Lucky Cat POV Display Ditches the Waving and Windmills Out of Control

If you’ve been in a Japanese restaurant, you’ve probably seen a maneki-neko, the lucky cat charm, where a cat welcomes you with a beckoning arm. It’s considered to bring good luck, but we’re not sure if [Martin Fitzpatrick] is pushing his luck with this Lucky Cat POV display. He hacked one of the figurines so the arm forms a persistence of vision (POV) display, where blinking LEDs on the paw create a dot-matrix style display.

Inside the hapless neko is a Wemos D1, motor driver, and a few other components that turn the cat into a working display. The five LEDs he attached to the paw are wide enough to display 5×7 characters. The tricky part in the mechanical design is getting signals from a stationary base to a spinning arm(ature). In this case it was easily solved with a 6-wire slip ring from Adafruit. [Martin] revs the lucky cat up using a brushed DC motor and a couple of gears.

The ESP8266 is running MicroPython — the combination should make this a snap to hook into any web service API you want to display your own messages. Right now the arm doesn’t have positional awareness so the message isn’t locked in a single position like it would be if a hall effect sensor was used. But [Martin] says there’s plenty of room left inside the cat and a future upgrade could include stashing the batteries inside for a cordless, all-in-one build. If he takes that on it’s a perfect time to add some type of shaft encoding as well.

Check the Lucky Cat showing off in the clip after the break.

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Giving An LED Bulb Some Smarts

How many of your projects been spawned purely out of bored daydreaming? For want of something more productive to do, [dantheflipman] hacked a standard LED bulb from Wal-Mart into a smart bulb.

After pulling it apart, they soldered wires to the threaded socket and added a connector for a Hi-Link hlk-pm01 power module. The output caps at 5 V and 600 mA, but who says this was going to be a searchlight? A Wemos D1 Mini clone slides nicely beside the power module, and stacked on top is a NeoPixel Jewel 7. [dantheflipman] admits he has yet to add a capacitor to ahead of the Jewel, so we’ll see how long the LEDs last. Crammed back together, the bulb is controlled via a prototype Blynk app. Good enough for a quick hack.

[dantheflipman] is upfront about messing with mains voltages: don’t do it unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. In this case, he has taken care with their soldering and epoxied all wire and solder joints to be sure nothing will come loose and short, and a ‘stress test’ is forthcoming.

Smart bulbs are cool no matter how you slice it, so a little more insight into how smart bulbs work with some of the nitty gritty that goes into hacking them might sate your thirst for knowledge.

[Via /r/arduino]

Checking The Weather Without A Window

Making a weather display is great because it’s a simple project that shows off some skills and has an obvious daily use. So [ACROBOTIC Industries] decided to make an easy kit for the Hackaday Prize to make weather displays even more accessible.

Calling it the ESPecter, [ACROBOTIC Industries] wanted to make this a simple project for anyone, regardless of skill with a soldering iron or Arduino toolkit. So they decided to base the guts on common components that can be put together easily, specifically a Wemos Mini D1 with an OLED shield as a bright display. They also designed a cool tiltable 3D-printed enclosure for this small device so that you can orient it to your eye level.

ESPecter breadboarded prototype.

While they already have a breadboarded prototype, and a 3D printed case, some software work remains to make the project really shine. They plan to add nice features like a web interface to configure location and network information, alerts, additional locations, and historical weather data. They also want to create a weather library to display well on a low-resolution screen and add battery operation.

We look forward to seeing the final version later in the Hackaday Prize!

This isn’t the first weather project we’ve seen around here. Other variants include mirror weather displays, an ESP8266-based weather monitoring station, a very low-power weather station, and this roundup of weather displays which might give you some inspiration.

Audio Hacking With The ESP8266

If you study the specifications of the ESP8266 WiFi-enabled microcontroller, you will notice that it features an I2S audio interface. This is a high-speed serial port designed to deliver 16-bit audio data in a standard format, and has its origins in consumer audio products such as CD players. It would be usual to attach a dedicated DAC to an I2S interface to produce audio, but [Jan Ostman]’s synthesiser projects eschew that approach, and instead do the job in software. His I2S interface pushes out a pulse density modulated data stream in the same manner as a 1-bit DAC, meaning that the only external components required to produce audio are a simple low-pass filter. He’s posted a video of the synth in action, which we’ve placed below the break.

The example he gives us is a basic clone of a Roland 909 drum machine, and he takes us through the code with extensive examples including MIDI. He’s using the Wemos D1 Mini board, but the same could be replicated with many other ESP8266 platforms.

We’ve featured [Jan]’s work many times before, from his minimalist Atmel-based devices through to small but perfectly-formed complete instruments.

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IoT Chore Reminder for the Serially Forgetful

The secret to domestic bliss often lies in attention to detail, an area in which we can all do a little better. But if paper notes and smartphone reminders are not enough to help you remember to knock jobs off your list, perhaps this IoT task reminder will give you the edge you need to keep the peace at home.

As [Andreas Spiess] points out, his best intentions of scheduling recurring tasks in Google Calendar were not enough to keep him on on top of his share of chores around the house. He found that the notifications popping up on his phone were far too easy to swipe away in favor of other distractions, so he set about building a real-world reminder. His solution uses a WeMOS D1 Mini in a bright blue 3D-printed box with from one to four LED switches on the front. Each box is linked to his Google Calendar, and when a task comes due, its light turns on. Sprinkled about the house near the task, like the laundry room or near the recycling, [Andreas] can’t help but see the reminder, which only goes out when he cancels it by pressing the task button. Simple but effective, and full of potential for other uses too.

Of course, the same thing could be accomplished with a Magic Mirror build, which we’ve seen a lot of over the years. But there’s something about the simplicity of these devices and their proximity to the task that makes sense — sort of like the Amazon Dash concept. We might build a few of these too.

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Router Rebooter Eliminates Hassles

Some low-end or older routers might get you a decent WiFi network in your house or apartment, but often these cheaply made devices are plagued with subtle software problems that cause the router itself to become unresponsive after a few days of operating. One solution is to just power cycle the router by hand whenever the Internet disappears, but a better solution is to build something that does that for you.

[Charlie] had this problem as the de facto IT person in his family, and didn’t want to keep getting bothered for such a simple problem. His solution involves a relay, an ESP8266, and a Wemos D1 mini. The device connects to the Internet through the router and occasionally sends out pings to another address. If it can’t ping the address successfully after a certain time period, the device power cycles the router by activating the relay.

Since this isn’t the newest idea out there, there are many ways to solve this problem if you are constantly annoyed by router issues, whether from your own router or from friends and family who treat you as their personal IT department. One solution doesn’t involve any extra hardware at all as long as you have a computer near your router/modem already, and others solve this problem when it happens to the modem rather than the router.

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