Hackaday Links: November 8, 2020

Saturday, November 7, 2020 – NOT PASADENA. Remoticon, the virtual version of the annual Hackaday Superconference forced upon us by 2020, the year that keeps on giving, is in full swing. As I write this, Kipp Bradford is giving one of the two keynote addresses, and last night was the Bring a Hack virtual session, which I was unable to attend but seems to have been very popular, at least from the response to it. In about an hour, I’m going to participate in the SMD Soldering Challenge on the Hackaday writing crew team, and later on, I’ll be emceeing a couple of workshops. And I’ll be doing all of it while sitting in my workshop/office here in North Idaho.

Would I rather be in Pasadena? Yeah, probably — last year, Supercon was a great experience, and it would have been fun to get together again and see everyone. But here we are, and I think we’ve all got to tip our hacker hats to the Remoticon organizers, for figuring out how to translate the in-person conference experience to the virtual space as well as they have.

The impact of going to a museum and standing in the presence of a piece of art or a historic artifact is hard to overstate. I once went to an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii, and was absolutely floored to gaze upon a 2,000-year-old loaf of bread that was preserved by the volcanic eruption of 79 AD. But not everyone can get to see such treasures, which is why Scan the World was started. The project aims to collect 3D scans of all kinds of art and artifacts so that people can potentially print them for study. Their collection is huge and seems to concentrate on classic sculptures — Michelangelo’s David is there, as are the Venus de Milo, the Pieta, and Rodin’s Thinker. But there are examples from architecture, anatomy, and history. The collection seems worth browsing through and worth contributing to if you’re so inclined.

For all the turmoil COVID-19 has caused, it has opened up some interesting educational opportunities that probably wouldn’t ever have been available in the Before Time. One such opportunity is an undergraduate-level course in radio communications being offered on the SDRPlay YouTube channel. The content was created in partnership with the Sapienza University of Rome. It’s not entirely clear who this course is open to, but the course was originally designed for third-year undergrads, and the SDRPlay Educators Program is open to anyone in academia, so we’d imagine you’d need some kind of academic affiliation to qualify. The best bet might be to check out the intro video on the SDRPlay Educator channel and plan to attend the webinar scheduled for November 19 at 1300 UTC. You could also plan to drop into the Learning SDR and DSP Hack Chat on Wednesday at noon Pacific, too — that’s open to everyone, just like every Hack Chat is.

And finally, as if bald men didn’t suffer enough disrespect already, now artificial intelligence is having a go at them. At a recent soccer match in Scotland, an AI-powered automatic camera system consistently interpreted an official’s glabrous pate as the soccer ball. The system is supposed to keep the camera trained on the action by recognizing the ball as it’s being moved around the field. Sadly, the linesman in this game drew the attention of the system quite frequently, causing viewers to miss some of the real action. Not that what officials do during sporting events isn’t important, of course, but it’s generally not what viewers want to see. The company, an outfit called Pixellot, knows about the problem and is working on a solution. Here’s hoping the same problem doesn’t crop up on American football.

Mirrored Music Machine Reflects Circadian Rhythms

Interactive artist [Daric Gill] wrote in to share the incredible electronic sculpture he’s been working on for the past year. It’s called the Circadian Machine, and it’s a sensor-enabled mindfulness music-and-lights affair that plays a variety of original compositions based on the time of day and the circle of fifths. This machine performs some steady actions like playing chimes at the top of each hour, and a special sequence at solar noon.

This cyberpunk-esque truncated hexagonal bi-pyramid first geolocates itself, and then learns the times for local sunrise and sunset. A music module made of a Feather M4 Express and a Music Maker FeatherWing fetches astronomical data and controls the lights, speakers, and a couple of motion sensors that, when tripped, will change the lights and sounds on the fly. A separate Feather Huzzah and DS3231 RTC handle the WiFi negotiation and keep track of the time.

On top of the hourly lights and sound, the Circadian Machine does something pretty interesting: it performs another set of actions based on sunrise and sunset, basically cramming an entire day’s worth of actions between the two events, which seems like a salute to what humans do each day. Check out the build notes and walk-through video after the break, then stick around for the full build video.

The internet is rife with information just begging to be turned into art. For instance, there are enough unsecured CCTV cameras around the world with primo vantage points that you can watch a different sunrise and sunset every hour of every day.

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Making A Gorgeously-Twisty Sculpture, Using Only Flat Pieces

Closeup of unique pieces that make up the final scuplture.

The sculpture shown here is called Puzzle Cell Complex and was created by [Nervous System] as an art piece intended to be collaboratively constructed by conference attendees. The sculpture consists of sixty-nine unique flat panel pieces, each made from wood, which are then connected together without the need for tools by using plastic rivets. Everything fits into a suitcase and assembly documentation is a single page of simple instructions. The result is the wonderfully-curved gyroid pattern you see here.

