A profile view of a medical training mannequin with a tube down its "throat." A ventillation bag is in the gloved hand of a human trainee.

Making Medical Simulators Less Expensive With 3D Printing And Silicone

Medical training simulators are expensive, but important, pieces of equipment. [Decent Simulators] is designing simulators that can easily be replicated using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers and silicone molds to bring the costs down.

Each iteration of the simulators is sent out for testing by paramedics and doctors around the world, and feedback is integrated into the next revision. Because the trainers are designed to be easily replicated, parts can easily be replaced or repaired which can be critical to keep personnel trained, especially in remote areas.

While not open source, some models are freely available on the [Decent Simulators] website like wound packing trainers or wound prostheses which could be great if you’re trying to get a head start on next year’s Halloween costumes. More complicated models will be on sale starting in January as either just the design files or a kit containing the files and the printed and/or silicone parts.

Interested in more medical hacks? Check out this Cyberpunk Prosthetic Eye or this Arduino Hearing Test Device.

Analog Tank Driving Simulator Patrols A Tiny Physical Landscape

How do you build a practical tank-driving simulator in the 1970s, when 3D computer-generated graphics are still just a fantasy of the future? If you’re a European tanker school, the solution is to use a large CNC machine to drive a camera around a miniature terrain model (German, translated). In the video after the break, [Tom Scott] takes it for a test drive.

The old computer was replaced with a Raspberry Pi
The original computer was replaced with a Raspberry Pi

Developed in France, the simulator provided a safer and more cost-effective way for teaching new trainees the basics of driving Centurion, Leopard 2, or Panzer 68 tanks. The trainee sits in a realistic “cockpit” mounted on a hydraulically-operated motion platform, with a TV screen in front of his face, which is connected to a camera mounted on a large gantry-style CNC platform.

The camera’s lens is mounted just above a pivoting metal foot which slides across the 12 m-long terrain model and sends its angle to the hydraulic system. It will even alter the tank’s handling based on its current position on the model to simulate different surfaces like dirt, snow, or asphalt.

The last of these systems remained in use until 2004 at the military training center in Thun, Switzerland, before being saved by the Swiss Military Museum from being scrapped. The original 70s computer, electronics, and hydraulics finally gave out, so the museum undertook a complete refurbishment of the system to return it to working order for museum visitors. It was kept as original as possible, but parts for the original computer could not be found, so it was replaced with a Raspberry Pi and custom interface board.

Over three decades, these simulators probably trained a few thousand tank drivers, and even with limited technology did an excellent job of preparing trainees for the real thing. Besides providing training for operators, drivers and pilots, simulators are also just plain fun. We’ve seen some impressive home built simulator including a  A-10 Warthog, an F-15 sim built from an actual wreckage, and even a starship’s bridge.

Continue reading “Analog Tank Driving Simulator Patrols A Tiny Physical Landscape”

“So Long,” Said All The Tank-Driving Fish

Though some of us are heavily assisted by smart phone apps and delivery, humans don’t need GPS to find food. We know where the fridge is. The grocery store. The drive-thru. And we don’t really need a map to find shelter, in the sense that shelter is easily identifiable in a storm. You might say that our most important navigation skills are innate, at least when we’re within our normal environment. Drop us in another city and we can probably still identify viable overhangs, cafes, and food stalls.

The question is, do these navigational skills vary by species or environment? Or are the tools necessary to forage for food, meet mates, and seek shelter more universal? To test the waters of this question, Israeli researchers built a robot car and taught six fish to navigate successfully toward a target with a food reward. This experiment is one of domain transfer methodology, which is the exploration of whether a species can perform tasks outside its natural environment. Think of all the preparation that went into Vostok and Project Mercury.

Continue reading ““So Long,” Said All The Tank-Driving Fish”

Animation In Education, 1950’s Style

Back before the days of computers, animation was drawn by hand. We typically think of cartoons and animated feature films, but there were other genres as well. For example, animation was also used in educational and training films. [Javier Anderson] has tracked down a series of antenna and RF training videos from the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1950s and 60s and posted them on his YouTube channel.

