Greeking Out With Arduinos

Learning a new language is hard work, but they say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. [Angeliki Beyko] is learning Greek, and what better way to teach than to build a vocabulary flash-card game from Arduinos, color screens, 1602 text screens, and arcade buttons? After the break, we have a video from the creator talking about how to play, the hardware she chose, and what to expect in the next version.

Pegboard holds most of the hardware except the color screens, which are finicky when it comes to their power source. The project is like someone raided our collective junk drawers and picked out the coolest bits to make a game. Around the perimeter are over one hundred NeoPixels to display the game progress and draw people like a midway game. Once invested, you select a category on the four colored arcade buttons by looking at the adjacent LCD screens’ titles. An onboard MP3 shield reads a pseudo-random Greek word and displays it on the top-right 1602 screen in English phonetics. After that, it is multiple choice with your options displaying in full-color on four TFT monitors. A correct choice awards you a point and moves to the next word, but any excuse to mash on arcade buttons is good enough for us.

[Angeliki] does something we see more often than before, she’s covering what she learned, struggled with, would do differently, and how she wants to improve. We think this is a vital sign that the hacker community is showcasing what we already knew; hackers love to share their knowledge and improve themselves.

Typing Greek with a modern keyboard will have you reaching for an alt-code table unless you make a shortcut keyboard, and if you learn Greek, maybe you can figure out what armor they wore to battle.

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Another PC Power Supply Project

Economy of scale is a wonderful thing, take the switch-mode power supply as an example. Before the rise of the PC, a decent multi-voltage, high current power supply would be pretty expensive. But PCs have meant cheap supplies and sometimes even free as you gut old PCs found in the dumpster. [OneMarcFifty] decided to make a pretty setup for a PC supply that includes a very nice color display with bargraphs and other niceties. You can see the power supply in action in the video below.

The display is a nice TFT driven by an Arduino Nano. The project uses ACS712 current sensor modules, which are nice Hall effect devices that produce a linear output for current and have over 2 KV of voltage isolation.

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A Minimal ESP8266 Digital Picture Frame

Over the last few years, the price of a good digital picture frame has dropped to the point that we don’t often see DIY versions anymore. As much as we might hate to admit it, it’s hard to justify building something yourself when the economies of scale have made it so you can buy the final product for less than the cost of the parts themselves. But of course, there are always fringe cases where building it might be the only way to get what you need.

Granted we’re not sure that [Tony Liu] actually needs a 1.8-inch digital picture frame, but we’re sure somebody out there does. The ST7735R display used in this project is a real TFT, so the color and refresh rate is pretty good; but with a resolution of just 128×160, we’d recommend keeping your expectations low in regards to visual fidelity.

What’s really interesting about this project is how low the part count is. All you need is the ST7735R display and the ESP8266 itself (or the development board of your choice, naturally). Even the 3D printed frame is technically optional. The display is driven by SPI, so with the power added in, that’s only eight wires that need to be soldered between the two devices. If you’re looking for an easy way to add a photo slideshow to a small device, say a conference badge, this is about as easy as it gets.

But where are the images coming from? You might think SPIFFS, but in this case [Tony] has converted the images to bitmaps and is loading them into the Arduino Sketch as a header file with PROGMEM. Helpfully, he provides the link for the tool he uses to convert the images into an array the graphics library can understand. This makes adding new images slightly time consuming, but we imagine if you have the need for something like this, it’s probably only showing a pretty specific set of images anyway.

If you’re looking for something bigger, or maybe just an excuse to put that dusty Raspberry Pi to use, you might be interested in one of the more substantial builds we’ve seen over the years.

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This Tiny TFT Pendant Is Digital Jewelry

Hackers have a multitude of skills, many are well-versed in the ways of all things that blink and flash. These abilities have often be applied to the field of jewelry and human adornment, and many LEDs have been employed in this work. [Deshipu] has been attempting something a touch different however, by constructing a tiny TFT pendant.

The basic idea is not dissimilar from those USB photo keychains of recent history. A SAMD21 Cortex M0+ serves as the brains of the operation, with the tiny microcontroller being soldered to a custom PCB that makes up the body of the pendant. A ST7735S TFT LCD screen is then attached to act as the display. Charging and delivery of images is done over USB, which can be handled natively by the SAMD21.

Currently, the pendant is capable of displaying 16-color BMPs, with the intention to create a converter for animated GIFs in the pipeline. Potential upgrades also involve creating a larger battery pack to sit behind the wearer’s neck, as currently the device has just 8 mAh to work with.

