Friday, February 21, 2014 - 01:00Eye of the Tiger — As played by a Dot Matrix Printer
Do you have a big hackathon coming up? Need to start a training montage like Rocky? We don’t think you can get any more awesome than this Dot Matrix Printer that can play music!
The hack makes use of an old 24-pin dot matrix printer, which is now a MIDI compatible sound generator. It uses an Atmega8 and an FPGA connected to different parts of the original printer’s circuit board. The Atmega8 takes the incoming MIDI data and communicates it to the FPGA while driving the stepper motors for both the paper feed and print head. The FPGA on the other hand is responsible for the PWM to drive the individual printer pins. This means the printer can play up to 21 notes simultaneously, and it’s capable of taking in up to 16 MIDI channels, all with individual volume, pitch, and key velocity!
It’s a similar project to this printer synth we shared almost 9 years ago! Stick around to get pumped up with Eye of the Tiger! But if you’re wearing headphones… turn the volume down.
Filed under: musical hacks
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 22:00Real Life Flappy Bird in a Box
Flappy bird this, flappy bird that, we’re really not too sure how a clone of the original helicopter game became so darn popular. Anyway, [Fawn Qiu] — founder of MakeAnything — decided to hop on the bandwagon and made this awesome physical version of Flappy Bird!
She threw it together at the Tribeca Hacks Hackathon, and it uses an Arduino, two servo motors, a reed switch and some magnets. She was inspired by the original Mario in a Box game and this is a great example of her project MakeAnything, which is a technology project community which helps foster the new culture of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) for kids and adults alike, in the United States. They believe that “with the right tool and instructions, we can all make anything and everything!”.
Stick around for the following video where [Fawn] takes it to the streets to let random strangers try their hand at the now iconic game!
Did you know someone has even made a Minecraft version of this?
Filed under: Arduino Hacks
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 19:00Hackaday 68k: A New Hackaday Project
It’s no secret Hackaday loves retrocomputers, classic hardware, and vintage tech. Now that we have a great way to present long-form projects, it only makes sense that we combine our loves with a new build. Over the next few months, I’ll be developing a homebrew computer based on the Motorola 68000 CPU, documenting everything along the way, and building a very capable piece of hardware that will end up hosting a few Hackaday webpages. I already have a solid start on the project and will be posting on our front page to discuss the major parts already in progress, and those yet to come.
There are a few reasons we’re taking on this project. With few exceptions, most of the homebrew projects we see are based around 8-bit micros – specifically the 6502 and Z80. 16 and 32-bit CPUs really aren’t that much more difficult to work with, and if we can spearhead a renaissance of the 68k, 65816, or even a 386 (!), we’re all for that. Also, it’s been suggested that we host the Hackaday Retro site on retro hardware, and what better way to do that by documenting a build on our new project hosting site?
That’s a very brief introduction to this project. Let’s take a closer look at what hardware we’ll be using, what software we’ll get running, and what you can do to help.
While this post is only intended to serve as a very broad overview of what this project will become, there are a few details that are pretty much set in stone:
First off, the hardware
You’re probably wondering what kind of hardware this new project will sport, and how I’m planning on quickly turning ideas and schematics into functional circuits. For that, it’s bullet point time:
A backplane, wirewrap design
This computer will be constructed on separate boards for the CPU, RAM, ROM, and any other peripherals we come up with. All the connections will be wire-wrapped. There are a few reasons for this. First, if you have the wirewrap sockets, wire, and tools, it’s a much better and easier way of prototyping a circuit than a bread board. Second, it’s just so classic; the 68000 was released in 1979, and at the time this was the way to create a one-off computer. Yes, we’ll eventually make some PCBs, but you just can’t top a wirewrap design for ease of prototyping.
A Motorola 68000 CPU
Why the 68k? We see a lot of retro and homebrew computers come in on the tip line, but with few exceptions they’re 8-bit CPUs like the 6502, 6809, and Z80. The 68k was the first popular CPU of the 16-bit era that eventually made its way into Amigas, the original Mac, Sega Genesis/Megadrive, a ton of arcade games, and early UNIX workstations. It’s an amazing, elegant chip that’s able to be used as the brains of a real-world computer that does something useful.
