Blog Post

Xbox & Chumby hacker designs open-source Geiger counter

Xbox hacker and co-founder of the Chumby project, Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, has designed an open-source Geiger counter to help citizens in Japan detect radiation in the wake of the nuclear disaster, Huang writes on his blog. After several design iterations, Huang writes that he created a Geiger-counter design that he wanted to be “suitable for everyday civilian use,” affordable, intuitive, easy to use and “sufficiently stylish.”

Above is the final design, and to the right, one of the prototypes. The final design includes:

  • Extensive logging capabilities
  • The ability to work in scenarios where Internet and power have been out for days
  • A sensor that can detect all three forms of radiation.

(It doesn’t have a radio (wireless capabilities).)

Huang says he doesn’t plan on manufacturing the Geiger counter, but has donated the design to the community (and open-sourced it), and that means a long-time Geiger counter maker International Medcom will be able to commercialize the product if they choose. Huang says it cost $3,000 to make the design and the two prototypes. Not bad.

Some of the designs that Huang abandoned I’ve included below:

Images courtesy of Bunnie Huang.

4 Responses to “Xbox & Chumby hacker designs open-source Geiger counter”

  1. Peter Mancini

    That is pretty cool. I wonder what they are using for the sensor? A Halogen filled Geiger-Müller tube? Knowing how to interpret what you are reading is also important. You can shield yourself pretty easily from alpha particle radiation. Less easily from beta particles. Much less easily from x-rays and not at all from gamma rays. Cesium 137 is the most likely dangerous by product of radioactive decay and that emits beta and gamma particles so it should be possible to at least know when food or water is contaminated and to know when you are in an area with emitters. Gamma particles have a really long range though so knowing what is safe and what isn’t is where I think a lot of users would want training. Otherwise they might get unjustly freaked out the moment they turn it on and it’s already clicking.

    • @Hammertime18. Couple thoughts on your comment. The Geiger counter is for daily use far after a nuclear problem has occurred, so it’s for adapting to trying to have a normal life in a the post-nuclear problem zone. Not a product for immediate survival. The fact that it looks more like a consumer electronics gadget than an industrial device I think can lead to more productive use of it. I dont think the device is supposed to look unusually “sexy” or “stylish” but just like a normal gadget a Japanese person would keep in their bag. Also, Japanese gadgets have a far higher bar in terms of design and style than gadgets used in the U.S.