Posts with «arduino hacks» label

Watch The World Spin With The Earth Clock

With the June solstice right around the corner, it’s a perfect time to witness first hand the effects of Earth’s axial tilt on the day’s length above and beyond 60 degrees latitude. But if you can’t make it there, or otherwise prefer a more regular, less deprived sleep pattern, you can always resort to simulations to demonstrate the phenomenon. [SimonRob] for example built a clock with a real time rotating model of Earth to visualize its exposure to the sun over the year.

The daily rotating cycle, as well as Earth’s rotation within one year, are simulated with a hand painted plastic ball attached to a rotating axis and mounted on a rotating plate. The hand painting was done with a neat trick; placing printed slivers of an atlas inside the transparent orb to serve as guides. Movement for both axes are driven by a pair of stepper motors and a ring of LEDs in the same diameter as the Earth model is used to represent the Sun. You can of course wait a whole year to observe it all in real time, or then make use of a set of buttons that lets you fast forward and reverse time.

Earth’s rotation, and especially countering it, is a regular concept in astrophotography, so it’s a nice change of perspective to use it to look onto Earth itself from the outside. And who knows, if [SimonRob] ever feels like extending his clock with an aurora borealis simulation, he might find inspiration in this northern lights tracking light show.

This is a spectacular showpiece and a great project you can do with common tools already in your workshop. Once you’ve mastered earth, put on your machinists hat and give the solar system a try.

Hack a Day 18 Jun 16:31

A Crash Course In Reliable Communication

It’s probably fair to say that anyone reading these words understands conceptually how physically connected devices communicate with each other. In the most basic configuration, one wire establishes a common ground as a shared reference point and then the “signal” is sent over a second wire. But what actually is a signal, how do the devices stay synchronized, and what happens when a dodgy link causes some data to go missing?

All of these questions, and more, are addressed by [Ben Eater] in his fascinating series on data transmission. He takes a very low-level approach to explaining the basics of communication, starting with the concept of non-return-to-zero encoding and working his way to a shared clock signal to make sure all of the devices in the network are in step. Most of us are familiar with the data and clock wires used in serial communications protocols like I2C, but rarely do you get to see such a clear and detailed explanation of how it all works.

He demonstrates the challenge of getting two independent devices to communicate, trying in vain to adjust the delays on the receiving and transmitting Arduinos to try to establish a reliable link at a leisurely five bits per second. But even at this digital snail’s pace, errors pop up within a few seconds. [Ben] goes on to show that the oscillators used in consumer electronics simply aren’t consistent enough between devices to stay synchronized for more than a few hundred bits. Until atomic clocks come standard on the Arduino, it’s just not an option.

[Ben] then explains the concept of a dedicated clock signal, and how it can be used to make sure the devices are in sync even if their local clocks drift around. As he shows, as long as the data signal and the clock signal are hitting at the same time, the actual timing doesn’t matter much. Even within the confines of this basic demo, some drift in the clock signal is observed, but it has no detrimental effect on communication.

In the next part of the series, [Ben] will tackle error correction techniques. Until then, you might want to check out the fantastic piece [Elliot Williams] put together on I2C.

[Thanks to George Graves for the tip.]

Poetry is the Fruit of this Loom

We’d wager that most people reading these words have never used a loom before. Nor have most of you churned butter, or ridden in a horse-drawn wagon. Despite these things being state of the art technology at one point, today the average person is only dimly aware of their existence. In the developed world, life has moved on. We don’t make our own clothes or grow our own crops. We consume, but the where and how of production has become nebulous to us.

[David Heisserer] and his wife [Danielle Everine], believe this modern separation between consumption and production is a mistake. How can we appreciate where our clothing comes from, much less the people who make it, without understanding the domestic labor that was once required to produce even a simple garment? In an effort to educate the public on textile production in a fun and meaningful way, they’ve created a poetry printing loom called Meme Weaver.

The Meme Weaver will be cranking out words of woolen wisdom at the Northern Spark Festival taking place June 15th and 16th in downtown Minneapolis. If any Hackaday readers in the area get a chance to check out the machine, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. Take photos! Just don’t blame us if you have a sudden urge to make all of your clothing afterwards.

Equal parts Guitar Hero and Little House on the Prairie, the Meme Weaver merely instructs the user on how to weave the fabric, it doesn’t do it for them. Lights and sounds provided by an Arduino Mega and Adafruit FX board indicate which levers to pull, with the end goal being the creation of a two-inch wide strip of hand-woven fabric that contains a poem or quote. The act of weaving the fabric by hand combined with the personalized nature of the text is intended to create a meaningful link between the finished product and the labor used to create it.

But how does it work? The operation of the machine seems mysterious to modern eyes, which arguably reinforces the point [David] and [Danielle] are trying to make in the first place. The levers on the front are moving heddles on the opposite side of the machine, which control the path the yarn takes through the loom.