The sculpture has numerous layers of design, not the least of which was determining how to make such an organically-curved shape using only flat panels. The five-foot assembled sculpture has a compelling shape, which results from the sixty-nine individual panels and how they fit together. These individual panel shapes have each been designed using a technique called variational surface cutting to minimize distortion, resulting in their meandering, puzzle-piece-like outlines. Each panel also has its own unique pattern of cutouts within itself, which makes the panels lighter and easier to bend without sacrificing strength. The short video embedded below shows the finished sculpture in all its glory.

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Art Imitates DNA

It has recently been possible to pay a service a little bit of money and learn more about your own DNA. You might find out you really aren’t Italian after all or that you are more or less susceptible to some ailments. [Paul Klinger] had his DNA mapped and decided to make a sculpture representing his unique genetic code. The pictures are good, but the video below is even better.

The project requires a DNA sequencing, a 3D printer, and a Raspberry Pi Zero. Oh, you can probably guess you need a lot of RGB LEDs, too. Of course, the display doesn’t show the whole thing at one time — your DNA pattern scrolls across the double helix.

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Exquisite Craftsmanship Elevate Vic’s Creations Above The Rest

This booth was easy to miss at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 amidst tall professional conference signage erected by adjacent exhibitors. It showcased the work of [Dr. Victor Chaney] who enjoys his day job as a dentist and thus feels no desire to commercialize his inventions — he’s building fun projects for the sake of personal enjoyment which he simply calls Vic’s Creations. Each project is built to his own standards, which are evidently quite high judging by the perfect glossy finish on every custom wood enclosure.

Some of these creations were aligned with his musical interests. The Backpacking Banjo was built around a (well cleaned) cat food can to satisfy the desire for a lightweight instrument he can take camping. His Musical Laser Rainbow Machine (fully documented in Nuts & Volts) was created so little bands formed by independent artists like himself can have a visual light show to go with their live performances. The Music Kaleidoscope is another execution along similar lines, with an LED array whose colors are dictated by music. Venturing outside the world of music, we see a magnetically levitated Castle In The Clouds which also receives power wirelessly to illuminate LEDs

The largest and most complex work on display is an epic electromechanical masterpiece. Par One is a rolling ball sculpture featuring the most convoluted golf course ever. Several more rolling ball sculptures (also called marble machines or marble runs) are on display at Dr. Chaney’s office which must make it the coolest dentist’s lobby ever. The lifelike motions he was able to get from the automatons he built into the sculpture are breathtaking, as you can see below.

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Wonderful Sculptural Circuits Hide Interactive Synthesizers

When it rains, it pours (wonderful electronic sculpture!). The last time we posted about freeform circuit sculptures there were a few eye-catching comments mentioning other fine examples of the craft. One such artist is [Eirik Brandal], who has a large selection of electronic sculptures. Frankly, we’re in love.

A common theme of [Eirik]’s work is that each piece is a functional synthesizer or a component piece of a larger one. For instance, when installed the ihscale series uses PIR sensors to react together to motion in different quadrants of a room. And the es #17 – #19 pieces use ESP8266’s to feed the output of their individual signal generators into each other to generate one connected sound.

Even when a single sculpture is part of a series there is still striking variety in [Eirik]’s work. Some pieces are neat and rectilinear and obviously functional, while others almost looks like a jumble of components. Whatever the style we’ve really enjoyed pouring through the pages of [Eirik]’s portfolio. Most pieces have demo videos, so give them a listen!

If you missed the last set of sculptural circuits we covered this month, head on over and take a look at the flywire circuits of Mohit Bhoite.

Thanks [james] for the tip!

Flywire Circuits At The Next Level

The technique of assembling circuits without substrate goes by many names; you may know it as flywiring, deadbugging, point to point wiring, or freeform circuits. Sometimes this technique is used for practical purposes like fixing design errors post-production or escaping tiny BGA components (ok, that one might be more cool than practical). Perhaps our favorite use is to create art, and [Mohit Bhoite] is an absolute genius of the form. He’s so prolific that it’s difficult to point to a particular one of his projects as an exemplar, though he has a dusty blog we might recommend digging through [Mohit]’s Twitter feed and marveling at the intricate works of LEDs and precision-bent brass he produces with impressive regularity.

So where to begin? Very recently [Mohit] put together a small wheeled vehicle for persistence of vision drawing (see photo above). We’re pretty excited to see some more photos and videos he takes as this adorable little guy gets some use! Going a little farther back in time there’s this microcontroller-free LED scroller cube which does a great job showing off his usual level of fit and finish (detail here). If you prefer more LEDs there’s also this hexagonal display he whipped up. Or another little creature with seven segment displays for eyes. Got those? That covers (most) of his last month of work. You may be starting to get a sense of the quality and quantity on offer here.

We’ve covered other examples of similar flywired circuits before. Here’s one of [Mohit]’s from a few years ago. And another on an exquisite headphone amp encased in a block of resin. What about a high voltage Nixie clock that’s all exposed? And check out a video of the little persistence of vision ‘bot after the break.

Thanks [Robot] for reminding us that we hadn’t paid enough attention to [Mohit]’s wonderful work!

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