This $5 plastic doorknocker wasn’t scary until Digispark made it scary
Walmart isn’t known for their scary Halloween decorations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ‘become’ scary. That’s the idea that software engineer Charles Wolfe had in mind when he designed his animated doorknocker using a 5-buck decoration and a Digispark development board. To get the knocker to look and function as something the Addams family would have, Charles cut the eyes out of the plastic face and inserted a pair of RGB LEDs to give it a more frightening look.
The Digispark, LEDs, battery pack and actuator fit quite nicely inside the plastic head
On the opposite side of the monster’s mouth is a small servo that actuates the doorknocker, which is all controlled by a Digispark development board. In fact, even an Arduino board can be used as long as it’s small enough to fit inside the plastic head. While this may be enough to scare some kids this Halloween, Charles plans on upgrading it to scare the kids next year (who may have caught on that it’s not exactly possessed) with a motion sensor and scary sound via a Bluetooth connection. See more about this project, and to build one yourself after this link.
Charles used a Dremel to cut away some material for easy access to an on/off switch
Don’t be fooled, this isn’t an actual Game Boy but a Raspberry Pi-based Pocket Pi.
The Game Boy Pocket hit the market back in 1996 and is still popular with fans of the handheld gaming system that they can still be bought today. Yeah, there’s nothing like gaming on a black and white screen, which was better than the pea-green screen of the original Game Boy. Those who are fans of the Pocket but would like to have a color screen and be able to play games from other systems should take a look at Travis Brown’s Pocket Pi.
All of these parts, including the RPi and modified button pad fit nicely inside the Game Boy case.
Travis designed the Pocket Pi by removing the guts from an old Game Boy Pocket and replaced them with a Raspberry Pi SBC running Retro Pi to emulate Game Boy games. To get it to fit correctly, Travis had to modify the case a little bit in order to pack the Pi, 2.5-inch LCD screen, modified Game Boy game pad and battery pack, however it still looks good with all the electronics packed into the small area. The best part is that the Pocket Pi can play games from other platforms as well, including NES, Sega Master System and even Game Gear using the Retro Pi emulator.
PiGRRL Raspberry Pi Game Boy replica with 3D printed case looks suspiciously like the real thing.
Of course, this isn’t the first time someone has made a Raspberry Pi-based Game Boy replica as Make reported on a 3D printed Replica from Adafruit back in July of this year (make it so). In that case, the Game Boy clone made use of a Raspberry Pi, SNES controller and PiTFT mini kit to play emulated games. The kicker was that it could be had in several different colors using a customized 3D printed case. It just goes to show what Nintendo fans are capable of when they want to get their retro gaming on! A video showing the game selection and play can be viewed below. See more about this build through this link.
If you (like most of us) love your Nintendo 3DS but really dislike playing on that circle pad for long periods of time, we’ve got a solution for you. Hasta la vista, hand cramps!
Via his open-source project, Maker “dekuNukem” modded his 3DS to play Super Smash Bros. using a GameCube controller which is costumizable with adjustable button mapping with an LCD screen. In his case, he used an old phone display. Using an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) to read input to the GameCube controller, he was able to replicate the actions to the 3DS at around 1200 times a second; a maximum delay of around 840 microseconds. And it’s simple to use: just plug in the microcontroller, GameCube cable, and a USB cable for power and when you’re done just remove the microcontroller and cables to make it portable once more.
Ferrofluid is one of the neatest things to see in action. Suspending liquid through the use of magnets? Super neat! Ferrofluid is a colloidal suspension of ferrous, which contains iron, and a liquid. (Some kind of oil since we all know what happens when you mix water and iron).
There are generally two ways you can make ferrofluid. The more expensive way (around $100 per cartridge of magnetic primer toner and some vegetable oil), and the cheaper way which is a little more difficult to make, but will only cost you about $10. You’ll need about 10 cassette tapes, some acetone, a strong chemical resistant bucket (this is very important), plastic wrap, vegetable oil, and magnets. Earth magnets are the better choice because neodymium magnets aren’t as good at stripping ferric oxide off of the tapes. To make, you’ll want to step outside as inhaling acetone is not favorable. You’ll break apart your cassettes and throw the tapes in your chemical resistant bucket. You’ll mix your acetone in, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it sit for an hour. When you come back you’ll have a fine black powder in the bottom of the bucket, and your tapes will look clear now. Wrap your magnet in plastic wrap and push your tapes to the side. Collect the ferric oxide with the magnet and place the powder in a small container off to the side to dry. Once it’s dry, add your vegetable oil (approx. 1.5 tsps of vegetable oil to 1 tsp of ferric oxide) and then you have your ferrofluid!
