Latency Meter For Accurate Gaming

The gaming world experienced a bit of a resurgence in 2020 that is still seen in the present day. Even putting aside the effects from the pandemic, the affordability and accessibility has arguably never been better. Building a gaming PC can have its downsides, though, and a challenging issue to troubleshoot is input lag or input latency. This is something that’s best measured with standalone hardware, and if this is an issue on your setup you may want to take a look at this latency meter.

Unlike other measurement devices that use the time between a mouse button input and the monitor’s display of a bullet or shooting event, this one looks at mouse movement and the change in the scene instead. This makes it much more versatile than other methods since it’s independent of specific actions, and can be used in any game without any specific events needed to perform the measurement. A camera phototransistor is placed on the monitor’s top edge and the Arduino-based device sends mouse commands to the computer while measuring the time between those commands and the shift in the image on the monitor.

The project is open source, so with the right hardware it’s possible to build one to troubleshoot latency issues or just to learn more about a particular hardware configuration’s behavior. Arduinos and other microcontrollers have been doing all kinds of things by pretending to be human interface devices like this for a while now. One of our favorites of late was this effects pedal that replicates musical effects on mice and keyboards.

A black race car with white text of sponsors moves across an asphalt surface. There is a blue wall and a green, grassy field in the background. The car has white and red stripes as well.

Students Set EV Acceleration World Record

Humans have a need for speed, and students from the Academic Motorsports Club Zurich (AMZ) have set a new acceleration record for an electric vehicle with a 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) time of 0.956 seconds.

The mythen features four custom electric hub motors with a total output of 240 kW and a vehicle weight of 140 kg (309 lb) thanks to the use of carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb. The car was able to get up to speed over only 12.3 m (40 ft)! As with many student design team projects, every component was hand built and designed to optimize the power to weight ratio of the vehicle.

The students from ETH Zurich and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts were excited to regain the record from the team at the University of Stuttgart, having previously held the title in 2014 and 2016. We suspect that they will find any European EV maker’s engineering department excited for the chance to hire them come graduation.

If you want to go fast at a smaller scale, checkout 3D printing RC car wheels for speed, and if you’d rather ride the rails at an accelerated rate, here’s an article on high speed rail.

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Computer Speed Gains Erased By Modern Software

[Julio] has an older computer sitting on a desk, and recorded a quick video with it showing how fast this computer can do seemingly simple things, like open default Windows applications including the command prompt and Notepad. Compared to his modern laptop, which seems to struggle with even these basic tasks despite its impressive modern hardware, the antique machine seems like a speed demon. His videos set off a huge debate about why it seems that modern personal computers often appear slower than machines of the past.

After going through plenty of plausible scenarios for what is causing the slowdown, [Julio] seems to settle on a nuanced point regarding abstraction. Plenty of application developers are attempting to minimize the amount of development time for their programs while maximizing the number of platforms they run on, which often involves using a compatibility layer, which abstracts the software away from the hardware and increases the overhead needed to run programs. Things like this are possible thanks to the amount of computing power of modern machines, but not without a slight cost of higher latency. For applications developed natively, the response times would be expected to be quite good, but fewer applications are developed natively now including things that might seem like they otherwise would be.  Notepad, for example, is now based on UWP.

While there are plenty of plausible reasons for these slowdowns in apparent speed, it’s likely a combination of many things; death by a thousand cuts. Desktop applications built with a browser compatibility layer, software companies who are reducing their own costs by perhaps not abiding by best programming practices or simply taking advantage of modern computing power to reduce their costs, and of course the fact that modern software often needs more hardware resources to run safely and securely than equivalents from the past.

Using Sonar To Measure Traffic Speeds

One of the most common ways of measuring the speed of a vehicle is by using radar, which typically involves generating radio waves, directing them at a moving vehicle, and measuring the various ways that they return to the device. This is a tried-and-true method, but can be expensive and technically complex. [GeeDub] wanted an easier way of measuring vehicles passing by his home, so he switched to using sonar instead to measure speeds based on the sounds the cars generate themselves.

The method he is using is similar to passive sonar in submarines, which can locate objects underwater based on the sounds they produce. After a false start attempting to measure Doppler shift, he switched to time correlation using two microphones, essentially using stereo audio input to detect subtle differences in arrival times of various sounds to detect the positions of passing vehicles. Doing this fast enough and extrapolating the data gathered, speed information can be calculated. For the data gathering and calculation, [GeeDub] is using a Raspberry Pi to help keep costs down, and some further configuration of the microphones and their power supplies were also needed to ensure quality audio was gathered.

