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If you want a virtual reality headset for your computer, but don’t want to dig deep into your pockets, this project by “jamesvdberg” (AKA Killer Robotics) presents a low-cost alternative. 

Although it won’t pack the capabilities of an Oculus or HTC Vive, jamesvdberg’s VR rig can be replicated for just $80 using a Google cardboard-compatible shell, along with a 5” Raspberry Pi 800×480 LCD screen and an Arduino Micro for control.

The DIY device tracks head movements using an MPU6050 IMU, sending data to a PC system as a mouse input via the Micro. Game visuals are fed back to the screen over HDMI, split into discreet images for each eye, creating a side-by-side 3D effect. 

Those interested in building their own version can find the tutorial here.  

Kaleb Clark really enjoys flight simulators, but when attempting to fly a helicopter, a normal keyboard or even a joystick isn’t quite optimal for controlling its vertical movement. Real helicopters use a lever assembly called a collective to adjust downward thrust, and he decided to build his own with an Arduino Micro and GPIO expander.

To read the main lever action, he’s using a gear and encoder setup, which allows him to lift and descent in a much more natural way than afforded normal computer controls. There’s also has a bunch of buttons attached that can be programmed for various actions as needed. 

Game interface is taken care of by the Micro’s ATmega32U4 chip, giving it HID functionality as an auxiliary input device.

What we carry today in our pockets is nominally called a “phone,” but more often than not we’re using it to do various other computing tasks. Justine Haupt, however, wanted an actual phone that “goes as far from having a touchscreen as [she could] imagine.”

What she came up with is a rotary cellphone that’s not just a show-and-tell piece, but is intended to be her primary mobile device. It’s reasonably portable, has a removable antenna for excellent reception, a 10-increment signal meter, and, perhaps most importantly, doesn’t make her go through a bunch of menus to actually use it as a phone. Other features include number storage for those she calls most often and a curved ePaper display that naturally doesn’t use any power when revealing a fixed message.

The project was prototyped using an Arduino Micro. It was then laid out of a PCB with an an Adafruit FONA 3G board and an ATmega2560V, programmed in the Arduino IDE.

Haupt has published a detailed look at the build process here.

What we carry today in our pockets is nominally called a “phone,” but more often than not we’re using it to do various other computing tasks. Justine Haupt, however, wanted an actual phone that “goes as far from having a touchscreen as [she could] imagine.”

What she came up with is a rotary cellphone that’s not just a show-and-tell piece, but is intended to be her primary mobile device. It’s reasonably portable, has a removable antenna for excellent reception, a 10-increment signal meter, and, perhaps most importantly, doesn’t make her go through a bunch of menus to actually use it as a phone. Other features include number storage for those she calls most often and a curved ePaper display that naturally doesn’t use any power when revealing a fixed message.

The project was prototyped using an Arduino Micro. It was then laid out of a PCB with an an Adafruit FONA 3G board and an ATmega2560V, programmed in the Arduino IDE.

Haupt has published a detailed look at the build process here.

In his latest video, Will Cogley has created an animatronic heart so realistic that you might wonder if it’s the actual thing. 

The device is made out of molded silicon with fake blood poured on top to enhance the effect, and inside a trio of servo motors push the lower and upper sections of the prop out in a very lifelike pattern. 

Control is via an Arduino Micro along with an I2C servo controller, while power is provided by an external tether. A potentiometer on the back is used to vary heartbeat speed. 

He also made a simpler — and less potentially terrifying — version with a cloth exterior. This one is battery-operated and runs on a motor and linkage system, perhaps making it good for a nice portable joke!

Richard of ARITH-MATIC had the idea to build a 4-bit computer based on 7400 series ICs (like the 74HC273, 74HC193, and 74HC125), but other responsibilities got in the way of this becoming a reality for quite some time. Finally, with the Retro Computer Festival at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England held earlier this month, he went ahead and started the project in hopes of creating a working computer in under 30 days.

The resulting homebrew CPU is known as the ‘Cambridge-1,’ comprised mostly of 7400 series ICs, wiring, and an SRAM chip for storage carefully arranged on a set of breadboards. In addition to the other components, an Arduino Micro is also implemented. While not technically a retro device, the Arduino allowed him to “change the control logic on-the fly,” and gave him the flexibility to finish the project in his compressed time scale.