Arcades have transitioned from the mall to player’s homes where gaming is thriving
Seemingly gone are the days riding your bike down to the local mall, wolf-down a slice of pizza, and then hit the Arcade to drop every quarter (or tokens) you had into a slew of games. Gaming consoles sounded the death knell for arcades as they began to dominate the industry starting in the early 80’s and by the late 90’s, most arcades were all but gone. The dawn of the 21st century brought with it affordable and easy to use development boards and other electronics, which makers used to build their own games, essentially bringing the arcade into their own homes. Makers have made everything from tabletop machines to full-on cabinets to bring back the nostalgia that once was and this roundup is just a few of the unique builds that are popping up in homes all over the world.
It should be noted that most of these DIY arcade machines use a software emulator that mimics the game platform the games were initially used on. In this case, it’s MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), which is used with the corresponding game ROM images. The emulators themselves are legal to have and use, however the use of ROMs is illegal in many countries and have the same ramifications as pirating movies and music. Use them at your own risk.
Mystery_smelly_feet’s Nintendo Themed Arcade Cabinet- powered by MAME
Reddit user [Mystery_smelly_feet] paid homage to the Nintendo NES with his incredible Nintendo Themed Arcade Cabinet that looks like an oversized controller or a massive Gameboy. He constructed the cabinet using plain MDF boards that were actually color matched to the original NES controller with Sherwin-Williams paint. All of the decals were made using Photoshop and printed on high-gloss paper, giving the cabinet that ‘Nintendo’ feel. ‘Mystery’ used Happ competition joysticks and big coin-cell buttons along with an Ultimarc trackball for the controls, which are connected to the MAME-based PC through an Ipac 2 interface. Yep, there’s a full-on overkill PC powering the machine with an Intel I5 processor and GTX 660 providing the graphics, which are projected on a 32-inch Viewsonic LED screen.
Steve Hunt’s Borderlands 2 MAME-based arcade cabinet
Relatively new games can also be made into ‘arcade ports,’ and it’s no surprise that a PC is powering this one as well. Steve designed his Borderlands 2 cabinet using the usual MDF boards, which are easy to cut into just about any shape that’s needed. Steve’s dad custom-made the cabinet’s control panel out of plexi-glass shelving, which features 20 LED buttons along with 2 8-way joysticks connected to the PC through a PAC keyboard encoder. Some of the more interesting features include a secret drawer underneath the buttons houses a keyboard and mouse to interact with the PC and a real coin insert that is used to engage the PAC when tripped. Powering the PC on and off is done through a motherboard cable that’s connected to a coin button for easy access rather than going inside the cabinet to flip a switch.
Ryan Bates’ Porta Pi Arcade harnesses the Raspberry Pi for playing games
Scaled down versions of arcade cabinets have been popular since Coleco released their miniaturized versions of popular games back in the early 80’s. If you’ve ever played them you know they couldn’t hold a candle to the larger versions, in fact they barely resembled our favorite games at all (PacMan’s music and sound effects could win the War on Terror), however the home-brew versions of arcade machines are leaps and bounds over Coleco’s blunder. Case in point- Ryan Bates’ Porta Pi Arcade machine, which has the look, sound and feel of its larger cousins only in a relatively small tabletop package. Ryan designed his Porta Pi around the Raspberry Pi instead of a PC, allowing the cabinet to shrunk down to a significantly smaller size. The cabinet itself is crafted out of laser-cut wood that fits together without the need for screws, allowing users to easily access the electronics inside. The buttons are hard-wired directly to the Pi’s GPIO headers, making it easy to modify the buttons to user’s preferences. Of course, the games are all MAME-based ROMS, utilizing the popular emulator and are pumped to the machine’s 7-inch HD LCD screen. The Porta Pi is available for sale as a wood or plastic kit with a 7 or 9-inch LED screen and can be found here: http://www.retrobuiltgames.com/diy-kits-shop/
Mike Trello’s BarCade uses old tech to play retro games
Keeping on the tabletop theme, Mike Trello of ArcadeCab designed his BarCade tabletop arcade machine with a mere $40 in an effort to keep expenses ‘very low’. While the machine looks like it cost more than a couple of Benjamins, it was designed with readily available parts he had on hand, including an old Compaq PC with an Intel Pentium 75 CPU (that’s 75MHz of raw wanton power!), which powers the cabinet. The screen is actually a 15-inch CRT mounted on its side to give it that vintage arcade look. A customized PCB was created by one of Mike’s friends in order to trick the PC into thinking the buttons and joystick are actually a keyboard, thereby allowing the buttons to act as keystrokes. The BarCade eschews the MAME emulator in favor of Vantage and ArcadeOS running on DOS6.
