all images courtesy mataerial
in a collaborative research effort between petr novikov, saša jokić from the institute for advanced architecture of catalonia and joris laarman studio, ‘mataerial’, an anti-gravity additive manufacturing process is conceived. the printer allows for creating 3D objects on any given working surface independently of its inclination and smoothness, and without a need of additional support structures. similar to the doodle pen featured earlier on designboom, the robotic device utilizes innovative extrusion technologies that neutralize the effect of gravity during the course of the printing process.
the approach provides flexibility in creating natural objects by producing three-dimensional curves instead of two-dimensional folds. unlike 2D layers that are ignorant to the structure of the object, the 3D trajectory can follow exact stress lines of a custom shape.
the printer allows for creating 3D objects on any given working surface independently of its inclination and smoothness
the robotic device utilizes innovative extrusion technologies that neutralize the effect of gravity
the approach provides flexibility in creating natural objects by producing three-dimensional curves instead of two-dimensional folds
a 3D trajectory can follow exact stress lines of a custom shape
horizontal 3D printing in real time
anti-gravity in effect
material detail process
Houston architects and designers no longer have to embark on exhaustive searches to locate specific collaborators for their projects. Now, they can locate the various companies and individuals who work with metals, plastics, ceramics or other materials with just a flip of a page or click of a mouse.
The University of Houston’s Materials Resource Collaborative (MRC) recently published “Made in Houston,” a printed catalog and free online database that offers easy access to Houston fabricators that produce a wide range of design and building materials. Catalog content is organized according to specific material: metal, polymer, natural, ceramic, hybrid. Key charts indicate the services and applications provided by each listed vendor.
If a user is seeking a particular type of steel, he or she can turn to the “Metals” section of the catalog or type “steel” as a keyword on the website. The user can then peruse the list of vendors, review these companies’ descriptions and histories, and contact information. Product photos are also included.
“‘Made in Houston’ offers designers a place to get ideas,” said Donna Kacmar, MRC director and associate professor of architecture. “It’s more organized that perusing the Yellow Pages or doing a general Google search. And it’s way of supporting local businesses.”
The catalog and website were supported by a $2,500 grant from the Rice Design Initiatives Grant and a $2,500 grant from the Architecture Center Houston Foundation.
Content was compiled by architecture students Yen Le and Lachelle Robotham. Former architecture student Garth Williams designed the “Made in Houston” website.
“Made in Houston” complements UH’s Materials Resource Collaborative. The center is housed on the first floor of the university’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and serves as a materials library with physical samples available to view. It also offers access to the databases of global consulting firm Material ConneXion.
Earlier this year, MRC hosted its Industry Forum on Innovative Materials, which was co-hosted by Southerland Page’s Art Chavez. The event explored best practices when incorporating innovative materials in projects.
“We’re about material exploration, and we support both academia and the architecture and design industries,” Kacmar said. “’Made in Houston’ is just one of the ways we connect professionals and students with the materials they need.”
The MRC’s founding partners include Page Southerland Page, Kendall/Heaton Associates, Gensler and Ziegler Cooper. The MRC also is supported by the Architecture Center Houston Foundation and UH Green Building Components.
The Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a variety of disciplines including architecture, space architecture, interior architecture and industrial design. Faculty members include esteemed professionals in the architectural community, as well as award-winning academic veterans. Facilities include studio spaces, the new Materials Research Collaborative, computer labs and the Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center. To learn more about the college, visit http://www.arch.uh.edu/.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 39,500 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country. For more information about UH, visit http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.
April Fools was almost a week ago, but we couldn’t resist sharing one of our favorite fake news stories of the week. ThinkGeek announced the release of a new Play-Doh 3D printer that works in tandem with the iPlay-Doh 3D app that you download to your iPad to create any design you can dream up. The (imaginary) device can print up to three colors at once by blending them like soft-serve ice cream. It’s easy enough to imagine this product becoming a reality, and it’s probably only a matter of time before toy companies begin marketing the wonders of 3D printing to kids.
Niklas Roy‘s art always has an air of absurdity about it, he’s a Dada tech-artist whose creations take the functional ideas of technology and run off down the rabbit hole with them—like, for example, his Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine. His latest piece is called Cardboard Plotter and, as you might deduce from its name, it’s a plotter made from cardboard.
A plotter is essentially a printer but a more basic version, where you input some code and it will create a vector graphic of whatever you programmed it to print. It’s just, unlike Roy’s version, they’re not usually made from cardboard, rubber bands, adhesive tape, and super glue. Although slow, the Cardboard Plotter gets the job done as Roy demonstrates in the video above, typing in a few pages of code to program the machine to say “Hello World”.
