Archive for the ‘Hacks’ Category

An IBM Selectric II wishes to be a teletype

Friday, June 15th, 2012

In his blog, Marc from Robot Dialogs presents a very nice hack involving a IBM Selectric II typewriter: by means of an Arduino board and several solenoids, the typewriter can be successfully connected to a computer to emulate a vintage teletype.

The complete story can be found here, together with several videos about its development.

[Via: Hack A Day]

How Arduino helped him win a hackathon: Locksmasher

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

While browsing Hacker News, I came across this interesting account of Andrei Pop [blog, twitter] which tells about how he won a recent Facebook hackathon using an arduino hack.

It is a recent trend that hardware too has entered the hackathon scenario. Here are interesting excerpts from his honest account!

A few months ago 3 friends and I participated in the facebook hackathon at UBC. It was a 36 hour, redbull-fueled affair in which quite a few teams participated. We won. I’m not telling you this story to brag, I want to share with you what I learned. In all honesty, I was shocked we won, but I think that sticking to a couple of principles helped:

1. Don’t compete with your second best arsenal

2. Solve a real problem

3. Breadth instead of depth can pay off

Yes, you’ve heard this advice before and there are exceptions to every rule… I’m just sharing my personal experience.

Our team consisted of a designer, a biomedical engineer (who didn’t write a single line of code), a CS student (without a doubt the most “qualified” of all of us), and myself (a Political Science grad). I was the only non-engineering-educated person in the room. One essential lesson I have learned over and over in life is that it is futile to compete on a metric that you cannot possibly be the best at. Don’t compete with your second best arsenal. You need to find the edge that nobody else will think of, or where nobody else can be. If the competition can outspend you, outmanouever them. If the guy at the bar is better looking, be funnier. And if most of the guys in the room have PhDs in CS, go for hardware?

The night before the hackathon I picked up an arduino microcontroller, a few LEDs, some alligator clips, and a breadboard. I didn’t really know how things would come together, but I had spent some time hardware hacking and I was really interested in physical computing. I also figured that most of the guys in the room wouldn’t be thinking about hardware (this was a facebook hackathon, most people were looking up the Open Graph API). I hoped hardware would be our edge, and as it turns out, it was.

After a bit of brainstorming and chinese food we agreed to build Locksmasher – an arduino powered unlocking mechanism that would handle authentication through the Open Graph API. We wanted to create a way to grant one-time access to facebook friends that need to get into your house.

Half an hour into our brainstorming, one of my team members had to leave the hackathon to let a friend into his house. This event sparked the idea of locksmasher and outlines my second point – solve a real problem. A craft for a craft’s sake can often be futile. There are definitely exceptions to this, but most of the time, start with a defined problem and apply your craft, instead of the other way around. The judges loved that they could personally relate to the problem of needing to let someone into their house when they weren’t home.

Our hack was very simple – it was nothing more than a glorified switch that talked to facebook. Graeham (our biomedical engineer) hooked up an old door lock to the arduino for our demo. Yazad (the CS student) and I wrote a NodeJS server to talk to facebook. We spent most of our time dealing with authentication, a problem that could have been solved in a few hours by a better hacker who knows the facebook API well. In the meantime Vince (our designer) made everything look very beautiful. This brings me to my last point point, sometimes breadth is better than depth. I want to credit a tremendous amount of our success to Vince’s design work and Graeham’s hardware. By the end of the 36 hours, we had addressed a little bit of everything.

Most of the hackers in the room built some very elegant projects; machine learning algorithms, recommendation algorithms based on your friends likes, data parsing applications. However many of the projects were elegant for elegance sake and didn’t solve a pain point that the judges could relate to. Furthermore, they didn’t look at the whole package (arguably not necessary for a hackathon but I certainly think our sleek UI helped win over the crowd).

It easily highlights arduino’s adaptability to hooking with various technologies. It truly comes out as the bridge between hardware and software.

The project demo lies here.

Any hackathons worldwide in which our readers have used their Arduino? Please do link the demo or your blog :) We would love to read!


Music + Floppy = Moppy

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Moppy is a musical floppy controller program. By using an Arduino UNO as a translator, you can command an array of floppy drives with a musical keyboard. The head on each floppy drive is controlled by a stepper motor which will put out sounds when driven at the right frequency.



Here is a link to the Moppy project page.

Enjoy your musical floppy drives!




How rough your last mountain bike ride was?

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Using an Arduino board with a data logging shield that holds an SD card for storage, an accelerometer on the front fork and some method of recording wheel speed, it’s possible to collect data about your bike ride. Then, when at home, a Python script captures the data dump and graphs it.


Wdm006 also says:

I’m in the process of building an ABS and active suspension system for mountain bikes. The first task after initial modeling and design work was to gather a lot of data for more specific design.

Original post can be read here.




