__ __         __            ___           
  / // /__ _____/ /__  ___ _  / _ \___ ___ __
 / _  / _ `/ __/  '_/ / _ `/ / // / _ `/ // /
/_//_/\_,_/\__/_/\_\  \_,_/ /____/\_,_/\_, / 
retro edition                         /___/ 
Now optimized for embedded devices!!
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Sip-and-Puff Ipod dock highlights assistive technology

posted Apr 26th 2012 5:01pm by
filed under: arduino hacks, lifehacks

Check it out, a Sip-and-Puff Arduino shield. This is an assistive technology that allows the physically challenged to control things using a plastic air tube. Different combinations of sucking (Sip) or blowing (Puff) differentiate between control commands.

In this case the device is used to control an iPod dock, but [Bob Johnson's] Kickstarter project seeks to put the Sip-and-Puff functionality out there so that it can bridge the control gap no matter what the need. One example that he mentions in the video after the break is a Morse Code keyboard.

This shield uses a pressure sensor to receive input from the plastic tubing. But we’ve also seen it done using mechanical pressure switches. That technique is what was used in the Sip-and-Puff Kayak build.

Using diodes and transistors as solar cells

posted Apr 13th 2012 10:40am by
filed under: solar hacks

When you get down to it, solar cells aren’t much different from the diodes and transistors in your parts drawers or inside your beloved electronics. They’re both made of silicon or some other semiconductor, and surprisingly can produce electricity in the presence of light. Here’s two semiconductors-as-solar panel projects that rolled into the tip line over the past few days.

[Steven Dufresne] cut open a 2N3055 power transistor to expose the semiconductor material to light. In full sunlight, he was able to produce 500 millivolts and 5.5 milliamps. In other words, he’d need around 5000 of these transistors wired up to turn on a compact fluorescent light bulb. A small calculator has a much lower power requirement, so after opening up five transistors he was able to make a solar-powered calculator with a handful of transistors.

[Sarang] was studying solar cells and realized a standard silicon diode is very similar; both are p-n junctions and the only real difference is the surface area. He connected a 1N4148 to a multimeter and to his surprise it worked. [Sarang] is able to get about 150 millivolts out of his diode with the help of a magnifying glass. While he doubts his diode is more efficient than a normal solar cell, he thinks it could be useful in low-cost, low power applications. We’re thinking this might be useful as a high-intensity light detector for a solar cooker or similar.

After the break, you can check out the videos [Steven] and [Sarang] put up demonstrating their solar cells.

Improving a freestyle kayak

posted Apr 19th 2012 3:01pm by
filed under: misc hacks

When [Andrea] was looking for a freestyle kayak, he bought the cheap version of a high-end kayak. The hull is exactly the same as the high-end model, but to differentiate between product lines, Pyranha chose to use less expensive fittings. [Andrea] decided to bring his new kayak up to spec (Italian, here’s a Google translation) by fixing the problems in the cheaper model by bringing it up to more professional standards.

When [Andrea] got a hold of his kayak, the back rest was held on by a piece of nylon webbing secured with a plastic clamp. This was bound to fail after just a few outings, so he fixed this with a few steel nuts and bolts. The eyelets used to tie ropes to the kayak were terrible, so with a little bit of nylon webbing and a pair of buckles these were replaced.

Now, [Andrea] has a very nice kayak indeed, for less than the price of the more expensive version. Good job, [Andrea].

Using a chicken as a steadicam

posted Dec 11th 2010 8:40am by
filed under: digital cameras hacks

This has been circulating around the net for a bit. For those that haven’t seen it, let me just give you a quick rundown of what is happening. This guy strapped a camera to a chicken’s head. No really, that’s it. There’s some interesting science behind it though. He’s taking advantage of the Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex in the chicken.  It is basically the reflex that we use to keep our eyes firmly focused on something while our head is moving. In a chicken however, they move their entire head. This means that he can strap a camera to the chicken’s head and have an instant steadicam. At least that is the theory. As you can see in the video after the break, the harder part is getting the chicken to look at what you want it to look at. We also found a conversation about it with the creator,[MrPennywhistle] in some reddit comments.

Pinball Stomp: part1

posted Apr 27th 2012 3:01pm by
filed under: classic hacks, Featured, how-to, peripherals hacks, toy hacks

Despite my atrociously short attention span, I’ve always loved pinball. Maybe it is something about all the flashing lights and clunking solenoids. Maybe it is just the simple physics at the center of it all. I’m not really sure.  My kids, however, don’t share my enthusiasm. I suspect part of it is that they never wandered through a fog filled arcade in the middle of the night, hopped up on Reese’s Pieces with a shrinking pile of quarters in their pocket. The other part might be the fact that they have gotten used to the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox Kinect (we just got one last week).

Watching them jump up and down playing an extremely simple and repetitive game with the Kinect gave me an idea. I envisioned pinball projected on the side of my house, the kids jumping up and down in front of it to move the paddles. Keep reading to see how I plan to build it and what I’ve done so far. There’s a full video, but also text of the entire thing.

Thanks to that deficiency in the attention span department I mentioned earlier, one of the main requirements of this project were that it be fast and fairly easy. Not only do I simply not want to spend weeks building this, I doubt it will hold anyones attention for more than an evening or two. It is also worth noting that I’m not an engineer. I’m not as smart as the writers I tend to hire, and I’m certainly not as smart as most of the readers of hackaday. What I do is usually rough, dirty, and barely works. The easiest possible way I could think to do this, was to make a couple rugged stomp sensors and just wire them into a keyboard. This should be really easy to do and will work perfectly with Virtual Pinball.

In Part 1, I build the breakout box from an old keyboard. I decided to go ahead and make this part fairly reusable, in case I wanted to do other projects that needed external input in the future. I used what I had lying around to reduce the cost.


Step 1. Tear stuff apart.

Rip that keyboard apart. Save the screws.  As you can see in the video, you need the board that actually sends the data to the computer. The rest is not needed for this project. However, you could just as easily leave the board in place and use the functional keyboard itself as the enclosure. I don’t really see a downfall to this plan… maybe I should have done that!

Step 2. plan your inputs.

For Pinball Stomp, we only need an input for Left flipper, Right flipper, add coin, begin game, and pull plunger. The easiest way to get these was to use a program called keyhook to poll the keyboard while I bridged some of the connections.  You can download it here, about halfway down the page. Once I saw what was available, I soldered some lines on to extend them out of the box and labelled them. All that was left at this point was to mount everything in a container.

Step 3. mount stuff.

Remember those screws from the keyboard you kept earlier? You can use those to screw stuff into soft plastic. This makes everything much easier. Of course if you went with the idea of keeping the keyboard fully functional, all you would need to do is drill a hole in the keyboard for the extensions to come out and re-assemble. Put your easy connectors on the outside of your enclosure and connect your wires to it. You’re done!

That’s it really. At this point I have a re-usable external controller box. Next, I have to build the stomp pads to connect to it.

Part 2 is now completed, go see how it turned out!

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