Age, we’re told, is just a number, but that number seems to be the ever-increasing count of injuries of a ridiculous nature. Where once the younger version of us could jump from a moving car or fall out of a tree with just a few scrapes to show for the effort, add a few dozen trips around the sun and you find that just “sleeping funny” can put you out of service for a week.
Keen to avoid such woes, [Elite Worm] came up with this sleep posture alarm to watch for nocturnal transgressions, having noticed that switching to a face-down sleeping position puts a kink in his neck. He first considered using simple mechanical tilt switches to detect unconscious excursions from supine to prone. But rather than be locked into a single posture, he decided to go with an accelerometer instead. The IMU and an ATtiny85 live on a custom PCB along with a small vibrating motor, which allows for more discrete alerts than a buzzer or beeper would.
Placed in a 3D printed enclosure and clipped to his shorts, the wearable is ready to go. The microcontroller wakes up every eight seconds to check his position, sounding the alarm if he’s drifting into painful territory. [Elite] did some power analysis on the device, and while there’s room for improvement, the current estimated 18 days between charging isn’t too shabby. The video below has all the details; hopefully, design files and code will show up on his GitHub soon.
Considering that most of us spend a third of our life sleeping, it’s little wonder hackers have attacked sleep problems with gusto. From watching your brainwaves to AI-generated nonsense ASMR, there’s plenty of hacking fodder once your head hits the pillow.
Continue reading “Sleep Posture Monitor Warns You Away From Dangerous Positions”
They say that sitting is the new smoking. They’re wrong — smoking is much, much worse, for you than sitting, and smoking only while standing or while jogging around the block in no way to justify the habit. But they’re also not wrong that humans weren’t made for extended periods parked on their posteriors, but we do it anyway, to the detriment of our heart health, posture, and general well-being. So something like this butt-detecting stand-up reminder could make a big difference to your health.
While like many of us, [Dave Bennett] has a wearable that prompts him to get up and move around after detecting 30 minutes of sitting, he found that it’s too easy to dismiss the alarm and just go right on sitting. Feeling like he needed a little more encouragement to get up and go, he built a presence detector completely from scratch. His sensor is a sheet of static-protective Velostat foam wrapped in conductive tape; when compressed, the resistance across the pad drops, making it easy to detect with a simple comparator circuit.
We admit to getting excited when we first saw the alarm circuit; a quick glance at the schematic seemed like it was based on a 555, which it totally could be. But no, [Dave]’s design goals include protection against spoofing the alarm with a quick “cheek sneak,” which was most easily implemented in code. So that 8-pin device in the circuit is an ATtiny85, which sounds the alarm after 30 minutes and requires him to stay off his butt for a full minute before resetting. The video below hits the high points of design and shows it in use.
Annoying? Yes, but that’s the point. Of course a standing desk would do the same thing, but that’s not going to work for everyone, so this is a nice alternative.
Continue reading “Presence-Detecting Cushion Keeps You From Sitting Your Life Away”
In a slightly safer departure away from jetpack roller-skating and flinging around bolts of lightning, [Ian Charnas] has been hacking retro video games. After a lot of hard work [Ian] has managed to add pose estimation to control the character in the NES boxing game “Punch-Out.” Surely he can’t get hurt doing that? No, but since it wasn’t fair to hurt the poor suffering characters, without taking any damage himself, he added electric-shock feedback to give the game a bit more, ahem, punch. See, you can get hurt playing video games!
By starting with Google MoveNet, which is a pre-baked skeletal tracking model which can run in a browser using TensorFlowJS, he defined some simple heuristics for the various boxing moves usually performed with the game controller. Next, he needed to get the game. Being a all-round good guy, [Ian] bought an original copy of the game cartridge to obtain the license, then using the USB CopyNES from RetroUSB, dumped out the game binary for the next step.
It took [Ian] around two months of disassembling the game binary, and figuring out the game logic around the characters in order to slow them down enough to make it playable, but he did manage it. You can be the judge, since he bought a bunch more cartridges to unlock more license copies, you can play it too. Just don’t add the electric-shock part, nobody needs to be administered electric shock therapy from a two inch high bright orange Mike Tyson!