It’s a much more meditative experience than waiting for something to print from the office printer, which usually involves a paper jam, some kind of technical error, and maybe some violence. The cardboard contraption was the product of a design workshop Roy taught, where students built digital machines from cardboard and explored questions like: “How do computers work on their fundamental levels? What do analog metaphors for Drag & Drop look like?”.
Images: © Niklas Roy
[via Beyond the Beyond]
Source: the Creators Project - Blog
Thru Religion is a complex artwork that sculpts light into religious symbols.
Using 3D printing, Drzach & Suchy have created a complex skeletal looking object that casts shadow images on the surface below it. The object is called “Thru Religion” and depending on the angle at which it is held, it will sculpt different religious symbols from the light that shines through it. It aligns different elements in a semi-random hexagonal grid within a three dimensional object to generate the symbols.
Artist and scientist Matthew Brand dreamt up specular holography while playing a gig at a Chicago blues club. Of course.
There’s been plenty of oohing and ahhing over the opening of New York’s Museum of Math, and for good reason. It’s remarkable how fun math can be in the hands of the right curator. To wit: The inaugural installation by artist and perceptual scientist Matthew Brand. Brand is the inventor of something called specular holography, a type of optical illusion that tricks your eye into thinking a 2-D object is 3-D.
At the Museum of Math, 45 of Brand’s specular holograms have been installed on a metal matrix along one gallery wall. Visitors can use an array of overhead lamps to make the looping knots and patterns move as light cascades over the surfaces in multiple directions. Our rods and cones are telling us that we’re seeing a 3-D image. Turns out, we’re seeing 2-D pieces of metal that Brand has engraved with millions of tiny pinpoints, each engineered with its own curvature that reflects light in a specific way.
Brand calls the process zintaglio, and he discovered it one night after playing a set at a blues club in Chicago. He took off his glasses to rub his eyes, and suddenly noticed that the club’s holiday tinsel produced a different image in each eye. He began trying to prototype metal objects that would take advantage of the effect in a controlled way. “It occurred to me that the optics I wanted should be carved out of metals and plastics, but, it turned out, at the time even high-end CNC machines were not sufficiently fast and precise,” he writes. “However, thanks to Moore’s law, a few years later, that obstacle was gone.” Today, he makes the holograms out of small pieces of metal. Most of the software, he tells Co.Design, “is home-brew with some open-source visualization tools thrown in.”
Brand has big plans for the specular holography, which represents only part of his far-ranging research on human perception. “Think big holographic surfaces: building facades. Outdoor sculpture. Murals. Art animated by the sun and the motion of people. On towers, doors, windows, walls, ships. In subway and escalator tunnels. Instead of billboards,” he writes. “Anywhere the world needs to be made more interesting.”
Check out more of the holograms on Brand’s website here.
Mom’s festive cut outs may take a back seat this year to Holleis’ high design 3D printed cookies. He began by designing the spiral and ring shaped cookies in a 3D imaging program. Loading up the 3D printing machine with colored sugar cookie dough (rather than the usual plastic), he set the printer to work, watching as it designed one delicate cookie at a time. Once complete, the cookies were popped into the oven, before being devoured.
We all remember watching as the Star Trek Replicator would recreate Earth foods for the Next Generation’s crew. Holleis’ project brings food replication one step closer to becoming a common thing in our lives. In the past few months, 3D printers have become more commonplace, with shops and products popping up in the consumer world.
What was once an expensive process just for techy designers is now accessible to the average consumer, with shops and stations set up offering customers to come in and 3D print almost anything their heart desires. Shops like MakerBot and 3DEA offer not only 3D printing stations, but affordable 3D printers that customers can take home to print at their leisure.
This holiday you can indulge your sweet tooth and your inner nerd by modernizing holiday cookie baking into a technological treat!
Printed plastics? So 2011. And high-end printers have been working with metals and ceramics for some time. But now the 3-D printing community is toying with a material more natural in origin: printed wood.
The new concept has a mysterious start. A Thingiverse member going by the nom de printer ”Kaipa” recently uploaded pictures of 3D-printed parts that weren’t made of extruded plastic, but a wood/plastic mixture he created on his own. The maker wouldn’t share the process for making the material, or even what the ingredients were, but he did offer to send sample spools of his experimental filament to interested hackers.
