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TorqueScreen: Haptic Feedback On-the-Go

If you’ve been keeping your skills fresh with any console video games in the last 15 years (or you’ve acquired a smartphone), you’ll know that “rumble,” or “haptic” feedback plays a key role in augmenting our onscreen (or touch-screen typing) experience. Nevertheless, this sort of rumble feedback is surprisingly boolean, and hasn’t developed into a richer level of precision since it started to be introduced in gaming over 30 years ago. In response, [Martin] and his fellow design teammates at the University of Salzburg, Austria have introduced the TorqueScreen, a mobile haptic attachment that puts a twist on conventional force feedback.

At its core the TorqueScreen is a gyroscope attached to a servo with the respective rotational axes in a perpendicular alignment. When the servo rotates the live gyroscope, the user can sense the tablet’s resistance to rotate about the servos axis.

The team’s conference demonstration model features a brushless motor plucked from an old hard drive controlled by an Arduino and driven manually by a Wii nunchuck. Currently only one rotational axis resists changes in rotation, but a gimbal may be the next step in this project.

We’ve certainly seen budget handheld haptic devices before, but this project allows for an entire spread of responses proportional to the speed at which the gyroscope is rotated about the servo axis.

Unless you’re reading this post on your already-torquescreen-enabled mobile device, it’s a bit difficult to get a feel for what kind of interactions you can produce with this setup. The video (after the break), though, can give you a pretty good idea of what kind of interactivity you’d expect with device clipped onto your tablet.

[via the Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction Conference]

Filed under: Virtual Reality


Hackaday Links: January 25, 2015

Misumi is doing something pretty interesting with their huge catalog of aluminum extrusions, rods, bolts, and nuts. They’re putting up BOMs for 3D printers. If you’ve ever built a printer with instructions you’ve somehow found on the RepRap wiki, you know how much of a pain it is to go through McMaster or Misumi to find the right parts. Right now they have three builds, one with linear guides, one with a linear shaft, and one with V-wheels.

So you’re finally looking at those fancy SLA or powder printers. If you’re printing an objet d’arte like the Stanford bunny or the Utah teapot and don’t want to waste material, you’re obviously going to print a thin shell of material. That thin shell isn’t very strong, so how do you infill it? Spheres, of course. By importing an object into Meshmixer, you can build a 3D honeycomb inside a printed object. Just be sure to put a hole in the bottom to let the extra resin or powder out.

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer invented an automatic hammer? It’s been reinvented using a custom aluminum linkage, a freaking huge battery, and a solenoid. Next up is the makeup shotgun, and a reclining toilet.

[Jan] built a digitally controlled analog synth. We’ve seen a few of his FM synths built from an LPC-810 ARM chip before, but this is the first one that could reasonably be called an analog synth. He’s using a digital filter based on the Cypress PSoC-4.

The hip thing to do with 3D printers is low-poly Pokemon. I don’t know how it started, it’s just what the kids are doing these days. Those of us who were around for Gen 1 the first time it was released should notice a huge oversight by the entire 3D printing and Pokemon communities when it comes to low-poly Pokemon. I have corrected this oversight. I’ll work on a pure OpenSCAD model (thus ‘made completely out of programming code’) when I’m sufficiently bored.

*cough**bullshit* A camera that can see through walls *cough**bullshit* Seriously, what do you make of this?

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links


New Part Day: Silent Stepper Motors

Some of the first popular printers that made it into homes and schools were Apple Imagewriters and other deafeningly slow dot matrix printers. Now there’s a laser printer in every office that’s whisper quiet, fast, and produces high-quality output that can’t be matched with dot matrix technology.

In case you haven’t noticed, 3D printers are very slow, very loud, and everyone is looking forward to the day when high-quality 3D objects can be printed in just a few minutes. We’re not at the point where truly silent stepper motors are possible just yet, but with the Trinamic TMC2100, we’re getting there.

