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A hackable, Roman-themed conference badge, featuring LEDs, digital audio, a multiplayer fighting game, rechargeable battery and more.
A hackable, Roman-themed conference badge, featuring LEDs, digital audio, a multiplayer fighting game, rechargeable battery and more.
114 backers pledged $23,315 to help bring this project to life.
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Indie Defcon Badge: The Ides of Defcon



What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

Project supporting material callout image

Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

Our Story

Who are we? What is this thing? 

We're a group of engineers, artists, and programmers in San Francisco. John Adams (@netik) leads this project, along with Bill Paul (board bring up, drivers and radio), Matthew Harris (Art), and Egan Hirvela (Game design). We've designed an electronic conference badge  and need your support to produce our devices in time for DEFCON 25 at the end of July. 

If you're unfamiliar with electronic conference badges, they are usually some sort of printed circuit board badge that you wear on a lanyard. They're filled with puzzles, easter eggs, and all of cool toys that hackers love. They also act as a development and educational platform, encouraging people to learn about hardware development and manufacturing. 

While DEFCON has their own official badge each year, #badgelife groups have been rolling their own badges to show off their skills in a sort of unofficial contest. We like this idea very much. 

Just after DEFCON 24, in August 2016, we came back from the conference inspired by the many unofficial badges that people had made and wanted to make our own. We've been attending Defcon for over 20 years and wanted to give something back to the community for the 25th year anniversary. 

We came back to San Francisco, started a hackaday page, and got to work on our design. 

While 30,000 people will attend DEFCON this year, we can't make one for everyone, but your support will help us make more badges, and guarantee that you get one too. 

Best of all, the more badges we make, the cheaper it becomes to make each device. 

Where are we now?

We've got our second revision of our prototype in and they're working great. We have a couple of minor hardware changes before we can do our production run, and we will be finalizing our software over the next few months. We've got a vendor lined up to duplicate our SD cards once we're done, and the remaining parts are coming in from our suppliers at the end of March. 

Our software and hardware work, and we need your support to make it to production.

Badge Hardware Specs

Our board is packs a full computer, display, and sound into a custom 6" x 3.5" board:

  • NXP (freescale) KW01 48Mhz processor (128K flash, 16K RAM) based on the ARM Cortex-M0
  • ChiBIOS real-time operating system loaded in flash
  • 12-bit DAC and audio amplifier with a 17mm speaker
  • 320x240 TFT touch screen with Micro-SD reader
  • 4GB MicroSD card
  • FTDI console on the same USB port
  • JTAG (SWD) programming interface
  • 12 WS2812 LEDs arranged around the screen with 8 LED status lights
  • Five tactile 4.2mm buttons arranged in a Joypad with Enter button
  • 915Mhz Radio with chip antenna
  • 1200maH LiPo battery with full USB Charging circuit (no more searching all of Vegas for batteries during the con!)
  • 12x WS2812B LEDs, aka NeoPixel
  • Tilt sensor

Badge Functions

  • Many LED pattern modes. Such blinky, so wow. 
  • LED Dimming
  • Badge to Badge Roman fighting game with multiple levels and RPG-like attributes. Level up and battle your friends!
  • Video playback
  • Digital Audio playback, audio amplifier, and speaker.

What makes our badge different?

This is a lightweight system with a long battery life, and the battery itself is rechargeable! You don't have to run around the conference trying to find AA batteries or other strange and rare camera batteries, which many badges run on.

Unlike many badges, this badge is not a collection of random modules stuck together. It's a brand new design, built from the ground up on a single PCB (not counting the screen)

We're also putting ChiBIOS on the board (a real time operating system), and a large SD card for you to place graphics, sounds, or video on. We'll include all of the video and audio conversion scripts for your development use.

What's this game all about? Why Rome? 

Similar to the Ninja Networks DC18 badge, we've gone ahead and given the radio-based fighting game an upgrade. A full color, TFT touchscreen and joypad provide a easy to use interface to our game, while a radio lets you discover and fight nearby opponents!

We choose the Roman theme to honor DEFCON's first year at Caesar's palace.

You can play one of four characters! A guard, gladiatrix, or senator, and fight for a chance at being #1 on the leaderboard at the con. There are even secret characters that can be unlocked. For those that do well, they will have the chance to become Caesar!