Forward-thinking French fabricator Jeremie Francois took Kaipa up on the offer and put the filament, called Laywood-D3 through its paces. He found that the material had interesting properties. On his blog he reported that “It actually looks like something between cardboard and a springy MDF. The printed object also really can be painted, much more than with PLA or ABS.”
The only problem with this material is that Kaipa can’t seem to make enough.
The one website that carries it is perpetually out of stock, while the only other option is to buy small batches through Germany’s eBay. With no open source sharing, it’s impossible for others in the fledgling community to continue helping its development. Some have expressed interest in trying to re-create the product’s formulation, including Brentwood, California, high school student Logan Dorsey, who has started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise research funds, but that comes with no guarantees.
3-D printing wood might not rival traditional production methods in terms of cost or quality, but it stands alone for its unique aesthetic. And in a world where 3-D printers are printing coral and fixing eagle beaks, it might be just the tool a sustainability-minded engineer needs.
FEATURE, INTERACTIVE— BY BLAINE BROWNELL ON DECEMBER 7, 2012 AT 9:00 AM
Researchers at Keio University’s Information Design Laboratory developed clothing designed to signal changing individual conditions. Their conceptual model was based on the analog synthesizer, which can generate an infinite variety of original sounds by connecting and tuning three modules, the VCA, VCO, and VCF. Wearable Synthesis, likewise, connects and tunes a variety of “fashion modules” as a means for personal expression and communication.
For example, an inner-wear module that senses body temperature, heart rate, or other biorhythmic condition can change its color accordingly. This information is input via an anatomical sensor and processed by microcontrollers. Once an outer wear module is connected to the inner-wear module, the outerwear may generate a signal that corresponds to this data. In the spirit of this coordinated system of information, a variety of accessories, hats, and bags have also been developed as Wearable Synthesis fashion modules.
Click here for more information.
TAGS: DIGITAL, FABRIC, INTERFACIAL, LIGHT, MATERIAL, TRANSFORMATIONAL
A patent that covers digital encryption of “objects” could bring copy protection to 3-D printing.
Sometime in the none-too-distant future, replacing your favorite coffee mug or creating a new iPhone case might be as simple as downloading a design you like from the Internet and firing up your 3-D printer.
Zip, zap, zip, and voilà.
Most 3-D printing has been done in industry or by hobbyists who share their designs freely online. Now Intellectual Ventures, the company run by Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft CTO and alleged patent troll, has been issued a patent on a system that could prevent people from printing objects using designs they haven’t paid for.
The patent, issued Tuesday by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, is titled “Manufacturing control system” and describes methods for managing “object production rights.”
The patent basically covers the idea of digital rights management, or DRM, for 3-D printers. As with e-books that won’t open unless you pay Barnes & Noble and use its Nook reader, with Myhrvold’s technology your printer wouldn’t print unless you’ve paid up.
“You load a file into your printer, then your printer checks to make sure it has the rights to make the object, to make it out of what material, how many times, and so on,” says Michael Weinberg, a staff lawyer at the nonprofit Public Knowledge, who reviewed the patent at the request of Technology Review. “It’s a very broad patent.”
The patent isn’t limited to 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. It also covers using digital files in extrusion, ejection, stamping, die casting, printing, painting, and tattooing and with materials that include “skin, textiles, edible substances, paper, and silicon printing.”
“This is an attempt to assert ownership over DRM for 3-D printing. It’s ‘Let’s use DRM to stop unauthorized copying of things’,” says Weinberg, author of It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw It Up, a 2010 white paper on how intellectual-property rights could harm the development of 3-D printing.
But there’s a big caveat to all this, says Weinberg: “Nothing says manufacturers have to use DRM.”
What is certain is that commercial manufacturers of toys and some consumer goods could eventually face a “Napster moment.” Recipes for simple physical objects have already begun circulating on the Internet. Anyone with a 3-D printer can make copies.
Facing similar disruptions, the music, book, and movie industries all turned to DRM as a way to stop copying. Results have been mixed. Apple’s iTunes dropped DRM for music in 2009 after consumers complained their songs wouldn’t play on non-Apple devices. But Apple still uses DRM for movies, as do DVD makers, which is why a pirated movie often won’t work on your home DVD player (see “The DVD Rebellion”).
The worry for manufacturers is that because the CAD files that carry directions for manufacturing objects are digital too, they’ll be just as easy to duplicate and re-distribute as an mp3 or a movie.
