Today is Today is the last official day of SXSW Interactive, and in a small park nestled behind the Austin Convention Center and I-35, the makers convened. Two tents—one for maker exhibits, one for an all-day DorkbotADX lineup of speakers—hosted a great array of makers showing and talking about projects.
Thanks to Dorkbot Austin, ATX Hackerspace, and SXSW for hosting. Here’s a glimpse at MAKE’s day at SXSWCreate.
The perfect example of a project that could use that extra little push to overcome specific technical hurdles or design needs, Sophi Kravitz from MIX Engineering has been working on cell phone detection for several months now. From coming up with a concept, to beginning research, then experimenting with available hardware, and finally, publishing results and fielding feedback, this is how an idea becomes reality! Speaking of her project, she says,
Having achieved results already, sometimes funding is all a project needs to finally take off. So last week, Sophi submitted her project to the Road to Maker Faire Challenge, where one lucky maker will win $2,000 to fabricate their idea and bring it to Bay Area Maker Faire in May! Best of luck to you Sophi. Now, are you ready to accept the challenge? Apply now!
Brothers Randy and Michael Gregg are currently developing a product called the Kill Shot, a replica hunting gun that takes photos instead of firing bullets. Users would locate their “prey” in the crosshairs, then pull the trigger, snapping a time and date-stamped shot, which gets stored on the memory card housed where the standard magazine would normally be. The Kill Shot could zoom and take video as well, but it’s unclear if it would have the magnification of a scope or if it’s essentially a digital camera housed in a gun-shaped case. Interesting idea, nonetheless, but seems like a potential recipe for disaster if misunderstood. (SFGate ran a topically related article over the weekend titled “Wildlife photography embodies thrill of the hunt.”) What do you think?
ITP student Danne Woo modified his longboard with strips of LED lights that illuminate when a wheel-mounted generator spins. In short, a stepper motor is run through a bridge rectifier followed by a one farad supercapacitor and then into the LEDs. The resulting project is suitably called “The Circuit Board.”
This self-contained unit gives the rider increased night-time visibility, but also looks wicked cool as it’s rolling down the street.
Note the thoughtful mounting of the stepper motor to the skateboard’s truck, and the spring-actuated tensioner that keeps the motor’s shaft mated snugly to the wheel. Also, a bit of Plasti Dip on the shaft keeps a suitable amount of friction to optimize power generation.
Danne has further documentation on his site. Maybe the next iteration can implement some rugged enclosures to protect the board from the elements and even utilize power to do something else. Perhaps to charge a cell phone?
My alt.GDC series came to a close on Friday, but I still have one story I’ve been wanting to tell. In my day job, I work as a game designer for a company called Toys for Bob which recently released the wildly popular game called Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. The game comes with an external device (called the Portal of Power) that communicates with your console and action figures that can be identified by the portal and brought to life in the game. You swap out characters as you play by changing the character on the portal. Players can also expand their selection of playable characters by collecting more toys.
Before I went into GDC on Friday, I swung by the Toys for Bob offices in Novato, CA and sat down with Robert Leyland, the technical engineer behind the Skylanders hardware, and I-Wei Huang, the character and toy director (also known to MAKE readers as magazine and site-contributor CrabFu), to discuss the process of developing this innovative title.
MAKE: What can you tell us about the early development you did on the Skylanders concept; where did you start?
There was a period there where we said “But how are we going to connect it? Will we need to mount a Wii-mote in it?” And right around that time, on MAKE or Instructables, I can’t remember where – we saw it on Gizmodo, somebody published a hack about how to use a Wii Nunchuck to control an R/C helicopter and we thought: Whoa, that’s really pretty cool. And we looked and sure enough they weren’t just wiring to the potentiometers in the controller, they were using the output signals and there was a bunch of software published that showed that you could get the signal data from the Nunchuck controller. And I thought that was neat that they’d done that, but I also thought, if I can pretend to be a Wii Nunchuck controller I can talk to the Wii and we can go the other way.
So, we got an RFID controller from Turkey, the Arduino from Italy, and the USB connection which was wired here in California with a software library from some guys in Germany – you can just pull all of these pieces together and gosh, you can quickly prototype something which is really neat.
