we’re back

After a well deser­ved hol­li­day, the altLab crew is back in the lab. We are still get­ting to know our new home, and it will still take a while for us to get com­ple­tely com­for­ta­ble, but some of us are alre­ady back to work on their pro­jects. Here’s the play-by-play report of last Tuesday’s session.

Luis wor­ked on his Hacky­Ra­cers pro­ject, trying to get it ready to show at the Lis­bon Maker Faire. He also put the finishing tou­ches on a small elec­tro­nics kit to teach kids about electronics.

hacky racers

Fer­nando set out to improve the power con­sump­tion of our lab’s RFID door lock to only turn on when some­one is actu­ally trying to use it. This week he dis­man­tled the door knob and mod­ded it to close a cir­cuit when the lever is pul­led, check it:

modified door knob

I went to the lab to etch some PCBs for a wire­less sen­sor kit that detects tree hugs :) Our usual toner trans­fer tech­ni­que wasn’t wor­king pro­perly, as the glossy maga­zine paper wasn’t stic­king to the cop­per plate when pas­sed under the lami­na­tor seve­ral times, so I took a tip from Fer­nando and used some mad iro­ning skills:

ironing a PCB

The results were great:

etched PCBs

Next week will be hec­tic as we will be pre­pa­ring for the Maker Faire and set­ting up our new shel­ves to sort all our mate­ri­als and tools and make the new place a pro­per workshop.

See you next Tuesday!

Open Mobile Project


Open Mobile is a col­la­bo­ra­tive artwork that is being deve­lo­ped at AltLab and that is ope­ned to all members.

The mobile is cons­ti­tu­ted by pie­ces that are deve­lo­ped indi­vi­du­ally or col­la­bo­ra­ti­vely, and the final inte­grant struc­ture is built  in order to sup­port all deve­lo­ped pie­ces and having in mind the cha­rac­te­ris­tics of each indi­vi­dual piece.

The indi­vi­dual pie­ces — OMPs (Open Mobile Pie­ces) can range from 3D prin­ted sculp­tu­res to elec­tric and/or moto­ri­zed works… stop by AltLab on any Tues­day (from 8.30pm on) and check it out.

Deve­lop­ment period: April — July 2013


O Open Mobile é um pro­jecto artís­tico cola­bo­ra­tivo a ser desen­vol­vido no AltLab e o con­vite à par­ti­ci­pa­ção é aberto a todos os membros.

A ideia é cons­truir uma estru­tura kiné­tica e/ou eléc­trica (aka “mobile) em que cada pes­soa (ou con­junto de pes­soas) desen­volve uma peça inte­grante. O “esque­leto” da estru­tura é pos­te­ri­or­mente desen­vol­vido de forma a inte­grar as peças indi­vi­du­ais e tendo em conta as suas características.

A ela­bo­ra­ção das peças indi­vi­du­ais — OMPs (Open Mobile Pie­ces) podem ir desde impres­s­sões 3D a tra­ba­lhos eléc­tri­cos e/ou moto­ri­za­dos… pas­sem pelo AltLab numa terça-feira (a par­tir das 20h30) e espreitem.


Período de desen­vol­vi­mento — Abril — Julho 2013

Pedra d’Água

AUTHORS: Rui de Car­va­lho; Mau­rí­cio Mar­tins; Pedro Ângelo; Kyri­a­kos Koursaris

Con­cept Author by Rui de Car­va­lho;
Engi­ne­e­ring Deve­lop­ment by Mau­rí­cio Mar­tins;
Soft­ware Com­pu­ting Ori­en­ta­tion by Pedro Ângelo;
Sound and Music by Kyri­a­kos Koursaris;

Col­la­bo­ra­tion: Ricardo Lobo; João Gon­çal­ves;