One big difference is that you can’t generally copyright objects (exceptions include sculptures and architecture). That’s because copyright applies to creative works but not to “useful articles.” You can, however, patent a new invention or product design, and Myhrvold’s system is a way to make sure no one prints patented ideas without compensating their inventor.
That could be particularly important to Intellectual Ventures itself. Myhrvold’s operation, based in Bellevue, Washington, basically exists to file and buy patents, and currently controls nearly 40,000 of them, according to a spokesperson.
The manufacturing control patent, number 8,286,236, was filed back in 2008 and issued on October 9 to Invention Science Fund I, an arm of Myhrvold’s company.
Myhrvold’s timing could be perfect. The company MakerBot just opened the first retail store dedicated to 3-D printers in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo neighborhood, where it began selling its Replicator 2 desktop printer for $2,199. There’s also an online store with several thousand designs for downloading. (They’re still free, for now.)
“People have begun accepting there is going to be wide access to [3-D printing] machines, and they are going to be able to create a wide range of things,” says Weinberg. “People will want to control that. This patent is people thinking about how to do it.”
The world’s first sexbot is now a reality, and futurists predict it’s just the beginning. How integrated will man and machine be, and what are the ethical implications?
Originally aired on November 28, 2012Hosted by:GUESTS:
- Jincey Lumpkin, Esq. (New York, NY) Chief Sexy Officer of Juicy Pink Box @JuicyJincey
- Douglas Hines (New York, NY) TrueCompanion Founder, Artificial Intelligence Software Engineer, Computer Scientist @TrueCompanionUS
- Laura Duncan (New York, NY) Sexual Health Researcher, Creator of the “Hey, Where’s My Robot Girlfriend?” Lecture Series @epidermis
This is the opposite kind of project. A little bit of work and a little custom design to create something new and exciting that I can immediately use in my everyday life. It also happens to be a sex toy.
In other words, I wanted to hack something I actually use: my vagina.
I love feedback loops. Servo motors, thermostats, op-amps, DC-DC converters, social networks, flocking behavior. Our bodies. Massages, cuddling, sex– these are all ways of bringing a partner into your body’s most fun closed-loop systems.
To me, a good sex toy helps form feedback loops. It doesn’t get in the way. A good toy gives you simple ways of exchanging signals with a partner or with your own body. It acts as a conduit. A good sex toy is analog.
I was in the market for a remote-controlled vibrator recently, and I ended up with LELO’s Lyla vibe:
(Update: LELO wrote to inform me they have an updated model, the Lyla 2. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, or check if it uses the same radio protocol.)
There are some things I really like about this toy. The vibrator itself is reasonably strong, rechargeable, waterproof, and quite comfortable. I was much less happy with the remote. The radio range was rather lackluster, and using the controls made me feel more like I was programming a VCR (remember those?) than having sex.
The optional accelerometer input on the remote was a good idea, but I feel like the execution leaves much to be desired. The controls are laggy, and controlling the vibrator by tilting the controller never really felt right to me.
So, naturally, I wanted to see if I could do better. I really had no idea where the project would go.
My early prototype used a simple knob attached to a variable resistor, and that already seemed like a big improvement over the original LELO remote. I wanted to build a simple proof-of-concept remote that would just demonstrate the improved radio range and responsiveness, without doing anything particularly fancy. After that, I planned to dabble in more esoteric input devices. Audio spectra, conductive fabric, capacitive sensors embedded in lingerie, and so on. The Arduino library I ended up writing for this project offers some great opportunities for further tinkering.
But I was rummaging through my sensor drawer, and thought: Why not sonar? A few quick tests, and it seemed more than responsive enough. And for myself, often lazy about mechanical things, a small sensor with no moving parts was much easier to build a robust prototype around.
At first, the benefits seemed pretty easy to understand. It was hands-free. This meant that, unlike the original remote, it doesn’t need a bright pink silicone jacket to stay clean. Well that sounds convenient. Then I start to play with it more, and I discover something really unique about this configuration.
Something about this toy really does become more than the sum of its parts. More than a simple remote control, it starts to feel a little like virtual reality. Haptic technology, it’s called. Interfacing with computers through our sense of touch.
This toy serves as a kind of analog bridge between two remote spaces: the column of ultrasonically-oscillating air in front of the remote, and whatever body part happens to be in contact with the vibrator. Touch that invisible space above the remote, and the vibrator touches you.
In fact, it does start to feel like there’s a palpable object in space above the remote’s sensors. Move your body close to it, and it reacts. Press into it lightly, or tease the edges. Flick your hand through it, or make graceful waves back and forth. You can use your whole body to touch it, almost like a big fuzzy vibrating cone floating in air.
