Category Archives: Cool Things

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Maker mods his NERF blaster into a fully-functional Halo 5 MA5D


A DIY weapon for Humans vs. Zombies — with an ammo counter, scope and all!


Jeremy Chang is a big fan of Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ), a live-action game where players try to survive a post-apocalyptic world using soft toys like socks and foam dart guns. Well, in this case, the Maker decided to do something a little different and add another layer of roleplaying to his HvZ experience by modding his NERF blaster to resemble a Halo MA5D assault rifle.

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This device boasts a number of impressive features, which range from a digital ammo counter to a functional scope. Based on the fictional United Nations Space Command weapon, the 3D-printed replica certainly looks ready to obliterate zombies.

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In order to get the iconic shape of the MA5D, Chang used some 3D-printed part to upgrade his blaster. On the inside, Chang employed an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) to detect trigger pulls, a few reed switches in the chamber to determine the current ammo count and an Adafruit 128×64 OLED lit with a NeoPixel LED. (The color on the screen change as the percentage of ammunition goes to zero.) The display even has a functional mission timer and will reveal if the clip is not fully closed. Aside from all that, a 5V scope adds a nice finishing touch to the MA5D prop.

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Intrigued? You can check out Chang’s entire build here.

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This system lets you experience the hidden politics of networks in everyday products


Politics of Power explores how a mass-manufactured products could behave differently depending on the nature of its communication protocol. 


If the U.S. presidential election took place tomorrow, and only power strips were running, at least we would now still have a choice of candidates and political ideologies. Shunning the two party system, design consultancy Automato has decided to create a three types of power strips, each with its own method of distributing electricity.

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“With a growing number of networked and autonomous objects as well as the outbreak of fields such as ‘the IoT,’ communication protocols used by connected products are increasingly important as they act as the network’s backbone. Since the end product is ‘black-boxed’ to the user, we often assume that all nodes of a network are equal,”the team writes. “But is it? For example, in a home, two appliances in the same network must be working at the same time, but because of a power shortage, they cannot run in parallel. This bring us to question, who should be given the priority and why?”

Politics of Power is an exploration into these questions on a micro-scale by employing a simple ubiquitous gadget, the multi-plug. These power structures include the generally democratic and physically circular “Model D,” featuring five plugs all running at 220V. In this system, a delegate (socket) is elected and it’s power grows until it’s unplugged. “Model M” is somewhat more repressive, with one plug running at 220v, two plugs at 180v, and three plugs at 110v.

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Finally, the “Model T” power strip is most repressive, with one one plug running at 220v, while the other four have to be content with 5V. They protest their situation at times by blinking power on an off, however the leader can shut power off to them if it so chooses. It is noted that this strip can turn into a “Model D” if the leader is taken out of the equation, though one might suspect another socket would rise to power in a violent power grab.

Politics aside, these power strips are controlled by an Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4), with a phase detector to sense changes in current. Meanwhile, a TRIAC gate circuit is used to control the power output to the sockets.

The whole setup is quite interesting, both visually and as a social commentary. This project offers a simplified way of looking at what’s at stake in debates over net neutrality, peer-to-peer networks, encryption backdoors and other modern-day controversies. And as smart devices continue to emerge throughout our daily, it certainly makes us wonder: Who’s actually in charge of making the decisions? Meaning, what are some of the hidden rules, structures and logic behind products such as power strips that were often thought of as being ‘neutral?’ You can see the results in the video below.

[h/t Creative Applications]

 

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27 smart crowdfunding campaigns you may want to back this week


Every Friday, we take a look at some of the smartest, most innovative projects that caught our attention on Kickstarter and Indiegogo over the last seven days. 


YOUMO

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This modular power strip gives you variety of charging options, which are customizable depending upon your needs. Good Gadgets has hit its $55,000 goal on Kickstarter.

Mighty

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This first-of-its-kind device plays your Spotify music without having to be paired to a smartphone. Mighty Audio is currently seeking $250,000 on Kickstarter.

Calendar Watch

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This watch syncs with today’s most popular digital calendars so you can see your day at a glance. What? Watch is currently seeking $104,924 on Kickstarter.

OSSIC X

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This pair of headphones instantly calibrate to your anatomy for the most accurate and immersive 3D audio. OSSIC has already well exceeded its $100,000 goal on Kickstarter.

Fishbit

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This smart aquarium monitor and controller helps keep your tank thriving and fish happy. Current Labs is currently seeking $71,750 on Kickstarter.

SumoBoy

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This programmable, Arduino-based sumo robotics kit lets you have your own Robot Wars. Guntis Kulikovskis is currently seeking $100,000 on Kickstarter.

HexiWear

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This wearable dev kit enables you to build your own sleek, low-power device packed with sensors to quantify yourself and the world around you. MikroElektronika is closing in on its $20,000 Kickstarter goal.

Netpure

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This two-step system creates a child-safe Wi-Fi network for every device your children use. Netpure is currently seeking $80,000 on Kickstarter.

Reach 3D

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This all-in-one $259 3D printer can be easily modified for laser cutting engraving, plotting and light milling. Nate Rogers has blown right by his $40,000 goal on Kickstarter.