The first connection we had was only 5 bits; we were pretending to be a keyboard and whenever you got a keystroke it said “Oh, that’s key X, so that’s Spyro” or “Key 7, that’s Bash.” So with those individual keystrokes you could essentially see a character, but we knew we needed more IDs than that, so we eventually wrote a protocol that would send longer data sequences. And it evolved from there.
MAKE: What kind of hardware did you use to build the original portal prototype?
MAKE: And you were using Arduino for the electronics?
MAKE: At what point in prototyping the portal technology did you show it off to Activision?
MAKE: I-Wei, what can you tell us about the making of these incredibly popular toys?
At the time we had no experience making toys and the kind of mold-making you need for mass-producing toys so we relied on an external company to make them. We would give them sketches of characters and in-game models, animations, screenshots, and everything, and they would produce a toy that we would then tweak and tune to get the likeness and personality to show through a little bit better and that process could take many many months. We did many iterations of the character and paint and pose and everything.
MAKE: How has this process been improved since the completion of the first game?
MAKE: In closing, do you have any advice for getting publishers or investors to subscribe to a crazy idea like this?
As an intern in the Lab, I have the chance to work with professional makers — a group dedicated to the magazine, the readers, and the whole maker movement. As a student in the first year of the MAKE high school class, I get to see the awesome power of this movement as it captivates my peers. As a class, we have planned and built a geodesic dome large enough to house a car, two T-shirt cannons for school sporting events, PVC go karts to be entered in pedal-powered races, and much more. This semester, we have the opportunity to work on a project of our own design. I want to use RFID technology to unlock my car door as I approach.
Because my car has manual locks (it’s a 98 Toyota Tacoma), I must use an Arduino to translate the RFID reader’s signal into mechanical motion. Most projects online only pertain to cars with an electric locking system already in place, so this part of the project is truly my own. I am using this 12V solenoid, wired to my car battery, to provide the mechanical motion to push the lock.
To pick up the RFID signal, I’m using this Parallax RFID reader, which will be mounted into the wall of my car door, directly under the handle.
Finally, to translate the RFID signal into the solenoid’s motion, I am using an Arduino Uno board, powered from a battery pack.
The RFID reader will be wired into the Arduino’s pins, as will my 12V car battery and the solenoid. The Arduino acts as a gate: when the reader detects the correct RFID tag, the Arduino opens the connection between my car battery and the solenoid, and the door unlocks. Voila!
Before I set the components up inside my door, I have some potential problems to deal with. I don’t want the to be harmed by the vibration in the door when I shut it, so I think I’ll be mounting everything in a project box with ample styrofoam protection. However, I want the battery pack to be accessible, because removing the door panel repeatedly to change them will be irritating. For this, I think I’ll drill a small hole in the door panel, and run the battery pack out to the small door pocket.
I’m in the process of removing my door panel, and I’ll tackle the Arduino code next-there are ample RFID libraries online, thanks to the vast programming community. Stay tuned for the next steps of my project as I near completion, and feel free to pose questions or provide possible solutions to my problems! Until next time,
Make: Labs Engineering Intern
Who doesn’t love RFID? It unlocks doors, helps you find lost pets, and even helps you pay for coffee. With applications ranging from industrial to domestic, the possible uses for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) are nearly endless. With the RFID Starter Pack (available in the Maker Shed) you can experiment with this amazing technology yourself! Just hook the included RFID reader up to an Arduino (not included) and you’ll be able to add a whole new level of interactivity to your projects. Want to build a smart wine rack? How about a teddy bear that responds to its surroundings? Using the variety of included RFID tags and a few extra components you’ll be able to open all kinds of new doors for your creativity.
Researchers Jan Torgersen and Peter Gruber at Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have successfully printed intricately detailed models of various objects at the nanometer scale using a process called “two-photon lithography”. In the process, they also managed to speed things up a bit and have gone from printing in millimeters per second to meters per second.
With such a fine print resolution, the group hopes to develop bio-compatible resin capable of generating scaffolds for medical use. [via geek.com]
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