Four Megabytes of RAM
Yeah, you read that correctly. Crazy, isn’t it? With a 24-bit address space, the 68k can address up to 16 Megabytes of RAM without bank switching. Compare this to the 64kilobytes of address space of the 6502 and Z80, and it’s easy to see how much more capable the 68k is. Also, with modern SRAMs, it’s a piece of cake to get zero wait states.
A Yamaha V9938 Video Display Processor
Of course this computer will need some sort of video output and for that we’ve gone with the same video chip found in the MSX2 home computer. I expect this to be mostly used in the 80×24 text mode, but this chip also gives us the ability to some very respectable 16-bit graphics.
Compact Flash/IDE hard drive
Maybe a 6581 SID chip?
The ultimate goal of this project is to build a really cool retrocomputer that’s able to host Hackaday’s retro site. It only makes sense to put Ethernet and some form of storage. We’ll need a keyboard, obviously, and no modern retrocomputer would be complete without the sound chip from the Commodore 64.
How About Some Software?
The TL;DR of the software is: “Something UNIX-ish, with a C compiler.”
Putting a 68k C compiler on this computer isn’t hard, but UNIX is. The first UNIX workstations used two 68000 CPUs – one for normal processing, and another to reset the first if a page fault occurred. Putting a *NIX on something without virtual memory or an MMU is of course possible, but that’s a lot of engineering I’d rather not get into. A much better solution would be uCLinux. It’s designed for embedded systems and has ports for just about everything, including the 68000. This, a C compiler, and a text editor are all anyone really needs for a fully functional computer.
Where we’re going from here
This is just the first post in what will eventually become a very, very long build log. It’s also a great test for our new Hackaday Projects site where most of the development will happen. You can check out the current build log right here and of course use the really cool sidebar comment feature to point out better solutions, circuits, and code.
What you can do
If you’d like to help out between now and the next post, have a look at the build logs on Hackaday Projects, leave a comment, shoot me an email if something’s really annoying you. If you’re feeling really ambitious, build a clone! I’m putting all the schematics up on Github. One last thing. I’d like to give a shout out to Apex Electronics for supplying a ton of wire wrap sockets.
Also, I’d really like to do a few videos of me troubleshooting the inevitable problems I’ll have with an in-circuit emulator. If anyone knows where to get a Fluke 9010a, 9000-68000 pod, or has a better idea for an ICE, drop a note in the comments.
Saddle up for the next few posts: going over the mechanical design of the Hackaday 68k, and blinking an LED with a 24-bit address bus.
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 16:00Weather Clock Puts OLPC to Work
A clock to tell the weather? [Andrew] has created a device to do that and more. Inspired by [Sean's] weather clock, [Andrew's]clock displays the current weather conditions, temperature, moon phase, and of course the time. The whole project started years ago with a broken keyboard. [Andrew] wanted to try to use the keyboard controller PCB as a bidirectional computer interface. Data to the computer would go in via the key matrix. Output data would be read via the status LEDs. Cheap simple microcontroller boards like the Arduino sidelined the project for a few years, but he never completely left it behind.
With an unused OLPC XO-1 in hand, [Andrew] pulled out his old keyboard controller and started hacking. His first task was getting meaningful data out of the keyboard LEDs. He coded up his own keyboard led control library in python. On the hardware side an op amp took on the roll of a comparator to ensure proper logic levels were present. [Andrew] then hooked two LEDs up as clock and data lines to standard 74 series shift registers (most likely 74HC/HCT595). He found that his data was completely garbled due to bounce. A second shift register buffering the clock cleaned things up. [Andrew] was left with a stable 40 bits per second serial link to his shift registers. With all this done, the next step was the clock itself. [Andrew] bought a RUSCH Wall clock from IKEA, and converted the clockwork to a gear reduction for a DC motor he pulled from an old answering machine. He could now move the hands at will, but had no way to determine their position. IR break beam sensors from old printers came to the rescue.
After connecting the motor drive, [Andrew] still had a number of outputs available. A few LEDs were in his parts box, so into the project they went. 12 LEDs around the outside of the clock to display the current time. 3 LEDs hide behind the weather icons as status indicators. [Andrew's] python software really ties this together. His OLPC grabs data from the internet and displays it on the clock. A web interface allows the user to perform manual updates on the clock and to set alarms. The alarms even incorporate speech output via eSpeak. We love the reuse and recycling of parts in this hack. The end result is a clock any hacker would be proud to display on their wall.
