Contest: Win a Head-Mounted Video Display

This morning, I posted an item on the MAKE: Blog about Jake Hildebrandt’s hack of a Wild Planet video display, the head-mounted video unit that’s part of Wild Planet’s Spy Video Car. It’s pretty easy to make this display work with any video source. Anyway, Wild Planet read the post and offered up this contest (the replacement display unit appears to be no longer available):

Thanks to Jake, for the great hack! So sorry the website is out of stock. Our engineering group has a bin of extra headsets (pre-production samples, engineering test units, etc.) we’d like to make available to 10 clever hackers.

Email us with a one-paragraph proposal of what cool thing you’re going to do with your own cyborg headset. Best 10 answers we receive by 5PM tomorrow (Oct. 10) receive a headset. No guarantees-these aren’t production samples, but they’re free, right?

email us: hack(at)wildplanet(dot)com

Much love, Wild Planet Engineering Team


From Boob Toobs to Interwebs: Rerouting Your Feed

I am *this close* to canceling my cable account and moving to all Net-delivered media. I’ve already canceled HBO and get my fix of their programming via the Web. And I don’t watch much mainstream TV anymore anyway, and never anything (besides the evening news) in real time.

So I was interested to see this Lifehacker Hack Attack piece on “Six Ways to Catch Your Favorite TV Shows.” Of the six, Miro (formerly “Democracy”) is my fave.


Advances in Wetware Interfacing

From CNet News:

Scientists are making progress on neural devices that can translate the thoughts of a paralyzed person into driving action for a prosthetic device.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Wednesday that they’ve developed an algorithm for a neural prosthetic aid that can link an individual’s brain activity to the person’s intentions; and then translate that intention into movement.

Of course, other scientists have already done that, and built prototypes for neural brain-to-machine devices that can work for animals or humans. But each team has taken a different approach to the problem, such as developing algorithms for measuring activity in a specific brain region, or measuring them through EEGs vs. optical imaging.

MIT said that it has developed a unified algorithm that can work within the parameters of these different approaches. Lakshminarayan “Ram” Srinivasan, lead author of a paper on the subject, said MIT’s new graphical models are applicable no matter what measurement technique is used.

“We don’t need to reinvent a new paradigm for each modality or brain region,” he said in a statement.

Still, he said, the algorithm isn’t perfect, nor the final solution to solving what is a difficult problem. “Translating an algorithm into a fully functioning clinical device will require a great deal of work, but also represents an intriguing road of scientific and engineering development for the years to come,” according to MIT.

MIT will publish a paper on the subject in the October edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology.


Catapult Contest at Maker Faire

One of my favorite memories of Foo Camp was sitting around with MAKE’s Dale Dougherty, Bill Gurstelle, and others, in the evening, while Bill bounced around ever-crazier ideas for burning down, blowing up, and launching stuff at the upcoming Austin Maker Faire. Dale seemed no less interested in this brainstorm, in theory, but had the obvious challenge of balancing ballistic fun and envelope-pushing pyro with real-world safety and liability concerns. For me, I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was lucky enough to be working with people for whom such a conversation was considered official company business.

Anyhoo, that Austin Maker Faire is swiftly approaching (Oct 20-21). One of several events and activities that’ll hopefully keep Bill Gurstelle and his cohort occupied is the King of Fling Catapult Contest (which is, of course also open to the Queen of Catapults, the Baroness of Ballistas, etc.). Folks are encourage to build, bring, and fire a catapult. Prizes will be awared, but have yet to be announced (and are obviously not really the point). I can’t wait to see what the Bill Gurstelle’s of the Maker world come up with.

To find more about the event and contest rules, see the King of Fling page. To learn more about catapult building, visit Build a Catapult.


i-Sobot Site Goes Live

You may have seen my posts on MAKE: Blog about the Tomy i-Sobot, the US$300 mini-humanoid that looks pretty damn full-featured for the dough. The English version of the i-Sobot site went live today. On it, you can see videos of the bot, how its button-sequence programming works (very similar to Robosapien), read some tech specs, etc. Some interesting tidbits, such as the fact that the bot is 6-1/2″ tall, has two gyroscopic sensors, the gearboxes on the 12 servomotors have metal gears, and that the run-time on the included NMH batteries is an hour (which probably means less than that in real-world operation). The bot has three CPU chips for general control, voice recognition, and motor control. No other details on these, as far as I know.