If the sensor can see your body’s rhythms, it responds in kind, effortlessly synchronizing to its frequency. This is exactly the sort of closed-loop control I was after.
You can even use multiple vibrators. There’s no unique address or channel assigned to a particular vibrator, so any vibes that are turned on and within radio range will respond.
So, what does it look like?
The two black circles are ultrasonic transducers. One of them transmits short “chirps” at a frequency too high for humans to hear. The other listens for echoes. The 4-digit display gives another satisfying bit of feedback, in visceral high-contrast blue LED light. The external antenna gives it quite a bit more radio range than the original remote, and the exposed serial port on the left makes it easy to reprogram the remote using the Arduino IDE.
You can get an idea for how the prototype works in this short video:
That’s the end result, for now. The rest of this post will share the journey I took in building this toy. Perhaps it will inspire you to follow along, or to build something unique.
In order to replace the original remote control, first I had to understand it. My first stop was the FCC ID database, to see if they had any info that would help me know if it was even worthwhile to crack the remote open. I was in luck. The internal photos clearly showed an MSP430 microcontroller and CC2500 radio. Hackability was looking good so far.
The CC2500 is a really nice configurable 2.4 GHz radio and modem chip with an SPI interface. It’s part of a line of highly integrated radios made by Chipcon, now owned by Texas Instruments. They’re quite similar to the competing nRF24L01 radio made by Nordic Semiconductor. The CC2500 also has a popular sub-1 GHz sibling, the CC1100. This chip was featured in the ToorCon 14 badge, and the imminently hackable IM-ME toy.
I wouldn’t even bother with trying to read or reprogram the original microcontroller. By sniffing this SPI bus, I could reverse engineer the proper radio settings and protocol to use. Then I could wire up any CC2500 to any microcontroller I want, and control the vibrator over the air.
Unfortunately, opening the remote turned out to be somewhat messier. The pink silicone jacket is glued to the white plastic shell, and I failed to remove it without tearing the fragile silicone. I soon discovered that the shell itself was also glued shut, and it required quite a lot of cutting and prying to open. I was willing to sacrifice this remote for science, but I really wouldn’t advise ever opening one of these if you want it to stay nice and watertight.
Once I had the remote open and the circuit board extracted, I started making a test jig. I’ll often do this by using a short length of snappable 0.1″ headers as a mechanical anchor. I solder it to some big sturdy pads on the PCB. In this case, I used the pads for the battery contacts. Then, I break out the microscope and run thin AWG 32 magnet wire from the headers to whatever I want to probe. In this case, I wanted the SPI bus. I also replaced the original remote’s small vibrator motor with an LED, so I could see when it was on without it shaking my whole setup.
At this point there are all sorts of options for snooping on the communications between these radio and microprocessor. If you have room in your budget and toolbox for a special-purpose device, Total Phase makes a pretty sweet little SPI and I2C sniffer device. There are logic analyzers like the Saleae Logic, and open source tools like the Logic Shrimp.
Unfortunately, I had none of these handy. My Saleae Logic was far away, and my trusty Bitscope isn’t really that helpful for protocol reverse engineering once you get above the physical layer. So, I improvised. Often in this situation I’ll break out something like the Saxo board, with an FPGA and a thick USB 2.0 pipe. In this case, I was dealing with low enough data rates that I could do something even simpler. I plugged the remote into my Propeller Demo Board and wrote a quick program to capture the SPI traffic and send it back in ASCII over the serial port.
The full traces are available in Git. I was looking for two kinds of traffic: an initialization sequence for the radio, and SPI transfers which actually transmitted packets over the radio. I was also keeping my eye out for any clues as to how complex the protocol was. Do I need to pair with the vibrator? Exchange keys? Search for a radio channel to use?
When the remote turns “off”, it’s actually entering a low-power standby mode. It doesn’t fully shut down the radio in this mode, it just sends a standby command. As a result, waking up the remote doesn’t fully initialize the radio. To capture a complete init sequence, I would cut and reapply power, as if fresh batteries were just inserted. When I did this, I was greeted with a nice burst of configuration traffic:
300F SRES Strobe: Soft reset 0B0F 0A0F FSCTRL1 IF frequency of 253.9 kHz 0C0F 000F FSCTRL0 No frequency offset (default) 0D0F 5D0F FREQ2 FREQ = 0x5d13b1 = 2420 MHz 0E0F 130F FREQ1 0F0F B10F FREQ0 100F 2D0F MDMCFG4 CHANBW = 541.666 kHz 110F 3B0F MDMCFG3 DRATE = 249.94 kBaud 120F 730F MDMCFG2 MSK modulation, 30/32 sync word bits 130F 220F MDMCFG1 FEC disabled, 2 preamble bytes 140F F80F MDMCFG0 CHANSPC = 199.951 kHz ...
