Segments light up as a person's step goal is achieved.

Slither: A Visual Pedometer That Sheds Light

Have you already broken that New Year’s resolution to get more exercise? Yeah, us too. Maybe the problem is simply that we didn’t gamify the goal. A simple visual aid that shows your progress can help make a goal more achievable and easier to stick to, day after January day. That’s the idea behind [skhackett]’s Slither, the visual pedometer.

Slither's backssssideAlthough Slither uses the Fit Bit app, no actual Fit Bit is required — great news for those of us who don’t like to wear accessories. But you will have to carry your phone everywhere if you want your steps to count. By tracking the steps taken each day, the sum of Slither’s segments signifies a weekly total goal of 50,000 steps.

Around back is a Feather Huzzah that receives step data from the phone and drives a strand of side-lit LED strips. There’s a Hall effect sensor in the tail, and Slither is powered on and off with a small, separate piece of wood and acrylic with a magnet embedded inside. Isn’t that a classy way to switch a snake?

We really like the look of the plywood here, though [skhackett] recommends using MDF instead because they experienced a fair amount of chipping. If you just want to watch the snake light up, it shouldn’t be too hard to cheat the pedometer.

Cheating A Pedometer The Easy Way

These days, pedometers are integrated into just about every smartwatch on the market, and some of the dumber ones too. Tracking step counts has become a global pastime, and at times, a competitive one. However, any such competition can easily be gamed, as demonstrated by [Luc Volders].

Generally, all it takes to fool a basic pedometer is a gentle rhythmic jiggling motion of some sort. Cheaper devices will even register steps with little more than vague shaking.

[Luc] exploited this with basic machinery. A servo’s output shaft is fitted with a 3D printed cylinder, sized to allow a smartwatch to be attached as if to a wrist. Then, a Raspberry Pi Pico simply rocks the servo back and forth at regular intervals, and the watch begins counting these ersatz steps. Looking at the project as a whole, we’re betting [Luc] took some inspiration from old-fashioned automatic watch winders.

It’s hard to envision an important application for this technology. However, if one is in a friendly competition with friends who don’t scrutinize the results too closely, this would be an easy way to win.

Alternatively, consider building a pedometer to track your hamster’s exercise regime. If you’ve got your own exercise hacks on the go, drop us a line!

Pedometer For Calorie Conscious Hamster Owners

The Arduino has inspired many a creative projects that can be beneficial to humanity. The Arduino Hamster Wheel Pedometer by [John Mueller] on the other hand is a creation that is meant for the cute furry rodent pets. When [John Mueller]’s daughter wanted to keep track of her hamster’s night-time strolls, her maker-dad saw it as an opportunity to get her involved in technology. The project consists of a hamster-wheel with a magnet that triggers a reed switch on completing a revolution. The entire assembly is custom-made and [John Mueller] does an excellent job documenting the build with a lot of clear images.

The wheel is affixed to a shaft with a ball bearing at one end and the entire thing is mounted on the side of the cage so that it can be removed with ease for maintenance. The reed switch is embedded in the wooden mounting block such that the connecting cables pass from inside the assembly. This prevents the hamster from coming in contact with the cabling or damaging it in any way. An LCD and the Arduino Uno are placed outside the cage and are used to display the revolutions of the wheel as well as the equivalent miles travelled.

The code for the Arduino is also supplied for anyone who wants to replicate the project and the video below shows the working of the project. The project could also be extended to count calories burned as well as running speed. This project is a prime example of how technology can be used to assist and is similar to the IoT Hamster Wheels that tweets every movement of the Hamster Life.

Continue reading “Pedometer For Calorie Conscious Hamster Owners”

Tracking The Hamster Marathon

[Michelle Leonhart] has two Roborovski hamsters (which, despite the name, are organic animals and not mechanical). She discovered that they seem to run on the hamster wheel all the time. A little Wikipedia research turned up an interesting factoid: This particular breed of hamster is among the most active and runs the equivalent of four human marathons a night. Of course, we always believe everything we read on Wikipedia, but not [Michelle]. She set out to determine if this was an accurate statement.

