Keep your head down, there's two of us in here now

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Finished: Keep your head down, there's two of us in here now

Cortana Data Chip design
Updated 7/2/2012

Current Status: COMPLETE
Quick rundown of the final feature set:
  • Shell designed and cast by JUSTINIAN of
  • Internal circuit by thatdecade (me)
    • Press button to activate lights
    • Lights turn off by themselves after 5 minutes
    • Press the button again to restart the light animations
    • Recharge with included USB cable
    • Charging takes just a few minutes and lasts for hours
  • Paint job by jlhr2 (mostly hangs out on the soarinhammer forums)

104_7281.JPG by thatdecade, on Flickr

Easter egg: Look a video demo

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Gearing up for mass offering, thatdecade@gmail for pre-orders.


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Struggled a bit making all the goodies fit, but was well worth the results~!


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The prototype battery board completed and finished mocking up the shell.

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Minor update from jlhR2 and the shell build team. Since last post there was a snag in the modelers progress working on the shell design and he was forced to abandon his participation in the design. We do have his model and we are putting the finishing touches on it.

Below is one of my AI chips installed in a helmet. Best install I've seen yet, way to go Sir Tsaboc~!
Carter Commando Helmet (Blackula) A.I. integration

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Working hard on the next stage of the project: Make a plastic shell that houses the circuit and a battery (team jlhR2).
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Video demo of using the cortana chip as a switch

PCB order is in, could mass produce a few right now if I wanted.
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First prototype is fully assembled, ready to proceed to stage 3 on the schedule.
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A nice explanation of all that the cortana board can do.
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First few revisions of the circuit board have been assembled and tested. Slot connector works great~! I ran out of those tiny smd LEDs and ordered some more. Will get one completely assembled later this week.
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Bringing in the latest pictures and videos to page 1.

I am still working on a final draft of the main board design, but here is the gist of what it will do and look like: First, the size is tiny. The thing is as small as the real deal, 1.00x1.85 inches (25x47 mm).

JlhR2 and I are still working on a pep template / mold that will go over the top.

Progress Photos
Cortana Sketches by thatdecade, on Flickr

Cortana Data Chip Dimensional Outline by thatdecade, on Flickr

5539623171_a7579c851f_m.jpg 5540095196_b08c33fdc0_m.jpg 5540054488_c3d2ab0fa1_m.jpg

Video Demos

Light Animation Prototyped


Current feature set:
  • Circuit board is designed to look like a naked "cortana" data chip.
  • Board can be placed in a molded outer shell to be more accurate. More detai
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Yay, it has its own thread! Question time :)

First of all, why so small? Wouldn't a more realistic size give you a lot more freedom design-wise?

Do you have anything in mind to put around it? I thought it might be a good idea to somehow cast something like this in clear resin and then leave the "window" on top unpainted. Or maybe get some cut glass stone to put on top of the LEDs for cool refractions and reflections and then cast the whole thing in non-clear resin.

By the way, I think the "destroy upon capture" is what really sells this :-D


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lol, thanks. DESTROY UPON CAPTURE is one of my favorite parts.

Smaller = cheaper to fabricate. This is the forth version that I re-drew from scratch, takes a lot of hours to get a circuit that looks right and still functions. Old versions were twice as large or bigger. I pay per the square inch for fabrication, so twice as large = four times the cost. At the current size the pcb fabrication cost is reasonable, ~$5.

Wow, awesome idea to cast it inside of a clear resin mold!. The paint job would add the finishing touches. Need to leave accessible the USB port and switch, I'm not sure how to cast that.

My goal was to make the circuit look amazing without adding anything, but while keeping in mind that a lot of people would want to add more. I am still working on a tracing pattern that can be cut out of wood or plexi and glued on top of the circuit to give it more depth. Would look something like below.

template_overlay by thatdecade, on Flickr


Jr Member
Indeed, people are always going to want to add more bells and whistles to their gadgets. Theres a dozen neat things you could do with this, like integrate an Duo or mini SD card into the chip for data storage, or running the charge port though the contact points instead of a mini usb slot. That way, you could plug it into your helmet for charging.

The capacitor is a neat idea, however I do believe that there are many watch batteries that would both fit in the same size slot and would last for hours instead of the few minutes of a capacitor.

Cant wait to see this come out:


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Ran the numbers on the watch batteries. The watch batteries that are small enough are also not powerful enough to run the LEDs without exploding.


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Ventrue, a picture of that connector please.

Well, any connector will do, I guess. The usual 2x6 pins are probably a little large for this purpose, not sure what else you could use.
My idea was that it would be cool to be able to re-porgram the chip with custom blinking. Or custom colours, if you decide to take this to yet another level and use RGB LEDs (which might be cool as well, now that I think of it... but it would impact the costs!).


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I do not have a chip selected yet, am looking over the attinys. The 8 pin ttsop is only a few milimeters and has 5 i/o. If I go RGB, will need 2 more i/o than that.

For the connector, I will need to have a connector on board to program the smd chip anyway. Am thinking I can make the bottom slot connector functional, need 6 pins to program. There are 6 pads on the bottom.


thatdecade thank you for considering a muiltiple amount of ideas i have questioned if you need any brainstorming help please feel free to message me.


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Heh, it is what I love. Taking in all ideas and will attempt to make the greatest product without compromising awesomeness.

For a functioning connector, I need to make a mating board. I am thinking of making an adapter board with a standard 2x3 0.1 inch avr header and pogo pins to match the cortana board.


Jr Member
a mating socket would be a great idea and then a bracket could be designed to hold the socket in the helmet, 2 of the pins could be used to connect a circuit to the helmet (random like turning on a sound circuit of cortana or something similar) and then a couple pins could be used to charge the board directly off the helmets battery system.

Just tossing ideas around.


PS. Another idea, does anyone watching this thread have access to a 3D CNC machine? I am liking the idea of casting a clear resin shell, but it would be nice to have a great clean original to make a mold from. So again my thoughts are design the shell in halves (hollow out the inside via CNC too) then cast the two pieces separately in clear resin and voila!


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I do not have a chip selected yet, am looking over the attinys. The 8 pin ttsop is only a few milimeters and has 5 i/o. If I go RGB, will need 2 more i/o than that.

For the connector, I will need to have a connector on board to program the smd chip anyway. Am thinking I can make the bottom slot connector functional, need 6 pins to program. There are 6 pads on the bottom.

The easiest way to get the ICSP header to the outside might be using a second USB port. Hooking them both up to GND and VCC according to USB specs would allow you to use them both for charging the capacitor and provide a more stable mechanical connection, in case anybody wants to hold the chip in place with the ports. That leaves you with four unused data lines that could be used for the rest of the programming pins. All you need from there is two cables and something to plug them onto the 6pin header on the Arduino.

I'm not really following you with the IO pins though, why do you need seven of them? Wouldn't three be enough for RGB?

Also, wouldn't you need a few transistors to drive the LEDs?

Also also, here's another idea. It would require finding RGB LEDs that shine sideways: Cut a hole into the center of the PCB, get only three of those LEDs instead of ten and get the same PCB again for the money you just saved. Then you can sandwich all the parts between the PCBs - including a piece of plexiglass, which will be where the hole is. You can etch/engrave a cool image in there and edge-light it. You could also use two sheets of plexiglass and six LEDs for dual-colour action (for example, Halo 1 had kind of a snowflake image there, with the center being blue and the outer edge being green).
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