The game is full color, with animation, and has been developed by our game designer, Egan, who worked on many AAA game releases. John's writing the software, Bill has done extensive work to bring the board and it's drivers to life, and Matthew has done outstanding character design for our screens. 

Other software?

The board will also have easter eggs, a crypto puzzle, radio chat system, setup screen, and more. If you access the console via FTDI/USB you might find some more things to play with, but we'll keep that a secret for now!

Can I get the design / HW / SW / Build my own?

Yes! The hardware design (KiCad) and software (in C) will be fully open sourced to the public right after DC25 (July 29th), and will be made available to backers (upon request) prior to DC25. 

When can I get one if I contribute to the Kickstarter?

All badges will be available for pickup, at DEFCON, on the 1st day of the conference. We will also ship badges (at your request) at the beginning of July.

So, what's left to do? Can you do it?

Our production schedule
Our production schedule

The project is tracking very, very well. Our second prototype is here and we are working through minor bugs. We are finalizing PCB art, lanyard art, and sponsor graphics in the game.

From there, we will manufacture as many badges as we can, expecting them to return April 1 or June 1 depending on progress. All the while, we will be working on the badge's software, loading it into the final, production badges in mid-June.

We would like to be finished no later than June 15th, with an expected ship date of July 1.

Stretch Goals

If we reach $9,000, we will create and release a IDES OF DEFCON challenge coin with custom art work, and give this coin to our backers. (DESIGN TBD)

Possible challenge coin design
Possible challenge coin design

Other Stuff

(Q) Are you associated with DEFCON?
(A) NO. This is an independent effort.

(Q) Does this badge get me into DEFCON?
(A) NO. The goons will stop you. This is just for fun. 

(Q) When / how will these ship? 
(A) We will attempt to ship these out in the 1st week of July with 2-day shipping. We will use BackerKit to manage order fulfillment.

(Q) Will you sell these in Vegas?
(A) Yes! Your support during the Kickstarter campaign means we can make more badges and bring them to DEFCON for sales. We will be able to sell at the car/hardware hacking village and at the EFF table.

(Q) How much will they cost in Vegas?
(A) Probably around $100. Depends how much backing we receive.

(Q) Where will you post project updates?(A) On our hackaday page. We will also attempt to link those updates to Kickstarter.

(Q) Will you open source this?
(A) Yes, at the end of DEFCON. Everything will be available, from the OS to the PCB files.

Risks and challenges

For us, the largest risk is that fail to make our manufacturing deadlines and/or that our suppliers in China don't provide parts in time. We must send all designs to Macrofab (Houston, TX) for construction by mid-april 2017. So far, we have been doing well with regards to deadlines.

Our badges are entirely constructed in the United States by Macrofab, but we are dependent on China for the Screen, Battery, and Micro SD cards. Any of these orders could fail. We also cannot predict the failure rate of our constructed boards. We expect this to be as high as 10% or as low as 2%.

Failure rate will increase unit cost, and there will not be an opportunity for a refund if some of our boards or screens fail to work.

There is also the chance that our hardware design does not work in time. We are already two prototypes in. This puts us far ahead of many other people making badges, but there could still be problems in our next prototype, despite how careful we are. If we have to do another spin, that's another month, and time is running short.

A secondary risk is that we fail to write all of our software in time or cannot fit all of the necessary software into the badge's flash. If we introduce bugs it will be difficult to fix them at scale and will require re-flashing of badges.

However, as we have a great head start on prototyping, with tested code and solid design, we feel that we can deliver this project on time, and fully tested, before DEFCON25 starts.

Lastly, we have backed campaigns on Kickstarter before. We know people back things and they don't get produced.

We offer our badges in a limited quantity to ensure that we can complete the goal we have set out to do. We have day jobs, we are computer scientists and engineers with strong track records of making things happen in the world.

We are running this project like a business, with spreadsheets, cost analysis, and planning. Lots and lots of planning.

An additional risk is that their may be minor hardware or software problems that we simply won't have the time to work out before the ship date.

You understand that by participating in this Kickstarter that you are buying a piece of relatively untested (beta) hardware. We will make every effort to fix firmware issues before DEFCON. If we find bugs after that, we will open source our changes (and firmware files) for your use. No Warranty.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Funding period

- (20 days)

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