Miata Sci-Fi Digital Dash

One of the hardest, but sometimes best, things you can do for a project is to walk away. [Jroobi] had spent hundreds of hours crafting the digital dash for his MX5 Miata (video, embedded below) and after spending far too long chasing down I2C bugs, he made the difficult decision to step away for a while. However, as of May 2021, [Jroobi] returned to the project and found a power supply was under-specified and was causing brownouts that resulted in crashes.

All in all, it’s an incredible work of engineering. Everything from the massive codebase that describes all the different states to the tasteful graphic design is masterfully done. The Star-Trek-inspired theme and attention to detail really show in the different modes on the tachometer. The dynamic soft RPM limit based on engine temperature is particularly ingenious.

Under the hood of this custom dash are two Ardunios running the show. The center media console offers more controls with a generous touch screen while the instrument cluster shows most of the data. They talk over I2C to each other and communicate with other parts in the car, such as the RGB cabin lighting and the TEIN electronic suspension dampeners. Fuel and temperature levels come in as voltage levels which can be read via an ADC. The gear position is calculated based on RPMs and speed given the wheel size and the transmission in the vehicle.

It is a phenomenal labor of love and if you’re inspired to further upgrade your Miata you might want to see how to put carbs on the engine or RGB light rings in the instruments. Continue reading “Miata Sci-Fi Digital Dash”

What Every Geek Must Know

How is it possible that there’s a geek culture? I mean, it’s one thing to assume that all folks of a nerdy enough bent will know a little Ohm’s law, can fake their way through enough quantum mechanics to at least be interesting at a cocktail party, and might even have a favorite mnemonic for the resistor colors or the angles involved in sine, cosine, and tangents. But how is it that we all know the answer to life, the universe, and everything?

Mike and I were podcasting a couple of weeks back, and it came out that he’d never played Starcraft. I was aghast! Especially since he’s into video games in general, to have not played the seminal 3-way-without-being-rock-scissors-paper game! My mind boggled. But then again, there was a time in my life when I hadn’t actually read all of Dune or Cryptonomicon, which would have left Mike’s jaw on the floor.

Whether you prefer Star Trek or Star Wars, the Matrix or the Hobbit, it’s even more surprising that we have so much in common! And thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that exactly our interchange is the reason — it’s a word of mouth culture thing. Some folks at the hackerspace are talking about Cthulu, and chances are you’re going to be reading some Lovecraft. An argument about the plausibility of the hacks in The Martian has sent at least a couple of geeks to the cinema or the library. And so it goes.

So do your part! Share your geek-culture recommendations with us all in the comments. If you were stranded on a desert island, with a decent bookshelf and maybe even a streaming video service, what’s on your top-10 list? What do you still need to see, read, or hear?

Enterprise Helm Commands The Entertainment Center

Many a young geek wished they could get a chance to sit at the helm of the USS Enterprise, wildly tapping on unlabeled technicolor buttons with the self-assured confidence of a proper Starfleet officer. For most of us it was a dream unrealized, but right now somebody in the Seattle, Washington area is getting to do exactly that in their media room. We won’t deny being jealous, but at least our collective egos can take some comfort in the knowledge that they had to outsource the construction of their replica helm to the fine folks at [Blackmouth Design].

There’s not a lot of technical details to be had, but considering the page for this project is only meant to show off the company’s design and fabrication skills, we can’t blame them too much. If we were in the business of selling these things, we’d probably keep some of the juicer details under wraps too.

But we do know there’s “Arduino technology” under the hood that fires up different light and sound effects depending on which of the vintage rocker switches has been flipped. The red momentary buttons lined up on the right side of the coffee table sized panel are tied into the home media center to do things like turn off the lights and lower the projector screen. Check out the video below for a brief demo.

In a post on Reddit, one of the engineers behind the project explains that the top surface of the helm is 3/16″ powder coated aluminum, with the plywood that makes up the base laminated in the classic Original Series color scheme of red, grey, and black. The artwork for the astrogator was created from scratch, backlit with LEDs, and placed behind a 1/4″ acrylic panel for protection. We imagine the fact that it’s parallel to the ground means it’s supposed to be a space to place your drinks or popcorn, though if it was in our house, nobody would be bringing food or drink anywhere near it.

In all honesty, while Hackaday is decidedly more about building than buying, we can’t fault anyone for forking over their hard earned cash for craftsmanship of this caliber. After all, we’ve had our eyes on that officially licensed tricorder replica for quite some time now.

Continue reading Enterprise Helm Commands The Entertainment Center”

Tightly Packed Raspberry Pi Tricorder Impresses

We’ll say upfront that we don’t have nearly as much information about this 3D printed Star Trek: The Next Generation tricorder as we’d like. But from the image galleries [Himmelen] has posted we know it’s running on the Raspberry Pi Zero W, has a color LCD in addition to a monochrome OLED, and that it’s absolutely packed with gear.

So far, [Himmelen] has fit an NESDR RTL-SDR dongle, a GPS receiver, an accelerometer, and the battery charging circuitry in the top half of the case. Calling it a tight fit would be something of an understatement, especially when you take into account all the wires snaking around in there. But as mentioned in the Reddit thread about the device, a custom PCB backplane of sorts is in the works so all these modules will have something a little neater to plug into.

