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 epia.com 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.