This looks like a decent robot that does the lion’s share of what other humanoid bots can do that cost three or four times as much. Can’t wait to see what sorts of hacks and mods people come up with.

Thanks, Robert!


IED T-Shirt for Sale

Instructables member Ed Lewis, a.k.a “fungus amungus,” designer of the “Improving ELECTRONICS Devices is not a crime” shirt, has made the design available on Spreadshirt. Profit from the sales of the shirt go to Star Simpson’s defense fund. Star being the 19 year old hardware hacker who spooked all sense out of Logan Airport authorities when she wore a shirt with a home-made electronics circuit to pick somebody up. Whatever you think of her actions (personally I find them boneheaded in the extreme), you’ve got to sympathize with her serious and scary predicament, especially because “the Man” seems intent on throwing the book at her, calling what she wore a “fake bomb” (which is equally boneheaded in the extreme).

I bought the shirt seen here. I plan on wearing it with pride at the Austin Maker Faire (while turning it inside out and burying it deep inside my bag at the airport). We live in interesting times…


Do birds have HUDs in their heads?

Street Techie Alberto Gaitan writes “Some birds (and maybe newts!) may have HUDs:”

Published on the Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE) website, a paper describes how one team of scientists in Germany studied a specie of nocturnal migratory bird to test the hypothesis that birds of that type may be able to visually detect the earth’s magnetic field providing them with what may amount to a head-up display (HUD). Birds trained to orient to magnetic fields managed to do so quickly when tested in white or short wavelength light (i.e., blue and green) but had a hard time doing so when tested in yellow or red light. These previous findings, along with new neuronal tracing data that shows that the part of their brain most active during magnetic orientation is their visual thalamus, suggests that they used visual cues to hop into proper position when the magnetic field changed during the lab experiments.


Atoms That Talk Long Distance

From Reuters:

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. physicists have coaxed tiny artificial atoms into communicating in an advance that may lead to super-fast quantum computers, the researchers said on Wednesday.

Quantum computers hold the promise of being enormously powerful, capable of solving in seconds problems that take today’s fastest machines years to crack.

So far, physicists have worked mostly on developing the most basic of elements that can store information known as quantum bits, or qubits.

But a series of papers in the journal Nature suggest researchers have found a way to get these qubits to communicate over a distance, for instance, across a computer chip.

In the past, the best qubits could do was talk to neighboring qubits, much like the childhood game of telephone.

But researchers from Yale University have found a way to move information stored in a stationary quantum bit via a microwave photon to another stationary quantum bit on the same chip.

Read the rest…

Thanks, Ron!


IED T-Shirt

If an IED (Improvised ELECTRONICS Device) gets you nearly gunned down at the airport, will a PICTURE of one also get you cavity searched? My guess is yes. But I want one anyway. Modeled here by one of the MAKE cohort and founder of Squid Labs, Saul Griffith. The shirt was designed by Ed Lewis. No word on if they’re for sale or not.

BTW: Tim O’Reilly has a wonderful profile piece on Saul on O’Reilly Radar.

[Via Make]


Awesome Electronics and Arduino Tutorials

There just aren’t enough good, clear electronics and getting started in microcontrollers tutorials online. It’s a shame because far more people would be interested in this stuff if the barriers to entry weren’t so intimidating. And unfortunately, many of these barriers are unnecessary (like tutorials that can’t be bothered holding your hand and easing you in slowly).

So, I’m thrilled that one of my favorite hardware hackers, Lady Ada, has put up the first four lessons of her Learn Electronics Using Arduino tutorials. Clear, well-documented, well-illustrated tutorials. It seems so obvious. And yet it escapes so many.

So if you’ve been wanting to get into MCU/Arduino programming and taking control of some hardware projects, grab your soldering iron, Digital Multimeter, and your Arduino module and hit this link.