Post-Defcon Update

A project log for Defcon 27 TV3Y3 Badge

The first electronic badge to function as an augmented reality development product premiering at Defcon 27.

awkward intelligenceawkward intelligence 12/05/2019 at 16:430 Comments


I’m very happy with the reaction to my TV3Y3 Badge. It was my first foray into a functional electronic indie badge for Defcon. 

It was conceived for a class project in Game Experiences. The idea was to have a badge system you could build avatars around for Augmented Reality Games and avoid using facial recognition technology. 

The blinky lights were something extra that people could hack on. 

I funded this project by selling Shitty Add-On’s on Tindie and it JUST BARELY paid for itself. I barely broke even but that’s not important. The important thing, to me, was that I learned some new skills that I could roll over into next years badge. 

I had an Augmented Reality demo back in December, which I built into the backend of a campus navigation app that I created for Georgia State University. 

So if you were using the app on GSU property back in December and happened to be wearing my badge you would appear as an alien in the App. 

The idea was to have a fully functional game in time for Defcon but I realize now that I spread myself too thin. 

I submitted a talk to SEVillage that got accepted and I had to make some hard choices as to what I could realistically pull off in time for Defcon. 

If anything this project should be a lesson in Time Management. 

I based a lot of my Shitty Add-On’s off of Twinkle Twinkies side-view led method, only each project I took was an exercise in how far I can bend light behind a board and eventually it caught up with me. 

The problem was that my designs demanded an unanticipated amount of hot glueing to achieve the effect (much more time than it took to solder the components). If you look at my back of mine and Twinkles designs, mine has specific channels for the light to flow through - it was a pain in the ass - but overall I’m happy with the effect and seeing people reaction to them. These add-ons however added DAYS to my production backlog. 

To be fair, back in March, I sketched out a rough timeline of where I wanted to be when in each step of the design process. 

Back to the TV3Y3: 

The design was rebuilt from scratch (compared to the prototype) and made to accommodate an attiny85 running a Charlieplexed LED matrix. This took about 3 weeks on and off. Once the designs were done I made a template so different faces could be made and allow for different avatars. 

I never got to that part because the TV3Y3 sales were barely enough to cover the hidden costs of the products. (Shipping, lanyards, parts, packaging, etc)

I put an attiny85 on the board with the intention that people would want to hack it to run their own projects. 

There is an 8 pin chip holder so you can change the chips. 

There is a secret way to cut the traces that would give you back access to 4 of the pins and effectively kill the matrix schematic. 

The bare copper artwork on the back is designed to give you access to other parts of the board:

1. The Golden Girls will give you access to the data pins of the Shitty Add-On ports.

2. The dots around the fractal artwork will give you access to the copper tentacles on the front of the board. 

3. The Mario artwork would give you access to power, ground, and other random parts of the schematic. (See the Gerber image)

4. The spare pinout by the Mario artwork is the reset pin. 

With these access points there is a lot you can add/hack onto this board, you are only limited by your own creativity. 

Once you make your changes the battery holder was placed in a way to neatly cover up your work and protect it. 

A note on the design:

The design choices were often a blend of external factors, limitations and conscious choices about how I wanted people to interact with this badge. 

I built it with the intent of an AR game to accompany it (which is still just a demo at this point) but it remains to be seen if I will have time to get it past demo phase.

At the end of the day this badge will have a matte black surface which should allow it to absorb light well enough to be programed as an AR target image. Allowing you to use this badge for prototyping your own augmented reality experiences beyond Defcon.

I wanted to make something that was hackable and fun also. I wanted the art to serve the functionality and vice verse.  As such:

1. The Leds and resistors are placed to enhance the artwork.

2. The exposed copper will have the ability to connect to the attiny85. 

The badge comes with a 12 led matrix, a button, a 8pin dip connector for a attiny85 or ANY other chip that can fit that footprint, and two shitty add on ports. 

Yes, it’s simple, but that allows me to sell it at a fraction of the price of other badges. It allows me to focus on cool art that can have a matte surface with an immersion gold finish. 

One thing I noticed at Defcon last year were people wanting to buy kit badges to assemble to learn soldering, so I didn’t want to make something overly complex (especially if I was making a large portion of them myself). 

I settled on size 1206 for the leds and as many through hole components as the art could handle. Luckily it’s a robotic eyeball so the through hole components felt appropriate. I did have to drop down to 0805 size capacitors on the attiny85 but the badge will run fine without them if this is too small for you, the battery will just drain faster ;)

As for the hackable access, I thought about making a guide but decided I want people to figure it out themselves. I’ve put a lot of thought into how to make this something people can make their own and have fun with and I’m leaving it at that. 

About the AR functionality: 

The intended purpose was to have a front badge that was scannable as an avatar and a back part that would activate another image. In this case the avatar would register as an alien and the back of the badge(when held upside down) would brandish the player with a shotgun. This worked in a public demo I held at my school back in December for my game design class. 

The problem as explained before was that badges reflect light too well. To counter this I decided to use only matte finish and not to include leds on the front of the front. I threw the last rule out the window because I decided it was better to have something that served two purposes: Hackerers AND AR developers. 

The scannable areas of the badge are free of parts or traces that could catch light, conversely there is enough space to put your own QR code stickers. 

About the Final Form of the badge:

To understand why the badge is the way it is today I want to explain just a bit of history.

Originally this badge was going to have a chip that would only work when you plug in the appropriate TV3Y3 shitty Add-on, that you could only get by playing and winning the AR game. Let’s remove the AR game from the process and you are left with a badge that felt really DRM and not fun unless you had the second part. 

So I split them apart. 

The badge now has it’s own chip and LEDs for people to play with AND there is a final TV3y3 Shitty Add-on. (The Tv3y3 add-on never got made, The code and design is done but the money to make it is just not there, I'm sorry).

Build instructions:

All of the Leds face the same way direction,  up and to the right(your right). The resistors are all the same strength and go into the holes in the eyes veins. These can be faced inward or outward depending on your aesthetic choices. 

The capacitors are both ceramic so polarity doesn’t matter, just make sure the line up the right part numbers. The Sao ports should be on the eyeball side of the badge, the battery on the back - leads at the top and body facing down to the eyeball. The dip switch should have an indicator on which way to go in(and thus the chip), on the backside of the badge. The Switch goes on the underside of the badge with the switch facing outward.