14 | November | 2022

14 |  November |  2022

We’ve all played some variation of the plain old racing video game. It’s about swerving around cars in front without crashing, as the pace keeps increasing even further. [Dr. Engine] has recreated that very game in the physical world, using LEGO Technic.

The design uses what appears to be a LEGO tank step to create a treadmill for a LEGO car. The original design is hand cranked, but [Dr. Engine] will soon upgrade this with a motor. The wide treadmill is then equipped with a steering wheel. This steers the car laterally along the treadmill via a simple pulley system. From there it was a simple job to add a gearbox to change the speed of the treadmill, and obstacles for the car to avoid. Double-sided table attached small die-cast cars to the track to match the theme of the building.

It’s a lot of fun to watch the car goof and weave across the undulating track and we’d certainly like to compete with friends for the high score. We’ve seen similar builds before, like this all-LEGO suspension dyno. Video after break.

Continue reading “LEGO Race Car Simulator is like a mechanical arcade game”

Shooting space launches often requires the use of external cameras for safety reasons. However, this means that there is no photographer available to wipe lenses down if they happen to get condensation from the prevailing weather conditions. [Michael Baylor] had problems with atmospheric humidity interfering with his launch shots, so built a custom automatic lens hood to help solve the problem.

The design is simple, consisting of a large shutter that rotates to cover the camera lens when not taking pictures, controlled by an impressively powerful servo. Not only does the automatic hood protect the lens from condensation before the moment of launch, it also closes to cover the lens when the rocket leaves the frame. This protects the lens from all the dust and debris that flies in the way, kicked up by the rocket exhaust at launch.

[Michael] found that the lens cover easily outperformed his usual anti-condensation solution. While his auto-cap camera captured mostly clean images, another camera equipped with 18-hour hand warmers suffered significantly from condensation. The plan is to add some heat to the auto-cap setup to stave off condensation for good, even when shooting pads like Vandenburg, California.

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Details of the construction are thin, but the basic concept is there. Put together a servo with some 3D printed components and a microcontroller and you can build a setup tailored to your own rig and use case. If you also need a long-range camera remote, we’ve seen them before too! Video after break.

Continue reading “Automatic Lens Cover Helps Cameras Cover Space Launches”

A homemade wireless game controller

Few things are more satisfying than finding an old, forgotten piece of technology somewhere and bringing it back to life. And while it’s great to see a rare sports car or an Apollo Flight Computer being restored, even not-so-successful 1980s game consoles can make for some great repair stories. Just see how [Discreet Mayor] describes his restoration and modification efforts on a ColecoVision that he literally found in a barn.

Given that ColecoVision was on the market between 1982 and 1985, we can assume that [Discreet Mayor]the console had been sitting on a shelf for at least three decades, and the machine was definitely showing its age. Several components had failed due to corrosion, including the clock crystal, a 7400 series logic chip and a capacitor in the power supply, but since these are all standard components it was fairly easy to replace them.

However, the controllers were unfortunately beyond repair. Replacing them with standard joysticks wasn’t really an option because the ColecoVision controllers included a numeric keypad, which was mainly used to select game options. Creating something completely new was the way to go, and [Discreet Mayor] decided to go for a wireless system while he was at it. After all, he had already developed a modular wireless IoT system based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, which turned out to be a perfect fit for this system.

The splash screen of ColecoVision's Venture[Discreet Mayor] built a simple joystick-plus-four-button setup on a piece of MDF and equipped it with his IoT transmitter. Instead of adding a new numeric keypad, he decided to use the joystick to simulate the most frequently used buttons: “right” for “1”, “down” for “2” and so on. The receiver module uses digital switches to emulate keystrokes to the console’s input port. The end result may look a little choppy, but the console is fully functional again and runs its games just like it did over thirty years ago.

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We’ve seen several projects that add wireless controllers to a variety of classic consoles. If you have a ColecoVision that proves to be unsalvageable, you can always just build your own from scratch.

With the rise of voice-operated virtual assistants over the years, the sight of people talking to various electrical devices in public and private has become quite common. While such voice-driven interfaces are decidedly useful for a variety of situations, they also come with complications. One of these is the trigger phrases or wake-up words that voice assistants listen to when they are on standby. Just like in Star Trek, where saying “Computer” would get the computer’s attention, we have our “Siri”, “Cortana” and a variety of custom trigger phrases that activate the voice interface.

However, unlike in Star Trek, our virtual assistants don’t know when we really want to interact. Unable to distinguish context, they will happily respond to someone on TV mentioning their trigger phrase. This possibly followed by a ridiculous purchase order or other mischief. The realization here is the complexity of voice-based interfaces, while still lacking any sense of self-awareness or intelligence.

Another problem is that the process of voice recognition itself is very resource-intensive, which limits the amount of processing that can be performed on the local device. This typically leads to voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and others processing recorded voices in a data center, with obvious privacy implications.

Continue reading “On Getting a Computer’s Attention and Starting a Conversation”

Screenshot of Arduino Lab for MicroPython

Both Arduino and MicroPython are giants in the field of electronics education, and each of them represents something that you cannot ignore as an educator. Arduino offers you a wide ecosystem of inexpensive hardware with a beginner-friendly IDE, aided by forum posts that explain every single problem you can and will stumble upon. MicroPython, on the other hand, offers a powerful programming environment that’s ripe for experimentation, and won’t unleash a machine-gun fire of triangle brackets if you try to parse JSON slightly wrong. They look like a match made in heaven, and today the Arduino Lab for MicroPython comes from heaven.

This is not an Arduino IDE extension – it’s a separate Arduino IDE shaped app that does MicroPython editing and uploads code to your board from a friendly environment. It works over a serial port and as such the venerable ESP8266 based boards should not be left out – they even offer file management capabilities! Arduino states that this is an experimental effort – it doesn’t have syntax checks yet, for example, and no promises have been made. That said, it’s already a fantastic MicroPython IDE for beginner purposes, and certainly a move in the right direction. Want to try? Download it here, there’s even a Linux build!

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High-level languages ​​allow you to build projects faster – perfect for someone new to microcontrollers. Hopefully what follows is a MicroPython library manager and repository! We first tried out MicroPython in 2016, and it’s come a long way since then—we’ve seen quite a few beginner-friendly MicroPython intros, from a gaming handheld programming course, to a two-legged robot programming MicroPython exploration. And of course you can bring your C libraries.

Early 3D printers usually had a microswitch that let you know when the Z-axis was at the zero point. There was usually an adjustment screw so you could set just the right layer height. But these days, most often you see some kind of sensor. There are inductive sensors that work with a metal bed and a few other styles as well. However, the most common sensor is the “BL touch” style which drops a probe below the nozzle level, measures and retracts the probe. However, almost all of these sensors work by detecting a certain height above the bed, and that’s it.

A new probe called BDsensor is inductive, but can read the height above the bed in real time. According to information from the developer, it achieves a resolution of 0.01 mm and a repeatability of +/- 0.005 mm. We don’t know if that’s true or not, but being able to take real-time nozzle height measurements leads to some interesting possibilities like real-time Z-height adjustments, as shown in the video below.

Continue reading “3D Printer Z-Sensor Claims 0.01mm Resolution”

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