Rasmus Koenig Sorensen’s Project MAME Arcade Cabinet with Thundercat’s side art
Rasmus Koenig Sorensen took his love for retro arcade games and built a few standup and tabletop customized cabinets to play old-school games on. He started his builds with the Project MAME cabinet using the typical MDF/HDF boards found in most cabinet designs. As with some of the others, a PC runs the MAME emulator, allowing for an almost unlimited choice in game ROMs. A 19-inch TFT LCD display was used for the monitor but there is enough room for 20 or 21-inch displays as well. 4-inch car speakers and a Creative subwoofer pump out the sounds and an X-Arcade board was used for the buttons and joysticks, which were later replaced with a custom designed unit with sanwa joysticks and orange and red buttons. Besides the Thundercats artwork pasted on the cabinet’s sides, Rasmus designed his own graphics for the marquee, front panel and speakers. Actually, he incorporated an alien ship from Galaga into his speaker graphics, giving it a nice retro touch. The interesting thing about this and his other builds, is that he posted all the plans needed to build them online. Yep, they are open-source so users can modify them at will to suit their own needs.
UGIANSKY’s TrashCade arcade machine for those with little to no money
Ok, yes, this was meant to be a joke but it is functional and plays just like any other DIY arcade cabinet only it was built using thrown-out cardboard boxes and tape. A lot of us as kids thought of doing the same thing with a console system like an Atari 2600, ColecoVision and the original NES but were too busy playing games to actually build it. UGIANSKY designed the TrashCade with dumpster-found cardboard boxes that he cut and taped together to house the PC running the MAME emulator. He made cutouts for the monitor, speakers, mouse/keyboard tray and used an X-Arcade control panel to give it that ‘arcade feel’. To keep with the ‘less-than-stellar’ motif, he taped a piece of cardboard over the top of the PC and made a display bezel from cardboard and plastic wrap ‘just because’. There’s even a marquee with TrashCade logo drawn on paper that lights up from behind using a flashlight! Actually, this looks much better than the Doctor Who Tardis control panel my brother and me built when we were kids using cardboard and a cable spool.
ThinkGeek’s CupCade DIY Mini Arcade Cabinet looks like a Coleco machine but is infinitely better
Those Coleco tabletop machines weren’t all they were cracked up to be, however ThinkGeek designed a DIY kit that plays the games as they were meant to be- enjoyable. The statement ‘some assembly required’ is more of an understatement at best as the kit requires ‘total assembly’, including soldering some of the components. Actually, you will also need some programming skills as well in order to edit configuration files needed to play the games. The CupCade is powered by a Raspberry Pi and uses a PiTFT 2.8-inch display for the visuals, which can be converted for vertical or horizontal configurations. It also features a mini joystick and buttons for selection and gaming that can be re-mapped as required. Gaming ROMs are loaded onto the Pi’s SD card and used in the same fashion as console cartridges, making it easy to swap-out games. It may look simplistic but users need the skills mentioned above to put it together and as of now, ThinkGeek doesn’t offer fully-assembled kits.
Video games were incredibly popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s that you could probably find a sit-down table machine at local restaurants, especially pizzerias. These types of cabinets in the DIY world are often used as a coffee table in living rooms. And why not, they are after all for entertainment, which makes it the perfect edition to any media room. Building one of these is the same as building an upright cabinet, which is what maker [swangle] did with his DIY Arcade Machine Coffee Table. This too is a MAME-based machine that’s run on a PC housed inside the table. Unlike the others, he chose to use an IKEA Besta Bench for his build instead of using MDF board and coupled that with the Swedish company’s INREDA slide-out drawer to house the control panels. Not only does it look elegant but provides more fun than any conventional coffee table could.
[swangle’s] DIY Arcade Machine Coffee Table, because why stand when you can sit
ExperiMendel’s Multi Arcade System combines retro gaming with a mini fridge
There are some interesting arcade cabinets that people have made that incorporate various appliances such as ExperiMendel’s Multi Arcade System. The cabinet features the same conventional MAME emulator running on a PC system as those mentioned throughout this roundup housed within the top portion of the build. What makes this machine unique is that it houses a mini fridge in the bottom of the cabinet, making those marathon gaming sessions even better without the need to break to grab a cold drink. It also serves to provide a stable platform for the components, which can also be housed inside the fridge, keeping them fresh (nobody likes a stale keyboard). This is perfect for college students who don’t have a lot of space in their dorms. Add a microwave where the marquee is located and you have a full-on kitchen with a built-in gaming machine!
