Sometimes one just needs an extra hand or six  around the workbench. Since you’re a hacker that should take the form of a tiny robot swarm that can physically display your sensor data, protect you against a dangerously hot caffeine fix and clean up once you’re done. [Ryo Suzuki] and [Clement Zheng] from the University of Colorado Boulder’s ATLAS Institute developed ShapeBots, small shape-shifting swarm robots that aim to do exactly that and more.

The robots each consist of a cube shaped body with 2 small drive wheels, onto which 1-4 linear actuator modules can attach in various positions. For control the robots’ relative positions are tracked using an overhead camera and is shown performing the tasks mentioned above and more.

To us the actuators are the interesting part, consisting of two spools of tape that can extend and retract like a tape measure. This does does lead us to wonder: why we haven’t seen any hacks using an old tape measure as a linear actuator? While you likely won’t be using it for high force applications, it’s possible to get some impressive long reach from a small from factor. This is exactly what the engineers behind the Lightsail 2 satellite used to deploy it’s massive space sail. Space the two coils some distance apart and you can even achieve full 2-axis motion.

You can also control your swarm using your favourite wifi chip or have them skitter around using vibration or 3D print some linear actuators.



[Design Prototype Test] got a box in the mail. Inside? An E3D “tool changer and motion system.” Superficially, it looks like a 3D printer, but it is touted as a machine that can mount several different kinds of tools, including a 3D print head. In the video below, you can see the assembly of the heavy-looking machine.

In a world in which a cheap 3D printer costs way under $200, this machine is much sturdier and costs about $3,000 with all the pieces. [Design Prototype Test] is a bit put out by the price, but you have to wonder if they aren’t trying to allow for an eventual CNC head for which the extra-sturdy build could be an advantage. However, the use of motion belts makes that seem like a long shot.

Controlling a single drone takes up a considerable amount of concentration and normally involves wearing silly goggles. It only gets harder if you want to control a swarm. Researchers at Skolkovo Institute of Technology decided Jedi mind tricks were the best way, and set up swarm control using hand gestures. 

We’ve seen something similar at the Intel Booth of the 2016 Makerfaire. In that demo, a single drone was controlled by hand gesture using a hacked Nintendo Power Glove. The Skoltech approach has a lot of innovation building on that concept. For one, haptics in the finger tips of the glove provide feedback from the current behavior of the drones. Through their research they found that most operators quickly learned to interpret the vibrations subconsciously.

It also increased the safety of the swarm, which is a prime factor in making these technologies usable outside of the lab. Most of us have at one point frantically typed commands into a terminal or pulled cords to keep a project from destroying itself or behaving dangerously. Having an intuitive control means that an operator can react quickly to changes in the swarm behavior.

The biggest advantage, which can be seen in the video after the break, is that the hand control eliminates much of the preprogramming of paths that is currently common in swarm robotics. With tech like this we can imagine a person quickly being trained on drone swarms and then using them to do things like construction surveys with ease. As an added bonus the researchers were nice enough to pre-submit their paper to arxiv if any readers would like to get into the specifics.

You’d be hard pressed to find an IT back office that doesn’t have a few Cisco routers or switches laying around and collecting dust. We’d even bet there are a decent number of people reading this post right now that have a stack of them within arm’s reach. They’re the kind of thing most of us have no practical application for, but we still can’t bear to throw away. But it looks like [Sven Tantau] has found an ideal middle ground: rather than junk his Cisco Catalyst switches, he turned them into automatic bartenders.

Inspired by all those perfect little square openings on the front, [Sven] loaded each switch with a whopping 24 peristaltic pumps, one for each Ethernet port. To fit all his plumbing inside, the switches were naturally gutted to the point of being hollow shells of their former selves, although he does mention that their original power supplies proved useful for keeping two dozen power-hungry motors well fed.

The motors are connected to banks of relays, which in turn are thrown by an ESP32 and an Arduino Nano. [Sven] explains that he wasn’t sure if the ESP32 could fire off the relays with its 3 V output, so he decided to just use an Arduino which he already knew could handle the task. The two microcontrollers work in conjunction, with a web interface on the ESP32 ultimately sending I2C commands to the Arduino when it’s time to get the pumps spinning.

[Sven] mentions his robotic bartenders were a hit at the 2019 Chaos Communication Camp, where we know for a fact the computer-controlled alcohol was flowing freely. Of course, if you don’t intend on carrying your barbot around to hacker camps, you can afford to make it look a bit swankier.

Many cameras these days have optional remotes that allow the shutter release to be triggered wirelessly. Despite this, [Foaly] desired more range, and more options for dealing with several cameras at once. As you’d expect, hacking ensued.

[Foaly] uses Silver modules to photograph rocket launches safely.The system goes by the name of Silver, and is modular in nature. Each Silver module packs a transmitter and receiver, and can send and receive trigger orders to any other module in range. This allows a module to be used to trigger a camera, or be used as a remote to control other modules. There’s even a PC interface program that controls modules over USB.

Modules are also capable of sharing configuration changes with other modules in the field, making it easy to control a large battery of cameras without having to manually run around changing settings on each one. Oh, and it can run as a basic intervalometer too.

LoRa is used for wireless communications between modules, giving them excellent range. [Foaly] successfully used the remotes at ranges over 500 meters without any dropouts, capturing some great model rocket takeoffs in the process.

Silver is a highly robust project that should do everything the average photographer could ever possibly need, and probably a good deal more. Firmware and board files are available for those eager to make their own.

