Steve Patterson (2850575) writes It's rumored that Amazon will launch its own 3D smartphone on June 18. While it may be compelling, a sexy 3D feature won't catapult Amazon into the lead of the cut-throat smartphone category. If this were true, the EVO 3D, introduced two years ago by HTC and the W960, introduced by Samsung four years ago, would have been top sellers rather than niche products. However, a smartphone that renders 3D images does present an internet retailing opportunity for Amazon. It would be useful to Amazon in selling tangible consumer merchandise, just like Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet was designed to improve Amazon's merchandising of ebooks and video streaming products. What else would you like to use a 3D phone for?
A New York Times piece (as carried by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) outlines a fascinating project operating in unlikely circumstances for a quixotic goal. They want to control, and return to earth, the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, launched in 1978 but which "appears to be in good working order." Engineer Dennis Wingo, along with like minded folks (of whom he says "We call ourselves techno-archaeologists") has established a business called Skycorp that "has its offices in the McDonald's that used to serve the Navy's Moffett air station, 15 minutes northwest of San Jose, Calif. After the base closed, NASA converted it to a research campus for small technology companies, academia and nonprofits. ... The race to revive the craft, ISEE-3, began in earnest in April. At the end of May, using the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico, the team succeeded in talking to the spacecraft, a moment Mr. Wingo described as "way cool." This made Skycorp the first private organization to command a spacecraft outside Earth orbit, he said. The most disheartening part: "No one has the full operating manual anymore, and the fragments are sometimes contradictory." The most exciting? "Despite the obstacles, progress has been steady, and Mr. Wingo said the team should be ready to fire the engines within weeks."
New submitter fffdddooo (3692429) writes I know it's something that people used to ask every few years, but answers get old so quickly. I'm an electronics teacher, and I'm wondering if it's possible to find some oscilloscope (and why not spectrum analyser?) for recommending to my students, to be able to work at home. I'm thinking of something near $50-$70. Two or three years ago, I'm sure the answer was No, but nowadays? The same reader points out two options spotted on Amazon: one that's "very cheap but Khz" (it's also a kit that requires assembly), and another that aims to be capable of 20MHz, 2-channel operation. What's out there, he'd like to know, that's not junk?
samzenpus (5) writes Andrew "bunnie" Huang holds a Ph.D in electrical engineering from MIT and is one of the most famous hardware and software hackers in the world. He is a contributing writer for MAKE magazine, and has worked on a number of projects ranging from autonomous robotic submarines to peel-and-stick electronics. We recently covered one of his latest projects, an open source hardware laptop called Novena which features entirely NDA-free components. Bunnie has agreed to take a break from his work and hack away at any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
muterobert (2927951) writes with an update on the full immersion VR system from Project Holodeck (now renamed Survios). The system combines an Oculus DK2 with external sensors to make a fully immersive 8x'8' space "Ben Lang from Road to VR goes hands on and heads in with virtual reality technology company Survios' newest version of untethered VR system 'Prime 3'. He moves around the virtual space, holding and reloading weapons as you would in real life. 'At one point while playing, I was wielding the shotgun with two hands, with the table of weapons was on my right side. Several zombies were approaching and I needed a bit more fire power. I dropped the shotgun, reached over with my right hand to grab the tommy gun off the table, then virtually tossed it from my right hand to my left hand (because I'm a lefty), then pulled my pistol out of the holster with my right hand and continued to shoot both weapons.'" The article has a video, and it almost makes me think it's what being in the metaverse would be like.
An anonymous reader writes "South African makerstore OpenHardware.co.za has designed and built a new RepRap-derivative 3D printer which it plans to sell for less than R5000 ($470). The first completed units are being put together now, with an eye to shipping late June. Store owner Peter van der Walt says that he designed Babybot — which has a print area equivalent to a RepRap Prusa Mendel-style machine — in order to reduce build and support costs. He's been selling various RepRap designs in kit form for two years, but as they become more popular is struggling to keep up with demand and handle returns. By sourcing more materials locally — he also designs his own controller boards — he's looking to beat the likes of RS Components and large shopping chains which have begun shipping the likes of Cubify in the country."
An anonymous reader writes "Wireless security researcher Michael Ossmann asked himself: 'Could I make the gadgets that the agency uses to monitor and locate mobile phones, tap USB and Ethernet connections, maintain persistent malware on PCs, communicate with malware across air gaps, and more, by just using open source software and hardware?' In this podcast he shares his insights on what to use — and how — to duplicate hardware devices found in the ANT catalog."
