An Off-The-Grid Instant Messaging Plattform

Having an open-source communication device that is independent of any network and works without fees sounds like a hacker’s dream come true. Well, this is exactly what [bobricius]’ is aiming at with his Armawatch and Armachat devices.

Recently, [bobricius] built a LoRa based instant messaging device named Armachat. The gadget is controlled by a SAMD21 MCU with native USB and includes a QWERTY keyboard and an LCD display. Communication is based on an RFM95 LoRa transceiver which can reach a range of up to 2 km under ideal conditions. [bobricius] is a wiz when it comes to PCB design and one thing that makes his projects look so good is how he often uses PCBs as enclosures.

Armachat came in two form factors a large desktop and a smaller pocket version. The new Armawatch is another downsized version that perfectly fits on your arm by using a smaller display and keyboard. [bobricius] also did a lot of work on the firmware which now features a message delivery confirmation and the possibility to automatically resend undelivered messages. Future improvements will include message encryption, a store-and-forward function, and GPS position parsing. [bobricius] is also working on completing his portfolio of communicators with a credit-card-sized version.

LoRa is the go-to technology for off-the-grid communication devices and there are already other ongoing projects for using it to construct a mesh network.

Is That An ESP32 On Your Wrist?

What could you do with a dual-core 240 MHz ESP32 that supports Arduino-style programming, with 16 MB of flash, 8 MB of PSRAM, and 520 k of RAM? Oh, let’s throw in a touchscreen, an accelerometer, Wifi, and Bluetooth. Besides that, it fits on your wrist and can show the time? That’s the proposition behind Lilygo T Watch 2020. If it sounds like a smartwatch, it is. At around $25 –and you can snag the hardware from a few different places — it is not only cheaper than the latest flagship smartwatch, but it is also infinitely more hackable.

OK, so the screen is only 1.54″, but then again, it is a watch. If Arduino isn’t your thing, you can use anything else that supports the ESP32 like Micropython or even Scratch. There are variants that have LoRA and GPS, at slightly higher prices. You can also find ones with heart rate monitors and other features.

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Custom Firmware Makes A LoRA-Enabled HAB Tracker Watch

High Altitude Balloons (HAB) are a great way to get all kinds of data and shoot great photos and video, but what goes up must come down. Once the equipment has landed, one must track it down. GPS and LoRA, with its long wireless range and ease of use, are invaluable tools in tracking payloads that have returned to Earth. [Dave Akerman] has made handheld receivers to guide him to payloads, but wanted something even smaller; ideally something that could be worn on the wrist.

One day he came across the affordable LilyGo T-Watch which includes GPS and LoRA functionality, and he started getting ideas. The watch has the features, but the stock firmware didn’t measure up. Not to be deterred, [Dave] wrote new firmware to turn the device into a wrist-worn GPS and LoRA chase watch.

Not only is the new firmware functional, but it’s got a wonderful user interface. GitHub repository for the new firmware is here, and you can see the UI in action in the brief video embedded below.

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Binary Watch Looks Good

Nothing says tech addict quite like the wearing of a binary watch — and we say that as tech addicts ourselves. However, many of the homebrew binary watches we’ve seen don’t just look nerdy because they are showing the time in binary. They are nerdy because it looks like someone strapped an Arduino to their wrist. Not so with [APTechnologies] “Ultimate Binary Watch.”

While creating a binary clock is not amazing in of itself, we were highly impressed with the look of this watch. The 3D printed case and the use of surface mount LEDs makes a great looking package. We wondered how it would look with a colored plastic cover like you’d find over an old LED clock. On the other hand, the exposed LEDs do have a certain charm to them.

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Arduino Wristwatch Has LED Hands

When you read “Arduino wristwatch”, you fall into the trap of envisioning an Arduino UNO clumsily strapped to someone’s wrist. [Marijo Blažević’s] creation is much more polished than that. A round circuit board holds two surface mount ICs and 12 LEDs. The whole thing looks nice fit snugly inside of a watch body. It isn’t a Rolex, but it does have considerable geek cred without being unwearable in polite company.