SpriteMods’ Raspberry Pi Micro Arcade Machine puts an arcade machine in your pocket
Rounding out this roundup is another unusual arcade machine, which is roughly the size of a soda can but is still capable of pumping out the retro games. Designed by SpriteMods, the Raspberry Pi Micro Arcade Machine is powered by the popular SBC, which is mounted on the back of the acrylic-glass cabinet that was designed using Inkscape and laser-cut to size. The control panel was customized using an Alps mini joystick and cut-to-size acrylic buttons connected to micro switches on a prototyping PCB board, which connects to the RPi using M-Joy firmware burned into an ATMega88 board. The Micro Arcade Machine features a 2.4-inch LCD connected directly to the Pi’s GPIO pins to help eliminate lag experienced with certain MAME ROMs. Another interesting feature is the cabinet’s OLED marquee screen that displays the title of the game being played and switches when a new game is loaded. SriteMods designed a customized power supply that runs on a pair of Nokia BL-5J rechargeable batteries.
These are but just a few examples of home-based DIY arcade projects that are on the internet and there are far too many to list here or even fill a book with. It is a testament that speaks volumes in the love for the arcade games we played as kids and now into our adulthoods. While the physical brick and mortar Arcades have gone extinct, they live on in our basements, living rooms and garages where we can relive those days of glory without needing a small fortune in quarters. In most cases, the arcade builds are designed around old defunct PCs that have been repurposed to run emulators, which don’t require powerful hardware to run. With that in mind, it only takes a little bit of knowhow to build your own with the toughest part learning how to run the ROMs (see disclaimer). Once the knowledge has been resolved, putting an Arcade machine in your own home is a breeze!
This unique and fun looking method of transportation was swooping around Maker Faire and catching a lot of attention. We grabbed him as he glided by and asked him a bit about his invention.
Urban Gliders launched a kickstarter but it appears as though they’re putting things on pause for a bit while they figure out if some patent issues are going to effect them or not. It certainly looks like it would be fun to ride, and would be a shame if they didn’t get a chance to bring it to market.
Mark Perez, Rose Harden and the team behind the Life Size Mousetrap have taken a childhood game and turned it into a sideshow spectacle that any carny would be proud to be a part of. The structure itself is an impressive Rube Goldberg style machine, wrought large. Take a marble from the kid’s game, and turn it into a bowling ball. Now expand everything else to scale, and you’ll have some idea what I’m talking about. The bathtub is a real bathtub. The diver is the size of a person. The machine spreads over a 60×100 foot area, and weighs on the order to 50,000 lbs. It’s a pretty impressive engineering feat. The show has been touring for about seven years, and the team did some necessary rebuilding and refurbishing this year to keep things running smoothly.
As an entertainment, the show is more than just the machine. There’s music, composed and performed specifically for Life Size Mousetrap by the one-woman band Esmerelda Strange. Can-can dancers dressed as mice, unicycle riding clowns, and humorous patter accompany the already impressive display of physics in motion. Life Size Mousetrap recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their efforts. Part of the funding will go towards further developing their STEM curriculum. If there’s anyone who can make engineering seem approachable and fun, it’s the creators of Life Size Mousetrap.
Maker Faire was very happy to have Mark, Rose and crew back to World Maker Faire in New York this year. It’s one of my favorite things at Maker Faire, and I look forward to it every year. If you missed the show, be sure to check their webpage or their Facebook page for announcements.
You really shouldn't miss the Life Size Mousetrap at Maker Faire.
The Mousetrap crew know how to have fun.
The Life Size Mousetrap is a fantastically hand crafted, 16 piece, 50,000-lb. interactive kinetic sculpture set atop a 6,500-square-foot game board.
The culmination of the Life Size Mousetrap's immense Rube Goldberg machine: a safe plunges from 600 feet ("mouse feet") onto the windshield of a hapless car, to the delight of crowds. (Gregory Hayes / MAKE)
People have been bowling for the better part of 5000 years (ancient Egypt and Rome were the top competitors in those days) and there’s something satisfying about the sound when the ball slams into the pins. The only thing better than going to the bowling alley is having one in your own home. Maker [LLBowling] did just that for the Little Lebowski Shop in NYC, giving them their own personal lane. While he did not list specifically how he designed it, it looks pretty straightforward.
Six pins are arranged on a triangle-shaped platform with string running through the pins and anchored to the platforms base. After the ball is thrown, the pins are reset by pulling on a cantilever that raises both the pins and platform back into place. Sure, it’s not the most high-tech system out there but it is effective and certainly ingenious. The only drawback is that there’s no automatic ball return, players have to retrieve their own balls, which isn’t so bad considering that only 70 years ago bowling alleys had employees who reset the pins and brought back the balls by hand.