Lucas123 (935744) writes "Cody Wilson, the 26-year-old former law school student who published plans for printing 3D guns online, disputed claims by universities and government agencies that his thermoplastic gun design is unsafe. Wilson claims the agencies that tested the guns did not build them to spec. In a Q&A with Computerworld, he also addressed why he's continuing to press regulatory agencies to allow him to offer the plans again for upload after being ordered to take them down, saying it's less about the Second Amendment and more about the implications of open source and the digital age. "If you want to talk about rights, what does it mean to respect a civil liberty or civil right? Well, it means you understand there are social costs in having that right; that's why it deserves protection in the first place," he said. Wilson is also planning to release other gun-related project, though not necessarily a CAD design."
An anonymous reader writes "Nick Pitton, the developer behind the Spirited Away Boiler Room VR experience, has released his second project: the bus stop scene from Studio Ghibli's famous movie My Neighbor Totoro, once again in virtual reality for the Oculus Rift. Pittom 'hand-painted' the textures in Photoshop to recreated the painted-background feel of the movie. For the characters (Totoro and the Catbus) he used a cel-shaded approached to approximate the animated look from the movie. For his next project, he plans to recreate the ship and characters from the acclaimed anime Cowboy Bebop."
TechCrunch is among the many outlets which carry news (based on a release from MIT professor Daniela Rus) of robots that take advantage of materials engineered to change shape with the application of heat. With carefully planned creases and slits "printed" into flat sheets of plastic, heat-induced deformation can be channeled to create complex three-dimentional shapes, something between origami and Shrinky-Dinks. The creases can also be used to create moving parts in the finished product, and -- as with papercraft -- folding, overlapping and other techniques can increase the stiffness or otherwise give useful properties to the robot bodies formed. From the article: "This project could also produce a variable resistor by opening or closing an electric component and even create metallic muscles that contract when heated or current is applied. It’s obviously still in very early stages right now but Rus and her team will exhibit the technology at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation this year and maybe, one day, our cake-like robotic servants will rise up and bake us."
An anonymous reader writes "What got you into hacking? This is a question that Jennifer Steffen, IOActive CEO, often asks hackers she meets on conferences around the world. More often than not, the answer is movies: War Games, Hackers, The Matrix, and so on. But today, it is the real life hacking that is inspiring the movies of tomorrow. 'Hackers are doing epic stuff,' she says, and they are now inspiring movies and comics. So, what got you started? And what makes a good hacker today?"
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "Adam Steltzner, the lead engineer on the NASA JPL's Curiosity rover mission, believes that to send humans to distant planets, we may need to do one of two things: look for ways to game space-time—traveling through wormholes and whatnot—or rethink the fundamental idea of 'ourselves.' 'Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet,' said Steltzner."
A limitation of current (affordable) 3D printers is their use of open loop controllers and stepper motors which limits reliability (drove the motor too quickly and skipped a step? Your model is ruined) and precision (~300 steps per revolution). A new project, Servo Stock instead uses cheap RC Servomotors combined with Hall Effect sensors, using a closed-loop controller to precisely position the extruder. The Servo Stock is derived from the delta robot Reprap Rostock (which is pretty cool even with stepper motors). The sensors give a resolution of 4096 ticks per rotation, and the controller can currently position the motors to within +/-2 ticks. They've also simplified the printer electronics by driving as much as possible from the controlling computer using Bowler, a new communication protocol for machine control. The Servo Stock also includes sensors for the hot end, presumably to be used to control the filament feed rate and temperature. The hardware models are fully parametric, allowing reasonably straightforward scaling of the design. Source for the hardware, firmware, and software is available.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Google may be planning to commoditze 3-D scanning by building the tech of its Project Tango project (essentially, thus far, a phone-sized handheld with 3-D sensing capabilities) into tablets. The Register speculates: "Given that Google has already announced the Project Tango smartphone, it seems likely that it would extend the technology to tablets, and the seven-inch form factor would tie in nicely with the existing Nexus 7 design. ...Google is hoping that developers can build applications to use the scanning capabilities of the Tango hardware. Suggested topics include providing guides for visually impaired people, building gaming maps based on actual rooms, and possibly augmenting Google Maps with interior details – Street View becoming Home View perhaps?" Setting aside what brand it might bear, how would you employ a portable 3-D scanner?