PCB Metro Maps Are A Gorgeous Labor Of Love

Is your love of public transportation matched only by your passion for designing custom PCBs? If so, then you’re going to love these phenomenal transit maps created by [Chai Jia Xun]. Using the painstakingly refined principles outlined in his detailed write-up, he’s created versions for Tokyo, Singapore, and the comparatively spartan San Francisco Bay Area. All you need to make one up for your home town is an incredible amount of patience and dedication. No problem, right?

As [Xun] explains, the first part of creating one of these maps isn’t unlike generating a normal PCB. Just make a footprint for the stations, consult with Google Maps as to where they should be placed on the board, and then connect them all up with traces to stand in for the rail lines. A little silkscreen work, and you’re done.

Well…unless you want them to light up, anyway. To pull that off, [Xun] created a second PCB that places an LED behind each station hole drilled in the previous board. With a microcontroller and shift register, he’s able to selectively illuminate individual lines and run through different patterns. To combat light bleeding through the PCB, a CNC-cut piece of 3 mm MDF sits between the two boards to make sure each LED is only visible through the respective hole in the top surface.

You could call the map finished here as well, assuming you don’t mind all the stations lighting up white. If you want them to be different colors, you’ll need to insert some colored diffusers. [Xun] went through several different approaches here, but in the end, the idea that seemed to work best was to simply print out all the colored dots on a piece of transparency paper and use a second sheet of tracing paper to soften the light. Alignment here is critical, but once everything is dialed in, the results are quite impressive.

It’s quite a bit of work, and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that [Xun] had to modify the circuit when it came time to do the Tokyo map, as some MOSFETs had to be added into the mix for the microcontroller to reliably control 350+ LEDs. So there’s certainly no shame in simply buying one of them when they go on sale instead of trying to recreate it from scratch. Assuming you live in one of the cities he’s offering, anyway. Otherwise, you might want to take a look at our HackadayU class on KiCad and get yourself a comfortable chair.

Antique Map Of Paris With Modern Tech

There’s plenty to love about antiques, from cars, furniture, to art. While it might be a little bit of survivorship bias, it’s easy to appreciate these older things for superior quality materials, craftsmanship, or even simplicity. They are missing out on all of our modern technology, though, so performing “restomods” on classics is a popular activity nowadays. This antique map of Paris, for example, is made of a beautiful hardwood but has been enhanced by some modern amenities as well.

At first the creator of this project, [Marc], just wanted to give it some ambient lighting, but it eventually progressed over the course of two years to have a series of Neopixels hidden behind it that illuminate according to the current sun and moon positions. The Neopixels get their instructions from an ESP8266 which calculates these positions using code [Marc] wrote himself based on the current date. Due to the limitations of the ESP8266 it’s not particularly precise, but it gets the job done to great effect.

To improve on the accuracy, [Marc] notes that an ESP32 could be used instead, but we can give the ESP8266 a pass for now since the whole project is an excellent art installation even if it is slightly off on its calculations. If you need higher accuracy for tracking celestial objects, you can always grab a Raspberry Pi too.

Dynamic Map Of Italy On A PCB

While most PCBs stick to tried-and-true methods of passing electrons through their layers of carefully-etched copper, modern construction methods allow for a large degree of customization of most aspects of these boards. From solder mask to number of layers, and even the shape of the board itself, everything is open for artistic license and experimentation now. [Luca] shows off some of these features with his PCB which acts as a live map of Italy.

The PCB is cut out in the shape of the famous boot, with an LED strategically placed in each of 20 regions in the country. This turns the PCB into a map with the RGB LEDs having the ability to be programmed to show any data that one might want. It’s powered by a Wemos D1 Mini (based on an ESP8266) which makes programming it straightforward. [Luca] has some sample programs which fetch live data from various sources, with it currently gathering daily COVID infection rates reported for each of the 20 regions.

The ability to turn a seemingly boring way to easily attach electronic parts together into a work of art without needing too much specialized equipment is a fantastic development in PCBs. We’ve seen them turned into full-color art installations with all the mask colors available, too, so the possibilities for interesting-looking (as well as interesting-behaving) circuits are really opening up.

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3D Printing Interactive Maps For The Visually Impaired

Most maps and educational materials for teaching geography are highly visual in nature. For those with a visual impairment, it can make learning more difficult when suitable resources are not available. After visiting a boarding school in Moscow, [Sergei] set out to build an interactive map to teach students geography regardless of their vision status.