He has found three of these gems, all on the topic of antenna fundamentals: propagation, directivity, and bandwidth (the film on propagation is linked below the break). Casually searching for the names listed in the film’s credits will lead you down an endless and fascinating rabbit hole about the history of Canadian animation and the formation of the Canadian National Film Board and its Studio A group of pioneering young artists (one can easily lose a couple of hours doing said searches, so be forewarned). For these films that [Javier] located, the animator is [Kaj Pindal]. [Kaj] (1927-2019) was a Dane who learned his craft as a teenager, drawing underground anti-Hitler comics in Copenhagen until fleeing for his life. He later emigrated to Canada, where he had a successful career as an artist and educator.

Animator [Kaj Pindal] at his desk, c.2012
Anyone who has tried to really grasp the physical connection between currents flowing in an antenna wire and the resultant radiated signal described by the second-order partial differential electromagnetic wave equation, all while using only a textbook, will certainly agree — unarguably this is a topic whose teaching can be significantly improved by animations such as [Kaj]’s. And if you’d like to sprinkle more phrases like “… in time-phase and space-quadrature …” into your conversations, then this film series is definitely for you.

Have you encountered any particularly helpful or well-made animated educational videos in your education and/or career? Are there any examples of similar but modern films made using computer generated images? Thanks to reader [Michael Murillo] for tipping us off to these old films.

Continue reading “Animation In Education, 1950’s Style”

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: June 14, 2020

You say you want to go to Mars, but the vanishingly thin atmosphere, the toxic and corrosive soil, the bitter cold, the deadly radiation that sleets down constantly, and the long, perilous journey that you probably won’t return from has turned you off a little. Fear not, because there’s still a way for you to get at least part of you to Mars: your intelligence. Curiosity, the Mars rover that’s on the eighth year of its 90-day mission, is completely remote-controlled, and NASA would like to add some self-driving capabilities to it. Which is why they’re asking for human help in classifying thousands of images of the Martian surface. By annotating images and pointing out what looks like soil and what looks like rock, you’ll be training an algorithm that one day might be sent up to the rover. If you’ve got the time, give it a shot — it seems a better use of time than training our eventual AI overlords.

We got a tip this week that ASTM, the international standards organization, has made its collection of standards for testing PPE available to the public. With titles like “Standard Test Method for Resistance of Medical Face Masks to Penetration by Synthetic Blood (Horizontal Projection of Fixed Volume at a Known Velocity)”, it seems like the standards body wants to make sure that that homebrew PPE gets tested properly before being put into service. The timing of this release is fortuitous since this week’s Hack Chat features Hiram Gay and Lex Kravitz, colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine who will talk about what they did to test a respirator made from a full-face snorkel mask.

There’s little doubt that Lego played a huge part in the development of many engineers, and many of us never really put them away for good. We still pull them out occasionally, for fun or even for work, especially the Technic parts, which make a great prototyping system. But what if you need a Technic piece that you don’t have, or one that never existed in the first place? Easy — design and print your own custom Technic pieces. Lego Part Designer is a web app that breaks Technic parts down into five possible blocks, and lets you combine them as you see fit. We doubt that most FDM printers can deal with the fine tolerances needed for that satisfying Lego fit, but good enough might be all you need to get a design working.

Chances are pretty good that you’ve participated in more than a few video conferencing sessions lately, and if you’re anything like us you’ve found the experience somewhat lacking. The standard UI, with everyone in the conference organized in orderly rows and columns, reminds us of either a police line-up or the opening of The Brady Bunch, neither of which is particularly appealing. The paradigm could use a little rethinking, which is what Laptops in Space aims to do. By putting each participant’s video feed in a virtual laptop and letting them float in space, you’re supposed to have a more organic meeting experience. There’s a tweet with a short clip, or you can try it yourself. We’re not sure how we feel about it yet, but we’re glad someone is at least trying something new in this space.

