Workshop 12

Mark the date in your calendar for a fun day of looking at some great modified cars and checking out Brainiac and the BatBerry in person!  On August 22nd Workshop 12 will be attending as an exhibitor at ImportFest 2015 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from 12 noon – 12 midnight.

I’ve personally attended ImportFest many times as a competitor with the TMBLER shop car winning multiple awards such as top Subaru and best paint.  So I’m really excited that we’re now going to be attending the event as an exhibitor with both of our Brainiac prototype cars; the BatBerry and the TMBLER.

It should be easy to find us since we’ll be located smack dab in the center of the show with both of our vehicles and two additional display units.  Both vehicles will have their early prototype Brainiac installs on display.  The BatBerry will showcase a 7″ touch screen utilizing Brainiac’s accessory capability to control many of its systems such as opening and closing the canopy, the actuators that raise and lower its 30 caliber replica machine guns and some more functionality that we’ll reveal closer to the show.

Our widebody Subaru will be displaying our 10.1″ Brainiac installation for a 05-07 Subaru WRX/STI which provides a large screen full-console experience with factory fit and finish.

While show cars are great, they don’t really let you try things out for yourself.  Most car shows have a strict “look but don’t touch” policy when it comes to the vehicles.  Because of this we’re also bringing two standalone dashboard units so that you can physically interact with Brainiac.  We’ll have one dashboard with a standard double-din 7″ installation and a 05-07 Subaru WRX/STI dashboard with a 10.1″ Brainiac unit installed.

This event will provide an opportunity for you to try out Brainiac in person and provide early feedback on the prototype units as we continue to fine tune our hardware and software as we continue to push towards commercial availability.  We hope to see you there 🙂

Earlier today we updated the Brainiac emulator in the Chrome app store so hopefully by the time you’re reading this post the software will have already been updated on your previous install of the emulator for your Mac or PC.

In this emulator update we’ve focused on both personalization and customization of your Brainiac install.  First on the agenda was making sure that the color scheme of the user interface matches your vehicle’s interior.  While this may seem subtle, it’s one of those details that really makes Brainiac look like it was factory installed and matched to your car.  It’s also one of those details that’s sometimes missed by car manufacturers as they have different teams working on the physical gauges and button lighting than they have working on the head unit software. Read More

We’re excited to announce that Workshop 12 is now an official registered vendor on two great Subaru enthusiast forums!  The first is the Toronto Subaru Club which is the largest online community for Subaru enthusiasts in Canada.   The TSC has a great relationship with Subaru Canada who are kind enough to allow the club members to use their national headquarters in Mississauga as a place to host the annual TSC HyperMeet.

Another great Subaru enthusiast website is the North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club (NASIOC).  While the name says North America it’s one of the most popular global enthusiast sites for Subaru.  NASIOC is your one stop global shop for all things Subaru and we’re very happy to be registered as an official NASIOC vendor.

I’ve been a proud member of both of these communities since 2004 and I’m really excited to have Workshop 12 participate as a vendor where we can bring some great connected car technology to an awesome group of enthusiasts!

So if you’re a member of these communities feel free to follow the links above and join the conversation in our Brainiac build threads 🙂

Following our last update where we discussed the 3D scanning process for reading in the existing dashboard surfaces and trim pieces into the computer, today we’re going to talk about the next steps; Resurfacing the scans and creating 3D models of the new replacement trim pieces. These pieces are for the larger 10.1″ Brainiac display.  These two processes can be performed in parallel where one group is focused on taking the original scans and getting them resurfaced into clean crisp lines so that we have accurate dimensions in 3D space to work with.

As an example, here’s one surface scan that shows the entire center console before we pulled each piece off and scanned them individually.  That raw data needs to be translated into clean lines to be used as the base of our design. Read More

Brainiac isn’t strapped on – Brainiac isn’t held in place with a suction cup. Your vehicle’s new brain needs to look factory installed. Your current dashboard has reaching swept curves – but no hole that is going to show off a 10.1″ portrait screen. Brainiac isn’t going too look factory installed without some replacement dashboard plastics.

We’ve engaged the services of Matthew Law from to make this happen. Read on to see our first steps into realizing Brainiac’s custom plastics.

Why 3D Scanning?

Anyone who’s attempted 3D modelling – for design, animation or fun – can attest to the fact that placing a cylinder and cube in 3D space is pretty easy. However – it takes real skills and practice to make functional real world models. Car dashboards typically contain lots of curves, slopes and connectors. Without the right angles and style – no replacement piece will look like it truly belongs there.

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Today we’re happy to announce the first two vehicles that will receive Workshop 12’s custom fit 10.1″ Brainiac installation!  Anyone who knows about my personal past experiences and community involvement will know that I have been a long standing Subaru enthusiast.

That love of of the Subaru community and its vehicles made Workshop 12’s decision to provide our first 10.1″ installation kit for the 2005-2007 Subaru Impreza an exciting one.  The vehicle models supported are those which have been equipped with electronic climate control (typically the WRX and STI).

2005-2007-Subaru-WRXFactory 2005 Subaru STI Interior Shown

However, if you’ve been one of the brave souls who didn’t have automatic climate control from the factory, and completed an electronic climate control and console swap in your 2002-2007 Impreza, then the installation kit should also work for you.  The two main factors for ensuring a fit into a swapped vehicle is the 05-07 Impreza center console and the associated climate control electronics.

But wait, there’s more…. Read More

Paving new ground

We’re extremely excited to be able to share more details about our upcoming product for the connected car market called Brainiac.  Brainiac takes a different approach to the connected car industry where our focus is to bring great connected experiences to the vehicles that you already own!

At Workshop 12 we have two major passions:  First is our love of technology and all of the incredible experiences that can be made possible with the right combination of hardware and software. The second is everything on wheels!  I personally consider myself a self proclaimed car junkie and have previously built a 450hp show car that I drive daily and I’m currently in the middle of building the car of my dreams, a 1989 Michael Keaton era replica Batmobile dubbed the BatBerry.

Both of these builds have taken years of nights and weekends and have connected me with many other car enthusiasts from all over the world who enjoy getting together, sharing notes and pushing each other further to accomplish even crazier feats.  This combination of community participation, technology, constant drive for improvement and the love of cars has been the breeding ground for many of the technology advancements included in Brainiac.

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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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