The hex numbers on the left come from the SPI sniffer. The text to the right is my own annotation, starting with the name of the radio register in question. Each line is one SPI transaction, and each group of four digits represents one byte going across the SPI bus. The first two digits are command data from the microcontroller (MOSI), the last two digits are the radio’s simultaneous response byte (MISO).
The log continues on like this a bit longer, but you can already see the most important radio parameters: A base frequency of 2.420 GHz, MSK modulation, 250 kBps data rate.
When I looked at the SPI trace for waking the remote up from sleep, I was greeted with a rather large red herring. It spends some time scanning ten different channels, numbered 0 through 9. This represents 2 MHz of spectrum. On each channel, it spends some time polling the Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) register. Is it listening to see if the channel is clear? Is it searching for other remotes? Listening for an initialization sequence from the vibrator?
As far as I can tell, none of these things are true. I’ve never seen the vibrator transmit or the remote receive, which rules out any kind of pairing sequence. To verify this, you can turn on a vibrator while the remote is already transmitting. The vibrator picks up the signal and starts moving, without any change to the remote’s routine. The original remote will even control multiple vibrators happily. There seems to be no pairing sequence at all: the address and radio channel are both hardcoded. Why scan through channels then? It feels like either a vestige of some library code the folks at LELO adopted. Or maybe it’s scaffolding for future functionality. Either way, it doesn’t seem to matter for the vibrators I have.
How about the actual packets? Well, they also seem to have a lot of vestigial content. It’s possible this is LELO being super clever and leaving room for future products to be protocol-compatible. Or it’s possible they just hacked together all the example code they could find until they had a working product. It’s hard to say.
The original remote transmits packets packets at a measly 9 Hz. This low update rate most definitely contributes to the laggy feeling and lacking radio range of the original remote. Why so slow? It was probably a battery life tradeoff. The original remote ran off of two AAAs, whereas my replacement is going to have significantly more power available. By transmitting about 10x as often, my remote can achieve much better responsiveness, plus it can tolerate more radio noise by virtue of having a lot more redundancy. Even if many packets are corrupted, quite a few packets are likely to make it through the air unharmed.
Each packet contains a motor strength update, as an 8-bit number which seems to have a usable range of 0 through 128. The packets themselves always have 9 bytes of payload provided by the microcontroller, plus a CRC and header which is generated by the CC2500 itself. Here’s the payload of a typical packet:
01 00 A5 28 28 00 00 00 05 \___/ Motor Strength
In this example, the motor strength is 0×28, or about 30% of full power. I’m not sure what the other bytes are for. They seem to stay constant, and simply replaying these packets back to the vibrator always seems to work. I’m also not sure why there are always two copies of the motor power byte. It seems most likely that this is for added redundancy, so that even if the radio is very noisy and there’s a CRC collision, the vibrator is unlikely to accept a corrupted motor strength byte.
At this point, I had enough information about the protocol to try and build my own emulation of the original remote. This was before I had ordered any CC2500 breakout boards, so I used the remote itself as a dumb CC2500 radio by holding the original MSP430 microcontroller in reset. This was the setup I used to develop an Arduino library that could configure the CC2500 radio correctly and send packets like the ones above.
Now that the yak was bald, I could get on to the really fun part of the project: Designing a better, stronger, faster remote using commonly available parts.
At this point, the project was seeming pretty straightforward: Off-the-shelf Arduino, CC2500 breakout board, sonar sensor, and LED display. But how would I power all of this? The sonar and LEDs are both pretty power-hungry, and I would be using the radio much more heavily than the original remote. I would need to budget nearly 100 mA, with 5v rails for the sonar and LED and 3.3v for the radio and Arduino.
I certainly could have used AA or AAA batteries. I wanted the mechanical design to be simple and compact, though. Designing my own battery holder would not have been simple, and an off-the-shelf plastic battery holder would have been bulky. I even thought about using a flashlight body as a battery holder, but I didn’t see an elegant way to attach my own mechanical parts to it. Rechargeable batteries come in much more friendly shapes. But now you need a charger.