One IC is an AVR micro, of course. The other is a DS3231 real time clock with built-in crystal. A CR2032 keeps it all running. The main body, the outer ring, the bottom, and the buttons are 3D printed in PLA. The crystal and the band are the only mechanical parts not printed. The bill of materials shows a 36mm crystal and even provides links for all the parts.

You don’t want to run LEDs all the time because it is bad on the battery. When you press the button once, you get one of the LEDs to light to show the hours. Another press reads the minutes in units of 5 minutes. A third press shows you one of five LEDs to show how many minutes to add. For example, if the time is 9:26 you’d get LED 9 (hours), LED 5 for 25 minutes, and the third press would show LED 1 for 1 extra minute. If either of the minute indicators show 12 o’clock, that indicates zero minutes.

The exciting thing, of course, is that you can program it beyond the code on GitHub. Already it can tell time and display the temperature. You don’t have a lot of I/O, but you ought to be able to get some more options and maybe some flashy LED blinking patterns in if you try.

Replace Your Smartphone With These Arcane Amulets

It’s hard not to feel the constant pull on our limited attention from the very interesting rectangles in our pockets and packs. [Antoine Pintout] is fighting against it with three interesting pendants.

The three objects each have functions. Sablier, tells time, but rather than giving the numerals it vibrates on a set interval to give a relative sense of the passage. Boussole is a compass like device which doesn’t tell the cardinal directions. Instead it tells you which way to go in order to get to a pre-set location. The last, Sifflet, is a pager, but rather than sending a text it plays a melody reflecting the sender’s mood.

We love the look of the objects. The circuits are beautifully laid out and showcased in well machined brass cases. Small details abound; in Sifflet for example, the coil antenna is symmetrically presented with its own cutout in the board. Laying out a board is hard enough, but taking this much care in component placement easily doubles the time.

All the files and models are available,  though we’re not sure we possess the craftsmanship to reproduce these to the same standard.

Antique Pocket Watch Project Updates Antique Pocket Watch

Here at Hackaday we have a bit of a preoccupation with timepieces. Maybe it’s the deeply personal connection to an object you wear on your body, or the need for ultimate reliability. Perhaps it’s just a fascination with the notion of time itself. Whatever the case, we don’t seem to be alone as there is a constant stream of time-related projects coming through our virtual doors. For this article we’ve unearthed the LED Pocketwatch 1.0 by [Dr. Pauline Pounds] from way back in 2009 (ironically via a post about a wristwatch from last year!). Fortunately for us the Internet Archive has saved this heirloom nouveau from the internet dustbin so we can appreciate the craftsmanship involved in [Dr. Pounds]’ work.

Check out the wonderful, spiral routing!

My how far we’ve come; a decade after this project was posted a hacker might choose to 3d print a case for a new wearable, but in 2009 that would have been an entire project by itself! [Dr. Pounds] chose to use the casing from an antique Elgin pocket watch. Even through the mists of a grainy demo video we can imagine how soft the well-worn casing must be from heavy use. This particular unit was chosen because it was a hefty 50mm in diameter, leaving plenty of room inside for a 44mm double sided PCBA with 133 0603 LEDs (60 seconds, 60 minutes, 12 hours), a PIC 16F946, an ERM, and a 110mAh LiPo. But what really sets the LED Pocketwatch 1.0 apart is the user interface.

The ERM is attached directly to the rear of the case in order to best conduct vibration to the outside world. For maximum authenticity it blips on the second, to give a sense that the digital watch is mechanically ticking like the original. The original pocket watch was designed with a closing lid which is released when the stem is pressed. [Dr. Pounds] integrated a button and encoder with the end of the stem (on the PCBA) so the device can be aware of this interaction; on lid open it wakes the device to display the time on the LEDs. The real pièce de résistance is that he also integrated a minuscule rotary encoder, so when the stem is pressed you can rotate it to set the time. It’s all quite elegantly integrated and imminently usable.

At this point we’d love to link to sources, detailed drawings, or CAD files, but unfortunately we haven’t found any. If this has you inspired check out some of the other pocket watches we’ve posted about in the past. If you’re interested in a live demo of the LED Pocketwatch 1.0, check out the original video after the break.

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