Filed under: clock hacks
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 13:00Companion Cube Christmas Lights Improved With Neopixels
[Crenn] obtained a string of official companion cube lights from Valve, but being in Australia couldn’t put them to their non-judgemental glory without the use of a step down transformer. They sat on the workbench for a few months until an idea was hatched: replace the bulbs with an Adafruit Neopixel strip, making these wonderful inanimate friends a string of individually addressable RGB LEDs.
The process of converting these cubes required stuffing a very small 9.4mm PCB inside. This PCB was designed in KiCAD thanks to a few classes at the Melbourne hackerspace. The board files were sent off, PCBs received, soldered up, and stuffed into the cubes.
Control is via a Duemilanove with a single IO pin using the Neopixel library. All the code, board files, and schematics are available on the gits. Future improvements might include a 3D printed cable relief and a way to securely mount the PCBs to the inside of the cubes.
Video available below.
Filed under: led hacks
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 10:00OpenKnit, the Open Source Knitting Machine
For all the hubbub about 3D printers leading a way into a new era of manufacturing, a third industrial revolution, and the beginnings of Star Trek replicators, we really haven’t seen many open source advances in the production of textiles and clothing. You know, the stuff that started the industrial revolution. [Gerard Rubio] is bucking that trend with OpenKnit, an open-source knitting machine that’s able to knit anything from a hat to a sweater using open source hardware and software.
We’ve seen a few builds involving knitting machines, but with few exceptions they’re modifications of extremely vintage Brother machines hacked for automation. OpenKnit is built from the ground up from aluminum extrusion, 3D printed parts, a single servo and stepper motor, and a ton of knitting needles.
The software is based on Knitic, an Arduino-based brain for the old Brother machines. This, combined with an automatic shuttle, allows OpenKnit to knit the sweater seen in the pic above in about an hour.
Since OpenKnit is inspired by the RepRap project, all the files, software, and assembly instructions will be up on Github shortly. there’s also a video available below, and a Flickr gallery right here.
Filed under: wearable hacks
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 07:00Replacing a Tire Valve Stem Without Special Tools!
Your car’s tire is losing air from the valve stem — what do you do? Well you could take it to the mechanic and pay upwards of $30 to replace it… or you could try this MacGyver style approach!
Not wanting to take his car to the shop, [David] tried several ways of knocking the tire off its bead. Hitting it with a sledge hammer… Jumping on it… throwing it against the ground… In the end, he realized leverage would be his friend! He’s constructed a tool out of a few pieces of wood — simply place it on the tire near the valve stem, and then drive up the wood with your car. The weight of the car easily compresses the tire leaving you just enough room to pull the tire valve stem out, and put a new one in.
It’s pretty much the same method shops use, they just have a machine to do it for them — because of this, so we don’t think this would hurt your tire. As always though, we’d love to hear what you guys think in the comments! Stick around for the video to see [David's] process.
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 04:00FT232RL: Real Or Fake?
Above are two FTDI FT232RL chips, an extremely common chip used to add a USB serial port to projects, builds, and products. The one on the left is a genuine part, while the chip on the right was purchased from a shady supplier and won’t work with the current FTDI drivers. Can you tell the difference?
[Zeptobars], the folks behind those great die shots of various ICs took a look at both versions of the FT232 and the differences are staggering. Compared to the real chip, the fake chip has two types of SRAM etched in the silicon – evidence this chip was pieced together from different layouts.
The conclusion [Zeptobars] reached indicated the fake chip is really just a microcontroller made protocol compatable with the addition of a mask ROM. If you’re wondering if the FTDI chips in your part drawers are genuine, the real chips have laser engraved markings, while the clone markings are usually printed.
Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 01:00Vector Display Output on an Oscilliscope
What can we say, we’re a sucker for projects featuring our logo. That being said, this one is seriously awesome. [CNLohr] has figured out how to create a vector display output on an oscilloscope… from a VGA port.
He was inspired by a game called Trace Vector, which is done in the same style as some of the old classics like Asteroids. This got [Charles] thinking, and he decided to see what it would take to make his own vector capable display. An oscilloscope is perfect for this, as it already works by controlling the position of the beam (like a vector), as opposed to standard LCDs and CRTs that use rasterizing (horizontal scanning). This means to get the oscilloscope to display a graphic, all you need to do is to vary the voltages going into the X and Y channels — well, at a high speed!
