AutoHud: Your Car’s Performance Data on Glass

If you’re a journalist covering Glass, looking for The Next Big Thing in white-collar terror and moral panic, you’ve thought about driving with Glass. The distraction! The avoidable crashes! What a goldmine of terrifying link-bait headlines, ready to wrap around a shoddily-researched article!

I present Voidstar AutoHud, a Glass app designed to be used behind the wheel, that makes the driver safer.

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Voidstar AutoHud is a unique piece of Glassware, as it’s actually a combination of hardware and software. You plug a cheap OBD-II dongle into a port under your dashboard, hit Connect, and bam, you’ve got your speed, RPM, MPG, and fuel live in front of your eyes.

AutoHud is compatible with every vehicle sold in the US since 1996 (that’s when OBD-II was mandated) and can update as fast as your dashboard. It’s open-source and compatible with open hardware, so you can enforce that your driving data is yours alone.

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This app was developed to prove a point – that you can be safer with a wearable than without one. While I’m wearing Glass and running AutoHud, I don’t take my eyes off the road – my dashboard is in the sky above the asphalt everywhere I look.

You, on the other hand, take your eyes off the road every ten seconds or more to check the dials. That’s just unsafe. You also take your eyes off the road to check your phone and GPS, which makes me fear for my own safety.

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While AutoHud is running, it actually makes it harder to do distracting things on Glass. Like every Glass app that uses a Live Card, AutoHud blocks the wearer from using voice commands and checking notifications while active. If you cover Glass and didn’t know this, I recommend doing some research before your next big scare piece.

AutoHud is easy to install and use, and requires a car, an OBD dongle, and Google Glass. View the source and instructions at my GitHub, or just download the ready-to-install APK.

Right now, AutoHud displays the most important data on your dashboard – RPM, speed, instantaneous MPG, and remaining fuel. By popular demand, the next feature package will be a performance HUD with engine torque, engine load, throttle, and shifter position. Future updates will add an overspeed warning that knows the road’s speed limit, a post-trip report with cost of gas and performance summary, and automatic GPS logging to find your car.

DIY Google Glass Headlight

I’ve had my Google Glass for about ten days now, and I’m surprised to see a lack of hardware hacks for it! A user on the Glass-Explorers.com forum suggested a headlight, and I agree. Presenting the Google Glass headlight dongle!

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To see it in action, check out this first-person demo video!

The body is an Adafruit USB Shell (pinout here). Just connect pin 4 (ID/Sense) to pin 5 (GND), connect the anode of a high-efficiency LED to pin 1 (VCC), the cathode to an appropriate resistor, and the other end of the resistor to GND.

I used a high-efficiency cool white LED with a forward voltage of 3.8V and Imax 15mA, so I used a 33Ω resistor.

How does it work? Connecting Sense to GND puts Google Glass into USB Host mode (yes, Glass does support USB OTG!) which causes the VCC line to output 5V instead of taking it. This powers the LED! No, there’s no way to turn it off yet, but this isn’t bad for a fifteen-minute proof of concept.

Got a Glass and interested in getting your own headlight? Let me know in a comment! If there’s enough interest, I’ll build it into a simple product.

Schematics and instructions soon!

Five Things That Surprised Me About Maker Faire

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Wow, that sprint to finish the Orbital Rendersphere and the strain of running the exhibit at Maker Faire knocked me offline for a while! Things have cooled down enough that I can get back to writing. I have a proper Rendersphere project page coming up, but for now, here are five Maker Faire observations that caught me completely off-guard.