This project’s desig­na­tion intends to pro­ceed to a new over­view of the human con­di­tion.
We must think of a box that is direc­ted to the inside, to the place where we find our mea­ning and where, the­re­fore, we part in search of our sig­ni­fi­cance.
I want to relive this awa­re­ness because it implies a demand and this demand will take us, no doubt, to some kind of fin­ding.
We can des­cribe “Pedra d’ Água” as a Tech­no­logy and Digi­tal Art Tem­ple, that tries to raise the need of one for another and the ritual way we cho­ose to cele­brate the emp­ti­ness left in us when some­one lea­ves.
I won­der if in a near future, this kind of tech­no­lo­gi­cal chi­mera will be the only way to ensure the exten­sion of our dise­a­sed and lost into the living world.
Also, I ask myself if the machine beco­mes equal to the human cre­a­tor, like a post-maker without the bur­den of a body or if the cre­a­tor beco­mes domi­na­ted by tech­no­logy. We must stop and medi­tate over the pos­si­bi­lity that this way will lead us to the over­powe­ring of machine over human, taking us further into ali­e­na­tion.
Nowa­days it’s been noted a high num­ber of vari­ous mani­fes­ta­ti­ons by web users meant to be some kind of memory or tri­bute to the dise­a­sed loved ones.
Today, fri­ends and family keep web­si­tes upda­ted, as if they refuse to accept the impo­sed absence. They keep their rou­ti­nes, exten­ding an emo­ti­o­nal con­nec­tion simi­lar to the one that was expe­ri­en­ced with the loved one.
“Pedra d´Agua” will be like a sanc­tu­ary that will regis­ter mani­fes­ta­ti­ons from web users: when some­one wri­tes or upda­tes one of this “tri­bute” sites, Pedra d´Água will light up, rele­a­sing a sound. When we don´t find find upda­ted infor­ma­tion, Pedra d´Água” will cry.
I wish to cre­ate a arti­fact that claims our soci­ety as one of living but, also, as one of dead and that will allow the per­pe­tu­a­tion of the indi­vi­dual and col­lec­tive memory accor­ding to a new way: the web.


Nuclear Taco Sensor Helmet Gameshow

Mau­ri­cio Mar­tinsTiago RorkeFilipe CruzTiago Farto and Fer­di­nand Meier

Nuclear Taco Sen­sor Hel­met Gameshow is the name of our pro­ject entry for the 48h hack pro­ject of Sapo Code­bits 2011. The aim of the com­pe­ti­tion was to deve­lop a pro­ject during 48 hours and pre­sent it in 90 seconds to a live audi­ence. Out of over 80 pro­po­sed pro­jects, 65 were pre­sen­ted live.
We won the 1st place of the public voting.


The 48h pro­ject con­sis­ted of buil­ding a hel­met device with humi­dity, tem­pe­ra­ture and fluid intake sen­sors, used to record and mea­sure the reac­tion of nuclear taco vic­tims of Code­bits 2011 Nuclear Taco Chal­lenge. The sen­sors and ser­vos are con­nec­ted by Arduino. 6 time­lapse videos were recor­ded docu­men­ting the user expe­ri­ence. The 1:30 pro­ject pre­sen­ta­tion was in the style of a Japa­nese gameshow using Open­Fra­meworks. The host dis­played using face subs­ti­tuion tech­no­logy in realtime.


Our moti­va­tion to deve­lop this pro­ject was the following:

  • Do something fun with sen­sors and Arduino, that would show peo­ple how easy it is to use these things.
  • Show­case appli­ca­ti­ons of recent Face Trac­king and Face Subs­ti­tu­tion technology.
  • Do a pre­sen­ta­tion for­mat that would not leave anyone indif­fe­rent to our project.
  • Bring atten­tion to the cre­a­tive com­mu­nity we have in the Audi­ên­cia Zero hac­ker spa­ces in Por­tu­gal (LCD in Porto / Gui­ma­rãesxDA in Coim­braaltLab in Lis­bon), in hopes of get­ting new members.
  • Take home some new hardware.

Video of Presentation


Nuclear Tacos Sen­sor Hel­met Gameshow @Codebits 2011 from altlab Lisbon’s Hac­kers­pace on Vimeo.

Before Code­bits


At Sapo Code­bits 2010 the event orga­ni­zers held a nuclear taco chal­lenge during one of the nights of the event. Many brave atten­dees spent their last day of the event in severe dis­com­fort, cur­sing their ide­a­li­zed bra­very. No mem­bers of our team were brave enough to take on the nuclear taco chal­lenge but the memo­ries of everyone else suf­fe­ring lin­ge­red on with us. Then one day a light­bulb was tur­ned on inside Mau­ri­cio Mar­tins’s head when he saw a tv comer­cial for MEO fea­tu­ring Ricardo Araujo and an “all Ame­ri­can” beer helmet.

The idea Mau­ri­cio had awa­ken inside his head was to use his Arduino and sen­sors exper­tise to pimp that beer hel­met into a nuclear taco sen­sor device of some sort. He began loo­king for the pie­ces required.

By the way, if you want to learn how to use Ardui­nos for ran­dom pro­jects, there are some workshops at altLab on a regu­lar basis.


The hel­met itself was quite hard to find for sale in Por­tu­gal. After many sear­ches on the inter­net, we ended up buying it at for 10 euros.

The Arduino, LEDs, tem­pe­ra­ture and humi­dity sen­sor were easily acqui­red anywhere online. The flow mea­su­re­ment sen­sor was alot har­der to find, we ended up buying it second hand from ebay.

The web­cam for the head moun­ted view used was a Micro­soft Life­Cam VX-2000 bought by 20 euros.