This was getting complicated fast. Lithium polymer battery, a boost converter to raise the voltage to 5V for the sonar module, charging circuit, “fuel gauge” indicator. All of this work goes into every commercial product that runs on batteries, and we often take it for granted. As far as I’m aware, though, there isn’t a great equivalent for quick DIY prototyping. The Arduino Fio board is close to what I want: an Arduino with a built-in LiPo battery charger. But it doesn’t have the 5V boost converter or any way of monitoring the battery’s charge.
Without designing my own PCB, I’d need several separate components: battery, fuel gauge, charge/boost. All total, over $45 and a lot more bulk and complexity than I wanted. I was really hoping there was a better option.
It so happens that this sort of amalgamation of parts is already pretty commonplace in the form of portable cell-phone chargers. These devices are very little more than a boost converter, charger, lithium battery, and a very basic fuel gauge. Best of all, thanks to economy of scale, they’re really inexpensive. The 3200 mAH battery I used in this project was only $22, and it’s something I can reuse for multiple projects… or even to charge my phone.
This lists the exact parts I used in my prototype, but nearly everything here is commonly available from multiple manufacturers. In particular, many different vendors on eBay usually carry CC2500 breakout boards. Some of these have special features such as nicer antennas or power amplifiers. Keep an eye out for those.
That’s it for the list of vitamins we’ll need to make the remote. There is no “main” PCB for this project. The small boards are all held in place by a custom-designed plastic enclosure.
At this point, I did a little bit of preparation on the Arduino by soldering the FTDI-compatible serial header, and disabling the pin-13 LED by desoldering its current limiting resistor. If it was still attached, its glow would be visible through the plastic enclosure. You may also want to remove the LED on the Ping module. I forgot to do this on my prototype, and its blinking is just barely visible through the plastic.
It’s easy to neglect the non-electronic parts of any electronics project. I’ve certainly built my share of prototypes that were little more than a bare circuit board. In this project, though, the plastic parts serve multiple purposes: providing a slot for the battery pack, holding the individual circuit boards in place, and providing a smooth exterior that’s a little less unfriendly to use in the bedroom.
This seemed like a perfect job for 3D printing. I could make a plastic enclosure that exactly fits each of the circuit boards, and presents the LEDs and sonar transducers nicely while hiding all of the sharp and uncuddly circuitry inside.
I chose to model the enclosure in Blender, a wonderfully powerful (if somewhat intimidating) open source tool. It takes some care to use Blender for CAD, but I enjoy having such diverse functionality integrated into one package, and the price is right.
To keep the model as parametric as possible, I modeled the shell and the negative space separately. First, I created meshes for each of the internal parts: The circuit boards, bolts, antenna hole, battery pack, USB connector. These meshes would become the negative space inside the enclosure. I separated them into two layers, for items that would mount to the top and to the bottom half of the case. On the top-half items, I extruded them downward, and the bottom-half items were extruded upward. This leaves the space toward the inside of the case hollow.
I modeled the outer shell using subdivision surfaces. A chain of boolean modifiers will non-destructively split the case into top and bottom, then carve out all holes. The downside to this technique is that all of the boolean operations can bog down Blender quite a bit. This can be mitigated by keeping your source meshes and your final meshes in different layers. With the final layers hidden, Blender won’t continuously recalculate them as you edit the source meshes.
The end result of all this 3D modeling was a set of polygonal meshes in STL format for the top and bottom halves of the case:
I used Slic3r to convert the polygon models into G-code, a simple language that defines the actual tool path used by the printer. This program slices the 3D model into many thin layers. The 3D printer will draw out each layer with a thin filament of molten plastic. After each layer, the nozzle moves up a little and the process repeats.
This is a visualization of the tool path for just one of these thin layers. The tight zig-zag pattern is a solid fill, but much of the interior is filled with a light-weight honeycomb pattern that saves material and time:
Over the course of several hours, my printer builds each part up from nothing.
A tiny bit of post-printing cleanup helps the parts assemble smoothly. A hobby knife makes quick work of the “brim” that is added along the bottom of each part to help it stick to the build surface. Since this will be a handheld project, it’s important to sand any sharp corners.
I also sanded the entire top face of each model, to eliminate any small bumps that would prevent the two halves from sitting flat against each other. This is a good time to test-fit the pieces with a pair of M3x16 bolts and nuts. The bolts should go in easily, the nuts should be held in place by the hexagonal holes on the bottom half, and there should be only a very tiny gap between the two halves.
