Social Distancing Headgear For The Futuristically Inclined

Those of you with an eye to classic cinema will remember 1985’s Back To The Future, and particularly its scientist character Dr. Emmett Brown. When the protagonist Marty McFly finds himself in 1955, on his first meeting with they younger Dr. Brown the latter is wearing an experimental helmet designed to read thoughts. It doesn’t work, but it’s an aesthetic we’re reminded of in [Håkan Lidbo]’s Corona Hat, a social distancing tool that incorporates distance sensors into a piece of headgear.

The device is simple enough, half of a globe fitted with a set of car reversing sensors and the battery from an autonomous vacuum cleaner. It’s sprayed a bright orange, and worn on the head as he walks around town in the video below the break. It beeps any time something or somebody gets too close, and as far as we can see it’s effective in what it does. We are not so sure about the look though, to us as well as Emmett Brown it’s a little too reminiscent of the character Sheev in the 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie who wore an armadillo’s armour as a hat. Perhaps more conventional headgear as a basis might gain it a few fewer askance looks.

This isn’t the first ultrasonic social distancing sensor we’ve seen. Probably the most noteworthy project in this arena though has to be the one with the high voltage that scares more with its bark than its bite.

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Checking In On Relatives Using Old Android Tablets

With social distancing it can be harder to stay in touch with our relatives, especially those who are elderly and not particularly tech-savvy. Looking for a solution to that end for his own grandmother, [Steve] came up with the idea of using an inexpensive used tablet and a mobile data plan in order to mail her a “video phone” that works out of the box.

This method requires zero button presses in order to pick up a video call.

Since the tablet is configured to use cellular networks rather than WiFi, it requires no setup process at all to the recipient. And with the Android version of Skype, it’s possible to configure it so that calls are automatically picked up and video chat enabled. That way, whoever gets the tablet after it’s prepared doesn’t have to tap a single button on the screen in order to receive a call.

[Steve] has also developed the simple idea into a full-fledged easy-to-follow tutorial so that just about anyone is able to replicate the process for their own loved ones. And if you’re still having any trouble with it, there’s a team of volunteers right on the website who can help you with tech support. Just remember to disinfect whatever device you’re sending, since viruses can typically stick to surfaces like plastic and glass for longer.

Now, if showing up to your relatives as a disembodied video screen doesn’t cut it for you, then you might want to send them something more substantial like this cute little telepresence robot that can drive around on a desk.

Hackaday Links: April 19, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic at least seems to be on a downward track, the dystopian aspects of the response to the disease appear to be on the rise. As if there weren’t enough busybodies and bluenoses shaming their neighbors for real or imagined quarantine violations on social media, now we have the rise of social-distancing enforcement drones. These have been in use in hot zones around the world, of course, but have only recently arrived in the US. From New Jersey to Florida, drones are buzzing about in search of people not cowering in fear in their homes and blaring messages about how they face fines and arrest for seeking a little fresh air and sunshine. We’re all in favor of minimizing contact with potentially infected people, but it seems like these methods might be taking things a bit too far.

If you somehow find yourself with some spare time and want to increase your knowledge, or at least expand your virtual library, Springer Publishing has some exciting news for you. The journal and textbook publisher has made over 400 ebook titles available for free download. We had a quick scan over the list, and while the books run the gamut from social sciences to astrophysics, there are plenty of titles that are right in the wheelhouse of most Hackaday readers. There are books on power electronics, semiconductor physics, and artificial intelligence, as well as tons more. They all seem to be recent titles, so the information isn’t likely to be too dated. Give the list a once-over and happy downloading.

Out of all the people on this planet, the three with the least chance of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 blasted off from Kazakhstan this week on Soyuz MS-16 to meet up with the ISS. The long-quarantined crew of Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, and Chris Cassidy swapped places with the Expedition 62 crew, who returned to Earth safely in the Soyuz MS-15 vehicle. It’s a strange new world they return to, and we wish them and their ISS colleagues all the best. What struck us most about this mission, though, was some apparently surreptitiously obtained footage of the launch from a remarkably dangerous position. We saw some analysis of the footage, and based on the sound delay the camera was perhaps as close as 150 meters to the launchpad. It’s hard to say if the astronauts or the camera operator was braver.