But where are you going to find such a high speed digital to analog converter? Oh yeah, your computer’s VGA port! For a few dollars [Charles] threw together a VGA adapter with a few resistors using just the red and blue outputs (source code). A bit of programming later, and he’s created his own vector display!
Stick around to see our lovely skull and cross-wrenches rotate on his oscilloscope! Oh, and for a more in depth explanation and more impressive vector video demonstration.
Filed under: computer hacks
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 22:003D Printering: Making A Thing With Solidworks, Part I
Brian has graciously allowed me to hop on the 3D Printering bandwagon to write a brief intro to the wonderful world of Solidworks. We’ll be making the same ‘thing’ as done in the previous ‘Making a Thing’ tutorials:
- AutoCAD Part I
- AutoCAD Part II
- Blender Part I
- Blender Part II
- Autodesk 123D
- FreeCAD Part I
- FreeCAD Part II
Admittedly, most Hackaday readers probably don’t have Solidworks as it is a very expensive program. The main reason we are posting this tutorial is so that you can understand the work flow and compare it to some of the free/open packages out there.
As Brian has touched on in his FreeCAD post, the part features of parametric models can be modified at any time. For example, let’s say I made a solid block, then added a specific size hole in the center of one face. Later, if I wanted to change the size or shape of the block, the hole would stay the same size and stay in the center of that face no matter the other changes to the object. See the graphic below, all that was changed was the size of the block, the hole stayed the same size and position (center of the face). This is different than if you were to ‘scale’ the entire object as the hole would also become stretched along with the block.
Between school and work, I’ve had the opportunity to use several professional parametric modeling softwares, including ProE (now called Creo), NX (was Unigraphics) and, of course, Solidworks. They are all similar in work flow. If you remember these 4 steps, you’ll do ok: Plane, Sketch, Dimension, Extrude.
There are 2 main tabs we’ll be using in this example, the Feature and Sketch Tabs. They have all the tools we’ll need to make the sample part.
Let’s create a new part, File then New. A window will pop up asking what file type to make. We are just making a single part so we’ll pick ‘Part’.
You’ll start with a screen showing empty space, this is where the object will be created. There are 3 planes, in the graphic below I have clicked on the Top Plane to select it. Why? Because ‘Plane’ is our first of 4 steps! We are selecting the plane (or surface) that the sketch will be drawn on.
With the Plane still selected, click on the Sketch Tab and then select Sketch. The view will move to be perpendicular with the Top Plane. We are now in Sketch Mode and will be able to make a sketch of a portion of the part. I have decided to sketch the bottom portion of the part first, the one with the hole and slot. It is just as easy to start with the back portion of the part.
The best part about sketching in a parametric program is that you can just sketch it without worrying about size or proportion. We will dimension the sketch after it is complete. To show you what I mean, I am going to intentionally make a really out-of-proportion sketch.
All of the tools we need for the sketch are on the sketch tab. For this sketch I’ll be using the line, centerline, circle, trim and fillet commands. Sketching at this point is very similar to any 2D CAD software with the exception that you don’t have to worry about the dimensions at this time. Just make it look close.
Well, isn’t that one ugly part! Ugly but totally acceptable. Notice that I intentionally left the inside and outside fillets off the bottom right leg of the part. I did this so we can add them after the part is extruded into a solid, just to show another way of doing something. Also notice that I made the circular features concentric with the intersection of the Front and Right Planes. This is a personal preference but I think it makes dimensioning a little easier as I can dimension features in relation to both of those planes, which also happens to be to the center of the circles. The dashed line coming from the center of the hole is a centerline and will define the angle of the slot. The centerline won’t become a feature of the part, it is just a reference. Later, I will make the slot edges parallel to this centerline, a certain distance away.
You can see a bunch of little green boxes all over the sketch. These are the relations of each feature. Each symbol means something. The vertical lines mean that the adjacent feature will always be vertical. The circle with a line means the arc is tangent to the line and will always be. Two lines and a red dot means that the two adjacent lines share an end or mid-point.
