Archive for the ‘hardware’ Category

iPhone Hardware Accessories Roundup

Monday, January 11th, 2010

It’s been about half a year since Apple announced that they would be allowing 3rd parties to develop integrated hardware/software applications for the iPhone. Here is a roundup of what has come out so far.

wwdc keynote 2009 screenshot

In my opinion, the most exciting announcement made at the 2009 WWDC was that the 3.0 version of the iPhone operating system would support integration with 3rd party hardware. Considering the number of stupid docks out there, I fully expected there to be hundreds of new accessories for the iPhone by the end of the year.

Here we are, a little over six months out, and I decided to dig around and see just what 3rd party hardware is out there with iPhone integration goodness.


L5 RemoteL5 IR Dongle
Turns your iPhone into a universal remote.
link to site
WowWee Pico ProjectorWowWee Cinemin Pico Projector
Small projectors are being touted by tons of hardware manufacturers. I have yet to see anyone buy one but maybe since this one works with the iPhone it will be the first.
link to site


This is an armband that monitors your sleep to wake you up at exactly the right moment in your cycle. Even more compelling to me than the waking up is that it monitors your sleep and makes nice charts of it on their web site.
link to site
This is appealing because rather than try to invent new proprietary hardware this good looking bicycle mount reads data from standard Ant+ sensors on your bike to track everything you would want to know about your riding. The mount is carbon fiber which pretty much ensures it will cost a ton but also that I will buy one.
link to site


iCarte RfID ReaderiCarte RfID Reader
This one doesn’t get much press, but a cheap reliable RfID reader could be just what the RfID industry needs to get their technology into smaller businesses and retail shops.
link to site
Square is getting a ton of press despite their newness in the industry and the fact that their dongle looks like absolute crap and plugs into your microphone jack. Of course, their software looks tip top and the company was started by Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame. I won’t be impressed until I see one work in person or they beat out the wikipedia entry for the word “square” in google rankings.
link to site
Verifone Payware MobileVerifone Payware Mobile
A much better looking accessory from a proven player in the payment processing biz, the press is largely ignoring these guys because they are all in love with Square. What will probably kill these guys is the fact that they are a very 1.0 company and generally a pain in the ass to buy services from.
link to site


Nasa Chemical SensorNasa Chemical Sensor
As far as I know, this one isn’t available for sale but it is very cool to see that those way smart folks at NASA are out hacking up their own accessories. I recently watched a documentary about the Apollo Space program and wondered if you could now replace the 1975 NASA Central Command Center with a good iPhone app.
link to site

What I’d like to see

This is a good start, but I really hope and expect to see some crazy and varied 3rd party hardware add-ons this year.

  • A real barcode scanner, you know with a lazer and not trying to make the camera do something it doesn’t want to.
  • A voltmeter
  • An oscilloscope
  • Still no Dj accessories? Despite the billion iPod mixers, you guys can’t make an auto-tune mixer or something?
  • Um, lazertag guns
  • Expensive home automation systems, so people on MTV cribs can replace all the light switches in their house with iPhones.
  • Something that plugs into my power tools. Don’t know how, but surprise me. Chainsaw hero?

Stereoscopic camera

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Last month Gillian asked me to help her with an event that she had promised to shoot in 3D. I think I’ve gotten Gillian to adapt some of my “how hard could it be” attitude over the years.

After a ton of Googling, and realizing that that fancy Fuji3d camera wouldn’t be out in time. I decided to tether two Canon SD750’s using the plans described on this fine blog.

After getting all the parts I needed and set up, I chickened out when it came to soldiering wires directly to the internals of the camera. I am a little rusty with my soldiering and I had a 1 week deadline. If I ruined either of the cameras I wouldn’t be able to get another in time for the event.

Luckily, there is a whole community dedicated to exactly what I wanted to do and they had some simple solutions that didn’t require any permanent alterations to the cameras. A little bit of light soldiering and cutting and we were in business. The camera came out great and worked perfect for the event.


For the mount I used aluminum that I cut with a jigsaw and file, then riveted together. For the electronics all I needed was a few usb cables, an audio cable and jack, a momentary push button, and a 4 AA battery pack. All in all, it cost about $75 in parts – including the rivet gun. I already had 1 camera so the second one I got for $100 on ebay.


Merging the photos taken was trivial with StereoPhoto Maker. An awesome piece of free software that I wish was open source so it could be ported to OSX, or better yet a CLI version.

Here is one of the images Gillian took that night. Any pair of red-blue glasses should work with it. You can see the whole gallery here. I have a few more shots from around the city on my Flickr stream.

Dean Kamen’s Luke Arm

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Dean Kamen’s Luke Arm If you had any doubt that Dean Kamen and his team were the best engineers out there, check out this video of the Luke Arm. Their earlier demos were pretty neat, but this one really shows off the devices abilities. Hopefully they leave it with that chrome exterior when they release it on the public.

Sun Spots are now Open Source

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

sunspot.jpgSun has announced that the Sun Spots are now fully open source. This means that the API as well as the Squawk VM are now fully open. The Squak VM itself is an interesting project. I will be curious to see how it compares against google’s Dalvik VM on small devices (that is whenever google releases or tells us more about Dalvik).

The press release seems to imply that the Sun Spot hardware will also be open source:

The open source release of the versatile Java technology-based Sun SPOT platform will include hardware, software and the Squawk Virtual Machine.

but this is the only mention I see of hardware in the press release and on the several sites dedicated to Sun Spot. I really hope they expand on this and show the world everything that is included in the OSS releases.

If the hardware is Open Source that could make way for some third parties to make their own implementations, similar to the different implementaitons of Arduino. This would be especially welcome given the crazy high cost of a Sun Spot device ($250 or so per device compared with $20-150 depending on configuration for Arduino). Yea, Yea, I know Sun Spot is way awesomer than Arduino, but if I am going to make a little device to attach to the top of a rocket or the under carriage of my skateboard, you better believe I am going to be looking for the cheapest hardware I can find.

misc hardware

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

looking for something in my office yesterday yielded 11 cards on my desk that were not in any computers. this is probably not good.

My order from Ultimarc came in. I am starting work on a DIY version of one of these, for about 1/10th of the price they charge. It probably won’t look as sweet, or be as powerful, or run windows. but it will run ms pacman and that is all that really matters to me.

My big project for yesterday…

after much pain and frustration…

OSX on a Dell 4700!

I had a lot of issues with the video card and NIC but was able to swap them out with different ones from the pile in the first photo. It runs very fast since it has fast hard drives and a ton of ram. yay!

Also, in apple news. They announced today that they will have an SDK for the iPhone in Feb. This may be enough to get me to buy one. I am tempted to start bringing some of my cocoa libs up to speed with 10.5 now so I can write apps when it comes out. I really want to get off of Windows CE for my phone and this could be awesome. But then again the Nokia N810 looks like it may be even way awesomer. I was kind of hoping Sun would have revived the SavaJe phone by now, but it looks like they are going to be slow and under deliver so I am not going to hold my breath.

In the nice to dream DIY category, there is a company in Australia that sells DIY laser tag kits. Basically they sell all of the electronics, you make the guns. It means that you can make a custom gun for about $300-$500 rather than pay the $3k-$4k for the other pro systems out there. The only problem is that even though I’m willing to pay that much for a gun, I don’t know if enough other people would be willing to in order to get a proper game going. I would maybe even make two, but I think it takes six people at least to have a good game. I’ll keep it in the back of my mind for next summer.