Feeding Chickens, With Style

Ah, the joys of domestic animals. Often adorable, occasionally useful, they’re universally unable to care for themselves in the slightest. That’s part of the bargain though; we take over responsibility for their upkeep and they repay us with whatever it is they do best. Unless the animal in question is a cat, of course – they have their own terms and conditions.

Chickens, though, are very useful indeed. Give them food and water and they give you delicious, nutritious, high-quality protein. Feeding them every day can be a chore, though, unless you automate the task. This Twitch-enabled robotic chicken feeder may be overkill for that simple use case, but as [Sean Hodgins] tell it, there’s a method to all the hardware he threw at this build. That would include a custom-welded steel frame holding a solar panel and batteries, a huge LED matrix display, a Raspberry Pi and camera, and of course, food dispensers. Those are of the kind once used to dispense candy or gum for a coin or two in the grocery; retooled with 3D-printed parts, the dispensers now eject a small scoop of feed whenever someone watching a Twitch stream decides to donate to the farm that’s hosting the system. You can see the build below in detail, or just pop over to Sweet Farm to check out the live feed and gawk at some chickens.

It’s an impressive bit of work on [Sean]’s part for sure, and we did notice how he used his HCC rapid prototyping module to speed up development. Still, we’re not convinced there will be many donations at $10 a pop. Then again, dropping donations to the micropayment level may lead to overfed chickens, and that’s not a good thing.

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AI-Enabled Teletype Live Streams Nearly Coherent Conversations

If you’ve got a working Model 33 Teletype, every project starts to look like an excuse to use it. While the hammering, whirring symphony of a teleprinter going full tilt brings to mind a simpler time of room-sized computers and 300 baud connections, it turns out that a Teletype makes a decent AI conversationalist, within the limits of AI, of course.

The Teletype machine that [Hugh Pyle] used for this interesting project, a Model 33 ASR with the paper tape reader, is a nostalgia piece that figures prominently in many of his projects. As such, [Hugh] has access to tons of Teletype documentation, so when OpenAI released their GPT-2 text generation language model, he decided to use the docs as a training set for the model, and then use the Teletype to print out text generated by the model. Initial results were about as weird as you’d expect for something trained on technical docs from the 1960s. The next step was obvious: make a chat-bot out of it and stream the results live. The teletype can be seen clattering away in the recorded stream below, using the chat history as a prompt for generating text responses, sometimes coherent, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes just plain weird.

Alas, the chat-bot and stream are only active a couple of times a week, so you’ll have to wait a bit to try it out. But it looks like a fun project, and we appreciate the mash-up of retro tech and AI. We’ve seen teleprinters revived for modern use before, both for texting and Tweeting, but this one almost has a mind of its own.

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Feeding Dogs Over Twitch Is Latest E-Sport Craze

The modern social-networking fueled Internet loves two things more than anything: pets, and watching other people do stuff. There’s probably a scroll tucked behind a filing cabinet at Vint Cerf’s house that foretells anyone who can harness these two elements will gain control of the Internet Ready Player One style. If so, we’re thinking [Tyler Pearce] is well on his way to ascending the throne.

In an effort to make the Overwatch Twitch streams of his betrothed even more enticing, [Tyler] came up with a way for viewers to feed their dog Larry by dropping a command in the chat. There’s a surprisingly complex dance of software and hardware to make this reliable and visually appealing, but it’s worth it as showmanship is important in the brave new world of competitive e-sports. We’re assuming that’s what it says in the issue of ESPN Magazine with the Fortnite player on the cover, but nobody at Hackaday would qualify for a subscription to it so we don’t really know for sure.

A server running on the computer provides a slick administrative dashboard for the treat system, including a running log of who fed Larry and when. There’s also a number of checks in place to prevent too many treats being dispensed in a short time period, and to keep an individual from spamming the system.

On the hardware side, he’s using two NodeMCU ESP8266 microcontollers connected to a local MQTT broker: one to handle the lighting and one to run the 3D printed auger that actually pushes the food out. The printed auger is powered by a standard hobby servo, and even includes an IR sensor to automatically stop spinning when it detects a treat has been dispensed. [Tyler] reports the auger works quite well, though does have a tendency to jam up if overfilled.