Our sketch now needs dimensions. On the Sketch Tab there is a tool called Smart Dimension. Select this to start dimensioning the part features. Here’s how you do it:
- To specify a distance between 2 parallel lines, click on one line, then the other line. A dimension will appear, move the mouse to where you want the dimension label and click to place it. Enter the distance in the dialog box that pops up and the lines will move to satisfy the new dimensional requirement.
- To specify a radius of an arc or diameter of a circle, click on the curve and place the dimension. Then type the value.
- To specify and angle between two non-parallel lines, click on one line, then the other. Place the dimension and enter the desired angle value.
- To add a relation, like specifying the slot edges to be parallel with the centerline, select one of the slot edges, then select the centerline while holding SHIFT. The Add Relations option will show up on the left of the screen. Select Parallel. You can see all of the available relation options. Notice after completing the command that the two lines are now parallel as well as two green parallel relation indicator boxes showed up. FYI, you can not be in the Smart Dimension function when adding relations.
Keep going with the dimensioning and you’ll end up with something like the below graphic. Notice that some of the sketch lines were blue but are now black. A black line means that it is fully defined regarding its location and size. This is a good thing and prevents unexpected and inadvertent geometry changes in the future. A completely black sketch can be referred to as ‘fully constrained’.
The sketch is done. Click Exit Sketch on the Sketch Tab.
This is the fun part. You can now see the sketch on the top plane and a new line item in the Model Tree on the left called Sketch1. If we need to change anything on this sketch (even after the model is created) we can do that by going back and editing Sketch1.
Click on Sketch1 in the Model Tree to select the sketch. Then on the Feature Tab, select Extruded Boss/Base. A dialog box will pop up asking how much to extrude the sketch. Enter the desired amount and click the green check mark.
Done Deal! ….for this portion at least. In Part 2 (not yet published) we’ll get going on the rest.
If you would like to waste 4 minutes of your life, here’s a video:
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 19:01A Digital Condom a Reality Thanks to Arduino
[Bill Gates]‘ foundation is currently offering up a ton of prizes for anyone who can improve the condom. It’s a laudable goal, and somewhat difficult; one of the main reasons why male condoms aren’t used as often as they should is the, ”male perspective… that condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condom.”
While most of the work inspired by the [Gates] foundation is work investigating a change in the geometry of the condom, [Firaz Peer] and [Andrew Quitmeyer] of Georgia Tech managed to solve this problem with an Arduino.
The basic idea of the Electric Eel – yes, that’s the name – is to deliver short electric impulses, “along the underside of the shaft for increased stimulation”. These impulses are delivered in response to different sensor inputs – in the video example (surprisingly safe for work) they’re using a force resistor wrapped around the chest for an electrical stimulation with every breath.
Although this is only a prototype, the hope is the conductors in the condom can eventually be implanted along the inside surface of a condom during manufacturing.
Video after the break.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 16:00Audio Networking With GNU Radio
Thought GNU Radio was just for radio? Think again. [Chris] has been hard at work turning the signal generation and analysis of the best tool for software defined radio into a networking device for speakers and a microphone.
The setup uses GNU Radio to generate a carrier signal whose frequency is modulated with a data stream. With this modulated signal piped over a laptop’s speakers, [Chris] is able to send UDP packets across his desk using nothing but sound.
[Chris] had recently used a similar technique to transmit data via audio with GNU Radio, but this latest build is a vast improvement; this is now a duplex networking, meaning two computers can transmit and receive at the same time.
In the end, [Chris] created a strange, obsolete device called a “modem”. It’s not exactly fast; sending ‘Hello World’ takes quite a bit of time, as you can see in the video below.
Filed under: radio hacks
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 13:00Omnidirectional Robot Takes on a Candy Factory
[AltaPowderDog] is building a competition robot as part of his freshman engineering course at Ohio State University. The contest is sponsored by Nestle, so it’s no surprise the robots have to perform various tasks in a miniature candy factory. Broken up into teams of four, the students are building autonomous robots to move pallets, scoop candy, operate switches and pull pins from tubes. Each team is provided a standard microcontroller board and funds to purchase robot parts from an online store. The factory also sports an overhead infrared navigation system, which should help the robots stay on track.