She had already added a ball bearing to the critters’ wheel to silence it by cannibalizing an old VCR. What she needed was the equivalent of a hamster pedometer. A Raspberry Pi and a Hall effect sensor did the trick. At least for the raw measurement. But it still left the question: how much distance is a hamster marathon?

01_hamster_stride_measurement[Michelle] went all scientific method on the question. She determined that an average human female’s stride is 2.2 feet which works out to 2400 strides per mile. A marathon is 26.2 miles (based on the distance Pheidippides supposedly ran to inform Athens of victory after the battle of Marathon). This still left the question of the length of a hamster’s stride. Surprisingly, there was no definitive answer, and [Michelle] proposed letting them run through ink and then tracking their footsteps. Luckily, [Zed Shaw] heard about her plan on Twitter and suggested pointing a webcam up through the plastic bottom of the cage along with a scale. That did the trick and [Michelle] measured her hamster’s stride at about 0.166 feet (see right).

Now it was a simple matter of math to determine that a hamster marathon is just under 10,500 steps. Logging the data to SQLite via ThingSpeak for a month led [Michelle] to the conclusion: her hamsters didn’t run 4 marathon’s worth of steps in a night. In fact, they never really got much over 2 marathons.

Does [Michelle] have lazy hamsters, or did she just add to our body of scientific knowledge about rodents? We don’t know. But we couldn’t help but admire her methods and her open source data logging code would probably be useful for some non-hamster activities.

If you are super competitive, you could use [Michelle’s] data to handicap yourself and challenge your pets to a race. But it would probably be cooler to build them their own Starship Trooper-style walkers. Either way, you can check out [Michelle’s] little marathon runners in the video below.

It’s Time To Roll Your Own Smartwatch

Giant wristwatches are so hot right now. This is a good thing, because it means they’re available at many price points. Aim just low enough on the scale and you can have a pre-constructed chassis for building your own smartwatch. That’s exactly what [benhur] did, combining a GY-87 10-DOF module, an I²C OLED display, and an Arduino Pro Mini.

The watch uses one button to cycle through its different modes. Date and time are up first, naturally. The next screen shows the current temperature, altitude, and barometric pressure. Compass mode is after that, and then a readout showing your step count and kilocalories burned.

In previous iterations, the watch communicated over Bluetooth to Windows Phone, but it drew too much power. With each new hardware rev, [benhur] made significant strides in battery life, going from one hour to fourteen to a full twenty-fours.

Take the full tour of [benhur]’s smartwatch after the break. He’s open to ideas for the next generation, so share your insight with him in the comments. We’d like to see some kind of feedback system that tells us when we’ve been pounding away at the Model M for too long.  Continue reading “It’s Time To Roll Your Own Smartwatch”

$4 Volt Meter From A Dollar Store Pedometer

[Paulo]’s got a few solar panels on his shed, and while he does have a fairly nice setup with a battery charge controller, he found himself looking around for a panel voltmeter. Of course you can buy a panel voltmeter for under $20, but [Paulo] wanted something that fit his 4-4-4 plan; his voltmeter should cost under $4, draw less than 4mA, and last for 4 years. The jury is still out on the 4 year qualifier, but he did manage to meet his other goals by repurposing a dollar store pedometer as a voltmeter.

The pedometer in question is a very simple device. After inspecting the PCB, [Paulo] found it operates by looking at a trigger pin and incrementing the number on the display each time the circuit closed. [Paul] designed a very small PIC12F-powered circuit that reads the voltage of his batteries and triggers the pedometer’s LCD for every 10th of a volt. To display 12.6 Volts, [Paulo]’s code triggers the LCD 126 times, for example.

After wiring up the reset button so the display will go back down to zero for each new reading, [Paulo] encased his new volt meter in a plastic box. It’s not exactly a fast way of measuring voltage, but seeing as how that won’t change very fast, it’s the perfect solution for [Paulo]’s solar charger setup.