It’s a nicely designed piece, with the pendant appearing barely bigger than the screen itself. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a hacker take on a pendant, and we’re sure it won’t be the last. If you’ve got the goods, be sure to hit up the tip line. 

ESP8266 Gets Its Game On With Open Source Engine

This is likely not to come as much of a shock to you, but the ESP8266 is pretty popular. At this point, we’re more surprised when a project that hits the tip line doesn’t utilize this incredibly cheap WiFi-enabled microcontroller. If you’re making a gadget that needs to connect to the Internet, there’s a good chance some member of the ESP family is going to be a good choice. But is it a one-trick MCU?

ESP Little Game Engine Logo

Well, judging by software frameworks like the “Little Game Engine” created by [Igor], it looks like the ESP is expanding its reach into offline projects as well. While it might not turn the ESP8266 into a next-gen gaming powerhouse, we’ve got to admit that the demos shown off so far are pretty impressive. When paired with a couple of buttons and a TFT display such as the ILI9341, the ESP could make for a particularly pocket-friendly game system.

The game engine that [Igor] has developed provides the programmer with a virtual screen resolution of 128×128, a background layer, and 32 sprites which offer built-in tricks like collision detection and rotation. All while running at a respectable 20 frames per second. This environment is ideal for the sort of 2D scrolling games that dominated the 8 and 16-bit era of gaming, and as seen in the video after the break, it can even pull off a fairly decent clone of “Flappy Bird”.

In addition, [Igor] created an online emulator and compiler which allows you to develop games using his engine right in your web browser. You can load up a selection of example programs and execute them to see what the engine is capable of, then try your hand at developing your own game before ever having to put the hardware together. Incidentally, the performance of this online development environment is fantastic; with even the fairly complex “Flappy Bird” example code compiling and starting in the emulator nearly instantaneously.

This isn’t the first handheld game we’ve seen powered by the ESP8266, but it would be fair to say this one is a generational leap over its predecessors. Of course, if you really want to start throwing around some pixels, you might want to make the leap to the ESP32; which is the heart of the incredibly awesome (and tiny) PocketSprite.

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Spooky Animated Eyes For Your Frightening Needs

Unless you have an incredibly well-stocked parts bin, it’s probably too late to build these spooky animated eyes to scare off the neighborhood kiddies this year. But next year…

It’s pretty clear that Halloween decorating has gone over the top recently. It may not be as extreme as some Christmas displays, but plenty of folks like to up the scare-factor, and [wermy] seems to number himself among those with the spirit of the season. Like Christmas lights, these eyes are deployed as a string, but rather than just blink lights, they blink creepy eyes from various kinds of creatures. The eyes are displayed on individual backlit TFT-LCD displays housed in 3D-printed enclosures. Two pairs of eyes can be driven by the SPI interface of one ItsyBitsy M0 Express; driving more displays works, but the frame rate drops to an unacceptable level if you stretch it too far. Strung together on scraps of black ethernet cable, the peepers can live in the shrubs next to the front door or lining the walk, and with surprisingly modest power needs, you’ll get a full night of frights from a USB battery bank.

We like the look of these, and maybe we’ll do something about it next year. If you’re still in the mood to scare and don’t have the time for animated eyes this year, try these simple Arduino blinky eyes for a quick hit.

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This Nearly NIMO Clock Fakes It And Makes It

Pity the aficionado of rare vintage displays. While Nixies and VFD tubes get all the attention and benefit from a thriving market to satisfy demand, the rarer displays from the mid-20th century period are getting harder and harder to find. One copy of an especially rare display is hard enough to find. Six copies for a clock? That’s a tall order.

That doesn’t mean you can’t fudge it, though, which is how this faux-NIMO clock came to be. [Paul Bricmont] was inspired by [Fran Blanche]’s NIMO tube primer, wherein the rare, single-digit CRT display was put through its paces. We’ve got to admit, it’s an easy display to fall in love with, thanks to its eerie blue phosphor glow, high voltage supply, and general quirkiness. [Paul] was unable to lay hands on a single tube, though, so he faked it with six tiny TFT displays and some plastic lenses. The lenses mimic the curved front glass of the original NIMO, while the TFT displays provide the stencil-style images of each numeral. The phosphor glow comes from replacing the stock white TFT backlight with a Neopixel array that can produce just the right shade of blue-green. 3D-printed modules hold two digits each, and the usual Arduino components run the show. The effect is quite convincing, although we bet some software tweaks could add things like faux burn-in and perhaps soften the edges of the digits to really sell it.

What other rare displays could be replicated this way? Given the variety of displays that were tried in the pre-LED era, it may be a rich vein to mine.