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?
Everyone by now has probably seen the original — and best; fight us — installment of the Star Wars franchise, and likely the ASCII-art animation version of it that improves greatly on the film by eliminating all those distracting special effects, human actors, and the soundtrack. But what we haven’t had until now is a portable player for ASCIIWars, to enjoy the film in all its character-based glory while you’re on the go.
While this tribute to [Simon Jansen]’s amazing ASCII-art achievement might seem like a simple repackaging of the original, [Frank] actually had to go to some lengths to make this work. After getting [Simon]’s blessing, the build started with a WEMOS D1 Mini, a good platform for the project less for its wireless capabilities and more for its 4 MB of flash memory. A 240×360 TFT LCD display was selected to show the film; the scale of the display made most fonts hard to read, so [Frank] used Picopixel, a font designed for legibility on small screens. The animation file is stored on the SPIFFS file system on the D1’s flash memory, and a few lines of code parse it and send it to the display. The final touch is mounting the whole thing is an old slide viewer, which magnifies the display to make it a little easier to see.
As much as we applaud [Frank]’s tribute to [Simon]’s effort, there’s no reason to confine this to the Star Wars universe. If you read up on the history of ASCII art, which goes surprisingly far back, you might be inspired to render another classic film in ASCIImation and put it on a viewer like this. ASCII-Metropolis, anyone?
Continue reading “Enjoy An ASCII Version Of Star Wars In The Palm Of Your Hand For May The 4th”
Most computer and console games have a variety of different control schemes depending on the controller peripheral the player has to hand. For Star Wars games the fight scenes may be playable with a gamepad, but perhaps that leaves a little to desired in the realism department. In that case, [Leonardo Moreno] has the solution, in the form of a motion sensing light sabre for gaming via gesture control.
The first part of any light sabre project is the sabre itself, and for this he uses soft transparent PVC tubing. This might seem an insubstantial choice, but makes sense when the possibility of hitting an expensive television or gamers monitor with it is considered. Up the pipe goes a piece of LED strip, and onto it a hilt containing an Arduino and an MPU6050 gyroscope sensor. The physical controls come courtesy of a small analogue joystick and a trigger fashioned from a wooden clothes pin. The result may be a little rough and ready, but it’s undeniably a light sabre. Full instructions and software can be found at the link.
Light sabres have been a perennial build, but few have captured the original better than this laser based one.
Baby Yoda has been a hit character in Disney’s The Mandalorian, but does not actually exist in real life as far as we know. Instead, [Manuel Ahumada] set about building a robotic replica, complete with artificial intelligence. (Video, embedded below.)
The first step was to build a basic robotic simulcra of Baby Yoda, which [Manuel] achieved by outfitting a toy with servos, motors and a Raspberry Pi. With everything hooked up, Baby Yoda was able to move his head and arms, and scoot around on wheels, all under the control of a Bluetooth gamepad. With that sorted, [Manuel] added brains in the form of a smartphone running Intel’s OpenBot machine learning platform. This allows Baby Yoda to track and follow people it sees on its smartphone camera, and potentially even navigate real-world spaces with future upgrades.
It’s a fun build, and we’d love to see the bot let loose at a convention to explore and make friends. We’ve covered OpenBot before, and look forward to seeing it used in more builds. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Baby Yoda Becomes Personable Robot”
Virtual reality is usually an isolated individual experience very different from the shared group experience of a movie screen or even a living room TV. But those worlds of entertainment are more closely intertwined than most audiences are aware. Video game engines have been taking a growing role in film and television production behind the scenes, and now they’re stepping out in front of the camera in a big way for making The Mandalorian TV series.
Big in this case is a three-quarters cylindrical LED array 75 ft (23 m) in diameter and 20 ft (6 m) high. But the LEDs covering its walls and ceiling aren’t pointing outwards like some installation for Times Square. This setup, called the Volume, points inward to display background images for camera and crew working within. It’s an immersive LED backdrop and stage environment.
Incorporating projected imagery on stage is a technique going at least as far back as 1933’s King Kong, but it is very limited. Lighting and camera motion has to be very constrained in order to avoid breaking the fragile illusion. More recently, productions have favored green screens replaced with computer imagery in post production. It removed most camera motion and lighting constraints, but costs a lot of money and time. It is also more difficult for actors to perform their roles convincingly against big blank slabs of green. The Volume solves all of those problems by putting computer-generated imagery on set, rendered in real time via video game engine Unreal.
Continue reading “VR Technology Helps Bring A Galaxy Far, Far Away To Our TV”
If you have fond childhood memories of afternoons spent at the local arcade, then you’ve had the occasional daydream about tracking down one of those old cabinets and putting it in the living room. But the size, cost, and rarity of these machines makes actually owning one impractical for most people.
While this fully functional 1/4th scale replica of the classic Star Wars arcade game created by [Jamie McShan] might not be a perfect replacement for the original, there’s no denying it would be easier to fit through your front door. Nearly every aspect of the iconic 1983 machine has been carefully recreated, right down to a working coin slot that accepts miniature quarters. Frankly, the build would have been impressive enough had he only put in half the detail work, but we certainly aren’t complaining that he went the extra mile.
[Jamie] leaned heavily on resin 3D printed parts for this build, and for good reason. It’s hard to imagine how he could have produced some of the tiny working parts for his cabinet using traditional manufacturing techniques. The game’s signature control yoke and the coin acceptor mechanism are really incredible feats of miniaturization, and a testament to what’s possible at the DIY level with relatively affordable tools.
The cabinet itself is cut from MDF, using plans appropriately scaled down from the real thing. Inside you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ running RetroPie attached directly to the back of a 4.3 inch LCD with integrated amplified speakers. [Jamie] is using an Arduino to handle interfacing with the optical coin detector and controls, which communicates with the Pi over USB HID. He’s even added in a pair of 3,000 mAh LiPo battery packs and a dedicated charge controller so you can blow up the Death Star on the go.
Still don’t think you can fit one in your apartment? Not to worry, back in 2012 we actually saw somebody recreate this same cabinet in just 1/6th scale.
Continue reading “Miniature Star Wars Arcade Lets You Blow Up The Death Star On The Go”
[Greg06] started learning electronics the same way most of us did: buy a few kits, read a few tutorials, and try your hardest to put a few things together. Sound familiar? After a while, you noticed your skills started increasing, and your comfort level with different projects improved as well. Eventually, you try your hand at making your own custom projects and publishing your own tutorials.
Few are lucky to have a first-project as elaborate as [Greg06’s] quadruped robot. We don’t know about you, but for some of us, we were satisfied with blinking two LEDs instead of just one.
[Greg06’s] robot has a quadruped based, housed within a 3D printed spherical body. The legs are retractable and are actuated by tiny servo motors inside the body. [Greg06] even included an ultrasonic distance sensor for the obstacle avoidance mechanism. Honestly, if it weren’t for the ultrasonic distance sensor protruding from the spherical body, you might think that the entire robot was just a little Wiffle ball. This reminds us of another design we’ve seen before.
If that weren’t enough, the spherical head can rotate, widening the range of the ultrasonic distance sensor and obstacle avoidance mechanism. This is accomplished by attaching another servo motor to the head.
Pretty neat design if you ask us. Definitely one of the coolest quadrupeds we’ve seen.