And finally, if you’re in need of a primer on charlieplexing, or perhaps just need to brush up on the topic, [pileofstuff] has just released a video that might be just what you need. He explains the tri-state logic LED multiplexing method in detail, and even goes into some alternate uses, like using optocouplers to drive higher loads. We like his style — informal, but with a good level of detail that serves as a jumping-off point for further exploration.

Train All The Things Contest Update

Back in January when we announced the Train All the Things contest, we weren’t sure what kind of entries we’d see. Machine learning is a huge and rapidly evolving field, after all, and the traditional barriers that computationally intensive processes face have been falling just as rapidly. Constraints are fading away, and we want you to explore this wild new world and show us what you come up with.

Where Do You Run Your Algorithms?

To give your effort a little structure, we’ve come up with four broad categories:

  • Machine Learning on the Edge
    • Edge computing, where systems reach out to cloud resources but run locally, is all the rage. It allows you to leverage the power of other people’s computers the cloud for training a model, which is then executed locally. Edge computing is a great way to keep your data local.
  • Machine Learning on the Gateway
    • Pi’s, old routers, what-have-yous – we’ve all got a bunch of devices laying around that bridge space between your local world and the cloud. What can you come up with that takes advantage of this unique computing environment?
  • Machine Learning in the Cloud
    • Forget about subtle — this category unleashes the power of the cloud for your application. Whether it’s Google, Azure, or AWS, show us what you can do with all that raw horsepower at your disposal.
  • Artificial Intelligence Blinky
    • Everyone’s “hardware ‘Hello, world'” is blinking an LED, and this is the machine learning version of that. We want you to use a simple microprocessor to run a machine learning algorithm. Amaze us with what you can make an Arduino do.

These Hackers Trained Their Projects, You Should Too!

We’re a little more than a month into the contest. We’ve seen some interesting entries bit of course we’re hungry for more! Here are a few that have caught our eye so far:

  • Intelligent Bat Detector – [Tegwyn☠Twmffat] has bats in his… backyard, so he built this Jetson Nano-powered device to capture their calls and classify them by species. It’s a fascinating adventure at the intersection of biology and machine learning.
  • Blackjack Robot – RAIN MAN 2.0 is [Evan Juras]’ cure for the casino adage of “The house always wins.” We wouldn’t try taking the Raspberry Pi card counter to Vegas, but it’s a great example of what YOLO can do.
  • AI-enabled Glasses – AI meets AR in ShAIdes, [Nick Bild]’s sunglasses equipped with a camera and Nano to provide a user interface to the world. Wave your hand over a lamp and it turns off. Brilliant!

You’ve got till noon Pacific time on April 7, 2020 to get your entry in, and four winners from each of the four categories will be awarded a $100 Tindie gift card, courtesy of our sponsor Digi-Key. It’s time to ramp up your machine learning efforts and get a project entered! We’d love to see more examples of straight cloud AI applications, and the AI blinky category remains wide open at this point. Get in there and give machine learning a try!

Reaction Trainer Keeps You On Your Toes

In many sports, it’s important for competitors to be light on their feet, and able to react quickly to external stimuli. It all helps with getting balls in goals, and many athletes undergo reaction drills as part of their training regime. To help with this, [mblaz] set out to build a set of reaction trainers.

The training setup consists of a series of discs, each with glowing LEDs and a proximity sensor. The discs randomly light up, requiring a touch or wave to switch them off. At this point, another disc will light randomly, and so on.

The discs are built using an ATmega328 to run the show, with NRF24L01+ radios used to communicate between the modules. High brightness red LEDs are used for indication. An optical proximity sensor is used for its fast reaction time and low cost, while power comes via a small lithium polymer battery integrated into each disc.

We’re sure [mblaz] and his fellow athletes will find the rig to be useful in their training. There’s plenty of scope for electronics to help out with athletic training; this boxing trainer is a great example. If you’ve got a great sports engineering project of your own, don’t hesitate to send it in!