Most of the stepper motors you’ll find in RepRaps and other 3D printers are based on the Allegro A498X series of stepper motor drivers, whether they’re on breakout boards like ‘The Pololu‘ or integrated on the control board like the RAMBO. The Trinamic TMC2100 is logic compatible with the A498X, but not pin compatible. For 99% of people, this isn’t an issue: the drivers usually come soldered to a breakout board.

There are a few features that make the Trinamic an interesting chip. The feature that’s getting the most publicity is a mode called stealthChop. When running a motor at medium or low speeds, the motor will be absolutely silent. Yes, this means stepper motor music will soon be a thing of the past.

However, this stealthChop mode drastically reduces the torque a motor can provide. 3D printers throw around relatively heavy axes fairly fast when printing, and this motor driver is only supposed to be used at low or medium velocities.

The spreadCycle feature of the TMC2100 is what you’ll want to use for 3D printers. This mode uses two ‘decay phases’ on each step of a motor to make a more efficient driver. Motors in 3D printers get hot sometimes, especially if they’re running fast. A more efficient driver reduces heat and hopefully leads to more reliable motor control.

In addition to a few new modes of operation, the TMC2100 has an extremely interesting feature: diagnostics. There are pins specifically dedicated as notification of shorted outputs, high temperatures, and undervolt conditions. This is something that can’t be found with the usual stepper drivers, and it would be great if a feature like this were to ever make its way into a 3D printer controller board. I’m sure I’m not alone in having a collection of fried Pololu drivers, and properly implementing these diagnostic pins in a controller board would have saved those drivers.

These drivers are a little hard to find right now, but Watterott has a few of them already assembled into a Pololu-compatible package. [Thomas Sanladerer] did a great teardown of these drivers, too. You can check out that video below.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns


Check Out Hot Deals Ending Soon Including the SKEYE Nano Drone and NetSpot Pro [Deals Hub]

There are so many great offers in the iPhone Hacks Deals Hub that it’s easy to miss one. We try to alert you to all of the best deals around, and this is your chance to catch those savings that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks. Take a look at the best deals of the week from the iPhone Hacks Deals Hub. You’ll be glad you did, and your wallet will thank you, too.

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iPhone Hacks | #1 iPhone, iPad, iOS Blog


Turning A Classic NES Controller Into a Bluetooth Controller

[Pietronet] is like many of us in that he enjoys playing some classic console video games from time to time. He usually plays them on his PC using a Wiimote as a controller. The Wiimote has most of the classic buttons in a comfortable configuration. Plus, it’s got Bluetooth built-in, which makes it easy to pair up to your PC. [Pietronet] decided to take it a step further, though. He managed to cram all of the guts from a Wiimote inside of the original NES controller for a more authentic feel.

The first step was to crack open the Wiimote and locate pads for each button. Once they were located, [Pietronet] used a Dremel to cut the board into a smaller size. He cut off part of the circuit board that contained the directional pad as well as the connector for the nunchuck. Next he had to solder very thin wires to each of the button pads he located earlier.

The original NES controller has a very limited number of buttons, and [Pietronet] wanted to modify the original controller as little as possible. Therefore, he attached a magnetic reed switch to the Wiimote’s sync button. This way if he ever needs to sync the Wiimote to a new console, he can do it by holding a magnet in the right place. This is a function that isn’t often used, so the inconvenience should be negligible.

The next step was to connect the buttons from the original NES controller up to the wires that were added to the Wiimote. [Pietronet] left the original circuit board mostly intact. He did have to cut a small chunk of it away in order to make room for two AAA batteries, but this didn’t affect the functionality of the controller.

The inside of the NES controller had to be cleaned out of various standoffs and plastic bits to make room for all of the extra components. The Wiimote has an LED to indicate that the controller is connected properly. [Pietronet] soldered a red SMD LED in its place on the end of two thin wires. This LED was then placed on the bottom left side of the directional pad. It’s visible through a translucent filter. This allows [Pietronet] to see when the NES controller is synced up properly.

The case fits back together and everything is held in place. The result is what looks and feels like a classic NES controller, only this one has Bluetooth connectivity and a vibration motor. Check out the video demonstration below to get an idea of what it looks like in use.