With the system in place in a window, it detected around 9,000 vehicles over a three-day period. The software generates a normal distribution of vehicle speeds for this time, with the distribution centered on around 35 MPH, slightly above the posted speed limit of 30. As long as there’s a clear line of sight to the road using this system it’s just as effective as some other passive systems we’ve seen to measure vehicle speed. Of course, active speed measurement systems are not out of the realm of possibility if you’re willing to spend a little more.

3D-Printed Parts Don’t Slow Down This Speedy Printer

Truth be told, we generally find speed sports to be a little boring. Whether it’s cars going around in circles for hours on end or swimmers competing to be a few milliseconds faster than everyone else, we just don’t feel the need for speed. Unless, of course, you’re talking about speedy 3D printers like “The 100”, which claims to produce high-quality prints in a tenth the time of an ordinary printer. In that case, you’ve got our full attention.

What makes [Matt the Printing Nerd]’s high-speed printer interesting isn’t the fact that it can do a “Speedboat Run” — printing a standard Benchy model — in less than six minutes. Plenty of printers can do the same thing much, much faster. The impressive part is that The 100 does it with a 3D-printed frame. In fact, most of the printer’s parts are 3d printed, a significant departure from most speed printer builds, which generally shy away from printed structural elements. [Matt]’s design also aims to keep the center of gravity of all the printer’s components within a very small area, which helps manage frame vibrations that limit print quality. The result is that the CoreXY gantry is capable of a speed of 400 mm/s and an eye-popping 100,000 mm/s² acceleration. What also sets [Matt]’s printer apart is that The 100 is designed to be a daily driver. It has a generous 165 mm x 165 mm print bed, which is far more useful than a bed that’s barely bigger than a standard Benchy.

The video below has much more details on the open-source build, plus some nice footage of some speed runs. The quality of the prints, even done at speed, is pretty impressive. Perhaps there is a point to speed sports after all.

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Jet Engine Powers Tea Kettle

While there are plenty of places around the world to get a great cup of tea, no one has quite burned it into their culture like those in the United Kingdom. While they don’t have the climate to grow the plants themselves, they at least have figured out the art of heating water extremely rapidly in purpose-built electric kettles while the rest of us wait to heat water on our stoves and microwaves. But that’s still not fast enough for some, like [Finlay Shellard], who just completed this jet-powered tea kettle.

[Finlay] took some inspiration cues and parts from another jet engine he had on hand that was powering his toaster. This is a pulse jet design, which is welded together from laser-cut pieces of sheet metal with guides welded in place to allow water to flow around the combustion chamber and exhaust. Pressurized water sits in a reservoir at the top of the engine, and when it is up to temperature, a valve allows it to flow to the engine to heat up. When it has passed the jet engine section, it passes a tea bag holder and then out of a spout at the end of the engine.

A few tests at 100 PSI had the hot tea exiting the engine in a non-linear fashion, so the pressure was reduced. The device now makes tea at incredibly fast speeds, with the only downsides being access to some sort of jet fuel, and also the need for a protective hearing device of some sort. For anyone attempting to do this themselves, take a look at this build which includes a turbocharger design for improved efficiency of the pulse jet itself.

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Audio Playback Toy For DSP Adventures

The declining costs of single-board computers has made serious computing power available for even the most trivial of tasks. It’s easy enough to slap a Raspberry Pi onto almost anything for nearly the same cost as a powerful 32-bit microcontroller platform, but this takes some of the fun out of projects for a few of us. Looking to get into the weeds can be a challenge as well, as [Michal Zalewski] demonstrates in this audio playback device he built from a simple 8-bit microcontroller.

The small toy takes audio input from a microphone through an op-amp and feeds this signal to an ADC within the AVR128DA28 microcontroller. The data is then stored on a separate memory chip ready to be played back through another op-amp paired with a speaker. This is where being familiar with the inner workings of the microcontroller comes in handy. By manipulating the interrupt routines in specific ways, the audio stored in memory can be played back at various speeds.

[Michal] intended this build to be a toy for one of his younger relatives, and for the price of a few ICs and buttons it does a pretty good job of turning a regular voice into a chipmunk voice like some commercial children’s toys some of us might remember. If the design aesthetics of this gadget look familiar, you may be thinking of his minimalist gaming device which we recently featured.