Each component sits in its own custom-fit hole, with some epoxy to hold it in place. All of the components on the bottom half need to be robustly anchored. The radio’s antenna connector, the battery pack USB plug, and the Arduino’s serial header will all be subject to some mechanical force during normal use.
I used a liberal dose of epoxy both under and above the USB plug. The Arduino and Radio boards both have flat backsides, so I put a dab of epoxy underneath both. On the radio, I added some additional dabs of epoxy at the corners near the SMA connector.
It’s probably a good idea to avoid getting any epoxy on the RF components on the front side of the radio, as it may affect the circuit’s impedances and lead to reduced radio range. Also try to keep it off of anything you’ll be soldering. Solder won’t stick to it or burn through it, you’ll just be left with a mess that you have to scrape off with a hobby knife.
I used the battery pack itself to help line up the USB connector while the epoxy sets. You’ll notice a little bit of wiggle when the connectors are mated. To make sure the battery pack plugs and unplugs smoothly, make sure that you seat the USB plug such that it’s pressed all the way to the back of the socket. This will ensure the plug isn’t stuck at a funny angle.
The top half assembles in a similar manner. The sonar and LED modules both press into their respective slots. When they’re all the way in, the front face of the LED module and the front of each sonar transducer should be approximately flush with the front of the enclosure.
Since these components are largely held in place by the shape of the enclosure, they only need a small amount of epoxy to keep them from sliding out of their holes. Note that the underside of the sonar module is exposed to the battery compartment. Make sure you go easy on the epoxy. Any blobby epoxy or messy wiring could get in the way of the battery pack.
After the epoxy set, I soldered everything up point-to-point style with wire-wrapping wire:
There will be six wires running between the top and bottom half. It’s okay to leave these a little bit long; there will be room to fold them up in the hollow space above the LED module.
Bolt the enclosure together, making sure the wires end up in the hollow area instead of pinched in the edges of the controller. Now it’s ready for some firmware! The Arduino sketch is in the project’s GitHub repository.
I designed the enclosure to work with common 3.3v FTDI cables. The programming slot is probably a bit too narrow for the FTDI Basic, but perhaps it works. I already had a Prop Plug handy, so I’ve been using that with a simple passive adaptor.
The firmware is currently pretty basic. It takes sonar measurements as fast as it can, feeding those into a median filter. Median filters are a little bit magical when it comes to discarding outliers from noisy-ish data. There’s a smidgen of state machinery to manage the “lock” mode. Finally, it scales the distance reading to a motor power level and sends packets to the radio and LED modules about 80 times a second.
Where to go from here? Well, there is certainly room for improvement in the firmware. For different kinds of play, it may make sense to have different scaling algorithms for converting distance to intensity. I’m interested in making the firmware more versatile, but not at the expense of reducing its intuitive quality. The “Lock” mode is already way too unintuitive for my tastes. Perhaps an additional flavor of user interface, via an accelerometer or SoftPot would help.
But honestly, the thing I’m most excited about improving isn’t even technical. In some ways, this kind of toy feels like a musical instrument. It is a simple machine with very few inputs, but it interacts with your body in such a way that it opens up a broad array of techniques that can each be mastered. I’m looking forward to spending more time with it and learning how to play.
I’ve already been thinking about the vast array of other sensing technologies that may be applicable for sex toys that support your own feedback loops instead of obstructing them. What if you could use a Kinect camera to remotely detect even your body’s subtler rhythms? Imagine using a phase-locked loop to not just synchronize with your motion, but predict it. The PLL could compensate for all of the system’s lag, including the mechanical lag in the vibrator motor.
There could be a lot more to electronic sex toys than just a battery and a motor. I want the future to be full of toys that know how to play.
3D printers – it’s a word that offers glimpses into the future that seems so far, and yet is so close. The technology, which allows you to replicate 3D objects the same way you make a photo copy, has been around for a couple years now, but, for the most part, has been far too expensive and inaccessible to the public.
But now, what’s being called the world’s first 3D printing photo booth is set to open for a limited time at the exhibition space EYE OF GYRE in Harajuku. From November 24 to January 14, 2013, people with reservations can go and have their portraits taken. Except, instead of a photograph, you’ll receive miniature replicas of yourselves.
Reservations are taken only through the website. You can pick from 3 sizes, S (10cm), M (15cm) and L (20cm) for 21,000 yen, 32,000 yen and 42,000 yen, respectively. But there are group discounts! This would be really fun to do with your kids, who seem to grow up just way too fast.
The project was brought to you by the creative powerhouse PARTY.