Filed under: nintendo hacks, nintendo wii hacks


An Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk for Under $100

[Cornel Masson] is a 46-year-old computer programmer. He’s been working on his computer for the last 30 years. Computer work can be good for the wallet but it can be bad for our health, particularly the neck and back. You can purchase adjustable desks to allow you to change positions from sitting to standing, but unfortunately these desks are often expensive. [Cornel] took matters into his own hands and build his own adjustable riser for under 0.

To start, [Cornel] used a typical computer desk. He didn’t want to build the entire thing from scratch. Instead he focused on building a riser that sits on top of the desk, allowing him to change the height of both the monitor and keyboard. His design used mostly wood, aluminum stock, threaded rods, and drawer slides.

The main component is the monitor stand and riser. The riser is able to slide up and down thanks to four drawer slides mounted vertically. [Cornel] wanted his monitor to move up and down with ease, which meant he needed some kind of counter weight. He ended up using a gas strut from the trunk of a Nissan, which acts as a sort of spring. The way in which it is mounted makes for a very close approximation of his monitor’s weight. The result is a monitor that can be raised or lowered very easily. The stand also includes a locking mechanism to keep it secured in the top position.

The keyboard stand is also mounted to drawer slides, only these are in the horizontal position. When the monitor is lowered for sitting, the keyboard tray is removed from the keyboard stand. The stand can then be pushed backwards, overlapping the monitor stand and taking up much less space. The keyboard stand has small rollers underneath to help with the sliding. The video below contains a slideshow of images that do a great job explaining how it all works.

Of course if replacing the entire desk is an option go nuts.

Filed under: misc hacks


NCBrowser 8 adds a web browser to the Notification Center [Jailbreak Tweak]

If you surf the web on your iPhone frequently, you’ll be glad to find out about a new jailbreak tweak known as NCBrowser 8 that makes it a whole lot easier to surf the internet on the go.
The tweak adds a web browser to the Notification Center allowing you to access the web from anywhere within iOS, without even requiring you to launch the Safari app. 
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iPhone Hacks | #1 iPhone, iPad, iOS Blog


Ask Hackaday: Your Very First Microcontroller

Necessity is the mother of invention. It is also true that invention necessitates learning new things. And such was the case on the stormy Tuesday morning our story begins.  Distant echos of thunder reverberated in the small 8 x 16 workshop, drawing my attention to the surge suppressor powering my bench.  With only a few vacation days left, my goal of finishing the hacked dancing Santa Claus toy was far from complete. It was for a Secret Santa gift, and I wanted to impress. The Santa moved from side to side as it sang a song. I wanted to replace the song with a custom MP3 track. In 2008, MP3 players were cheap and ripe for hacking. They could readily be picked up at local thrift shops, and I had picked up a few. It soon became clear, however, that I would need a microcontroller to make it do what I wanted it to do.


Dancing Santa Claus
My bench during the hack
hacked mp3 player

I had never used a microcontroller before. I knew what they were however, and had several PIC16F84s that I removed from some old scrap boards I acquired from my day job. So I scoured the internet for PIC tutorials until I found what I thought was a good one. It was here where I became instantly set in my ways – If you want me to try out your fancy shmancy microcontroller – you will walk me though setting up the IDE and writing/compiling/uploading code for the blinkenlights. If you can’t do that, keep your microcontroller because I don’t want it.

The tutorial I chose did not do this, which made it virtually useless. But I kept searching until I found a suitable one. I already had MPlab and a programmer setup to load hex files for my job. The tutorial showed me how to use the wizard to setup the IDE for assembly programming of the 16F84. Within an hour or so, I had everything on the breadboard wired up.

My heart was thumping as I applied the 5 volts. Would it work? Had I just programmed my very first microcontroller? Would it all end in tears? Alas, it did not work. It took me about half an hour before I realized I left the master clear floating. With the insertion of one wire, it worked! Light the fireworks!

I probably stared at that blinking red LED for fifteen minutes. I had done this. Not only was this microcontroller doing exactly what I told it to do, I understood how it was doing it. And thus began a lifelong learning process into the world of embedded computing. So next time you’re uploading your 2,000 line program into your 32 bit ARM controller, think back and remember how it all started.