We’ve seen several very impressive camera augmentations entered into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, from ultra high-speed LED flash modules to highly flexible automatic trigger systems.

You’re going to love the talks at the Hackaday Superconference this November. The ultimate hardware conference is all about hardware creation. The ten speakers below join the talks we announced last week and that’s still not even half of what you’ll see on the stages of Supercon. Add to that the superb workshops we announced early this week and you begin to ask yourself just how much awesome can really fit into a single weekend. Well, it’s three full days and we’d recommend arriving the day before for the unofficial festivities too!

Of course, you’ll need a ticket to ride. At the time of writing there were some available (we’ve left the teens and are headed for single digits), but no guarantee there will be any left when this article is published. We’ll be maintaining a waiting list though, so if you’re sitting on a ticket you just can’t use, please return it so someone else can take your spot.

Crimping is generally defined as the joining of two conductors by mechanical forces. At first, the process appears to be rather simple. However, deeper investigations reveal complex dynamics that operate at macroscopic, microscopic, and nanoscales. I will cover the basic theory for pressure connections, examine the role of mechanical properties for both conductivity and tensile strength, look at oxides and surface films, and consider the design challenges for tooling, testing, and validation of crimp quality.

LEDs are not all created alike. I will cover a wide range of practical techniques involved in using LEDs, in particular in the context of large-scale installations, hower much of it will be equally applicable to smaller projects. Topics include suitable LED types, drive circuitry, dimming techniques, gamma correction. There will be live demonstrations illustrating many of the areas covered.

It feels like every day we hear about an unbelievable new security vulnerability that allows an attacker to spy on your dog through a connected light bulb or program your toaster oven remotely. Some of these are quite elaborate, requiring researchers years to track down. But others are total no-brainers; “why didn’t the manufacturer just do X!”. In our IoT-ified world device security is more important than ever, but not every hardware product needs to be secured like an ATM inside a missile. I will discuss basic design practices and implementation tricks which are easy to incorporate into your product and provide a solid baseline of security against casual adversaries.

Building tech for the human body is tricky! Whether it’s a fitness tracker or a costume, making hardware comfortable and durable enough to wear is a fascinating design challenge. I like to tackle this challenge with the help of machines! In this talk, I’ll share my recent projects that use 3D printing and laser cutting to create wearable tech with precision and high impact. I’ll talk about the design process and build techniques for using 3D printing and laser cutting to create custom parts that are comfortable and perfect for wearables.

Where did we the OSHW and hobbyist community come from and what have we accomplished? The truth is we are driving modern consumer electronics industry. From prototyping, to tools to media and training, we have changed it all. I’ll talk about the reasons why, our impact and our future, as well as how to avoid becoming what the older industry is: obsolete.

You should be super excited about FPGAs and how they allow open source projects to do hardware development. In this talk I will cover a basic introduction into what an FPGA is and can do, what an FPGA toolchain is, and how much things sucked when the only option was to use proprietary toolchains. The SymbiFlow project changed this and I’ll discuss what is currently supported including a demo of Linux on a RISC-V core with a cheap Xilinx FPGA development board.

Starting my engineering career working on low level analog measurement, anything above 1kHz kind of felt like “high frequency”. This is very obviously not the case. I’ll go over the journey of discovering and rediscovering higher frequency techniques and squaring them with the low level measurement basics that I learned at the beginning my career. This will include a discussion of Maxwell’s equations and some of the assumptions that we make when we’re working on different types of circuits. You will find this information useful in the context of RF calculations around cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth and other commonly available communication methods.

In our talk, we will show how we designed and built a message authentication system operating on ADANA (Automated Detection of Anomalous Network Activity) and Hyperledger (a “smart contract” form of Blockchain) all hosted on just two servers that were no longer being used by Rowan College. The system was built using Docker, syslog-ng, Hyperledger Fabric and Composer, and a beta version of Splunk. This system is accessible by nodes wired into the network which interact with the hyperledger through a web browser. We’ll present the infrastructure of the network, details of the hyperledger, an explanation of all the tools used by the system, a walkthrough of how the system works, reflections on the particular challenges of this project, and what we see in the future of this technology.

The STU-III secure telephone was originally developed by the NSA for defense use in the 1980’s but also saw use in unclassified commercial products like the Motorola Sectel 9600. However, they require difficult to find electromechanical keys. I will describe the process of creating a compatible key for the Sectel 9600 by reverse engineering the mechanical and electrical design and subsequently fabricating it. Along the way I’ll discuss low volume manufacturing issues and strategies to overcome.

Don’t miss out. One weekend as one of so many amazing people will inspire you and recharge your creative batteries for the coming year of hardware hacking. See you at Supercon!

Hackaday Editors Tom Nardi and Mike Szczys comb through their favorite hacks from the past week. We loved Donald Papp’s article on considerations before making the leap from FDM 3D Printers to a resin-based process, and we solidify our thoughts on curing cement in low-gravity. Tom’s working on a Cyberdeck build, and he also found an ancient episode of an earlier and much different version of the Hackaday podcast. We’re impressed with a mostly 3D-printed useless machine, a thermal-insert press that’s also 3D-printed, and the Raspberry-Pi based Sidekick clone that popped up this week. A DIY wire-bending robot is an incredible build, as is the gorgeous wire-routing in a mechanical keyboard, and the filigree work on this playing card press. Plus you need to spend some time getting lost in this one hydrogen-line telescope project.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 038: Cyberdecks Taking Over, Resin 3D-Printing Vs FDM, Silicone Injection Molding, And The Pickle Fork Fiasco” →

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