We’ve seen all manner of automated pet feeders over the years, even ones with their own email accounts. So it was probably only a matter of time until they came to Twitch. If you can install Linux with it, why not use it to feed your dog? Or somebody else’s, as the case may be.

Hackaday Links: September 23, 2018

In the spirit of Nintendo’s NES mini and Super NES mini, Sony is releasing a tiny version of the Playstation. It’s a hundred bucks in December and it comes with Final Fantasy VII, what more do you want? While that’s marginally cool, check out the forums and comments of gaming blogs for some real entertainment — those damn kids won’t get off my lawn and are complaining the included controllers don’t have analog sticks.

This man has solved the range problem for electric cars. He hacked a Prius to run off the overhead wires for San Francisco’s Muni system. Yes, if you want something amazing, here it is. The pantograph/pole/whatever it’s called was acquired ‘somehow’, with the implication that it was stolen. The overhead lines are 600 V, and a Prius’ battery pack is usually 273 V; apparently he “uses up the excess power on a whole lot of resistors, full-time headlights, and a kick-ass stereo system.”. Dear lord, we need a real technical write-up for this one.

get on my level

Humanity’s most impressive accomplishment to date is Twitch Plays Pokemon. This was a cooperative game of Pokemon, with thousands of people mashing buttons. Everyone (eventually) beat the Final Four, but the most impressive part was the Power Plant. We made it through the Power Plant, and we got Zapdos. I was there. It was incredible. Twitch Plays Pokemon has been reborn and rebranded several times, but this one might be good: Twitch Programs a Commodore 64. It’s a (virtual) C64 hooked up to Twitch. If there’s one person watching the channel, you can slowly type out a BASIC program one… character… at… a… time. If there’s more than one person watching, the entire ordeal devolves into the horrors of a democracy, but you might be able to get something done. Have fun.

Live Streaming Goes Pro With A Hacked Backpack

If you haven’t been paying attention, live streaming has become a big business. Streamers are getting out of their basements and moving around among us. While IRL streams may not be our cup of tea, the technology behind creating a solid high upstream bandwidth wireless internet connection is. Sure you can stream with a phone, the top streamers want something a bit more reliable. Enter [Gunrun], who has designed a backpack just for mobile streaming.

The backpack starts with a Sony AS300  Camera. [Gunrun] likes this particular camera for its exceptional audio capabilities. Network connections are handled with no less than four LTE modems. You never know which carrier will have good service out in the field, so the modems are available from a variety of carriers.

The real problem is bonding connections between LTE modems from various carriers, setting up streaming accounts, and piping captured data from an HDMI capture over those accounts. The average hacker would go at it with an HDMI capture card and a Linux Laptop. Most streamers need a more plug and play solution though, so [Gunrun] uses a LiveU Solo HDMI video encoder for the task.

This isn’t a cheap solution, all those parts together along with a beefy battery, LTE data plans, and of course a backpack to hold it all makes for a package north of $2000. Even at this price, plenty of streamers have been following [Gunrun’s] instructions and building their own setup.

Hackers do a bit of live streaming too – check out how [cnlohr] reverse engineered the Vive, while valve engineers played along in the chat.

Twitch Plays Battling Robots?

Audience interaction reached an all-time high in 2014 with Twitch Plays Pokemon, an online gaming stream where viewers were able to collaboratively command an emulated Game Boy playing Pokemon Red. Since then, the concept has taken off. Today, we see this extended to robots in the real world, with [theotherlonestar]’s Twitch Chat Controlled Robots.

The build is one that takes advantage of modern off-the-shelf components – an ESP8266 provides the brains, while a Pololu Zumo provides a ready to go robot chassis to save time on the mechanical aspects of the build. An L298N dual motor controller then handles motive power.

The real ingenuity though, is teaching the robots to respond to commands from Twitch chat. The chat is available in a readily parsable IRC format, which makes programming around it easy. [theotherlonestar] created a command set that enables the robots to be driven remotely by stream viewers, and then outfitted the ‘bots with hammers with which to fight, as well as a fedora to tip, if one is so inclined.

It’s a cool build, and one which shows further promise as Twitch continues to reduce stream & chat latency. We look forward to seeing future battles, but the first one already excites.

Interested in where it all began? Check out our Twitch Plays Pokemon coverage from way back when. Video after the break.

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