Optimizing Screen Time To Heart Beats

Kids spend too much time in front of a screen these days. They also won’t get off my lawn, and music today is just a bunch of static. They don’t respect their elders, either. While kids today are terrible, we can fix that first problem — sitting in front of a screen all day. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Donovan] has created a device that optimizes screen time to reduce sensory overload. It’s the Optimote, the combination of a remote control and biofeedback.

The idea behind the Optimote is to actually to reduce stimulation when watching something on a screen. For many people, including people on the autism spectrum, watching TV or YouTube videos can often result in debilitating sensory overload. You can’t relax in this state, you can’t learn, and you certainly can’t get any entertainment value out of the glowing rectangle in front of your face.

The Optimote uses a pulse sensor, an Arduino, an incredible break-away cable that seems to be missing from any other wearable device like this, and a software stack that interacts with VLC. During periods of high pulse rate, the video skips to low-intensity footage. There’s a ‘calm’ mode that puts media volume and tempo in sync with heart rate. The ‘thrill’ mode plays an eerie scene looping with the Jaws theme.

So far, the prototype is a success, and [Donovan] is looking forward to large-scale user experience testing to determine how effective and enjoyable this technology can become.

The Undead Remote

In the very late 1990s, something amazing was invented. White LEDs. These magical pieces of semiconductors first became commercially available in 1996, and by the early 2000s, you could buy a single 5mm white LED for less than a dollar in quantity one. A year or two later, an astonishing product showed up on infomercials airing on basic cable at 2 a.m. It was a flashlight that never needed batteries. With a small white LED, a few coils wrapped around a tube, and a magnet, you could just shake this flashlight to charge it. It’s just what you needed for when the Y2K virus killed all electronics.

Of course, no one uses these flashlights now because they suck. The early white LEDs never put out enough light, and charging a flashlight by shaking it every twenty seconds is annoying. There is another technology that desperately needs a battery-less solution, though: remote controls. They hardly use any power at all. That’s exactly what [oneohm] did for his Hackaday Prize entry. He created the Undead Remote.

The dream of a battery-less remote control has been dead since your parents got rid of that old Zenith Space Command, but here it is. This is really just a shake flashlight, a diode rectifier, a large capacitor, and some glue. Shake the remote, and you can change the channel. Is it useful? Certainly. Does it look weird and is it slightly inconvenient? Also yes. But there you go. If you want an easy way to deal with batteries in your remote control, this is a solution.

High-Effort Streaming Remote for Low-Effort Bingeing

There’s no limit to the amount of work some people will put into avoiding work. For instance, why bother to get up from your YouTube-induced vegetative state to adjust the volume when you can design and build a remote to do it for you?

Loath to interrupt his PC streaming binge sessions, [miroslavus] decided to take matters into his own hands. When a commercially available wireless keyboard proved simultaneously overkill for the job and comically non-ergonomic, he decided to build a custom streaming remote. His recent microswitch encoder is prominently featured and provides scrolling control for volume and menu functions, and dedicated buttons are provided for play controls. The device reconfigures at the click of a switch to support Netflix, which like YouTube is controlled by sending keystrokes to the PC through a matching receiver. It’s a really thoughtful design, and we’re sure the effort [miroslavus] put into this will be well worth the dozens of calories it’ll save in the coming years.

A 3D-printed DIY remote is neat, but don’t forget that printing can also save a dog-chewed remote and win the Repairs You Can Print contest.

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How To Control the Lights with a TV Remote

In this day and age of the Internet of Things and controlling appliances over the internet, the idea of using an old-fashioned television remote to do anything feels distinctly 2005. That doesn’t mean it’s not a valid way to control the lights at home, and [Atakan] is here to show us how it’s done.

To the experienced electronics maker, this is yesterday’s jam, but [Atakan] goes to great lengths to hash out the whole process from start to finish, from building the circuitry to switch the lights through to the code necessary to make a PIC do your bidding. It’s rare to see such a project done with a non-Arduino platform, but rest assured, such things do exist. There’s even some SPICE simulation thrown in for good measure, if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty.

Perhaps the only thing missing from the writeup is a primer on how to execute the project safely, given that it’s used with a direct connection to live mains wiring. We’d love to hear in the comments about any changes or modifications that would be necessary to ensure this project doesn’t hurt anyone or burn an apartment complex down. Sometimes you can switch lights without a direct connection to the mains, however – like this project that interfaces mechanically with a standard light switch.

Your Audio Will Be Back, Right After This Commercial Break

[LittleTern] — annoyed by repetitive advertisements — wanted the ability to mute their Satellite Box for the duration of every commercial break. Attempts to crack their Satellite Box’s IR protocol went nowhere, so they thought — why not simply mute the TV?

Briefly toying with the idea of a separate remote for the function, [LittleTern] discarded that option as quickly as one tends to lose an additional remote. Instead, they’re using the spare RGYB buttons on their Sony Bravia remote — cutting down on total remotes while still controlling the IR muting system. Each of the four coloured buttons normally don’t do much, so they’re set do different mute length timers — customized for the channel or time of day. The system that sends the code to the TV is an Arduino Pro Mini controlling an IR LED and receiver, with a status LED set to glow according to which button was pressed.

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Repairs You Can Print: Fixing a Chewed Up Remote

What is it about remote controls? They’re like some vortex of household chaos, burrowing into couch cushions while accusations fly about who used it last. Or they land in just the right spot on the floor to be stepped on during a trip to the bathroom. And don’t get us started about the fragility of their battery case covers; it’s a rare remote in a house with kids whose batteries aren’t held in by strips of packing tape.

But [Alex Rich]’s Bose radio remote discovered another failure mode: imitating a dog chew toy. Rather than fork out $90 for a replacement, [Alex] undertook a 3D-printed case to repair the chewed remote. He put an impressive amount of reverse engineering into the replacement case, probably expending much more than $90 worth of effort. But it’s the principle of the thing, plus he wanted to support some special modifications to the stock remote. One was a hardware power switch to disconnect the batteries entirely, hidden in the bottom shell of the case. The second was the addition of a link to his thermostat to adjust the volume automatically when the AC comes on. That required a Trinket inside the remote and a few mods to make room for it.

Yes, this project dates from a few years back, but [Alex] only just brought it to our attention for the Repairs You Can Print contest. Got some special unobtanium part that you were able to print to get out of a jam? Enter and win prizes to add to the glory of fixing something yourself.

Samy Kamkar: Reverse Engineering for a Secure Future

Show of hands: how many of you have parked your car in the driveway, walked up to your house, and pressed your car’s key fob button thinking it would open the front door? We’ve probably all done it and felt a little dopey as a result, but when you think about it, it would be tremendously convenient, especially with grocery bags dangling off each arm and the mail clenched between your teeth. After all, we’re living in the future —  shouldn’t your house be smart enough to know when you’re home?

Reverse engineer par excellence Samy Kamkar might think so, but given his recent experiences with cars smart enough to know when you’re standing outside them, he’d probably have some reservations. Samy dropped by the 2017 Hackaday Superconference in November to discuss the finer points of exploiting security flaws in passive car entry systems, and also sat down with our own Elliot Williams after his talk for a one-on-one interview. Samy has some interesting insights on vehicle cybersecurity, but the practical knowledge he’s gained while exploring the limits of these systems teach some powerful lessons about being a real-world reverse engineer.

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