Ove­rall the hard­ware cost was around 60 euros.


While Mau­ri­cio was sear­ching for the hel­met he recrui­ted two new mem­bers for our team. To assist with the hard­ware the Luso — New Zea­lan­dinsh Tiago Rorke, a semi-regular altLab atten­der. And to han­dle the pre­sen­ta­tion for­mat, the Por­tu­guese demos­ce­ner emi­gra­ted in Hel­sinki, Fin­land Filipe Cruz, who had alre­ady col­la­bo­ra­ted with Mau­ri­cio on a Code­bits pro­ject in 2010 (the Blind Pong project).

A cou­ple of weeks before the event, Mau­ri­cio and Tiago Rorke got together to write a first abs­tract des­crip­tion of the pro­ject, do some sket­ches of the ide­a­li­zed hel­met and sent the text to Filipe. Few days later the three of them had a skype call to define the pre­sen­ta­tion for­mat and hear Filipe explain his con­cept idea of having a japa­nese gameshow style of pre­sen­ting the pro­ject to the public.


A cou­ple days before the event the three mem­bers of the team finally mana­ged to get together phy­si­cally to dis­cuss the pro­ject in per­son. Taking the opor­tu­nity to test some com­po­nents (the sen­sors, the Face­Trac­king library by Arturo Cas­troKyle McDo­nald and Jason Sara­gih) and more impor­tan­tly: to decide on a final name for the pro­ject. Nuclear Taco Sen­sor Hel­met Gameshow was the decision.

During Code­bits


Mau­ri­cio and Tiago Rorke spent the day wor­king on the hel­met, mos­tly buil­ding and tes­ting the sen­sors with the Arduino and deci­ding on how they would be pla­ced on the hel­met. Fer­di­nand Meier, a resi­dent mem­ber of altLab was recrui­ted to help prin­ting small pie­ces for the hel­met with the Maker­bot.

Filipe arri­ved late and star­ted wor­king ime­di­a­tly on the fra­mework for the pre­sen­ta­tion usingOpen­Fra­meworks, mos­tly tes­ting back­ground effects in a Japa­nese swish swash style and trying to close the pre­sen­ta­tion story­bo­ard. Fer­di­nand who was alre­ady a new mem­ber of the pro­ject at this point offe­red his Blen­der skills to cre­ate a model of the hel­met in 3D to be used in the presentation.

While the hard­ware guys were strug­gling with the sen­sors, Filipe was tes­ting ofx3DModelLoader with Ferdinand’s 3D model exports of the hel­met. Seve­ral 2D ren­ders of Japa­nese vir­tual idol Hat­sune Miku model­ling our hel­met were also taken. The open source 3D model of Miku was taken from blen­der­na­tion. We had to rush this pro­cess since Ferd had to leave the Code­bits event that night to attend a con­fe­rence in Porto.

We did not attend the Ele­va­tor Pitch talk.

Tiago Farto was recrui­ted to help with the graphic effects of the pre­sen­ta­tion. The back­ground effects you see are all run­ning on pixelsha­ders real­time under open­fra­meworks. It was not tri­vial to get the sha­ders setU­ni­form to han­dle tex­tu­res pro­perly under open­Fra­meworks. We spent quite a few hours debug­ging and wild gues­sing their fra­mework since neither Filipe nor Tiago had expe­ri­ence run­ning sha­ders on openFrameworks.

During the night we were one of the few teams still left hard at work at the party­place at 3 am. Mau­ri­cio and Tiago Rorke finishing the hel­met — tes­ting the liquid flow sen­sor, buil­ding the ser­vos, gluing the led struc­tu­res, pain­ting the helmet.



We didn’t manage to sleep much on the first night of the event, some of us were fal­ling asleep on our com­pu­ters while still trying to get some work done. We star­ted having to turn down folks who were coming to ask us to print ran­dom things on the maker­bot. We sadly had to do this because we were so busy finishing the pro­ject for the com­pe­ti­tion. The hel­met nee­ded to be finished and ready for the code­bits nuclear taco chal­lenge which was hap­pe­ning at 19:00.

Mau­ri­cio and Tiago finished the hel­met, atta­ched the head camera and went to the Taco Chal­lenge area to record some foo­tage. Tiago wor­ked on the title screen fla­mes effect while Filipe re-structured the fra­mework and tes­ted the video play­back right before having to head out to give his spe­a­ker talk “Crash course on Pho­ne­gap + Sen­cha Touch”.

Mau­ri­cio and both Tia­gos went to the taco lounge and mana­ged to record foo­tage from 6 volun­te­ers wea­ring our hel­met while eating their nuclear tacos. Big thanks to Pedro Umbe­lino, Daniel Frei­tas, Pedro Silva, Tomé Duarte, Joana Fer­reira and Artur Gou­lão for their assis­tance! We ended up only using 4 of the 6 videos.

