Open-Source Neuroscience Hardware Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, February 19 at noon Pacific for the Open-Source Neuroscience Hardware Hack Chat with Dr. Alexxai Kravitz and Dr. Mark Laubach!

There was a time when our planet still held mysteries, and pith-helmeted or fur-wrapped explorers could sally forth and boldly explore strange places for what they were convinced was the first time. But with every mountain climbed, every depth plunged, and every desert crossed, fewer and fewer places remained to be explored, until today there’s really nothing left to discover.

Unless, of course, you look inward to the most wonderfully complex structure ever found: the brain. In humans, the 86 billion neurons contained within our skulls make trillions of connections with each other, weaving the unfathomably intricate pattern of electrochemical circuits that make you, you. Wonders abound there, and anyone seeing something new in the space between our ears really is laying eyes on it for the first time.

But the brain is a difficult place to explore, and specialized tools are needed to learn its secrets. Lex Kravitz, from Washington University, and Mark Laubach, from American University, are neuroscientists who’ve learned that sometimes you have to invent the tools of the trade on the fly. While exploring topics as wide-ranging as obesity, addiction, executive control, and decision making, they’ve come up with everything from simple jigs for brain sectioning to full feeding systems for rodent cages. They incorporate microcontrollers, IoT, and tons of 3D-printing to build what they need to get the job done, and they share these designs on OpenBehavior, a collaborative space for the open-source neuroscience community.

Join us for the Open-Source Neuroscience Hardware Hack Chat this week where we’ll discuss the exploration of the real final frontier, and find out what it takes to invent the tools before you get to use them.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, February 19 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about. Continue reading “Open-Source Neuroscience Hardware Hack Chat”

Drones Rain Down Rat Poison On The Galapagos

If your favorite movie is Ratatouille, now would be a good time to read a different article. Rats on the Galápagos Islands are an invasive species and eradication is underway. This is not a first for the islands, and they are fiercely protected since they are the exclusive home to some species including the distinctive tortoise from which the island derives its name and of course finches. Charles Darwin studied the finches while writing On the Origin of Species. So yeah, we want to keep this island from becoming unbalanced and not disturb the native wildlife while doing it. How do we check all these boxes? Technology! Specifically, hexacopters carrying rat poison.

The plan is simple, drive a truck to a central location, release the hounds drones and fifteen minutes later they come back after flying high above the indigenous wildlife and dropping pest control pellets. The drones save time and labor, making them a workhorse rather than a novelty. This work experience on their resume (CV) could open the door to more dirty work or more wholesome activities. Who is to say that the same drones, the exact same ones, couldn’t deliver plant seeds, or nourishing food to the dwindling species harmed by the rat population explosion.

What would you deliver with drones? How about providing parcels or just learning a better way to navigate?

Via IEEE Spectrum.

The Coolest Electronic Toys You’ll See At NAMM

Winter NAMM is the world’s largest trade show for musical instrument makers. It is a gear head’s paradise, filled to the brim with guitars, synths, amps, MIDI controllers, an impossibly loud section filled with drums, ukuleles, and all sorts of electronic noisemakers that generate bleeps and bloops. Think of it as CES, only with products people want to buy. We’re reporting no one has yet stuffed Alexa into a guitar pedal, by the way.

As with all trade shows, the newest gear is out, and it’s full of tech that will make your head spin. NAMM is the expression of an entire industry, and with that comes technical innovation. What was the coolest, newest stuff at NAMM? And what can hackers learn from big industry? There’s some cool stuff here, and a surprising amount we can use.

Continue reading “The Coolest Electronic Toys You’ll See At NAMM”

Robotic Rat Torments And Depresses Real Rats

robotic-rat-torments-real-rats

Animal testing has always been a subject of much debate. On one hand, it allows us to determine if something is probably safe for humans. On the other hand, it’s injuring and killing the very animals that help us escape that same fate. Any way you look at it, be thankful you’re not a lab rat. Being a mammal, they share a similar physiology with us. They are also easy to breed and easy to dispose of. These characteristics make them the prime subject for testing the safety of drugs and treatments that might one day be used on humans. Scientists at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, have created a new rat nemesis – the WR-3, a robot designed specifically to stress and depress lab animals in the name of science.

Depression isn’t normally something rats have to worry about in the wild. So, the WR-3 tries to instill it upon them. The robot has three functions: attacking continuously (relentlessly rams the victim), attacking interactively (attacks for 5 seconds whenever the victim moves, then stops), and chasing (stays right next to the victim but never attacks). The scientists found that the best way to make the rats depressed was to attack them continuously in their youth, then attack interactively as they get older.

With the data the scientists gain from these new experiments, they hope to learn more about human depression and hopefully come up with more successful treatments. There isn’t a lot of specific information we could find about the WR-3, but we’ll keep you posted.

[via Gizmodo]

Automated Humane Pest Control

rat_trap_2000

[Tobie] seems to have a bit of a rat problem.

While most people would be inclined to simply buy the oversized Victor spring-loaded rat traps and call it a day, [Tobie] is a bit more humane. To help remedy his problem while also ensuring that no rats are harmed in the process, he built the Rat Trap 2000.

Self-described as completely over the top, the Rat Trap 2000 lures the rodents into its containment area with apples and corn, securing them inside using a servo-actuated trap door. The door is triggered by an Arduino that monitors the holding pen for movement using an IR sensor. All of the action is captured on video using the web cam on his Eee-PC, as you can see in the very short video below.

This certainly isn’t the most cost-efficient way to control your vermin problems, but if you’ve got some spare parts laying around, why not? It’s far more humane than some of the other rodent control solutions we have seen, and it sure beats living with rats!

Continue reading “Automated Humane Pest Control”

Hackaday Unleashes A Troll Sniffing Rat

Sometimes we like to take a few minutes away from Hackaday to spend time with our families. But just when you take your eyes off of the incoming comments, Trolls are bound to strike. Well, [Caleb] and I found a solution to the problem in the form of a troll sniffing rat. This beady-eyed vermin sits on my desk and waits. When a trolling comment is detected its eyes glow red and an alarm is sounded. Join us after the break for more about this silly project.

Continue reading “Hackaday Unleashes A Troll Sniffing Rat”

Rat Propulsion Via Brain-machine Interface

Our little red-eyed friend can drive this vehicle around with his mind. WITH HIS MIND, MAN!

This is the product of research into adaptive technologies. The process is pretty invasive, implanting neural electrodes in the motor cortex of the brain. The hope is that some day this will be a safe and reliable prospect for returning mobility to paralysis victims.

We found it interesting that the vehicle was trained to react to the rats’ movements. They were allowed to move around a test space under their own power while brain signals were monitored by the electrodes. Video tracking was used to correlate their movements with those signals, and that data is used to command the motors for what the Japanese researchers are calling RatCar.

We can see the possibilities opening up for a mechanized cockroach v. RatCar free-for-all. Something of a battlebots with a live tilt. But we kid, this is actually quite creepy.

[via Neatorama and PopSci]