ArcaBoard

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This hoverboard is set on becoming the world’s first. ARCA Space Corporation is currently seeking $250,000 on Kickstarter.

KordBot

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This music production assistant crams a chord generator, arpeggiator and step sequencer all into one unit. ISLA Instruments has nearly doubled its $55,000 goal on Kickstarter.

Allb

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This wearable for infants acts like a babysitter that can help you keep an eye on your little ones from wherever you are. Allb is currently seeking $15,000 on Kickstarter.

Lylo

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This smart, open source router provides easy Wi-Fi and home automation for everyone. Oneby is currently seeking $166,681 on Kickstarter.

CUBILE

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This ‘invisible’ gadget doesn’t just monitor your sleep, but improves your overall health. CUBILE is currently seeking $143,287 on Kickstarter.

KeKePad

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This plug-and-play platform replaces conductive thread with tiny connectors and thin cables. Michael Yang is currently seeking $2,000 on Indiegogo.

BRAIN One

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This portable telemetry device for motorsports tracks your performance, offers feedback in real-time and stores your data to instantly share results. BRAIN is currently seeking $55,106 on Kickstarter.

YodelUp

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This smartphone-connected wearable allows you to control your music and instantly talk to a friend or a group of friends — just like a walkie-talkie. YodelTECH is currently seeking $43,719 on Kickstarter.

Father.io

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This augmented reality platform uses an app, a smartphone camera and an interceptor attachment to transform your mobile device into a virtual weapon for a game of next-gen laser tag. Father.io has already doubled its initial goal of $50,000 on Indiegogo.

Sleep Shepherd Blue

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This headband employs brainwave sensors and binaural beats in a biofeedback loop to improve sleep quality and tracking accuracy. Michael Larson has already well surpassed his goal of $25,000 on Kickstarter.

Poof Bean and Pea

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This pair of super tiny and long-lasting pet monitors will help you protect and keep tabs on your furry friends. The Poof Team is currently seeking $25,000 on Indiegogo.

MoodBox

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This wireless, Bluetooth-enabled and voice-controlled speaker features emotion recognition capabilities, allowing to predict what music you’d like to listen to by gauging your mood. MoodBox is currently seeking $40,000 on Indiegogo.

WiCAM

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This coin-sized, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-equipped camera can be installed anywhere. Armstart Inc. is currently seeking $28,989 on Kickstarter.

Panoporter

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This camera provides you with 24/7 live video chat, streaming and recording capabilities in a 360-deegree HD view. Misafes is currently seeking $30,000 on Kickstarter.

 

TuneBox2

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This unit instantly makes your classic home stereo system smarter, so you can listen to your favorite tunes wirelessly. TuneBox is currently seeking $30,000 on Indiegogo.

Tinusaur Project

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This ATtiny85 kit gives you everything you need to start your first microcontroller project. Tinusaur is currently seeking $1,729 on Indiegogo.

RevolVR

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This set of wireless VR controllers enhances the gaming experience, while providing complete immersion into the virtual world. RevolVR is currently seeking $25,000 on Indiegogo.

Tempus Fugit

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This world clock interface board can be powered by an Arduino Nano or Raspberry Pi Zero. David Saul is currently seeking $2,861 on Kickstarter.

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This machine can print pictures using drops of coffee, wine and other liquids


Just when you thought you’ve seen it all…


If you’ve ever been to a Maker Faire, then chances are you’ve stumbled upon the PancakeBot, a CNC machine that extrudes delicious art out of batter. A few years ago, RIT Assistant Professor Ted Kinsman decided that he wanted to print using something other than ink as well. His choice? Coffee, or any other material with low viscosity.

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The machine itself is an xy-axis printer equipped with a solenoid liquid valve, stepper motors for positioning and an Arduino, which can store images of approximately 80×100 pixels. However, despite its mediocre resolution, it does plot human faces fairly well. The drip size, the nozzle distance and the paper that the beads of coffee extract fall onto can all be changed.

“For many years I have thought about building a machine that could paint for me,” he explains. “Since I always have leftover coffee, I thought it would be a fun medium to play with.”

For what it lacks in resolution, it surely makes up for in cost — Kinsman says that it’s super inexpensive to create images. To begin, the professor snaps a picture, heightens the contrast and converts that into a PGM file that the Arduino could read. The sketch then prints a test grid, which can be modified by dropping in a PGM image and adjusting the space between drops. As MAKE: notes, the grayscale is converted to an array of dots whose darkness corresponds to the length of time that the valve of the pipette opens to release a coffee drop.

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“Each of the pixels is turned into a number from 0 (no coffee) to 256 (the largest drip size). The size of each pixel is controlled by determining how long to open the drip valve for — the largest drop (and darkest pixel) requires the valve to be open for 63 milliseconds. In this way, the machine currently can do 53 different shades of coffee,” according to PetaPixel.

A Mariotte’s siphon is employed to ensure that the depth of the coffee in the reservoir won’t affect the pressure, which in turn could influence the size of the drops. Each print requires about an hour from start to finish, but takes roughly a day to fully dry.