And now it’s your turn. Tell us about your very first microcontroller project.

Filed under: Ask Hackaday, Hackaday Columns, Microcontrollers, toy hacks


3D Printed Camera Battery Emulator

There are certainly battery hungry devices out there on the market and, unless you do some serious research before the purchase of said device, you really don’t know how it will perform. Needless to say, some of us get stuck with power hog device, and it seriously sucks because changing out batteries often is expensive and just plain annoying.

If you couldn’t tell, I am speaking from experience, my old Sony DSC-H5 camera works great with the exception of needing new batteries every hour. And if you get cheap batteries, the camera won’t even turn on! There’s a USB connector on the camera but it is only for transferring data and there is also no DC input jack. The entire situation is a totally bummer.

I’m happy (or disappointed) that I am not alone in the world. [Phil] wrote into the HaD tip line to tell us about his solution to this very problem. He has a Canon SD1000 camera and although the battery works fine he needs it to work at an altitude of 15km in order to take some sunrise photos. Cold weather testing (in the fridge freezer) showed that the battery isn’t going to cut the mustard for the hour-long flight. The rest of the balloon-lifted unit already has a battery pack and the plan would be to tap into that to power the camera. Unfortunately his camera, like mine, doesn’t have a DC input jack and can not be powered off the USB port.

[Phil] decided to make a 3D printed battery emulator. It sits in place of the stock battery and holds bare wire where the batteries terminals normally are. The other end of the wires are run out of the camera to a voltage regulator that converts the battery pack’s 6 volts down to the 3.9 that the camera needs.

[Phil]’s project inspired me so much that I decided to make my own battery emulator! [Phil]’s 3D model is available for download but unfortunately my camera takes standard AA cells. No biggy though, I do have the capability to model my own. Measuring the AA batteries made for a quick modeling of an emulator.AA Emulator One thing I had to keep in mind is that the 2 batteries are close to each other but they are not touching. I had to account for that in the design since I wanted my emulator to be one piece, rather than two separate AA cells. Instead of making the bare wire contact the battery terminals in the camera, I used 3mm pan head screws for no other reason than that I had them kicking around and they reminded me of the button on a AA cell. A little flux helped the solder stick to the screws and some post-photoshoot hot glue will keep things insulated and provide strain relief. To power the camera I just used an old 3.2vdc wall wart. Yes, my camera is not mobile anymore but I can once again use it for shots around the shop.

AA Battery Emulator STL File Link

[Phil] hasn’t launched his camera yet but we are definitely looking forward to checking out his high-altitude sunrise photos.

Filed under: digital cameras hacks


Retrotechtacular: The Sylvania Tube Crusher

This week, we’re switching off the ‘Tube and taking a field trip to Emporium, Pennsylvania, home of the Sylvania vacuum tube manufacturing plant. Now, a lot of companies will tell you that they test every single one of their products, ensuring that only the best product makes it into the hands of John Q. Public. We suspect that few of them actually do this, especially these days. After all, the more reliable the product, the longer it will be before they can sell you a new one.

sylvania-tube-crusher-thumbFor Sylvania, one of the largest tube manufacturers of the golden age, this meant producing a lot of duds. A mountain of them, in fact, as you can see in the picture above. This article from the January 1957 issue of Popular Electronics vilifies forgers who used all kinds of methods to obtain defective tubes. They would then re-brand them and pass them off as new, which was damaging to Sylvania’s good name and reputation.

In addition to offering a reward for turning in known tube forgers, Sylvania did the most reasonable thing they could think of to quash the gray market, which was building a tube-crushing machine. Pulverizing the substandard tubes made sure that there were no “factory seconds” available to those fraudsters. After crushing shovelful after shovelful of tubes, the glass splinters were removed through a flotation separation process, and the heavy metals were recovered.

Did we get you all hot about tubes? Here’s how Mullard made their EF80 model.

[Thanks for the tip, Fran!]

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.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular