Lazydoro Mothers You Into Being Productive

The Pomodoro Technique has helped countless people ramp up their productivity since it was devised in the late 1980s. Breaking down tasks into 25 minute chunks can improve your focus tremendously, provided you show up, start the timer, and get to work.

Lazydoro takes the psychology focus even further. In [romilly.cocking]’s interpretation, a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor is your productivity Santa Claus — it knows whether you’re doing your part by simply applying butt to chair, and your present is a productive 25 minutes where not a second is wasted futzing with timers and worrying about time lost to such administrative tasks. When Lazydoro senses that you have arrived, the Raspi Zero starts a 25-minute Pomodoro timer, and represents the time remaining across a Pimoroni BLINKT LED matrix.

But hold on, you haven’t heard the best part yet. Lazydoro was designed with real life in mind, because [romilly] thought of everything. Whenever you leave your chair, a 5-minute timer starts, and there’s a beep when time is up. If you make it through the 25 minutes and hear the victory beep, then it’s break time. But if you get up too soon, the work timer stops, and the 5-minute timer becomes your limited space in which to fret, stare out the window, or get the snack you think you desperately need to keep going. This makes Lazydoro awesome even without the Pomodoro part, because simply sitting back down is a big step one.

If you make a circuit sculpture Pomodoro and stare at it on your 5-minute breaks, you might achieve productivity enlightenment.

Laser Trip Wire Hides What You’re (Not) Working On

We assume your office policy allows for reading Hackaday during work hours. But what about cruising reddit, or playing Universal Paperclips? There’s a special kind of stress experienced when attempting to keep one eye on your display and the other on the doorway; all the while convinced the boss is about to waltz into the room and be utterly disappointed in you.

But fear not, for [dekuNukem] has found the solution with Daytripper. This wireless laser tripwire communicates back to your computer using NRF24 (2.4 Ghz on the ISM band) and can be used to invisibly cordon off a door or hallway and fire a scripted action on your computer if its beam has been broken. Nominally this is used to send the keyboard command that hides all open windows, but we’re sure the imaginative readers of Hackaday could come up with all sorts of alternate uses for this capability.

The Daytripper transmitter uses a laser time-of-flight sensor, in this case the very small VL53L0X by STMicroelectronics. It’s best situated so the laser will be bounced straight back at it. It has a range of about four feet, which is perfect for covering a door, though a wide hallway could give it some trouble. [dekuNukem] admits that the 5 Hz scan rate means a sufficiently fast moving adversary might slip past the sensor, but if they’re trying that hard to see what’s on your monitor, they probably deserve a peek.

On the receiver side, there’s a small board that plugs into your computer and mimics a USB keyboard. It has a selector switch on the side that allows the user to set what key sequence will be “typed” once the system has been tripped. It has built-in support for minimizing all windows or locking the computer, or you can set it to send ALT + Pause, which you can listen for and act on however you see fit.

If you want to build your own Daytripper, the firmware and hardware are both available on GitHub under an MIT license. For those who prefer instant gratification, [dekuNukem] is doing a small production run and offering them up on Tindie.

Determining Kibble Level Via Time-of-Flight

[WTH] is building an IoT kitty food dispenser. There are a few of these projects floating around that measure out portions very sensibly — some use screws to dispense a set amount of food at a time, some measure the weight of the remaining stockpile. This build is definitely not that. This kitty food monitor uses a time of flight sensor to determine the remaining level of food in a hopper. [WTH]’s feeder lets the cat eat all the grub it wants, then alerts the hooman when kibble levels drop below a certain level.

The project starts with one of those pet food dispensers that consist of a hopper that gravity feeds into the food bowl. As the animal eats that food, more dispenses into the bowl. Attached to the lid is an ESP8266 connected to an Adafruit time of flight sensor. This reports the kibble level in centimeters, which is good enough for [WTH]’s purposes. Sensor data is logged to a Google Drive spreadsheet, published as a graph through M2X (AT&T’s IOT service), and texted to [WTH]’s smart watch via IFTTT.

Look for a plethora of Tweeting, Instagramming, and otherwise automated feeding of the cat overlords right here on Hackaday. Check out automatic cat feeder dispenses noms, wants cheezburger, and a cat feeder made with laminator parts.

Testing Distance Sensors

I’m working on a project involving the need to precisely move a tool based on the measured distance to an object. Okay, yeah, it’s a CNC mill. Anyway, I’d heard of time of fight sensors and decided to get one to test out, but also to be thorough I wanted to include other distance sensors as well: a Sharp digital distance sensor as well as a more sophisticated proximity/light sensor. I plugged them all into a breadboard and ran them through their paces, using a frame built from aluminum beams as a way of holding the target materials at a specific height.

Continue reading “Testing Distance Sensors”

Tiniest Control Board Fits Inside An N-Gauge Model Train

[kodera2t] discovered the VL53L0X Time of Flight sensor and thought it would make a great way to control the operation of a model train without touching it. He explains it in his own words in the demo video.

The sensor was small enough for an N-gauge train, which translates to 1:148 scale or about 9mm from rail to rail. His idea was to build a tiny control board that could fit inside the locomotive: 10mm by 40mm. His board consists of the ToF sensor, an ATMega328P-MMH, USB-serial, and a Texas Instruments DRV8830 motor driver. he powers the board via the 6V running through the track.

Right now [kodera2t]’s using the ToF as sort of a gestural controller to get the train to start rolling, but one could imagine the sensor could be incorporated into more advanced programming, like having the train speed up on straightaways and slow down on a curve, based on the height of the bridge over it.

We’ve published a bunch of [kodera2t]’s tiny circuit board projects here on Hackaday, including the smallest basic computer, his minimal frequency counter, and his VFD amplifier.

Continue reading “Tiniest Control Board Fits Inside An N-Gauge Model Train”

New Part Day: Time Of Flight Sensors

Every robotics project out there, it seems, needs a way to detect if it’s smashing into a wall repeatedly, acting like the brainless automaton it actually is. The Roomba has wall sensors, just about every robot kit has some way of detecting obstacles its running into, and for ‘wall-following robots’, detecting objects is all they do.

While the earliest of these robots used a piece of wire and a metal contact to act like a switch for these object detectors, ultrasonic sensors – the kind you can buy on eBay for a few bucks – have replaced this clever wire spring switch. Now there’s a new sensor for the same job – the VL6180 – and it measures the speed of light.

The sensors that are used for object and collision detection now use either ultrasonic or infrared light. They’re susceptible to noise, and if you’re doing anything automated, you really don’t want rogue measurements. A time of flight sensor clocks out photons and records how long it takes them to return at 299,792,458 meters per second. It’s less sensitive to noise, and if you can believe this SparkFun demo of this sensor, extremely accurate

This is not the first Time of Flight distance sensor on the market; earlier this week we saw a project use a sensor called the TeraRanger One. This sensor costs €150.00. The VL6180 sensor costs about $6 in quantity one from the usual suspects, and breakout boards with the proper level converters and regulators can be found for about $25. More expensive sensors have a greater range, naturally; the VL6180 is limited to somewhere between 10cm (on paper) and 25cm (in practice). But this is cheap, and it measures the time of flight of pulses of light. That’s just cool.