Wireless Quad Voltmeter Brings It All Together

If you’re reading Hackaday, you almost certainly have a voltmeter. Matter of fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to hear you had two of them. But what if you needed to monitor four voltage levels at once? Even if you had four meters, getting them all connected and in a convenient enough place where you can see them all at once is no small feat. In that case, it sounds like the multi-channel wireless voltmeter put together by [Alun Morris] is for you.

Built as an exercise in minimalism, this project uses an array of components that most of us already have kicking around the parts bin. For each transmitter you’ll need an ATtiny microcontroller, a nRF24L01+ radio, a small rechargeable battery, and a handful of passive components. On the receiver side, there’s an OLED screen, another nRF radio module, and an Arduino Nano. You could put everything together on scraps of perfboard like [Alun] has, but if you need something a bit more robust for long-term use, this would be a great excuse to create some custom PCBs.

While the hardware itself is pretty simple, [Alun] clearly put a lot of work into the software side. The receiver’s 128 x 32 display is able to show the voltages from four transmitters at once, complete with individual indicators for battery and signal level. When you drill down to a single transmitter, the screen will also display the minimum and maximum values. With the added resolution of the full screen display, you even get a very slick faux LCD font to ogle.

Of course, there are some pretty hard limitations on such a simple system. Each transmitter can only handle positive DC voltages between 0 and 20, and depending on the quality of the components you use and environmental considerations like temperature, the accuracy may drift over time and require recalibration. Still, if you need a way to monitor multiple voltages and potentially even bring that data onto the Internet of Things, this is definitely a project to take a look at.

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Nerfnet Tunnels TCP/IP Over NRF24L01 Radios

There’s an excellent chance you’ve already worked with the nRF24L01. These little modules are an easy and cheap way to shuffle data across a 2.4 GHz radio link at a respectable rate, making them great for remote control projects. But after seeing that others had experimenting with using these radios to transmit digital audio, [Andrew Rossignol] got to wondering if some software trickery could push the envelope even further.

The result isĀ nerfnet, a Linux program that allows you to tunnel TCP/IP over a pair of nRF24L01 modules. The link appears as a virtual interface, meaning everything happens transparently as far as other programs are concerned. Anything that uses TCP/IP to communicate on Linux can take advantage of this low-cost link, albeit at speeds that most of us haven’t had to deal with in decades.

Though it’s not quite as bad as you might think. Latency is around 50 ms, and after some tweaks, [Andrew] has been able to squeeze almost 300 Kbps out of the link. That’s more than enough for terminal work, and some light audio and video streaming isn’t out of the question.

In terms of range, he was able to maintain a fairly reliable connection at a distance of up to 60 meters (200 feet) outdoors. It might not sound like much, but again, you’ve got to take the cost of these radios into account. If you’re looking to SSH into a Raspberry Pi weather station you’ve got in the backyard, a pair of these could get the job done for just a couple of bucks.

The blog post [Andrew] has put together explains the software in fantastic detail if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of it all. But if you just want to play around with the idea, you just need to connect some nRF24L01 modules to a pair of Raspberry Pis with short SPI wires to cut down any interference, and follow the instructions. Ideally the radios would have external antennas, but it’s not strictly required.

We’ve seen these modules pushed into service as impromptu Bluetooth Low Energy transmitters in the past, but nothing quite like this. While the latency and bandwidth offered by this technique might seem antiquated to modern eyes, it could be the perfect dedicated communication channel for your sensors, smart devices, or home automation projects.

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Offline Dinosaur-Jumping Becomes A Real Workout

It’s great to see people are out there trying to find fun ways to exercise amid the current crisis. Although jumping up and down isn’t great for the knees, it does give decent cardio. But if you don’t have a rope or a puddle, we admit that jumping can lose its bounce pretty fast.

Quarantine has been a game-filled time for [fridaay]. Somewhere between a handful of FPS games, he decided to try to play Google’s offline dinosaur-based side scroller game by making the dinosaur spring over the saguaros whenever he physically jumps in the air. (Video, embedded below.)

Here’s how it works: [fridaay] holds a transmit circuit that consists of an Arduino UNO, an accelerometer module, and an nRF24L01 transceiver, all running on a 9 V battery. Whenever [fridaay] jumps, the accelerometer reads the change in Z and sends it to the receiving circuit, which is just another UNO and nRF. The receiving UNO is connected to a laptop and configured to press the space bar so the dinosaur canters over the cacti.

We’ve never been able to stay alive long enough in the game to see this happen, but apparently you need to crouch at some point in the game. [fridaay] has yet to implement a control for that, but we’re sure he’ll think of something. Jump past the break to see the video, and hit him up if you need the code.

If you have a lot of parts at your disposal, why not make a physical version?

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RC Strandbeest Is A Head Above The Rest

Prolific maker [Jeremy Cook] recently put the finishing touches (at least, for now) on his impressive ClearCrawler remote controlled Strandbeest, which includes among other things a surprisingly expressive “head” complete with LED matrix eyes. For anyone in the audience who was only mildly terrified of these multi-legged robotic beasties before, you may want to avert your eyes from the video after the break.

