Hackaday Links: November 15, 2020

Now that we drive around cars that are more like mobile data centers than simple transportation, there’s a wealth of data to be harvested when the inevitable crashes occur. After a recent Tesla crash on a California highway, a security researcher got a hold of the car’s “black box” and extracted some terrifying insights into just how bad a car crash can be. The interesting bit is the view of the crash from the Tesla’s forward-facing cameras with object detection overlays. Putting aside the fact that the driver of this car was accelerating up to the moment it rear-ended the hapless Honda with a closing speed of 63 MPH (101 km/h), the update speeds on the bounding boxes and lane sensing are incredible. The author of the article uses this as an object lesson in why Level 2 self-driving is a bad idea, and while I agree with that premise, the fact that self-driving had been disabled 40 seconds before the driver plowed into the Honda seems to make that argument moot. Tech or not, someone this unskilled or impaired was going to have an accident eventually, and it was just bad luck for the other driver.

Last week I shared a link to Scan the World, an effort to 3D-scan and preserve culturally significant artifacts and create a virtual museum. Shortly after the article ran we got an email from Elisa at Scan the World announcing their “Unlocking Lockdown” competition, which encourages people to scan cultural artifacts and treasures directly from their home. You may not have a Ming Dynasty vase or a Grecian urn on display in your parlor, but you’ve probably got family heirlooms, knick-knacks, and other tchotchkes that should be preserved. Take a look around and scan something for posterity. And I want to thank Elisa for the link to the Pompeiian bread that I mentioned.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)has been running an interesting challenge for the last couple of years: The Subterranean (SubT) Challenge. The goal is to discover new ways to operate autonomously below the surface of the Earth, whether for mining, search and rescue, or warfare applications. They’ve been running different circuits to simulate various underground environments, with the most recent circuit being a cave course back in October. On Tuesday November 17, DARPA will webcast the competition, which features 16 teams and their autonomous search for artifacts in a virtual cave. It could make for interesting viewing.

If underground adventures don’t do it for you, how about going upstairs? LeoLabs, a California-based company that specializes in providing information about satellites, has a fascinating visualization of the planet’s satellite constellation. It’s sort of Google Earth but with the details focused on low-earth orbit. You can fly around the planet and watch the satellites whiz by or even pick out the hundreds of spent upper-stage rockets still up there. You can lock onto a specific satellite, watch for near-misses, or even turn on a layer for space debris, which honestly just turns the display into a purple miasma of orbiting junk. The best bit, though, is the easily discerned samba-lines of newly launched Starlink satellites.

A doorbell used to be a pretty simple device, but like many things, they’ve taken on added complexity. And danger, it appears, as Amazon Ring doorbell users are reporting their new gadgets going up in flame upon installation. The problem stems from installers confusing the screws supplied with the unit. The longer wood screws are intended to mount the device to the wall, while a shorter security screw secures the battery cover. Mix the two up for whatever reason, and the sharp point of the mounting screw can find the LiPo battery within, with predictable results.

And finally, it may be the shittiest of shitty robots: a monstrous robotic wolf intended to scare away wild bears. It seems the Japanese town of Takikawa has been having a problem with bears lately, so they deployed a pair of these improbable looking creatures to protect themselves. It’s hard to say what’s the best feature: the flashing LED eyes, the strobe light tail, the fact that the whole thing floats in the air atop a pole. Whatever it is, it seems to work on bears, which is probably good enough. Take a look in the video below the break.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: November 15, 2020”

Self-Glowing Ring Is Its Own Battery

LED jewelry has always been a popular part of the maker community. Oftentimes, coin cells are used as a compact source of power, or wires are run to discreet hidden battery packs. [OguzC3] went another route, however, creating a glowing ring which works as its own battery.

The design will be familiar to those who have done high-school experiments on basic batteries. An aluminium pipe forms the inner surface of the ring, which is then wrapped in a layer of newspaper. A copper outer ring is then placed outside. When soaked in a salt water solution, this forms a basic battery. The voltage output is only around 0.5 volts, so a joule thief circuit is built into the ring to step this up high enough to drive an LED. [OguzC3] reports that the ring lasts several hours at a time, and only needs a quick rinse in fresh salty water to recharge.

It’s a creative concept, and the final piece looks like a magical object from the world of fantasy. It would make a great addition to any cosplay, and we’re sure the technique could be adapted to other accoutrements, too. A similar experiment done in a more extreme way is this electric car charged via lemons. If you’ve got your own battery chemistry project cooking up at home, be sure to let us know!

Magic Acrylic Makes This Ring Stand Out

LEDs look great no matter how you use them, but sometimes you want to hide them from direct view. [Charlyn] found a great way to do that, using a special material designed just for the purpose.

[Charlyn] built a ring as a piece of fashion jewelry, hooking up a Gemma M0 microcontroller to a Neopixel Jewel, which packs 7 individual LEDs. The hardware is secreted away inside an enclosure featuring both 3D-printed and lasercut parts.