By raising and lowering the white yarn, it’s possible to print text in what is essentially an ultra-low-resolution dot matrix. When the heddle levers are locked into place (thanks to electromagnets triggered by microswitches), the user then passes the shuttle through the loom, and finally pulls the lever that tightens up the completed line with what’s known as the beater. If that seems complex to your modern mind, imagine trying to explain an Arduino to somebody in the 1800’s.

If all this talk of weaving has caught your interest, you could always 3D print yourself a loom of your own. Then when you get tired of doing it by hand, you can upgrade to a Raspberry Pi powered version and start the whole cycle over again.

Automatic Sunglasses For the Lazy Hacker

[Andreas] may have created the ultimate lazy hacker accessory: automatic sunglasses, or “Selfblending sunglasses” as he creatively titled his video. If you can’t tell from the name, these are glasses that you never have to take off. If the light is dim, they move away from your eyes. Going back outside to bright light? The glasses move to protect your eyes.

The glasses consist of a couple of micro servos which move tinted lenses toward or away from the user’s eyes. A side-mounted Arduino Uno reads a CdS cell light sensor and drives the servos.  Why an Uno rather than a much more wearable Arduino Nano? It’s what [Andreas] had lying around.

Yes, a good portion of the fun of this build is [Andreas’] comedy. But the best part comes when he tests the glasses out — in an actual car on the highway. The glasses work better than expected — moving the lenses into and out of [Andreas] field of view as he drives through tunnels. You can actually see how surprised [Andreas] is that it works so well.

These aren’t the first automatic sunglasses we’ve seen, nor are they the most peril-sensitive. Still, it’s a fun project and the video gave us a few chuckles.

Hack a Day 14 Jun 06:00

Simplifying Basic LED Effects

There was a time when having a blinking blue LED on a project was all you needed to be one of the cool kids. But now you need something more complex. LEDs should not just snap on, they should fade in and out. And blinking? Today’s hotness is breathing LEDs. If that’s the kind of project you want, you should check out [jandelgado’s] jled library.

At first glance, an Arduino library for LED control might seem superfluous, but if you are interested in nice effects, the coding for them can be a bit onerous. If you don’t mind stopping everything while you fade an LED on (or off) then sure, you just write a loop and it is a few lines of code. But if you want to have it happen while other things continue to execute, it is a little different. The library makes it very simple and it is also nicely documented.

Obviously, to create a special effect LED, you need to create a JLed object. Then you can use modifier methods on that object to get certain effects. The only overhead is that you need to call the update method on the LED periodically. Here is one of the examples from the project:

#include <jled.h>

// connect LED to pin 13 (PWM capable). LED will breathe with period of
// 2000ms and a delay of 1000ms after each period.
JLed led = JLed(13).Breathe(2000).DelayAfter(1000).Forever();

void setup() { }

void loop() {
   led.Update();
}

Pretty easy and readable. Just remember that some Arduinos can’t do PWM on pin 13, so you might have to adjust. Our only complaint is that you have to update each LED. It would be nice if the JLed constructor kept a linked list of all LED objects so you could have a class method that updates all of them with one call. In the examples, the author keeps all the LEDs in an array and steps through that. However, that would be easy to fork and add. Oh wait, we did it for you. The library does do a lot of work, including taking advantage of higher PWM resolution available on the ESP8266, for example.

The library can turn an LED on or off (including delays), blink or breathe an LED forever or for a certain number of times, or fade an LED on or off. In addition to the presets, you can provide your own brightness function if you want to do some kind of custom pattern. You can modify most actions by specifying a delay before or after, a repeat count (which can be forever) and you can also tell the library that your LED is active low, so you don’t have to mentally remember to flip everything around in your code.

Rocket science? No. But we like it. Blocking for an LED effect is bad and this makes fancy asynchronous LEDs simple. Why not use it? Recent IDEs can install it from the manage library dialog, so it takes just a second.

Really, libraries are a key to building systems simple. Why not stand on the backs of others? Some of our favorites handle SPI and proportional integral derivative (PID) control.

Hack a Day 14 Jun 00:00

Teddy Ruxpin: Navigate to 143 Main Street

In the United States, TV and radio stations have to give the opportunity of equal airtime to all candidates. In that spirit, we thought we should show you [Jayden17’s] hack that puts Google Assistant into a Teddy Ruxpin. You can see the hacked bear do its thing in the video below.

Teddy was the best-selling toy for 1985 and 1986, and is still available, so over 30 years there are a lot of these hanging around. If you never looked at how they work, the original ones were quite simple. A cassette player routed one stereo channel to a speaker and used the other channel to control servo motors to move the mouth and eyes. The cassette was eventually replaced with a digital cartridge, and newer versions of Teddy only use two motors instead of the three in the original.

