When powered on, the device will take perhaps 20 seconds to connect to the wireless network and authenticate with Adafruit IO. On success it will emit a single long buzz and light the onboard LED.

If you do not get this buzz: there’s an issue with the WiFi or Adafruit IO credentials, or the wiring between board and motor driver. Connecting the board to USB and watching with the Arduino serial monitor or other serial tool (e.g. tio or screen) will give some indication of where the problem lies.

So let’s say at this point you’re buzzed and working…

Return to the “Dashboards” tab of Adafruit IO and pick your Cheekmate dashboard from the list.

Type a brief message in the text field and press return or click or tab out of the field.

Within a few seconds, this should be relayed to the device, which will start to flash and buzz with a Morse code version of the message.

The message will repeat up to three times, unless a new message is received during that time, in which case the current message finishes and the new one repeats three times.

Meat and Greet

So we know the code and device work in open air, but what about in a hypothetical use case? There are two things to find here:

  • Bodies are mostly water, and RF energy is greatly attenuated in water. Can signals penetrate if the device is nestled in, say, one’s armpit?
  • Once surrounded by flesh, is the vibration motor sufficiently muffled to avoid detection, or does it give away the gag?

Without a willing partner to test and record findings with, it seemed most objective to use a proxy with similar characteristics…like a quantity of meat. Initial plan was to shove the device between two large hams, but it turns out ham is really expensive in the off season.

Pound for pound, bone-in pork butt roast is quite affordable!

A channel was cut through the middle, into which the device was firmly lodged.

In Action

The unit was powered on, sealed, and inserted. A WiFi access point was about 30 feet away, through two walls and a couple inches of meat now. The end cap did protrude slightly, so it’s not a perfect test for WiFi penetration, but fixing this would require a bigger butt roast.

Secret messages were then entered in the project’s Adafruit IO Dashboard. Here’s what happened:

Analysis

While not a thoroughly scientific test, it does shine a light on the tenable aspects of the cheat device theory:

  • The circuit, and the internet dashboard, were both incredibly simple to build and code; it does not require extensive engineering skills. The hardest parts would be a bit of soldering, and memorizing Morse code.
  • WiFi had no problem penetrating at this distance and through this medium. If an internet connection can be established through an accomplice, and data relayed through wireless, messages can be relayed.

However, working against it…

  • The vibration motor, even when muffled through pounds of flesh, is anything but subtle. Officials or other players would be immediately aware. The vibration could be dialed down to a calmer level, but risks messages not being interpreted clearly as they’re harder to sense.

Thus, a reasonable conclusion is that such an idea is plausible, but unlikely. With refinement, a more discreet device could surely be developed…but, with the risk still present of being discovered, banned from competition, and being the butt of jokes for generations to come. One’s time is likely better spent learning and practicing game strategy.

A series of escalating measures and counter-measures come to mind, and it’s not clear there’s any real endgame to this.

Metal detectors are already in use at some events, but these are usually calibrated to ignore small nuisance items like coins or keys…a well-crafted receiver might slip through.

Blocking wireless signals would seem an obvious choice…but FCC laws prevent this. A deep-pocketed tournament might manage this by hosting events offshore, beyond Federal jurisdiction. Alternately, players might compete inside a Faraday cage, Thunderdome-style.

These measures might still circumvented by eliminating the off-site component, with self-contained game AI carried on one’s person. A Raspberry Pi Zero would be a bit of a stretch…but devices are continually getting smaller and more powerful, and soon (if not already) something could tuck into one’s navel or other cavity.

This guide was first published on Oct 05, 2022. It was last updated on Apr 13, 2024.

This page (Testing and Analysis) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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