Workshop 12

I’m extremely happy to officially welcome Rob Williams to the Workshop 12 team!  Rob and I both worked closely together at BlackBerry as part of Alec Saunder’s group focused on helping developers build apps for BlackBerry.  Anyone who attended the various BlackBerry Jam conferences will for sure know Rob and how incredibly talented he is.  He comes to us after successfully leading a Bell TV5 Android mobile development team, and is now looking to sink his teeth into Brainiac.

Rob and I have had many crazy adventures together from creating silly promotional videos, crazy demos with Arduino and Bluetooth LE, traveling to events around the world as well as controlling the BatBerry from a Smartphone.  Rob has been the brains behind the underlying circuitry, micro-controllers and communication stack used for automating the BatBerry.

Yesterday we spent the morning testing Brainiac by having myself do some “rapid acceleration to the posted speed limit” while Rob was reading test data from the ODBII port.  Lesson learned, the force of the TMBLER acceleration is enough to disconnect the ODBII dongle! I can tell you it was the most fun I’ve ever had testing 🙂

We’ll be taking everything we’ve learned from our past experiences and applying them to Brainiac.  Again, welcome to the team Rob!

With another afternoon of fabrication behind me, I was able to get the mock-up dashboard ready for the next phase of fabrication. In the last blog article I had completed the main base of the dashboard rig but hadn’t completed the connection points to the dashboard.

Since I’ll be re-using the main connection bar for multiple dashboards the goal was to create some mounts that would both bolt to the dashboard, and bolt to the main removable cross bar.

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Yesterday afternoon I was able to get a start on the rig that will hold the dashboard in place while fabricating the enclosure for the new dashboard screen. I wanted to create a reusable rig that would allow me to load up different dashboards for fabrication as needed. I had a bunch of 2×2 steel left over from the BatBerry chassis which worked out really well.

First step was reclaiming the steel by sanding off all the rust that had accumulated from it laying on concrete.  These are always the nasty parts of fabrication.  The ones where you end up with blistered fingers and dust all over you.  But you just suck it up and don’t think about how long it’s going to take, just work away at it.  Before you know it, it’s over and you can move on 🙂

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First off, happy New Year to everyone! I had the good fortune of a New Years Eve arrival of a new part to play with.  It was the dash trim piece and spare climate control unit for a 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty.  This piece will be modified so that I can build a housing on top of it for the new touch screen as well as act as the base for the rest of the trim which will also re-route the center air vents.

This spare climate control unit is slightly different than the current one from the Jeep being used as the proof of concept.  This new one has a few more vent settings on it.  After looking at it a little more I realized that the unit that’s currently in the Jeep has added smarts in its inner circuitry to turn on the AC when the temperature dial moves into the cold area.  This spare unit appears to be older and has explicit on/off settings for the AC.  So it appears as though they started making the climate control a little smarter as the production years progressed.  But all of the connectors are the same, they just have different internal circuitry.

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As part of my investigation into the digital console I can’t allow myself to just stay within the bounds of software.  I also need to explore and prototype what fabrication is involved in order to retrofit this type of technology into a vehicle.  That means doing one of my favorite things… tearing things apart and building them back up again 🙂

The target vehicle to prove out this concept is none other than the good old shop truck which is a 2004 Jeep Liberty Limited.  The interior panels, stereo and climate controls were kept the same in the Jeep Liberty from the years 2002-2007.  They then came out with a slightly different center dashboard design which stretches model years 2008-2013.

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Over the years I’ve coded in almost every programming language under the sun.  Languages all the way from Turing, Object Pascal, C#, Java, HTML5/CSS, JavaScript, C++, QML.. you name it.  But over the last 5 years or so I’ve been concentrating my hands-on coding experience on web development using HTML5/CSS and JavaScript.  I understand browser engines, the DOM and CSS inside out and can create pretty much any layout and visual effect that I can dream up.

But starting on the Interactive Dashboard I’ve decided to go with Android as the operating system and utilize “native” Android Java development.  In the past I would tackle Android by leveraging HTML5 development with PhoneGap packaging for Android, but for this implementation I need to get integrated down into the operating system.  It will require talking to ODBII ports and Arduino boards via USB, updating system settings, embedding native Google maps and turn by turn direction views from Android etc..

While many of those tasks are possible by building PhoneGap plug-ins, I’m positive that the majority of my code will be in those plug-ins and not in the UI layer.  So I might as well also build the UI layer in Android as well since I’m not trying to port this code to other operating systems.

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Ever since I was involved in working with the fine folks from the automotive division of QNX I’ve had an enhanced interest on what can be done inside a vehicle.  I’ve even started exploring some of those ideas while automating the BatBerry.

Most of those systems are automated for fun using actuators and an Arduino board.  But when QNX started exploring what’s possible by replacing physical console hardware with automated touch screens (as seen in the picture of the Bentley above) it really brought the WOW factor home for me.  It makes you imagine what all might be possible

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Automating The Bat-Disc Doors

Building The BatBerry

Today started off with 3 hours of filling, smoothing and sanding of the trunk vents… AGAIN…  I thought I had them the way I liked but then realized that from different angles you could still see rough material on the inside edges.  However, once it started raining I packed up the trunk lid and started on the Bat-disc doors!

You can check out the video above to see the Bat-disc doors in action and also check out the details below covering the work needed to make everything function properly.

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Motorizing the Canopy

Building The BatBerry

It was a long tiring day in the garage Sunday.  I was contacted by the Discovery Channel last week about bringing the BatBerry down to the studio to be filmed as part of their HighTech Toys week on the Daily Planet show.  So I’ve been working hard to make sure all the gadgets are working.

The main goal for the day was to get all of the mounting mechanisms working for the 24″ linear actuator used for the canopy.  The day started at 9am and ended at 7pm filled with high paced fabrication!  The video at the top of this post shows the final product 🙂

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The Turbine is ALIVE!!!!

Building The BatBerry

It was a beautiful day today so I absolutely needed to get out to the garage.  I had recently received my new sound board from Greg at Real Sound and I was eager to get started on the fabrication I had planned.  Greg was awesome to deal with, he creates a high quality board and keeps you updated on your build every step of the way.  I would definitely recommend Real Sound to anyone who’s looking for some cool sounds for their car 🙂

I posted the video of today’s end result at the top of this post because it turned out so freaking cool!  The neighbours thought there was some kind of jet taking off on the street because I had the stereo volume blasting to get the full effect.

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Final Light Pattern for the Afterburner

Building The BatBerry

After yesterdays post about the completion of the afterburner fabrication, I started playing around with the LEDs and how I could position them.  I never really liked the look of exposed LEDs but I wasn’t sure how much light would come out if they were tucked away. I guess the only way you find out is to give it a try 🙂

I pulled out the speaker enclosure and wrapped the LED strip around the cylinder area where the speaker attaches.  This hides the LEDs unless you are looking into the afterburner on an extreme angle.  I taped the strip in-place, popped it back into the turkey feathers and the video shows the result.

I really like how the lighting looked using this technique, so I think we have a keeper and I’ll now move onto another item of the TODO list!

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Building The BatBerry

After just one day of shipping my dash panels have arrived.  There was a lot of work that went into figuring out all the panel measurements and details along with creating the vector art for the cutting machines but in the end it was all worth it 🙂

I’ve been working with Bill from TechniSoft who has been absolutely awesome!  Bill double checked my work, found mistakes and gave me a chance to correct them before the machines did the engraving and cutting.  The whole experience working with Technisoft has been an absolute pleasure.

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