Historically, there have been a few cases of useful wireless power transmission over great distances, like a team at MIT that was able to light up a 60 W bulb at several meters, and of course Nikola Tesla had grand dreams of drawing energy from the atmosphere. But for most of us wireless power is limited to small, short-range devices like cellphone chargers. While it’s not a lot of work to plug in a phone when it needs a charge, even this small task can be automated.
This build begins with a 3D printed cradle for the smartphone to sit in. When the device detects that the phone has been placed in the cradle, it uses a linear actuator to drive a custom-built charging cable into the phone’s USB port. Similarly, when the phone is lifted from the cradle the cable is automatically removed. It appears that there is some play in the phone’s position that lets the charger be plugged in smoothly, and the project’s creator [Larpushka] points out that the linear actuator is not particularly strong so we don’t imagine the risk of damage is very high.
While wireless charging still may have the edge when it comes to keeping debris out of the port, we still really enjoy a project like this that seems to be done for its own sake. There are some improvements that [Larpushka] plans to make, but for now we’re delighted by this build. For anyone looking to add true wireless charging to any phone that doesn’t have it, though, it’s not too difficult to accomplish either.
[Marek] has an impressive collection of old Soviet-style Geiger counters. These are handy tools to have in some specific situations, but for most of us they would be curiosities. Even so, they need some help from the modern world to work well, and [Marek] has come up with some pretty creative ways of bringing them into the 21st century. This version, for example, adds WiFi capabilities.
This build is based on the STS-5 Geiger tube but the real heavy lifting is handled by an ESP8266 which also provides a wireless network connection. There are some limitations to using an ESP8266 to control a time-sensitive device like a Geiger tube, especially the lack of local storage, but [Marek] solves this problem by including a real-time clock and locally caching data until a network connection is re-established. Future plans for the device include adding temperature and atmospheric temperature sensors.
Eventually this Geiger counter will be installed in a watertight enclosure outside so [Marek] can keep an eye on the background radiation of his neighborhood. Previously he was doing this with another build, but that one only had access to the network over an Ethernet cable, so this one is quite an upgrade.
News just in from the folks at Raspberry Pi: the newest version of their Pico has WiFi and is called, obviously, the Pico W. We were going to get our hands on a sample unit and kick its tires, but it’s stuck in customs. Boo! So until it shows up, here’s what we can glean from the press releases and documentation.
The Pico is, of course, the Raspberry Pi microcontroller dev board based on their RP2040 microcontroller. This in turn has two Cortex M0+ cores and a good chunk of onboard RAM, which has made it a popular target for MicroPython. They had some extra real estate on the PCB, so they’ve added an Infineon CYW43439 WiFi chip, and voila: Pico W.
As of now, the WiFi is supported in both the C SDK and the pre-baked MicroPython image. It looks trivially easy to get it working, and it’s based on the time-tested lwIP stack, a classic in the embedded world. The CYW43439 is also Bluetooth capable, but there’s no firmware support for that yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up soon.
The price? $6 for the whole shooting match. You can view this two ways: a small $2 premium over the old Pico, or a price increase of 50%. How you see things probably depends on your order quantity. Either way, it’s firmly in the ESP32 module price range, so you’ve got some comparison shopping to do if your project needs a microcontroller and WiFi. And in these days of silicon shortages, it’s nice to have a couple of options.
Affordable and reliable cell phones have revolutionized the way we communicate over the last two decades or so, and this change was only accelerated by the adoption of the smartphone. This is all well and good if you’re living in a place with cellular infrastructure, but if you’re in more remote areas you’ll have to be a little more inventive. This text-based communications device, for example, lets you send text messages without all of that cumbersome infrastructure.
While [Arthur] didn’t create this project specifically for off-grid use, it’s an interesting project nonetheless. The devices use a physical QWERTY keyboard and a small screen, reminiscent of BlackBerry devices from the late 2000s (partially because they are actually using BlackBerry keyboards). One of the other goals for this project was low power consumption, and between polling the keyboard, the memory LCDs, and receiving and transmitting messages using LoRa, [Arthur] was able to get the current draw down to 12 mA.
