Eyecam Is Watching You In Between Blinks

We will be the first to admit that it’s often hard to be productive while working from home, especially if no one’s ever really looking over your shoulder. Well, here is one creepy way to feel as though someone is keeping an eye on you, if that’s what gets you to straighten up and fly right. The Eyecam research project by [Marc Teyssier] et. al. is a realistic, motorized eyeball that includes a camera and hangs out on top of your computer monitor. It aims to spark conversation about the sensors that are all around us already in various cold and clinical forms. It’s an open source project with a paper and a repo and a how-to video in the works.

The eyebrow-raising design pulls no punches in the uncanny department: the eye behaves as you’d expect (if you could have expected this) — it blinks, looks around, and can even waggle its brow. The eyeball, brow, and eyelids are actuated by a total of six servos that are controlled by an Arduino Nano.

Inside the eyeball is a Raspberry Pi camera connected to a Raspi Zero for the web cam portion of this intriguing horror show. Keep an eye out after the break for the Eyecam infomercial.

Creepy or fascinating, it succeeds in making people think about the vast amount of sensors around us now, and what the future of them could look like. Would mimicking eye contact be an improvement over the standard black and gray oblong eye? Perhaps a pair of eyes would be less unsettling, we’re not really sure. But we are left to wonder what’s next, a microphone that looks like an ear? Probably. Will it have hair sprouting from it? Perhaps.

Yeah, it’s true; two eyes are more on the mesmerizing side, but still creepy, especially when they follow you around the room and can shoot frickin’ laser beams.

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A Raspberry Pi-Packing Cassette Powers This ZX Spectrum Emulator

Sometimes we are vaguely aware of the inexorable march of technological progress. Other times it thrums steadily under the surface while we go about our lives. And sometimes, just sometimes, it smacks us right in the face.

Few projects can demonstrate the advancement and miniaturization of computing technology like putting an entire functional computer inside a storage medium that once only held mere kilobytes of data. And that’s exactly what [JamHamster] has done by stuffing a Raspberry Pi Zero W inside a cassette tape to run his ZX Spectrum emulator. It’s an impressive and clean build, and it pairs so well with a downright gorgeous, retro inspired, CRT-lookalike LCD monitor, which is another creation of his.

A Raspberry Pi Zero with several areas lightly trimmed away inside an open cassette tape.

The Pi did have to undergo a bit of light surgery; though he managed to lose only four GPIO pins in the operation. He also put a ton of love into a literally-highly-polished aluminum heatsink, which is entirely hidden within the case but does keep the computer cool in its claustrophobic quarters. Of course, [JamHamster] isn’t new to these cassette builds. You may recognize his work from the TZXDuino, a virtual tape loader for the ZX Spectrum.

Honestly, sometimes we just have to sit back and be amazed at the kind of computer power that can be packed into such tiny packages. The Pi Zero isn’t the smallest or the most powerful of options, but it is far more capable than the computer it is emulating here. So whether they’re hiding inside outdated storage formats or powering a stock-looking sleeper PSP, we just can’t help but be impressed.

Is That A Cat Or Not?

Pandemic induced boredom takes people in many different ways. Some of us go for long walks, others learn to speak a new language, while yet more unleash their inner gaming streamer. [Niklas Fauth] has taken a break from his other projects by creating a very special project indeed. A cat detector! No longer shall you ponder whether or not the object or creature before you is a cat, now that existential question can be answered by a gadget.

This is more of a novelty project than one of special new tech, he’s taken what looks to be the shell from a cheap infra-red thermometer and put a Raspberry Pi Zero with camera and a small screen into it. This in turn runs Tensorflow with the COCO-SSD object identification model. The device has a trigger, and when it’s pressed to photograph an image it applies the model to detect whether the subject is a cat or not. The video posted to Twitter is below the break, and we can’t dispute its usefulness in the feline-spotting department.

[Niklas] has featured here more than once in the past. This is not his only pandemic project, either.

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Chess Computer Retires To Play Jazz

Years ago, [Leo Neumann]’s girlfriend gave him a 1970s chess computer game that was missing almost everything but the super cool clicky keyboard. Noting the similarity of chess move labeling to chord notation, [Leo] decided to turn it into something even nerdier — a jazz chord game where you jam with the computer.

To play the game, you and the computer take turns entering jazz chords that progress musically from the last one played. The hardware is simple — a Raspberry Pi Zero and a WM8960 audio hat with amplifier in speakers. [Leo] also put in a slightly larger display than the original and printed a new bottom half for the case. We love the look of this build, especially the groovy custom line font [Leo] designed.