After seeing the poorly embossed paper maps used in the school, [Sergei] decided there had to be a better way. The solution was 3D printing, which makes producing a map with physical contours easy. Initial attempts involved printing street maps and world maps with raised features, such that students could feel the lines rather than seeing them.

Taking things a step further, [Sergei] went all out, producing an interactive educational device. The build consists of a world map, and contains audio files with information about countries, cultures, and more. When the ultrasonic sensor detects a user in range, it invites them to press or pull out the removable continents on the map. The device can sense touch, thanks to a pair of MPR121 capacitive touch sensor boards which are used to trigger the audio files.

It’s a great way to use the sense of touch to teach where the sense of vision may be lacking. Previous Prize entries have worked in this field too, like this haptic glove to help vision-impaired users interpret camera data. We can’t wait to see what comes next as technology improves!

Bathymetric Map Uses Edge Lighting To Stunning Effect

A bathymetric map is one concerning the floor or bottom of a body of water. It’s the wet equivalent of a topographical map. Combine this with humanity’s inherent taste in seaside real estate, and they can be quite attractive when done correctly. We’d say this effort from [pubultrastar] hits the mark.

Created as a commission piece, the subject of the map is Tichigan Lake in Wisconsin, USA. Made on a Glowforge laser cutter, the design is built of layers of lasercut wood stacked up to represent the natural contours of the bottom of the lake. There’s also a layer of acrylic included, to which special standoffs are fitted. These standoffs hide blue LEDs inside, which allow the acrylic to be edge lit without the LEDs themselves being visible.

The final effect is impressive, with the blue water contrasting artfully with the laser-engraved wood front panel when the lights are turned on. It’s an excellent conversation piece, particularly for those with a waterfaring bent. It’s not the first bathymetric map we’ve featured, either, with this book serving as a particularly stunning example.

The Heat Of The Moments – Location Visualization In Python

Have you ever taken a look at all the information that Google has collected about you over all these years? That is, of course, assuming you have a Google account, but that’s quite a given if you own an Android device and have privacy concerns overruled by convenience. And considering that GPS is a pretty standard smartphone feature nowadays, you shouldn’t be surprised that your entire location history is very likely part of the collected data as well. So unless you opted out from an everchanging settings labyrinth in the past, it’s too late now, that data exists — period. Well, we might as well use it for our own benefit then and visualize what we’ve got there.

Location data naturally screams for maps as visualization method, and [luka1199] thought what would be better than an interactive Geo Heatmap written in Python, showing all the hotspots of your life. Built around the Folium library, the script reads the JSON dump of your location history that you can request from Google’s Takeout service, and overlays the resulting heatmap on the OpenStreetMap world map, ready for you to explore in your browser. Being Python, that’s pretty much all there is, which makes [Luka]’s script also a good starting point to play around with Folium and map visualization yourself.

While simply just looking at the map and remembering the places your life has taken you to can be fun on its own, you might also realize some time optimization potential in alternative route plannings, or use it to turn your last road trip route into an art piece. Just, whatever you do, be careful that you don’t accidentally leak the location of some secret military facilities.

[via r/dataisbeautiful]

3 Words To Describe Any Spot On Earth

For quite a long while now, latitude and longitude has been the way humankind has navigated the globe. This is a perfectly workable system, but it’s a little overwrought for daily use by the layperson. What3Words seeks to provide a simpler solution.

The system is based on splitting the surface of the globe into a grid of 3 m x 3 m sections. This includes oceans and bodies of water. With the grid layed out, each section is given a name consisting of three English words strung together. For example, ///eggs.form.breakfast denotes a spot in the outskirts of Chengdu, China, while ///crops.cards.gifts is a good approximation of that spot where the Naked Cowboy hangs out in Times Square, New York.

Addresses in this format are written with three leading forward slashes, along with a dot between each word. An attempt has been made to only use uncontroversial words, as well as to make sure no crude addresses are created by awkward combinations. Don’t worry, we checked – but if you do find anything good, drop it in the comments below.

It’s a tool that’s been around for a while, but an interesting one nonetheless. It’s something that needs a wider societal acceptance to become truly useful; we imagine it could be good in a small social circle once everyone is familiar with it. It may yet catch on – only time will tell!