Productivity, Unfinished Projects, and Letting Go

Most of us have been there, some projects just don’t get finished. Everyone shelves an in-progress build from time to time, and some hackers drop almost every project for fully finishing it. Why does it happen? What can we do about it? Or does it even matter? My own most memorable one is the wine glass rack I was making for my sister’s birthday, still sitting incomplete on a shelf eleven years later.

The answer may lie in what you consider to be a “done” project. Is it a fully completed build with every possible feature implemented and polished? With that rubric you could be counting all of your completed projects on one hand. What are you really getting out of your personal projects? It’s an interesting topic to consider as pivoting your mindset can end up boosting your productivity. So let’s dig in!

Continue reading “Productivity, Unfinished Projects, and Letting Go”

Inexpensive Display Jumps to Life

If you’ve ever been to a local fair or amusement park, chances are you’ve seen an illusion known as Pepper’s Ghost. To perform the illusion, essentially all that’s needed is a thin sheet of plastic or one-way mirror and a light source. Get it right, and you’ll have apparitions popping up in all kinds of interesting places. With just the right software, though, one of those places could be in your own 3D display.

Using just a tablet and a sheet of plastic rolled into a cone, a three-person team was able to create a 3D display using the Pepper’s Ghost illusion. Using special software that the team developed, an image is altered so that when it reflects off of the plastic cone the image appears as a 3D rendering of the original picture. The rendering is perspective-correct and offers a novel way to interact with a 3D model without needing expensive equipment or special glasses.

If you do have some fancy equipment sitting around, like a computer monitor and some plexiglass, similar 3D displays have been made which utilize similar effects. Right now the team that developed this one haven’t made their code open yet, but have promised to release it soon so that others can build their own displays.

Thanks to [bmsleight] for the tip!

Say Hello to This Cortana Hologram

Halo’s Cortana enters the real world with this internet appliance. [Jarem Archer] has built an amazing “holographic” home for Cortana of Halo and Windows fame. The display isn’t really a hologram, it uses the age-old Pepper’s ghost illusion. A monitor reflects onto 3 angled half mirrored panels. This creates a convincing 3D effect. Cortana herself is a 3D model. [Jarem’s] wife provided gave Cortana her moves by walking in front of dual Kinect depth-sensing cameras. This motion capture performance drives the 3D Cortana model on the screen.

The brain behind this hack is the standard Windows 10 Cortana voice assistant. Saying “Hey Cortana” wakes the device up. To make the whole experience more interactive, [Jarem] added a face detection camera to the front of the device. When a face is detected, the Cortana model turns toward the user. Even if several people are watching the device, it would seem as if Cortana was “talking to” one person in the audience.

The cherry on top of this hack is the enclosure. [Jarem] 3D printed a black plastic stage. An Arduino drives RGB LEDs whenever Cortana is activated. The LEDs project a blue glue that works well with the Pepper’s ghost illusion. The result is a project that looks like something Microsoft might have cooked up in one of their research labs.

Continue reading “Say Hello to This Cortana Hologram”

3D display controlled with the Leap Motion

3d-display-controlled-with-leap-motion

Touch screens are nice — we still can’t live without a keyboard but they suffice when on the go. But it is becoming obvious that the end goal with user interface techniques is to completely remove the need to touch a piece of hardware in order to interact with it. One avenue for this goal is the use of voice commands via software like Siri, but another is the use of 3D processing hardware like Kinect or Leap Motion. This project uses the latter to control the image shown on the 3D display.

[Robbie Tilton] generated a 3D image using Three.js, a JavaScript 3D library. The images are made to appear as if floating in air using a pyramid of acrylic which reflects the light toward the viewer’s eyes without blocking out ambient light in the room. In the past we’ve referred to this as a volumetric display. But [Robbie] points out that this actually uses the illusion called Pepper’s Ghost. It’s not really volumetric because the depth is merely an illusion. Moving your point of view won’t change your perspective unless you go around the corner to the next piece of acrylic. But it’s still a nice effect. See for yourself in the demo after the jump.

Continue reading “3D display controlled with the Leap Motion”

Forget Tupac, check out this front yard “hologram”

Yep, the story is everywhere right now. Tupac performed at Coachella from beyond the grave in the form of a “hologram”. Most of you probably recognize what is going on pretty quickly though. This is the same Pepper’s Ghost trick we’ve seen several times already in concert performances from various virtual bands like the Gorillaz.

While reading this article explaining Pepper’s Ghost to the masses, we saw that they had found a true gem of a hack! [Kevin] was inspired by a trip to disney’s haunted mansion back in 2007. He came home and went to work building his own really cool back yard attraction that happened to include the same trick they are now using for imaginary performers. There are tons of pictures of the build and some nice notes along the way covering 2 years of operation and upgrades. It is an ancient trick, but we always love seeing a good build.