueling Simulator — or W.A.N.D.S. for short — is a slightly more interactive version of laser tag. It’s especially engaging because your body is on the line. A Raspberry Pi using Google’s speech recognition service listens for the spell names and — remember, pronunciation is key — fires off the spell from an infrared LED tipped wand. Each duelist has five spells at their disposal, but their accuracy is up to you.

Once your opponent’s receiver registers a hit, an Arduino triggers transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) devices which sends pulses to various regions on the body to simulate the spell’s effect. What’s a few electrical shocks between wizards, eh?

As a defense from the constant barrage, the spell Protego — aimed at one’s own sensor — grants a few seconds immunity; however all spells have a built-in cool-down to prevent their abuse and an LED on the wand indicates when they’re ready to be used.

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Daily Prophet is a Magic Newspaper! (Kinda)

A few gadgets around the house make for excellent display and conversation pieces, but when an artifact from the wizarding world finds its way into a muggle household? Well, you frame it.

Okay so in reality this is really an animated picture frame with a Harry Potter theme — specifically the fabulous newspaper, The Daily Prophet, from the series of novels and movies. Conceived by [Piet Rullins Jr.] after a trip to ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ attraction at Orlando Studios, he wanted an inventive way to showcase the videos of his vacation.

The seven inch display is secured inside a poster frame, surrounded by a customized front page of the wizard paper — weaving the tale of his trip — and controlled by a Raspberry Pi 3. When someone approaches, an Adafruit infrared sensor detects the movement and activates the display, shutting it off after five minutes in order to preserve the screen and save power. A USB power cable hidden inside the cabinet it’s mounted on adds to the effect of a magical periodical. What, did you think it was powered by magic too?

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What’s The Weather Like For The Next Six Hours?

The magic glowing orb that tells the future has been a popular thing to make ever since we realized we had the technology to bring it out of the fortune teller’s tent. We really like [jarek319]’s interpretation of the concept.

Sitting mystically above his umbrella stand, with a single black cord providing the needed pixies for fortune telling, a white cube plays an animation simulating the weather outside for the next six hours. If he sees falling drops, he knows to grab an umbrella before leaving the house. If he sees a thunderstorm, he knows to get the umbrella with the fiberglass core in order to prevent an intimate repeat of Mr. Franklin’s early work.
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A Look Into the Future of Slicing

I’ve had a few conversations over the years with people about the future of 3D printing. One of the topics that arises frequently is the slicer, the software that turns a 3D model into paths for a 3D printer. I thought it would be a good idea to visualize what slicing, and by extension 3D printing, could be. I’ve always been a proponent of just building something, but sometimes it’s very easy to keep polishing the solution we have now rather than looking for and imagining the solutions that could be. Many of the things I’ll mention have been worked on or solved in one context or another, but not blended into a cohesive package.

I believe that fused deposition modelling (FDM), which is the cheapest and most common technology, can produce parts superior to other production techniques if treated properly. It should be possible to produce parts that handle forces in unique ways such  that machining, molding, sintering, and other commonly implemented methods will have a hard time competing with in many applications.

Re-envisioning the slicer is no small task, so I’m going to tackle it in three articles. Part One, here, will cover the improvements yet to be had with the 2D and layer height model of slicing. It is the first and most accessible avenue for improvement in slicing technologies. It will require new software to be written but does not dramatically affect the current construction of 3D printers today. It should translate to every printer currently operating without even a firmware change.

Part Two will involve making mechanical changes to the printer: multiple materials, temperatures, and nozzle sizes at least. The slicer will need to work with the printer’s new capabilities to take full advantage of them.

Finally, in Part Three, we’ll consider adding more axes. A five axis 3D printer with advanced software, differing nozzle geometries, and multi material capabilities will be able to produce parts of significantly reduced weight while incorporating internal features exceeding our current composites in many ways. Five axis paths begin to allow for weaving techniques and advanced “grain” in the layers put down by the 3D printer.

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