  1. Kickstarter has changed the game. It was on everyone’s lips, both exhibitors and participants. It seemed like every independent booth was hyping a Kickstarter, coasting off a Kickstarter, or gauging interest for a Kickstarter. The presence of Kickstarter, and the literal ability to sell a dream, was like a magnet that pulled the hackers to align with it. Many projects were obviously designed with Kickstarter presales in mind, and there was a lot of aggressive Kickstarter pimping afoot.
  2. Making is now a business, like it or not. A bizarre consequence of Kickstarter, people now assume that every project has a Kickstarter in its future. While this is great news for my work (and for wannabe pro hackers), it makes me uneasy for my hobby. Not every project should – or even can – be productized. One-off “just because” projects allow the hacker to mature his idea on his own schedule and produce valuable open-source artifacts. I don’t like the idea of a hacker sticking with one project just because a few people are willing to give him a few bucks. Proliferating projects allows the hacker to grow and carve out a wider comfort zone.
  3. Glass Explorers everywhere! I counted seven folks wearing Glass in Rendersphere crowds alone, and far more wandering the Faire. As much as I hate to admit, that camera was killing it. These guys were snapping pics from angles, firing voice commands to Tweet, getting video, all nine yards. I even did a full-on interview with a woman wearing Glass. She used a handheld mike and synchronized them with a little clapboard. I could write a whole article on this. Granted, the Faire vibe was extra-permissive of this kind of thing, but it was good seeing people use WearComp in public.
  4. The barbarians are at Arduino’s gates. The company’s bread-and-butter boards are at a standstill. Massimo’s focused on loony one-offs like the Yun, Esplora, and Robot. Third-party forks – cheap Chinese clones, ultra-small modules, and “Arduino-compatible” products – are everywhere. TI, Microchip, and STM have devboards with Arduino-derived syntax and IDE that blow the Uno away on paper. Arduino has to make sure its role as the most beginner-friendly devboard is more defensible, or there will be trouble. They’re still the king of the hacker devboard, but man, is that king overdue for mobilizing his armies.
  5. Hackerspaces do not take Maker Faire seriously. As far as I was concerned, the Faire is the most important two days of the MakerBar’s year. Thousands of folks in the target audience were walking by; an amazing table with a huge staff turnout could rake in hundreds of members and participants. The fact that the space could earn Editor’s Choice ribbons was gravy. The MakerBar knocked it out of the park with an exciting table and a huge flagship project, but other hackerspaces were not as impressive. I saw light-and-sound projects without a canopy. I saw tables with no flyers, cards, or publicity collateral. I saw tables in the middle of nowhere. I just don’t get it. The MakerBar handed out, I believe, a thousand cards.

The dynamics of hacking are changing, and Maker Faire was representative of this. The clear message was that hackers are maturing. They’re realizing that conviction pays off, that they can attract a huge audience, that they can make money, that they can go deep with technology. Seeing so many Glassholes in one place, of course, always brings a smile to my face.

Atmel Chips, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.

Five ways, of course. In descending order.

5) Internal pullups. All the ATTiny and ATMega chips I’ve used have built-in pullups on all the input pins, which is REALLY CONVENIENT. Yes, if you’re a weekend warrior using a breadboard, you’ll just snap “stop being a b***h and add a resistor”. If you’re a pro making a production design, this resistor is another element you need to place on your board and add to your bill of materials, and it forces you to route your signal line near a supply line. This is highly relevant for some of the super-cramped wearable products I develop.

4) Generous I/O sink and source. This is probably my favorite feature of the low-end Atmel chips I use – they sink and source at least 30mA of current from every I/O pin. This is enough to directly drive a very bright LED, fan out a signal to a dozen old-school TTL devices, or fire a signal down a very long wire. Less sexy but more important, it gives you a lot more leeway before the output high voltage sags, which makes behavior more predictable.

3) Parts available in DIP package. I don’t want to reach for a breakout board and flux pen every time I make a new circuit. Don’t judge me.

2) Great toolchain. Avrdude, avr-gcc, et cetera, create a robust Bash-based cross-platform infrastructure. I don’t know what’s better – being able to code in the command line instead of the chipmaker’s system-grinding 500MB Eclipse fork, or being able to code at all on my Mac. Also, let’s be frank, C++ beats the hell out of Basic on syntax alone, and the libraries are garnish.

1) Arduino. The elephant in the microcontroller room, this is a deciding factor for a rapid prototyper. Say what you will about the Arduino IDE. Say what you will about the Arduino board. Say what you will about the Arduino culture. For free and zero registration, you get a fairly lightweight bootloader, well-written libraries that abstract out the obnoxious register math, and oodles of open-source code to rip off use for inspiration. Plus, just add six holes (FTDI header) and your product has hackable Arduino street cred. Whammy.

Disclaimer for know-it-all dorks: I have not experimented with every Atmel chip in existence. For each of these loves, there is probably a chip that disproves the rule, or a competing chip that proves the rule. Yes, I think you’re very cool and your mother is very proud of you. My ATMega is still cooler than your PIC32SXF59ß∫®44SLC402EX900œß∂∆ç.