And finally, because neatness counts, we got this great tip on making your breadboard jumpers perfectly straight. There’s something satisfying about breadboard circuits where the jumpers are straight and exactly the length the need to be, and John Martin’s method is so simple you can’t help but use it. He just rolls the stripped jumpers between his bench and something flat; he uses a Post-it note pad but just about anything will do. The result is satisfyingly straight jumpers, ready to be bent and inserted. We bet this method could be modified to work with the stiffer wire normally used in circuit sculptures like those of Mohit Bhoite; he went into some depth about his methods during his Supercon talk last year, and it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.

Enforce Social Distancing With High Voltage

When getting parts together for a one-off project, we often find ourselves with some leftovers on hand. Most of the time these things go in the junk drawer, but [Brad] aka [AtomicZombie] was working on a project which required parts salvaged from several microwave ovens. That left him with enough surplus components to build a social distancing enforcement tool for the modern age; which will deliver a taser-like shock to anyone which violates the new six-foot rule.

The leftover parts in question were built around a high-voltage capacitor, which [Brad] strapped to his back to hold all of the electronics needed for the six-foot electrified hoop. The generator utilizes the output voltage from two magnetrons, but doesn’t start until the operator enters a code on the front control panel, which is about the only safety device on this entire contraption. To get power to the magnetrons a 12 VDC car battery is used with an inverter to get the required input voltage, and towards the end of the video linked below he shows its effectiveness by setting various objects on fire with it.

While this gag project is unlikely to get any actual use, it’s not like any of us around here need an excuse to play with high voltages. [Brad] is also unlikely to need it either; he lives on a secluded 100-acre homestead and has been featured here for some of the projects he built to make his peaceful life a little easier, like a robotic laundry line, mobile chicken coop, and an electric utility tricycle built from an old truck and motorcycle.

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Ultrasonic Sensor Helps You Enforce Social Distancing

If you’re going outside (only for essential grocery runs, we hope) and you’re having trouble measuring the whole six feet apart from other people deal by eye, then [Guido Bonelli] has a solution for you. With a standard old HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor, an audio module and a servo to drive a custom gauge needle he’s made a device which can warn people around you if they’re too close for comfort.

As simple as this project may sound like for anyone who has a bunch of these little Arduino-compatible modules lying around and has probably made something similar to this in their spare time, there’s one key component that gives it an extra bit of polish. [Guido] found out how intermittent the reliability of the ultrasonic sensor was and came up with a clever way to smooth out its output in order to get more accurate readings from it, using a bubble sort algorithm with a twist. Thirteen data points are collected from the sensor, then they are sorted in order to find a temporal middle point, and the three data points at the center of that sort get averaged into the final output. Maybe not necessarily something with scientific accuracy, but exactly the kind of workaround we expect around these parts!

Projects like these to help us enforce measures to slow the spread of the virus are probably a good bet to keep ourselves busy tinkering in our labs, like these sunglasses which help you remember not to touch your face. Make sure to check out this one in action after the break!

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Brainstorming COVID-19 Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, April 8 at noon Pacific for the Brainstorming COVID-19 Hack Chat!

The COVID-19 pandemic has been sweeping across the globe now for three months. In that time it has encountered little resistance in its advances, being a novel virus with just the right mix of transmissibility and virulence that our human immune systems have never encountered. The virus is racking up win after win across the world, crippling public health and medical systems, shutting down entire economies, and forcing billions of people into isolation for the foreseeable future.

While social distancing is certainly an effective way to limit the spread of the disease, it feels more like hiding than fighting. Bored and stuck at home, millions of fertile minds are looking for an outlet for this frustration, a more affirmative way to fight the good fight and build solutions that the world sorely needs. And thus we’ve seen the outpouring of designs, ideas, and prototypes of everything from social distancing helpers to personal protective equipment (PPE) hacks.

In this Hack Chat, we’ll try to provide a framework around which hackers can start to turn their ideas into COVID-19 solutions. There are a ton of problems right now, but the most acute and most approachable seem to revolve around making sure healthcare providers have the PPE they need to do their job safely. Hacking at the edges of managing social distancing seems doable, too, both in terms of helping people keep a healthy distance from each other and in managing the isolation that causes. And let’s not forget about managing boredom; idle hands lead to idle minds, and staying healthy mentally is just as important as good handwashing and nutrition.

Join us on Wednesday for this group-led Hack Chat and bring your best ideas for attacking COVID-19 head-on.

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, April 8 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.

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