The clever locomotive design of [Theo Jansen] known as Strandbeest is a legged walker. What makes it special is that the legs themselves are not independent, but work together for a gliding action more akin to wheeled bots. [Jeremy’s] work with ClearCrawler has taken this to another level of precision and mechanization.

Before installation of the electronics, the ClearCrawler had to be tethered to a bench power supply, and could only move forward and backward. Once the locomotion was working as expected, [Jeremy] was ready to install some brains into the beast.

The robot is controlled by a dual motor driver and an Arduino Nano socketed in an I/O expansion board. Communication between the Nano onboard the walker and the hand-held remote control is provided by of a pair of nRF24L01 modules. The controller itself is a simple affair, comprised of a joystick shield plugged into an Arduino Uno.

The robot’s head is made up of a chunk of clear polycarbonate tube with a 3D printed internal frame to hold the dual 8×8 LED matrices that serve as its animated eyes. This arrangement is mounted on a servo pan and tilt mount, which is controlled by an analog stick on the controller. While the head doesn’t currently serve any practical function, it does give [Jeremy] a chance to emote a bit with his creation; a popular trick when he shows the ClearCrawler off.

A few years ago we covered this robot’s predecessor, the considerably larger ClearWalker. While that machine was surely a beauty to behold, this smaller and more agile iteration of the concept is quite a bit more practical.

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Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way

Anyone who has ever gone to a bowling alley will know the preferred (but ineffective) technique to telepathically control a bowling ball. [Mark Rober] and [James Bruton] decided to change that and hacked a bowling ball that can be steered remotely (and discreetly), simply by leaning your body.

They started with a standard bowling ball, that was cut in half and hollowed out on a lathe. A beam sits on the centre line of the ball, mounted on a bearing in each half to allow the ball to spin around it. Steering done by shifting the centre of mass, by moving a steel pendulum that hangs below the beam side to side with heavy-duty servo. The servo is controlled with an Arduino, and an IMU to detects the balls orientation. Power is provided by and RC Lipo battery. The wireless controller is a sneaky little device that is taped to [Mark]’s back and covered with clothing, and steers the ball by detecting how far he leans with an IMU module. The brain is an Arduino Mini and an NRF24L01 provides the RF link.

While it’s not an easy build, it’s a fairly simple system electronically, with off the shelf electronics modules and perfboard. The genius is in the implementation and its entertainment value. The look on the kids faces when [Mark] “telepathically” controls the ball, after showing off the fact that he has zero natural ability, is absolutely priceless. [Mark Rober], a former NASA engineer, has made a name for himself with viral Youtube videos on cool projects like a glitter booby trap for package thieves and a liquid sand hot tub. [James Bruton], a former toy designer is known for his robotics prowess that he has put on display with OpenDog and functional Star Wars robots.

For us this hack is a perfect example of one that entertains and inspires, a powerful combination for young and old alike. Check out the awesome video after the break. Continue reading “Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way”

Haptic Glove Controls Robot Hand Wirelessly

[Miller] wanted to practice a bit with some wireless modules and wound up creating a robotic hand he could teleoperate with the help of a haptic glove. It lookes highly reproducible, as you can see the video, below the break.

The glove uses an Arduino’s analog to digital converter to read some flex sensors. Commercial flex sensors are pretty expensive, so he experimented with some homemade sensors. The ones with tin foil and graphite didn’t work well, but using some bent can metal worked better despite not having good resolution.

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Game On With These Open Source Arduino Buzzers

Planning a game of Hacker Jeopardy at your next meetup? You’re going to want some proper buzzers to complete the experience, but why buy when you can build? [Flute Systems] has released an open source DIY game buzzer system based on the Arduino that will help instantly elevate your game. Certainly beats just yelling across the room.

The design has been made to be as easily replicable as possible: as long as you’ve got access to a 3D printer to run off the enclosures for the buzzers and base station, you’ll be able to follow along no problem. The rest of the project consists of modular components put together with jumper wires and scraps of perfboard. Granted it might not be the mostĀ elegant solution, but there’s something to be said for projects that beginners and old salts alike can complete.

Each buzzer consists of an Arduino Pro Mini 3.3 V, a nRF24L01, and of course a big pushbutton on the top. Each one is powered by a 110 mAh 3.7 V LiPo battery, though [Flute Systems] notes that the current version of the buzzer can’t actually recharge it. You’ll need to pull the pack out and charge it manually once and awhile. Thankfully, the printed enclosure features a very clever twist-lock mechanism which makes it easy to open anytime you need to poke at the internals.

The base station uses the 5 V version of the Pro Mini, with a Adafruit PowerBoost 1000C to step up the voltage from its 2,000 mAh battery. Of course it also has a nRF24L01, and also adds a buzzer and twin four digit seven-segment LED displays. [Flute Systems] says you can expect about five hours of runtime for the base station.

An especially nice feature of this setup is that the eight digit display allows the base station to show the number of each button in the order it was received. So rather than just getting a display of who buzzed in first, you can see the chronological order in which all eight buttons were pressed. Coming up with clever applications for this capability is left as an exercise for the reader.

Of course, there’s more than one way to build a buzzer. If you don’t like the way [Flute Systems] did it, then check out this version that uses 900 MHz radios and an OLED to show the results.