Hardware hackathon hopes for new ideas on 3D printers, robots

Hack-A-Day is offering $200,000 in rewards for open-source hardware innovations

A global hardware hackathon is asking entrants to "Build the Future," without placing restraints on what that means apart from a short list of qualifying rules.

The 40-day hackathon, organized by Hack-A-Day, offers prize money of around US$200,000. The goal is to engage enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers to make open-source hardware or electronics that can be easily and inexpensively reproduced, and ideally, connect to the Internet.

About 250 entries have already been submitted including projects for 3D printers, robots, cars and automation. Most projects use inexpensive microcontrollers and the Arduino software and hardware prototyping platform.

One entry is the TOME mobile 3D printer, which could be the "ideal tool for field hospitals short on supplies and nomadic engineers alike," according to the project description.

Another entry is for a useful radiation monitoring device that can also collect and compile radiation levels through other meters connected to the Internet.

A prototype open-source smartwatch from Walltech has a 1.5-inch OLED display and can sync with smartphones to receive text messages, phone notifications and SMSes. It has Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities and an SD-card slot.

Propeddle has submitted a software-defined computer, which can be customized to meet specific uses. The computer has basic circuitry and has simulated an Apple I, the project page said.

A pair of Skype-controlled robots have also been submitted, which involve robots with eyes through cameras in tablets. The robots cost up to $300 to make. "Doesn't matter you have a bomb to disarm or kid to play with from a distance, Skype robot is at your disposal," the project page says.

One of the more popular projects is the impractical SMS printer, which can print text messages off a smartphone on a thermal printer. And the Internet-connected Wi-Fi Puppy condo helps track dog movement and shut lights on or off.

The last day to submit entries is Aug. 4. Judges will then choose five finalists, who will have about a month to finish their designs and complete project documentation. They'll each make a video no more than 10 minutes "showing off all that you have accomplished, publish everything you can about the project, and sing the praises of your work from the hilltops."

The winner will be announced in November at Electronica in Munich.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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