[AltaPowderDog] took his inspiration from [Michal's] OmniBot, which used adjustable geometry wheels. A lever and gear system allows the robot to pivot all four wheels synchronously. This effectively allows the robot to turn within its own axis. With some proper path planning and end effector placement, [AltaPowderDog's] team should be able to shave down their time through the candy factory. The team has run into a few issues though. This robot design only utilizes two powered wheels, which has caused the team to become stuck up on a ramp in the factory. To combat this, the team is installed a simple suspension which allows the non-powered wheels to move up and out of the way on the ramp. The results look promising. The video after the break includes a short clip of [AltaPowderDog's] ‘bot making a quick turn and activating a switch. Very nice work!
[Via Lets Make Robots!]
Filed under: robots hacks
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 10:00Ridiculously Over-Powered Quadrotor Spotlight Kills Battery, Blinds People
Flying quadrotors at night is awesome — but being in the dark tends to be a problem for not crashing them… Tired of not being able to get successful GoPro videos, [Diode] decided to strap a light to his quadrotor. A 3000+ lumen, 50W LED to be precise.
He found the 50W LED for $20 online with the driver! The only problem was it gets super hot. He salvaged a heat sink from an Xbox 360 which helps to keep the temperature at bay… but also increases the weight of the quad by a bit too much. Luckily his quadrotor is pretty powerful — but with the added weight, and 50W power drain, his flight time went from 15 minutes… to about 3 minutes.
Three of the most awesome minutes ever! Just watch the following video — the night-time possibilities are endless!
Now if only the Spruce Goose of Quadrotors came to fruition… It would have had no problem carrying the extra batteries and LED!
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 07:00Mobile Hackerspace Status Indicator
Cruising around town, not sure what to do — oh hey look, someone is at the hackerspace! Introducing the Mobile Spacestate Indicator!
During our Hackerspacing in Europe tour, we had the pleasure of visiting ACKspace in Heerlen, the Netherlands. And like many hackerspaces, they have an online status indicator letting members and non-members alike know if the space is open. [Vicarious], the gentleman who kindly picked us up from the train station, has just finished off an awesome modification to his car. Using an Arduino Uno and a Raspberry Pi, he has created a mobile indicator of his hackerspace’s status.
The Raspberry Pi automatically tethers to his phone and checks the status of the hackerspace online. It then sends the data to the Arduino Uno which controls a small strip of RGB LEDs. He’s cleverly hidden all of this inside his center console, and it looks awesome!
To see more of ACKspace’s cool projects, check out their wiki!
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 04:01A Simple Posture Sensor
If you are on the computer for a large part of the day, posture becomes a serious issue that can negatively impact your health. [Wingman] saw this problem, and created a hack to help solve it. His simple posture sensor will monitor the position of your head relative to the chair, and reminds you to sit up straight.
The posture sensor is built around the HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor, an Attiny85, and a piezo speaker. We’ve seen this distance sensor used in the past for a few projects. Rather than going down the wearable route, which has its own drawbacks, [Wingman] decided to attach his sensor on the back of his chair. The best part is that the sensor is not mounted directly on the chair, but rather on a piece of fabric allowing it to be easily moved when needed.
Given how low-cost and small the sensor is, the project can be easily expanded by adding multiple sensors in different locations. This would allow the angle of the back and possibly the neck to be determined, giving a more accurate indicator of poor posture. There are very few hacks out there that address bad posture. Do you have a project that helps address bad posture? Have you used video processing or a wearable device to monitor your posture? Let us know in the comments an don’t forget to send post links about them to our tips line.
Filed under: Medical hacks
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 01:00Arduino Gets Fowl with Flappy Bit
We have to swallow our pride and hand it to [Dan200]. He may have finally found an application that everyone can agree is a perfect fit for Arduino. Flappy Bit is [Dan's] Arduino Uno based Flappy Bird clone. [Dan] is a software guy at heart, but he’s taken a peck at electronics of late. Flappy Bit was just a fun side project for him to learn how to program the Arduino. The hardware consists of an 8×8 LED matrix, current limiting resistors, and a single button.
[Dan's] implementation isn’t 100% faithful to the iOS/Android original. Rather than simply parrot Flappy Bird, he changed it up a bit. The user presses and holds the button to climb, and releases it to descend. This seems to make the game a bit more forgiving. We also won’t be missing all the lovely sound effects from Flappy Bird. While there is less flapping in Flappy Bit, it does make us more nostalgic for those tabletop LCD/LED games we played in the 80′s and can’t stop crowing about today.