Many people “find their tribe” at Maker Faire, and there’s just no end to the variety of interests and backgrounds of the makers you will meet. Last year I met husband and wife makers Caipei and Hanfang Cao, who had come to Maker Faire for the very first time. They brought their quadcopters, some decorated in phoenix and dragon paper craft designs, to perform musical and aerobatic demonstrations. The windy weather conditions limited what they could do outside, and another maker group let them use their premium space just inside the main entrance to the NY Hall of Science on Sunday afternoon.
Caipei and Hanfang really showed their stuff. Caipei had designed spherical frameworks out of lightweight carbon fiber rod, safely sealing the spinning blades of the quadcopters away from unintended contact with the audience. They performed aerial tricks in what they describe as a sort of competitive sport intended to promote health and happiness. I think Hanfang was somewhat ahead of her husband on points. Caipei also flew his beautifully crafted paper creations, serenading the colorful phoenix as he guided it in a graceful dance.
After Maker Faire last year, the couple went on to audition for the television show, “America’s Got Talent”. They successfully passed several local rounds, but in the end were not selected for the live show. They are planning on auditioning for “China’s Got Talent” and seeing how far they can go. Caipei and Hanfang will be back at World Maker Faire in New York this September. They’ve added a flying Jesus, accompanying angel, and a flying wizard (not to be confused with Harry Potter) to their menagerie of creations this year. It sounds a bit crazy and maybe it is, but I loved it last year and I’m sure I’ll love it again this year.
Caipei and Hanfang Cao at Maker Faire NY 2013.
Papercraft flying dragon and phoenix.
Caipei posing with "Hello Peter" the flying wizard.
Yup. Those are flying Jesus and angel quadcopters.
Hanfang with Jesus and Hello Peter.
Test flight of Hello Peter while on a cruise in Alaska.
Sphero, the little, round, programmable robot, rolled its way into many hearts since it was released in 2011, confounding pets and expressing a unique form of movement. It was a reimagining of both robots and remote control.
For its second act, the company is reimagining wheels — at least, wheels in the context of robots. So, meet Ollie, which is a Sphero-sized body, elongated slightly, and equipped with a wheel on either end. It’s not quite so omnidirectional as Sphero, but what it lacks in that department it makes up in creative programming that allows it to recognize its position and direction, and maintain its course in the face of bumps, jumps, and flips. But it stays true to — and even improves upon — Sphero’s programmable, hackable nature.
“The robot itself is always keeping track of its tricks, so it always knows how it’s oriented in the air, it knows if it’s in the air, it knows how many spins it’s done in the last certain amount of time. It’s actually doing those calculations on the actual robot, and then it sends the results up to the phone,” says Brandon Dorris, Sphero director of product development.
Earlier this year, Sphero released a video showing off the Ollie with a bunch of skaters and their skateboards. (Note the robot’s skate-inspired name.) The emphasis now is on more extreme play, but it’s still programmable — you can create tricks, the company points out, and Ollie will track its own air time, spins, and more.
Necessary for the zippier acrobatics was a refinement of Bluetooth LE. To get the phone to communicate with the Ollie faster, they needed to use LE, but LE can’t transfer as much information. So, to get the data across, the app sends them in packages of six, explains Dorris.
“It’s constantly checking itself, and its constantly giving feedback to the phone on what’s going on, so the phone can react to what’s actually happening in real life,” he says. “The person is really interacting with the toy, but the toy is interacting with the person at the same time.”
The apps for Sphero will also work with Ollie, including Draw N’ Drive, which follows routes, and Macro Lab, which teaches basic programming. Advanced users can even program in a version of BASIC. And the device itself is hackable, or more so at least than Sphero, which had to be cracked open if you wanted to get at its insides. Ollie opens easier, and later this year Sphero will be releasing a software development kit for it. “You can use it to create your own robots, or create your own things that you want to be able to control with Bluetooth LE,” says Dorris.
And Ollie is fast, up to 14 miles per hour. It’s that speed, along with the clever wheels that make it more of a driving machine than its predecessor. It drifts too, for those fans of The Fast and the Furious who aren’t ready to do so in their cars.
All that speed makes driving it a bit more challenging. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: “You get better over time. You learn how to control what you’re doing and get it to do what you want to when you want it to do it,” says Dorris. “It’s kind of this whole idea of mastery, and playing with it for a while. You feel better each time you play with it, because you get better at actually doing it.”