Looking ahead, Kinsman would like to explore the possibility of adding another stepper motor so that he can make spirographs or use a syringe that would enable him to print with thicker liquids. But until then, you can watch it in action below (note that the machine is using blue ink) and read more about the project here.

 

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SensorTape is a sensor network in the form factor of masking tape


Sensor deployment made as simple as cutting and attaching strips of tape.


Developed by students from MIT Media Lab’s Responsive Environments group, SensorTape is a sensor network in the form factor of masking tape. Inspired by the emergence of modular platforms throughout the Maker community, it consists of interconnected and programmable sensor nodes on a flexible electronics substrate. In other words, it’s pretty much a roll of circuits that can be cut, rejoined and affixed to various surfaces.

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And what’s even cooler is that it’s a completely self-aware network, capable of feeling itself bend and twist. It can automatically determine the location of each of its nodes and the length of the tape, as it is cut and reattached.

As the neighboring nodes talk to one another, they can use their information to assemble an accurate, real-time 3D model of their assumed shape. Tapes with different sensors can also be connected for mixed functionality.

SensorTape’s architecture is made up of daisy-chained slave nodes and a master. The master is concerned with coordinating the communication and shuttling data to a computer, while each slave node features an ATmega328P, three on-board sensors (an ambient light sensor, an accelerometer, and a time-of-flight distance sensor), two voltage regulators and LEDs. The master contains the same AVR MCU, as well as serial-to-USB converter and a Bluetooth transceiver. The tape can be clipped to the master without soldering using a flexible circuit connector.

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In terms of communication protocol, the team chose a combination of I²C and peer-to-peer serial. Whereas I²C supports most of the data transmissions from the master to slave, addresses are ‘assigned dynamically’ over peer-to-peer serial. This enables a fast transfer rate of 100 KHz via I²C with a protocol initialization sequence that accommodates chains of various lengths, up to 128 units long. (For testing, the MIT Media Lab crew developed a 2.3-meter prototype with 66 sensor nodes.)

Aside from its hardware, SensorTape has black lines that instruct where it’s okay to cut and break the circuits using a pair of scissors. As you can see in the image above, this can be either in a straight line or on a diagonal, which allows you to piece together the tape into 2D shapes just as you would when forming a picture frame.

Although still in its infancy, sample use cases of SensorTape include everything from posture-monitoring wearables to inventory tracking to home activity sensing. What’s more, the team has created an intuitive graphical interface for programming the futuristic tape, and it’s all Arduino-friendly so Makers will surely love getting their hands on it and letting their imaginations run wild. You read all about the project in the MIT group’s paper, as well as on Fast Company.

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Bring the weather forecast to your Chucks


Hack a pair of Converse using an Adafruit FLORA, NeoPixels and a Bluetooth LE module that relays weather data from your phone.


San Francisco-based creative studio Chapter, in collaboration with Converse, have hacked a pair of Chuck Taylors to bring the forecast to your feet.

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The Converse Beacon consists of an Adafruit FLORA board (ATmega32U4), a Bluefruit LE module and a NeoPixel ring, which together, can alert you to custom weather conditions through IFTTT. In other words, your sneaks can let you know when rain is coming, when the surf is just right, or when conditions are perfect to take a stroll outside. Talk about walkin’ on sunshine!

What’s more, you’re not just limited to weather. Once you’ve connected IFTTT to the Adafruit channel, you open the door to hundreds of possible recipes that link various inputs to your NeoPixels.

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Think you want to relay data from your smartphone to create stylish alerts on your Chucks? Then check out Chapter’s full project write-up on Hackster.io.

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This ‘useless IoT device’ prints out Reddit’s Shower Thoughts


With the press of a button, Thinking Man produces a random amusing thought from Reddit’s popular subreddit Shower Thoughts. 


If you’ve never seen it, the subreddit /r/Showerthoughts is full of brilliant, concise and often hilarious insights that come to mind while, you guessed it, showering. Amidst all of that lathering and rinsing, our brains wander. The question is, what do you think about during your most vulnerable moments?

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Cognizant of this, the crew at MAKE: Magazine have developed a “totally useless and ridiculous desk toy” that prints out snippets from Reddit’s infamous feed. With one press of a button, the aptly named Thinking Man generates a random amusing thought from its onboard thermal printer, which is downloaded from the social network via Wi-Fi. The result is an objet d’art (or “work of art”) that can surprise you with its cleverness.

Aside from its thermal printer, this Internet of Useless Things project combines an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), an ESP8266 module and a plastic mannequin head. (You can see how to program the ‘duino, wire the boards, work with code and power up the device referring to its in-depth writeup here.)

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“Because the entire response from Reddit is too large for the Arduino to store in memory, the microcontroller has to pick out the relevant data as it is received. The included source code does just that, and can be adapted to read data from anywhere on the Internet or your home network,” MAKE: explains.

With a little tweaking, you can configure your own Thinking Man to produce jokes, or even more useful tidbits such as to-do lists, headlines, weather reports and class schedules. The possibilities are endless. Intrigued? Then head over to MAKE:’s entire write up here, or watch the team’s weekend project video below!