Photo by Nuno Dan­tas

Meanwhile, back at the altLab table Filipe had ended his spe­a­ker talk and was back to work on the pre­sen­ta­tion code with some inter­rup­ti­ons to try and find out where the con­fes­si­o­nary room where we were sup­po­sed to pre­sent our pro­ject 1 hour ago was loca­ted. He fai­led. Noti­fied Mau­ri­cio and deci­ded to attend the spe­a­kers din­ner instead.

Upon return, Filipe mana­ged to find where the con­fes­si­o­nary room was loca­ted while the rest of the pro­ject folks atten­ded the Scor­pi­ons con­cert. We finally mana­ged to get skype inter­vi­ewed by chew­bacca and darth vader. It went rather well and we were hope­ful that our pro­ject would get selec­ted for the group A of pro­jects pre­sen­ting live on stage.

The rest of the night was spent edi­ting video and fin­ding the per­fect Japa­nese face to use on the Face­Trac­king part of the pre­sen­ta­tion. Shido Naka­mura was the final selec­tion. Filipe had some night­ma­res about for­get­ting what to say live on stage and screwing up the Japa­nese accent. Tiago Rorke ended up wor­king another all nigh­ter doing some video edi­ting and drawing a 2d taco for the presentation.

By the way, the music we used for the final part is ParagonX9 — Chaoz Air­flow, avai­la­ble under a Cre­a­tive Com­mons by-nc-sa license. And the short clip of Japa­nese crowd che­e­ring was snip­ped from a ran­dom you­tube video of a ran­dom Japa­nese gameshow which we can’t find anymore.


We all woke up later then plan­ned and fee­ling somewhat sick and tired of wor­king on the pro­ject. But one final effort was still nee­ded, the pre­sen­ta­tion had to be perfect!

We did a few ite­ra­ti­ons of the final chal­lenge video, adding sound effects and tes­ting the length. The story­bo­ard still suf­fe­red a few small chan­ges to cre­ate big­ger cres­cendo impact. Last minute over­lay graphics of the sen­sors were desig­ned by Tiago Farto and quic­kly inserted.

Test on the stage pro­ved the face­trac­king could work without addi­ti­o­nal ligh­ting. Everything see­med more or less ready. Just one more ren­der of the final video with some more small impor­tant chan­ges required.

Pre­sen­ta­tion had some glit­ches but went rather well. The crowd mana­ged to get into it and that was reflec­ted hea­vily on the voting. Great posi­tive reac­ti­ons both in per­son and through the twit­ter feed. We were very ple­a­sed and loo­king forward to the prize giving. Tiago Farto had to leave early and Ferd never mana­ged to come back to Code­bits since Thurs­day, so we were left only 3 of us, Mau­ri­cio Mar­tins, Filipe Cruz and Tiago Rorke to col­lect the prizes!

We won the 1st place public award and offe­red the sen­sor hel­met device to the Code­bits orga­ni­zers infor­ming them that all the peo­ple invol­ved with orga­ni­zing the Nuclear Taco Chal­lenge had to take pic­tu­res of them­selfs wea­ring the hel­met and upload them to the internet.


Domo Ari­gato to everyone for your feed­back and sup­port. We are very happy you liked our pro­ject. Ple­ase come and join altLab or another Audi­en­cia Zero hac­klab clo­ser to you. We need more peo­ple sha­ring kno­wledge and doing things with technology.

Source Code

Source code github repo.


If you liked our pro­ject, ple­ase flattr it to sup­port our hac­ker space labs.

Laser Etching a PCB with a RepRap by Leonardo

Leo­nardo has been wor­king on a laser-head RepRap for some time. His latest expe­ri­ment was etching a PCB with it. Above is the video of the first tests, but go on over to his blog to check out all the details.

food for your stomach

Fee­ding 15 sleep depri­ved hac­kers is not an easy task and during the AZ Resi­dency only 3 peo­ple were brave enough to put their culi­nary talents to the test: Joel, Vitor and Mari­ana. Everyone agreed that their home­made meals were awe­some and no bug reports were filed. Since we beli­eve in sha­ring, here are Joel’s deli­ci­ous open source reci­pes (in french comme il faut):

Salad Dres­sing [ VO ]

4 cuillère à soupe d’huile d’olive
3 cuillère à soupe de vinai­gre bal­sa­mi­que
2 cuillère à café de miel

Goû­ter et ajus­ter : si trop sucré, ajou­ter du vinai­gre / si trop amer, ajou­ter du miel.

Bask Chic­ken [ VO ]

Pré­voir un bon mor­ceau de pou­let pour cha­cun des invi­tés
Sauce tomate


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