[Thanks Parker, our Eagle-eyed tipster!]
Filed under: Arduino Hacks
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 22:00Retrotechtacular: Restoring A 19th Century Automaton
Made sometime in the 1790s or 1800s London, the Maillardet Automaton has a long and storied history. It was exhibited around England for several decades, brought over the Atlantic by [P.T. Barnum], nearly destroyed in a fire, and donated to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in the 1920s. From there, this amazingly complex amalgam of cogs, cams, and linkages eventually became the inspiration for the book – and movie - Hugo. Time hasn’t exactly been kind to this marvel of the clockmaker’s art; it has been repaired four times before receiving a complete overhaul in 2007 by [Andrew Baron].
[Fran], one of Hackaday’s sources for awesome projects, recently visited the Franklin Institute and posted a series of videos on the reverse engineering of the Maillardet Automaton. Being nearly destroyed and repaired so many times didn’t make this an easy job; it’s extremely possible no one alive has ever seen the eyes of the Automaton move as originally designed.
Even though the Maillardet Automaton has one of the largest series of cams of any mechanical draftsman, that doesn’t mean it’s simply an enlargement of an earlier machine. The automaton’s pen is like no other writing device on Earth, with a stylus acting as a valve to dispense ink whenever the tip touches paper. The eyes have linkages to follow the pen as it traces a drawing. In 1800, this automaton would have been a singularity in the uncanny valley, and watching it put pen to paper is still a little creepy today.
Below you’ll find a video from [Fran] demonstrating all seven drawings the Maillardet Automaton can reproduce. You can also find a whole bunch of pics of the mechanisms along with the 2007 repair report on [Andrew Baron]‘s site.
Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.
Thanks [Fran] for sending this one in.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 16:00Low Budget Omnidirectional Treadmill
Moving around in space is one of the major hurdles in virtual reality. A holodeck wouldn’t be much fun if you kept walking into walls. [Gamnaught] is working on a simple solution to this complex problem with his budget omnidirectional treadmill. Omnidirectional treadmills have been around in various forms for a number of years. The idea behind them simple: allow a person walk in any direction without actually changing their position. This is a bit different from the unidirectional treadmill models found at the local gym. Some very complex solutions have been used to create omnidirectional treadmills, including multiple motors and computer control systems as can be found in the US Army omnidirectional treadmill. [Gamnaught] kept it simple. He built a circular 2×4 platform 13-15 degree bowl. The bowl is covered with carpet, and the user wears furniture sliders on their shoes. The low friction of the sliders allows the user to walk, run, and even walk backwards on the platform. Bungie cords provide resistance so the user doesn’t walk off the platform.
The early results look promising. [Gamnaught] says the balance felt a bit weird at times and took some getting used to. Anyone who has spent time with the Oculus Rift or other VR systems will tell you – many aspects of virtual reality take some getting used to. The treadmill is still open loop, however [Gamnaught] hopes to add motion tracking with a Sixense STEM system. We think a OpenCV based system would work as well. We’ve also seen carpet sliders sold as a children’s toy to be strapped over regular sneakers. Going the toy route would avoid needing a dedicated pair of footwear for the treadmill. More build information can be found on [Gamnaught's] Reddit thread on the topic.
Filed under: Virtual Reality
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 13:00STM32 Nucleo, The Mbed-Enabled, Arduino-Compatable Board
The STM32 line of microcontrollers – usually seen in the form of an ST Discovery dev board – are amazingly powerful and very popular micros seen in projects with some very hefty processing and memory requirements. Now, ST has released a great way to try out the STM32 line with the Nucleo board.
There are two really great features about these new Nucleo boards. First, they’re mbed compatable, making them a great way to get started in the ARM development world. Secondly, they have Arduino pin headers right on the board, giving you access to all your shields right out of the box.
Right now, there are four varieties of the Nucleo board based on the STM32F030, -F103, -F152, and -F401 microcontrollers. The STM32F401 is the high-powered variant, An ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller running at 84 MHz, 512kB of Flash, and enough I/O for just about any project.
If you’d like to get your hands on one of the STM32 Nucleo boards, you can order a voucher to pick one up at Embedded World in Germany next week. Otherwise, you’re stuck ordering from Mouser or Farnell. Bonus: the high-end F401-based board is only $10 USD.