Between the relatively common nRF52840 and SX1262 chips, plus the fact that [Arthur] made the schematics available, this makes for an excellent off-grid device for anyone who likes to drive off into the wilderness or lives far enough outside of town that cell phone reception is a concern.
Looking for something a little easier to put together before your upcoming camping trip? This similarly styled LoRa communicator from [MSG] uses off-the-shelf modules to greatly reduce the part count. Another option for off-grid communications is to use existing smartphones paired with a LoRa network like we saw in this project.
We’re all used to the idea of wireless charging, usually in the form of an induction coil on which a mobile phone or other appliance can be placed for a top-up. Not every battery-powered appliance has a built-in wireless charging coil though, meaning that despite the tech being available we all still have a jumble of wires.
[Sergio Costas] has a simple solution to conjuring wireless charging from thin air in his headphone stand, which conceals a set of charging contacts. It’s by no means a new idea and it might seem like an obvious hack, but it undeniably does away with the wires and we like it. After all, if it were that obvious, none of us would have that mess of chargers.
The headphones in question are a Bluetooth wireless pair, and the charging contacts have been brought out via a voltage regulator and a bridge rectifier to a pair of copper tapes along the sides of the headband. These mate with matching contacts in a 3D printed holder to which 12 VDC has been applied. Perhaps he’s just reinvented the springy contacts you’ll find on any cordless home phone, but it’s unquestionably a charger without wires.
Meanwhile if you have a conventional wireless charger, how do you know it’s working?
Learning to play a musical instrument takes a major time commitment. If you happened to be stuck inside your home at any point in the last two years, though, you may have had the opportunity that [Dmitriy] had to pick up a guitar and learn to play. Rather than stick with a traditional guitar, though, [Dmitriy] opted to build his own digital guitar which is packed with all kinds of features you won’t find in any Fender or Gibson.
The physical body of this unique instrument is entirely designed by [Dmitriy] out of 3D printed parts, and uses capacitive touch sensors for each of the notes on what would have been the guitar’s fretboard. The strings are also replaced with a set of six switches that can be strummed like a regular guitar, and are used to register when to play a note. After a few prototypes, everything was wired onto a custom PCB. The software side of this project is impressive as well; it involved creating custom firmware to register all of the button presses and transmit the information to a MIDI controller so that the guitar can communicate digitally with anything that supports MIDI.
To finish off the project, [Dmitriy] also added a wireless device as well as some other bonus features like an accelerometer, which can be used to augment the sound of the guitar in any way he can think of to program them. It’s one of the most innovative guitars we’ve seen since the prototype Noli smart guitar was unveiled last year, and this one is also on its way from prototype to market right now.
Continue reading “Learn To Play Guitar, Digitally”
When traveling into the wilderness with a group of people, it’s good to have a method of communications set up both for safety and practicality. In the past people often relied on radios like FRS, CB, or ham bands if they had licenses, but nowadays almost everyone has a built-in communications device in their pocket that’s ready to use. Rather than have all of his friends grab a CB to put in their vehicle for their adventures together, [Keegan] built an off-grid network which allows any Android phone to communicate with text even if a cell network isn’t available.
The communications system is built on the LoRa communications standard for increased range over other methods like WiFi using a SX1278 chip and an ESP8266. The hardware claims a 10 km radius using this method which is more than enough for [Keegan]’s needs. Actually connecting to the network is only half of the solution though; the devices will still need a method of communication. For that, a custom Android app was created which allows up to 8 devices to connect to the network and exchange text messages with each other similar to a group text message.
For off-grid adventures a solution like this is an elegant solution to a communications problem. It uses mostly existing hardware since everyone carries their own phones already, plus the LoRa standard means that even the ESP8266 base station and transmitter are using only a tiny bit of what is likely battery power. If you’re new to this wireless communications method, we recently featured a LoRa tutorial as well.