Rather than openly show off the electronics, it’s all hidden away inside. Instead, a piece of black Chemcast LED acrylic is used, which allows LED light to shine through, while otherwise appearing opaque. Those interested in learning more can check out the product details on the manufacturer site.

It’s a great way to make a subtle costume piece that only reveals its flashier side when you so decide. We’ve seen badges use similar techniques on PCBs to great effect, too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Magic Acrylic Makes This Ring Stand Out”

Hardware Hack Makes Robocall Blocking Service Even Better

Sorry to bear sad tidings, but your car’s extended warranty is about to expire. At least that’s what you’ll likely hear if you answer one of those robocalls that have descended like a plague upon us. We applaud any effort to control the flood of robocalls, even if it means supplementing a commercial blocking service with a DIY ring-blocker.

The commercial service that [Jim] engaged to do his landline blocking is called Nomorobo – get it? It uses the Simultaneous Ringing feature many VoIP carriers support to intercept blacklisted robocallers, but with a catch: it needs caller ID data, so it lets the first ring go through. [Jim]’s box intercepts the ringing signal coming from his Xfinity modem using a full-wave rectifier and an analog input on an Arduino. Once the ring pattern is received, the Arduino flips a relay that connects all the phones in the house to the line, letting the call ring through. If Nomorobo has blocked the call, he’ll never hear a thing. There were a few glitches to deal with, like false positives from going off- and on-hook, but those were handled in software. There’s also a delay in displaying caller ID information on his phones, but it’s a small price to pay for peace.

Any escalation in the war on robocalls is justified, and we applaud [Jim] for his service. Should you feel like joining the fray, step one is to know your enemy. This primer on robocalling will help.

Thanks to [Phil] for the tip.

Creating A Custom Engagement Ring With 3D-Printing

Even if you’re pretty sure what the answer will be, a marriage proposal is attended by a great deal of stress to make the event as memorable and romantic as possible. You’ve got a lot of details to look after, not least of which is the ring. So why not take some of the pressure off and just 3D-print the thing?

No, a cheesy PLA ring is probably not going to cut it with even the most understanding of fiancees, and that’s not at all what [Justin Lam] did with this DIY engagement ring. He took an engineer’s approach to the problem – gathering specs, making iterative design changes in Fusion 360, and having a prototype ring SLA printed by a friend. That allowed him to tweak the design before sending it off to Shapeways for production. We were surprised to learn that jewelry printing is a big deal, and Shapeways uses a lost-wax process for it. First a high-resolution wax SLA printer is used to make a detailed positive, which is then used to make a plaster mold. The mold is fired to melt the wax, and molten gold is poured in to make the rough casting, which is cleaned and polished before shipping.

Once he had the ring, [Justin] watched a few jewelry-making videos to learn how to set the family heirloom stone into the bezel setting; we admit we cringed a bit when he said he used the blade shaft of a screwdriver to crimp the edge of the bezel to the stone. But it came out great, even if it needed a bit of resizing. The details of the proposal are left to the romantically inclined, but TL;DR – she said yes.

Congratulations to the happy couple, and to [Justin] for pulling off a beautiful build. Most of our jewelry hacks are of the blinkenlight variety rather than fine jewelry, although we have featured a machinist’s take on the subject before.

An RFID Ring For The Body Mod Squeamish

Some people get inked, while others get henna or those water transfer tattoos you might find in a box of Cracker Jack. [Becky] wanted the benefits of having an RFID tag in her finger — unlock doors or log into your computer with a swipe of your finger — but wasn’t ready to get an implant. Her solution: make an artistic ring that conceals a tiny glass capsule RFID tag.

Besides not having to shove some tech under your epidermis, there are a few other advantages: you can change out tags as easy as changing rings, for one. You can also easily loan your ring to someone just as you might give them keys to your door.

Continue reading “An RFID Ring For The Body Mod Squeamish”

Analog Clock Goes Digital, Or Vice Versa

Designing a good clock takes a lot of considerations. It’s not just hands, faces, and numbers anymore; there are also word clocks, electronic clocks, marble clocks, or water clocks, and just about anything else imaginable can be used to tell time. Of course, electronic clocks are great for their versatility, and this one shows off an analog-looking clock that is (of course) digital, leveraging all of the perks of analog with all of the upsides of digital electronics.

One of the key design considerations that [Sasa] had while building this piece was that it needed to be silent. LEDs certainly fit that description, so the decision was made to go with an WS2812b ring. It runs using a STM ST32F103 Nucleo board (and a cheaper version of it in later versions of this clock) which shows a red LED for the current hour, yellow LEDs for the traditional analog clock divisions, a green LED for the current minute, and glows the rest of the LEDs up to the current minute with a rainbow pattern.

This is a really clean, simple build with good design at its core, and would be easy to replicate if you’re looking for an eye-catching clock to build. As a bonus, all of the schematics and code are available on the project site, so everything you need is there. If you’re looking for more inspiration, there are some clocks that are even more unique, like this marble clock that is a work of art — but is anything but silent.