There are a lot of fantastic little details in this build that have us very excited to see it cross the finish line. The female USB port that’s been embedded into the top of the device is a nice touch, as it will make it easy to add storage or additional hardware in the field. We also love the keyboard, made up of 30 individual tact switches with 3D printed caps. It’s hard to imagine what actually typing on such an input device would be like, but even if each button just fired off its own program or function, we’d be happy.

Judging by the fact that the LCD shows the Pi sitting at a login prompt in all the images, we’re going to go out on a limb and assume [Himmelen] hasn’t gotten to writing much software for this little gadget yet. Once the hardware is done and it’s time to start pushing pixels though, something like Pygame could be used to make short work of a LCARS-style user interface that would fit the visual style of The Next Generation. In fact, off the top of our heads we can think of a few turn-key projects out there designed for creating Trek UIs, though the relatively limited computational power of the Pi Zero might be a problem.

We’ve seen several projects that tried to turn the iconic tricorder into a functional device. Some have focused on the arguably more recognizable Next Generation style such as this one, and others have targeted the more forgiving brick-shaped unit from Kirk and Spock’s era. The Wand Company is even working on a officially licensed tricorder that will supposedly be as close to we can get to the real thing with modern tech and a $250 USD price tag, though we’d wager COVID has slowed progress down on that one. In any event, whether you build it or buy it, the tricorder seems destined to become reality before too long.

Raspberry Pi Makes A Practical Tricorder

What do you get when you add a thermal camera, a software-defined radio dongle, and a battery to a Raspberry Pi? If you are [saveitforparts] you make a tricorder for sniffing radio signals and viewing heat signatures. He admits, the videos (see below) aren’t exactly a “how-to” but it will still give you some ideas for your next build.

You can sense the frustration with some Linux configuration issues, but [saveitforparts] admits he isn’t a Linux or Raspberry Pi guru. Version 1 seemed to be a bit of a prototype, but version 2 is more polished. We still aren’t sure we’d see Spock carrying a case like that, but some 3D printing could spiff that right up.

Of course, a real tricorder is a McGuffin that does whatever the plot calls for. This one is a bit more practical, but it can monitor thermal and RF energy and could accommodate more sensors. This is a great example of a project that would have been very hard to do in the past but is much easier today. The availability of cheap computers and ready-made modules along with associated software open up many possibilities.

If you want to do your own Tricorder hacking you could take over a commercial model. Then again, there’s an official replica on its way that seems like it might have some similar features.

CBS Announces Functional Tricorder Replica For 2021

It’s taken 54 years, but soon, you’ll finally be able to buy a fully-functional version of the tricorder from Star Trek. Announced on the official website for the legendary sci-fi franchise, the replica will be built by The Wand Company, who’ve previously produced a number of high-quality official Star Trek props as well as replicas for Doctor Who and the Fallout game series.

Admittedly, we’re not sure what a “fully-functional tricorder” actually is, mainly because the various on-screen functions of the device were largely driven by whatever bind Kirk and Spock managed to find themselves in that week. But the announcement mentions the ability to scan radio frequencies, pull in dynamic data from environmental sensors, and record audio. The teaser video after the break doesn’t give us any more concrete information than the announcement, but it does seem to confirm that we’ll be viewing said data on the device’s iconic flip-up display.

Now as the regular Hackaday reader knows, fans have been building extremely impressive “functional” tricorders for some time now. Unlike the sleek 24th century versions seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the original tricorder prop was rather clunky and offers plenty of internal volume for modern goodies. Cramming a Raspberry Pi, LCD, and a bunch of sensors into an inert replica is a relatively approachable project. So it will be interesting to see how the official version stacks up to what’s already been done by intrepid hackers and makers.

The official tricorder won’t be available until summer of 2021, but you can sign up to be notified when it’s your turn to beam one up. While the $250 USD sticker price might keep the more casual Trekkers at bay, it’s actually a bit cheaper than we would have assumed given the amount of time and money we’ve seen fans put into their own builds.

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Mini Computer Brings Starfleet To Your Desk

It could be said that there are two types of people: those for whom the actor LeVar Burton is the host of Reading Rainbow, and those for whom he is Geordi LaForge, Chief Engineer of Star Trek TNG‘s Enterprise NCC1701-D. For those of us engineers who lie in the second camp, we can at least feel a little closer to the action thanks to a project from [Darian Johnson], a Star Trek TNG mini-computer which functions as a desktop information display.

Inside the 3D-printed case is an ESP32 version of the Adafruit Feather, talking to cloud services to pull in and aggregate the information on the TFT screen. It combines weather data, environmental sensor readings, his fitness tracker readings, and his schedule, with two useful applications. There’s a resistor colour code chart, and an LED series resistor calculator. He’s made a video showing it in operation which we’ve placed below the break, and in it, he’s captured the aesthetic of the LCARS interface perfectly. We can’t speak for a fictional future spacecraft officer, but we suspect that Geordi would be right at home with it.

We may not be able to bring you Geordi LaForge, but we can bring you a real Starfleet officer. She even shares something with LeVar Burton, in that she’s (much more) famous for something else.

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