accelerometer, oled, and PocketBeagle create a gesture-controlled calculator

The Calculator Charm: Calculatorium Leviosa!

Have you ever tried waving your hand around like a magic wand and summoning a calculator? We would guess not since you’d probably look a little silly doing so. That is unless you had [Andrei’s] cool gesture-controlled calculator. [Andrei] thought it would be helpful to use a calculator in his research lab without having to take his gloves off and the results are pretty cool.

His hardware consists of a PocketBeagle, an OLED, and an MPU6050 inertial measurement unit for capturing his hand motions using an accelerometer and gyroscope. The hardware is pretty straightforward, so the beauty of this project lies in its machine learning implementation.

[Andrei] first captured a few example datasets to train his algorithm by recreating the hand gestures for each number, 0-9, and recording the resulting accelerometer and gyroscope outputs. He processed the data first with a wavelet transform. The intent of the transform was two-fold. First, the transform allowed him to reduce the number of samples in his datasets while preserving the shape of the accelerometer and gyroscope signals, the key features in the machine learning classification. Secondly, he was able to increase the number of features for the classification since the wavelet transform resulted in both approximation and detailed coefficients which can both be fed into the algorithm.

Because he had a small dataset, he used the Stratified Shuffle Split technique instead of the test train split method which is generally more suited for larger datasets. The Stratified Shuffle Split ensured approximately the same number of train and test samples for each gesture. He was also very conscious of optimizing his model for running on a portable processing unit like the PocketBeagle. He spent some time optimizing the parameters of his algorithm and ultimately converted his model to a TensorFlowLite model using the built-in “TFLiteConverter” function within TensorFlow.

Finally, in true open-source fashion, all his code is available on GitHub, so feel free to give it a go yourself. Calculatorium Leviosa!

Continue reading “The Calculator Charm: Calculatorium Leviosa!”

Magic In VR That Depends On Your Actual State Of Mind

[Cangar]’s excitement is palpable in his release of a working brain-computer interface (BCI) mod for Skyrim VR, in which the magic system in the game is modified so that spell effectiveness is significantly boosted when the player is in a focused mental state. [Cangar] isn’t just messing around, either. He’s a neuroscientist whose research focuses on assessing mental states during task performance. Luckily for us, he’s also an enthusiastic VR gamer, and this project of his has several interesting aspects that he’s happy to show off in a couple of videos.

User wearing VR headset
The Muse 2 fits under the VR headset easily.

It all starts with the player wearing a Muse 2 meditation device; a type of passive, off-the-shelf electroencephalography (EEG) unit aimed primarily at guiding a user towards better relaxation and focus. [Cangar] reads data using the Brainflow library and processes it into a final value on a scale between “not focused” and “focused”. [Cangar] makes a point of explaining that his system ultimately has the goal of modeling the player’s state of mind, which is different from modeling just the brain activity. As such, motion data is considered as well, and holding still confers a small bonus to the process.

How is this data actually used in the game? In VR, this “focus” value is shown as a small bar on the player’s wrist, and spell effectiveness (for example, damage for attack spells) scales along with the size of the bar. When the bar is full a player would be very powerful, with spells doing double damage. If the bar is empty, spells will do little to no damage.

[Cangar] demonstrates the mod in two videos (both embedded below), but you won’t see him blasting enemies with fireballs. Presumably, VR gamers already know what that looks like, so what he does instead is explain how the system looks and works (first video, cued to 4:12), and in the second, he video demonstrates how the focus meter changes depending on his activity and mental state.

The results look exciting, and the potential uses of a system like this are pretty interesting to think about. Taking a few deep breaths and calming one’s body and mind before launching a magical attack will have a tangible effect in the world, and because things rarely go according to plan, there is also a clear survival benefit to learning to focus while under pressure. But if a brain monitor isn’t your cup of tea, maybe consider a leisurely bike ride through Skyrim, instead.

Continue reading “Magic In VR That Depends On Your Actual State Of Mind”

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.

Continue reading “The Magic Flute Of Rat Mind Control Aims To Mix Magic And Science”

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.

Continue reading “Click Your Heels Thrice, Hail A Cab Home”

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.

Continue reading “A Shocking Wizard Duel”

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?

Continue reading “Daily Prophet Is A Magic Newspaper! (Kinda)”