Continue reading “Hacked Punch-Out Controlled With Actual Punches”
As more and more people spend their working hours behind a computer, bad posture and the accompanying back pain and back problems become a growing epidemic. To combat this in his own daily life, [ImageryEel] made PosturePack, a wearable Bluetooth-enabled posture sensor.
The PosturePack is designed to fit into a small pocket sewn into the pack of an undershirt, between the shoulder blades. It consists of a custom PCB with an ATmega32U4, BNO055 IMU, Bluetooth module, small LiPo and power circuitry. Based on the orientation data from the IMU, a notification is sent over Bluetooth to a smartphone whenever the user hunches forward.
[ImageryEel] says although the mobile notifications worked, haptic feedback integrated into the unit would be a better option. This could also be used to remind the user to stand up and take a break now and then, and provide an alternative to a smartwatch for activity monitoring without sending every movement to someone else’s servers. Software will always be the hardest part for projects like these, especially as the device become “smarter”. Learning to recognize activity and postures is actually a good place for tiny machine learning models.
Compared The posture sensors we covered before had to be installed and set up at a specific workstation, like an ultrasound-based version attached to a chair, and a webcam-based version.
Back problems are some of the most common injuries among office workers and other jobs of a white-collar nature. These are injuries that develop over a long period of time and are often caused by poor posture or bad ergonomics. Some of the electrical engineering students at Cornell recognized this problem and used their senior design project to address this issue. [Rohit Jha], [Amanda Pustis], and [Erissa Irani] designed and built a posture correcting device that alerts the wearer whenever their spine isn’t in the ideal position.
The device fits into a tight-fitting shirt. The sensor itself is a flex sensor from Sparkfun which can detect deflections. This data is then read by a PIC32 microcontroller. Feedback for the wearer is done by a vibration motor and a TFT display with a push button. Of course, they didn’t just wire everything up and call it a day; there was a lot of biology research that went into this. The students worked to determine the most ideal posture for a typical person, the best place to put the sensor, and the best type of feedback to send out for a comfortable user experience.
We’re always excited to see the senior design projects from university students. They often push the boundaries of conventional thinking, and that’s exactly the skill that next generation of engineers will need. Be sure to check out the video of the project below, and if you want to see more of this semester’s other projects, we have you covered there too. Continue reading “Cornell Students Have Your Back”
Hey you! Are you slouching? Probably. It might not seem like such a bad thing to do, but if you plan on sitting comfortably at that desk for the next 5-10 years or so, you’ve really gotta watch your posture. This is a problem [Max] has been trying to solve for a while now — and now he’s attempting to do it with a posture sensor.
His first take on this project utilized an ultrasound range finder, mounted to the back of a chair. Once calibrated, you would have to maintain a certain distance from the back of your head to the sensor, thus, keeping your back straight. It worked, but it wasn’t the greatest.
Next up, he tried utilizing a webcam and facial recognition software to determine if he was slouching forwards, backwards, or (however unlikely), maintaining good posture. It was better than the first prototype, but still needed some refinement. Now he’s onto his third iteration — this time, a wearable posture sensor!
Continue reading “Posture Sensor Reminds You To Sit Up Straight!”
Even for hobby projects, iteration is very important. It allows us to improve upon and fine-tune our existing designs making them even better. [Max] wrote in to tell us about his latest posture sensor, this time, built around a webcam.
We covered [Max’s] first posture sensor back in February, which utilized an ultrasonic distance sensor to determine if you had correct posture (or not). Having spent time with this sensor and having received lots of feedback, he decided to scrap the idea of using an ultrasonic distance sensor altogether. It simply had too many issues: issues with mounting the sensor on different chairs, constantly hearing the clicking of the sensor, and more. After being inspired by a very similar blog post to his original that mounted the sensor on a computer monitor, [Max] was back to work. This time, rather than using an ultrasonic distance sensor, he decided to use a webcam. Armed with Processing and OpenCV, he greatly improved upon the first version of his posture sensor. All of his code is provided on his website, be sure to check it out and give it a whirl!
Iteration leads to many improvements and it is an integral part of both hacking and engineering. What projects have you redesigned or rebuild? Let us know!