As winter well and truly grips the northern hemisphere, it’s time once again to dunk on Tesla for leaving some owners out in the cold — literally. It seems that some Model 3 and Model Y owners are finding their ride’s heat pump isn’t exactly up to the task of, you know, pumping heat. That this seems to be happening mostly in the northeastern US and southern Canada, where a polar vortex is once again dominating the weather and driving temperatures down into the -30 °C (-22 °F) range, perhaps speaks more to the laws of thermodynamics than it does to the engineering of the Tesla climate control system. After all, if there’s not much heat outside the car, it’s hard to pump it inside. But then again, these are expensive machines, some of which have had extensive repairs to address this exact same issue when it cropped up last year. It seems to us that owners have a legitimate gripe with Tesla about this, and they may be getting some help from the Feds, who are taking an interest in the situation from a safety standpoint. After all, no heat likely means fogged up windows, and that’s hardly conducive to a safe trip. But hey, that’s what self-driving is for, right?
Much has been made of the dearth of engineering cameras on the James Webb Space Telescope, and the fact that we’ve been relying on animations to illustrate the dozens of deployments needed to unfurl the observatory and make it ready for its mission. Putting aside the fact that adding extra cameras to the spacecraft makes little sense since the interesting stuff was all happening on the side where the sun doesn’t shine, we did get treated to what was billed as “humanity’s last look at Webb” thanks to an engineering camera on the Ariane 5 rocket. But not so fast — an astrophotographer named Ethan Gone managed to spot the JWST as it transited to L2 the day after launch. Granted, the blip of light isn’t as spectacular as the Ariane shots, and it took a heck of a lot of astrophotography gear to do it, but it’s still thrilling to watch Webb moving gracefully through Orion.
If you’d have asked most people a few decades ago if they wanted a picture of every street address in the world, they would have probably looked at you like you were crazy. But turns out that Google Street View is handy for several reasons. Sure, it is easy to check out the neighborhood around that cheap hotel before you book. But it is also a great way to visit places virtually. Now one of those places is the International Space Station (ISS).
[Thomas Pesquet] in a true hack used bungee cords and existing cameras to take panoramas of all 15 ISS modules. Google did their magic, and you can enjoy the results. You can also see a video on how it was all done, below.
Imagine yourself riding through the countryside of Tuscany in the morning, then popping over to Champagne for a tour in the evening without taking a plane ride in the intermission. In fact, you don’t have to leave your living room. All you need is a stationary bicycle, a VR headset, and CycleVR.
[Aaron Puzey] hasn’t quite made the inter-country leap quite like that, but he has cycled the entire length of the UK, from its southern point to its northernmost tip. The 1500km journey took 85 hours over the course of eight months to complete.
CycleVR is actually a VR app created using Unity. It takes advantage of Google street view’s panoramic image data, using Bluetooth to monitor the cycling pace and transition between the panorama capture points. So, the static images of pedestrians and cars clipping and distorting as the panorama images load might throw off the illusion at first, but there’s thousands of side streets and country roads out there where this won’t be as pronounced. Check out the highlight reel from [Puzey]’s journey after the break.
One of the problems with a cheap drone is getting good video, especially in real time. Cheap hobby quadcopters often have a camera built-in or mounted in a fixed position. That’s great for fun shots, but it makes it hard to get just the right shot, especially as the drone tilts up and down, taking the camera with it. Pricey drones often have a gimbal mount to keep the camera stable, but you are still only looking in one direction.
Some cheap drones now have a VR (virtual reality) mode to feed signal to a headset or a Google Cardboard-like VR setup. That’s hard to fly, though, because you can’t really look around without moving the drone to match. You can mount multiple cameras, but now you’ve added weight and power drain to your drone.
MAGnet Systems wants to change all that with a lightweight spherical camera made to fit on a flying vehicle. The camera is under 2.5 inches square, weighs 62 grams, and draws less than 3 watts at 12 volts. It picks up a sphere that is 360 degrees around the drone’s front and back and 240 degrees centered directly under the drone. That allows a view of 30 degrees above the horizon as well as directly under the drone. There is apparently a different lens that can provide 280 degrees if you need that, although apparently that will add size and weight and be more suitable for use on the ground.
The software (see video below) runs on Windows or Android (they’ve promised an iOS version) and there’s no additional image processing hardware needed. The camera can also drive common VR headsets.
This is [Thomas Clauser’s] Google Street View enabled treadmill. He points out that most of the Street View hacks use a measurement of rotational movement to interface with a computer. He respects that but didn’t want to take the time to make it work with his treadmill. Instead, he used a stealth switch propped up on a book below the treadmill frame, but any switch can be used as long as you know how to connect it to the computer. When you stand on the treadmill the frame flexes and almost clicks the button, but when you start running it moves the rest of the ways and closes the switch. From there an autohotkey script is used to advance Street View.
As part of a Master’s Thesis [Lette Moloney] made this exercise bike control Google Street View. The hardware setup is quite rudimentary, two hall effect sensors mounted next to each other detect a magnet that was hot-glued to the crank. When the magnet passes the sensors an Arduino establishes if it was a forward or backward stroke based on which sensor was tripped first. From there a keystroke is issued to Google Street View to move the virtual location accordingly.
One thing we didn’t expect until we saw the video (embedded after the break) is that traversing street view is not a smooth experience. It’s more of a slide show as you exercise. Not a big deal since the hardware setup can be reused with different virtual stimuli. One thing that comes to mind is attaching a camera to the handlebars of your bike and recording your favorite rides during the warm months so that you can replay them during your indoor winter training. Of course that’s going to require some coding to marry the Arduino data to the speed of the video playback but we want to see it done anyway. Wow, image a database that would allow folks to share point-of-view videos of their rides… it’s the only way we’d ever get to see what it’s like to climb your way up Alpe_d’Huez.
[Aki] wanted to do some stationary cycling to get in shape. Unfortunately, his stationary cycle is located in his garage which doesn’t supply much inspiration or amusement. His solution was to build a VR rig so that he could ride around inside google street view. He has rigged a simple sensor to his wheel to determine his speed and he’s using a vuzix VR 920 as a display and orientation sensor. While he notes that it isn’t perfect, or even reliable, we think it is pretty cool. He can go sight-seeing, while getting in shape from his own garage. We have to wonder if he gets a headache after a while though.