On the software side, [Leo] made a Python prototyping environment using PYO Module and Kivy UI. Not content with other approaches to tonal consonance, [Leo] played a couple thousand chords and rated them according to their progressive harmony. Shake out those jazz hands and check it out after the break.

Want to play chess with computers? Make Alexa your go-between.

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Adding Remote Control To The Elegoo Mars Pro

Recent price drops put entry level masked stereolithography (MSLA) resin 3D printers at around $200 USD, making them a very compelling tool for makers and hackers. But as you might expect, getting the price this low often involves cutting several corners. One of the ways manufacturers have made their machines so cheap is by simplifying the electronics and paring down the feature set to the absolute minimum.

So it was hardly a surprise for [Luiz Ribeiro] to find that his new Elegoo Mars Pro didn’t offer WiFi connectivity or a remote control interface. You’re supposed to just stick a USB flash drive into the printer and select the object you want to print from its menu system. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t hack the capability in himself.

Monitoring a print with Mariner.

If this were a traditional 3D printer, he might have installed OctoPrint and been done with it. But resin printers are a very different beast. In the end, [Luiz] had to develop his own remote control software that worked around the unique limitations of the printer’s electronics. His software runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero and uses Linux’s “USB Gadget” system to make it appear as a flash drive when plugged into the USB port on the Elegoo Mars Pro.

This allows sending object files to the printer over the network, but there was a missing piece to the puzzle. [Luiz] still needed to manually go over to the printer and select which file he wanted to load from the menu. Until he realized there was an exposed serial port on control board that allowed him to pass commands to the printer. Between the serial connection and faux USB Mass Storage device, his mariner software has full control over the Mars Pro and is able to trigger and monitor print jobs remotely.

It might not offer quite the flexibility of adding OctoPrint to your FDM 3D printer, but it’s certainly a start.

The Zero Terminal 3: A Pop-Out Keyboard Linux Computer In Your Pocket

The mobile phone revolution has delivered us attractively packaged and convenient computing in our pockets, but without the easy hackability we like in our community. Meanwhile the advent of single board computers has given us affordable super-powerful hardware that can run a very capable GNU/Linux operating system and fulfill all our hackable computing needs. Combine the two though? Plenty have tried, few have succeeded in making something as slick as the former with the open power of the latter. Fine if you like your portable devices to have a cyberdeck vibe, but maybe not something you’d take into the boardrooom. Never fear though, for [N-O-D-E] have the solution, in version 3 of the Zero Terminal. It’s the ultimate in Raspberry Pi based handheld computing, and it resembles a slightly chunky mobile phone.

At its heart is a Waveshare OLED 5.5″ touch screen, on the back owhich is mounted a PCB that carries a USB hub and power circuitry. A Pi Zero is mounted directly to this, and a cleverly designed HDMI adapter board interfaces it to the display. The power board is a generic one, the one designed for the PCB proved difficult to hand solder. There’s a very smartly designed case to give it that mobile phone feel, and on the back are a set of sockets with all the relevant Pi connections. This opens the possibility of some exciting add-ons, the first of which is a sliding keyboard similar to those on early Android phones. The ‘board is based on a [Bobricius] design, though sadly isn’t quite working yet.

As you can see in the video below the break, this is about as slick a mobile Pi as it’s possible to get. [N-O-D-E], we want one. Just take our money!

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Faux Vintage Radio Gets AirPlay Upgrade

There’s plenty of vintage-styled hardware out these days, with quality and functionality being mixed at best. [Huan] found such a device in the form of an attractively-styled Bluetooth speaker. Deciding he could improve on the capabilities while retaining a stock look, he got down to hacking.

The aim of the project was to keep the original volume knob, buttons and screen, while replacing the internals with something a bit more capable. A Raspberry Pi Zero was sourced as the brains of the operation, with the Google Voice AIY hardware used as the sound output after early attempts with a discrete amplifier faced hum issues. An Arduino Pro Micro was pressed into service to read the volume encoder along with the buttons and drive the charlieplexed LED screen. Shairport Sync was then installed on the Pi Zero to enable Airplay functionality.

It’s a basic hack that nonetheless gives [Huan] an attractive AirPlay speaker, along with plenty of useful experience working with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. We’ve seen similar hacks before, too. If you’re working on your own stereo resurrection at home, be sure to drop us a line!