Spilled wine may be a hassle to clean up, but you might also observe that it makes interesting patterns. Marketing firm KPS3 had the same sort of thought process when they created “The Santa Maria Swirl Machine” to promote the Santa Maria Valley wine industry.

The machine takes the form of a tabletop display, where a vacuum gripper first picks up a piece of paper and transports it into a clear “swirl area.” A glass is then automatically filled with wine, spun up to speed, and flung at the paper in order to create art. 

Control hardware includes an Arduino Micro and a pair of Raspberry Pi boards, along with cameras are used to stream the process and take a picture of the resulting pattern. If this sounds interesting, you can sign up to make your own spill-art here. You can also read more about the project on TechRepublic:

Visitors to the website can watch the current splash art being made, or register to join the queue to use the service—once their turn arrives, they are given a full-screen view and options to control their creation. Specialized watercolor paper is picked up by a servo equipped with a suction cup attached to a venturi (itself attached to an air compressor), which proceeds to hand off to a custom gripper to hold the paper in place for the wine to be spilled. 

From there, the Arduino-controlled stepper motor turns the lead screw, moving the paper into the splash zone, and fills the glass to the user-selected level, and begins to swirl the glass at the user-selected speed. Once the proper speed is attained, an actuator tips the glass forward, spilling the wine onto the paper. All of this is streamed by two cameras, with the final result photographed by a third. This photo is then processed in Lambda to clean up the photograph, detecting corners, applying filters and branding for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

While you may or may not want a gigantic backlit skull cutout haunting the wall of your workshop, this was perfect for Jay and Jamie of the “Wicked Makers” YouTube channel. 

Their device is cut of two 30” squares of plywood with a CNC router. This forms a base layer that holds everything off the wall, while an outer layer provides a nice circuit/skull texture.

They affixed WS2812B LED strips to the base layer, controlled by an Arduino Micro. These strips shine off the wall for a glow through the edges, along with circuit board style cutouts inside the skull, diffused using wax paper. 

Arduino code and the circuit diagram are found in the project’s write-up if you’d like to construct your own!


Interactive video games take many forms, but for the most part, each player has a separate controller that manipulates an onscreen character, vehicle, or other singular element. What if, as in real life, multiple players have to work together with physical objects to control a sailing ship?

That’s the idea behind HOT SWAP: All Hands On Deck by Peter Gyory and Celment Zheng. In it, two players guide various parts of a ship using five different control elements. What makes this really interesting is that each player’s input device has room for two of these control elements, which must be swapped for actions such as steering and to load cannons. Input information is passed to the game via an Arduino Micro

It’s like if we took a regular game controller, popped off all of the inputs, and made it so you could only use a couple of them at a time. There are two controllers, with each consisting of two input slots. Each controller controls one side of the ship, port or starboard. There are five actions total in the game, each executed with a dedicated physical input: a crank to raise and lower the sails, a wheel for turning the rudder, a hatch for loading the cannons, a wick for firing the cannons, and a flame button for dousing the fire.

There is only one of each input, which makes them a shared resource that players must trade back and forth as they play. There is this old Milton Bradley kids board game from the ’90s called Perfection where players must fit shapes into holes before a timer is up and the board shakes to make everything pop out. HOT SWAP is like if Perfection had a screen attached and had a goal outside of putting shapes into slots.

All of the code is done with JavaScript and the library Three.js, which we bundle into a desktop application using Github’s Electron. The brain of the controller is an Arduino Micro, which mostly just passes data along.

The inputs are created with the Mechamagnets technique that Clement has been developing through his research; all 3D-printed in PLA with neodymium magnets embedded in them. The actual “hot swapping” is facilitated by pogo pins that line up with our custom PCBs for each input. Also, lots of chocolate croissants.

More details on the build are available via this interview as well as in the video below.

Maker Bitluni wanted an electric scooter, but he lives in Germany, where electric vehicles of that type are illegal. Motor-assisted bicycles, however, are not. So he set to work making a sort of hybrid that is controlled not by a throttle directly, but provides assistance when the rider kicks the scooter forward.

The scooter uses an accelerometer to sense forward pushes, along with an Arduino Micro that regulates speed via PWM output. A brake assembly is also implemented as a secondary input, starting up the device and powering it down as needed. 

Bitluni’s build and testing process can be seen in the videos below, and Arduino code is available on GitHub.



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