Arduino, GPS and Display i2C…

Friday, May 25th, 2012


En este nuevo tutorial Arduino by ARDUTEKA, estudiamos a fondo los módulos GPS, en concreto los módulos diseñados por LIBELIUM, para aprender a extraer y comprender todas las tramadas de datos que recibimos de los GPS y posteriormente, tratar esa información para mostrar en un display con bus i2C datos como la latitud, longitud, altura y hora UTC…



[Via: Arduteka]



Portable and cloud-based heart rate tracker

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In his blog, Charalampos describes his experience with SeeedStudio’s Grove Ear-clip Heart Rate sensor and Cosm (former Pachube) cloud service. The employed sensor is quite cheap and can detect heart pulses from the ear lobe, by measuring the infra-red light reflected by the tissue and by checking for intensity variations.

By connecting this sensor with an ADK board and, in turn, with an Android smartphone, Charalampos implemented a portable heart-rate tracker, which is used to send the recorded data to Cosm cloud service.

For more information and sample code, see here.

[Via: Building Internet of Things]



Indoor air quality mapping

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

PLOTS guys propose an interesting way to measure the quality of the air for indoor environments, by hacking a second-hand Roomba robot (an autonomous vacuum cleaner).

These robots are programmed to randomly move inside rooms to clean up the floor, so by adding a simple air quality sensor on top of one of them, it is possible to easily implement a sort of “random walker” that will sense for us the presence of gases (volatile organic chemicals, VOCs), such as NH3, alcohol, CO2 and so forth.

To keep track of the air quality measurements, the authors equipped the so hacked Roomba with an RGB led, whose color can be changed according to the air sample. By taking a long exposure picture of the room where the robot was roaming in, they could determine the areas where a high concentration of VOCs was present.

The complete description of the project can be found on the PLOTS’ website, while here you may find a short video about it:

PLOTS guys are also working on a different approach to air sensing, which does not make use of a Roomba robot but uses a hamster ball, instead. Further details can be found here.

[Via: Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science]

[Save The Date] Arduino Camp 2012 a Torino

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Il 16-17 Giugno prossimi si tiene a Torino, presso le Officine Arduino, l’ArduinoCamp 2012 (leggi post di Massimo sul Forum di Arduino)

La partecipazione è gratuita ma i posti saranno limitati dalla capienza del luogo dell’incontro.

  • Vuoi partecipare all’ArduinoCamp e/o HackDay? Inserisci i tuoi dati qui
  • Hai  fatto un progetto con Arduino o stai usando Arduino nella tua azienda, faccelo sapere inserendolo qui:
    Saremmo contenti di vedervi raccontarlo nel nostro tradizionale pecha-kucha
  • Vuoi essere volontario? ne stiamo cercando 6

Due giorni di Arduino, il primo dedicato a presentazioni sui vari utilizzi di Arduino (con il tradizionale pecha-kucha), il secondo con l’HackDay a premi. Per trovare indirizzo e programma consulta la pagina creata sul playground di Arduino.




SpamPoetry (or how to recycle spam)

Friday, May 18th, 2012


Everyday, a lot of spam inevitably arrives to our mailboxes, forcing us to lose time in discerning fake emails from good ones, so everyone agrees on saying that spam is frustrating and completely useless.

This is almost true, since Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet Sola have taken advantage of spam coming from the Internet (more specifically, those messages “donated” by Eindhoven people) to make a very creative art project: first, they have recycled spam to algoritmically create poetry and, then, they have sent the result to a properly Arduino-hacked knitting machine (Arduino has been used to emulate the typing of the commands required to load the pattern).

From the authors:

Concerning the concept, we are interested in bringing together digital culture and traditional handicraft. To be more specific, the idea is to experiment with the form and meaning of SPAM. We turn SPAM into a romantic, funny or even sarcastic poetry and present it in unusual tangible form as knitted garment. To be more specific, we call final result dysfunctional wearable, because it reminds a sweater but is not really a one. Like SPAM, our dysfunctional wearable does not have a purpose.

The result is really impressive and it has been presented at two exhibitions, at Eindhoven and Malmö. Several pictures of the events can be found here. More information about the project can be found at Mar and Varvara‘s homepages.

[Via: Mar's Homepage and Varvara's Homepage]

MaKey MaKey: how to turn anything into an input-device controller

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

MaKey MaKey

Jay Silver from SparkFun and Eric Rosenbaum from MIT kickstarted a very nice project, which lets you to convert almost everything into an input-device for your computer.

According to SparkFun:

MaKey MaKey allows you to turn almost any common object into an input-device for your computer. The front side of the MaKey MaKey board has six inputs: up/down/left/right arrow keys, spacebar and a mouse left-click. Using alligator clips you can hook those inputs up to anything that’s even slightly conductive – fruit, play-dough, water, pencil drawings, whatever you can dream up – which becomes a keyboard or mouse input to your computer. So you can play a banana piano, play-dough Mario, or even create custom webcam triggers.

As for the technical side, MaKey MaKey is based on Arduino Leonardo’s bootloader and on ATMega 32u4. From its kickstarter page:

It uses the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol to communicate with your computer, and it can send keypresses, mouse clicks, and mouse movements. For sensing closed switches on the digital input pins, we use high resistance switching to make it so you can close a switch even through materials like your skin, leaves, and play-doh.

A longer introduction to MaKey MaKey can be found on SparkFun, while a more comprehensive description can be found here, together with some funny videos about its use.

[Via: Sparkfun and Kickstarter]