[Jayden17’s] bear was an original “Worlds of Wonder” bear which means it is from the 1985-1990 time period. If you have a newer bear, you might have to work things out a little differently. These bears often have stuck motors, which can be fixed and broken cassette mechanisms. The cassette isn’t used with this project, so that’s not a problem.

The real key to the project is an Arduino that listens to the audio coming in from a smartphone or other source and drives the motors. The project just uses a cable for the phone, although we would have been tempted to put a cheap Bluetooth receiver in there. However, because of the way it is set up, you could easily do that. You could also use a Raspberry Pi or even switch to Alexa. The Arduino doesn’t know anything about the source audio.

 

Dead Simple Ultrasonic Data Communication

Some of the best hacks are the ones which seem perfectly obvious in hindsight; a solution to the problem that’s so elegant, you wonder how it never occurred to you before. Of course we also love the hacks that are so complex your eyes start to water, but it’s nice to have a balance. This one, sent in by [Eduardo Zola] is definitely in the former group.

In the video after the break, [Eduardo] demonstrates his extremely simple setup for using ultrasonic transducers for one-way data communication. Powered by a pair of Arduinos and using transducers salvaged from the extremely popular HC-SR04 module, there’s a good chance a lot of readers can recreate this one on their own bench with what they’ve got lying around. In this example he’s sending strings of text from one computer to another, but with a little imagination this can be used for all sorts of projects.

For the transmitter, the ultrasonic transducer is simply tied to one of the digital pins on the Arduino. The receiver is a bit more complex, requiring a LM386 amplifier and LM393 comparator to create a clean signal for the second Arduino to read.

But how does it work? Looking through the source code for the transmitter and receiver, we can see it’s about as basic as it gets. The transmitter Arduino breaks down a given string into individual characters, and then further converts the ASCII to eight binary bits. These bits are sent out as tones, and are picked up on the receiving end. Once the receiver has collected a decent chunk of tones, it works through them and turns the binary values back into ASCII characters which get dumped over serial. It’s slow, but it’s simple.

If you’re looking for something a bit more robust, check out this guide on using GNU Radio with ultrasonics.

Serial Connection Over Audio: Arduino Can Listen To UART

We’ve all been there: after assessing a problem and thinking about a solution, we immediately rush to pursue the first that comes to mind, only to later find that there was a vastly simpler alternative. Thankfully, developing an obscure solution, though sometimes frustrating at the time, does tend to make a good Hackaday post. This time it was [David Wehr] and AudioSerial: a simple way of outputting raw serial data over the audio port of an Android phone. Though [David] could have easily used USB OTG for this project, many microcontrollers don’t have the USB-to-TTL capabilities of his Arduino – so this wasn’t entirely in vain.

At first, it seemed like a simple task: any respectable phone’s DAC should have a sample rate of at least 44.1kHz. [David] used Oboe, a high performance C++ library for Android audio apps, to create the required waveform. The 8-bit data chunks he sent can only make up 256 unique messages, so he pre-generated them. However, the DAC tried to be clever and do some interpolation with the signal – great for audio, not so much for digital waveforms. You can see the warped signal in blue compared to what it should be in orange. To fix this, an op-amp comparator was used to clean up the signal, as well as boosting it to the required voltage.

Prefer your Arduino connections wireless? Check out this smartphone-controlled periodic table of elements, or this wireless robotic hand.

Hack a Day 31 May 09:00

Video of the Arduino FPGA Board Demo at Maker Faire

This week, Arduino announced a lot of new hardware including an exceptionally interesting FPGA development board aimed at anyone wanting to dip their toes into the seas of VHDL and developing with programmable logic. We think it’s the most interesting bit of hardware Arduino has released since their original dev board, and everyone is wondering what the hardware actually is, and what it can do.

This weekend at Maker Faire Bay Area, Arduino was out giving demos for all their wares, and yes, the Arduino MKR Vidor 4000 was on hand, being shown off in a working demo. We have a release date and a price. It’ll be out next month (June 2018) for about $60 USD.

But what about the hardware, and what can it do? From the original press releases, we couldn’t even tell how many LUTs this FPGA had. There were a lot of questions about the Mini PCIe connectors, and we didn’t know how this FPGA would be useful for high-performance computation like decoding video streams. Now we have the answers.

The FPGA on board the Arduino Vidor is an Altera Cyclone 10CL016. This chip has 16k logic elements, and 504 kB memory block. This is on the low end of Altera’s FPGA lineup, but it’s still no slouch. In the demo video below, it’s shown decoding video and identifying QR codes in real time. That’s pretty good for what is effectively a My First FPGA board.

Also on board the Vidor is a SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ microcontroller and a uBlox module housing an ESP-32 WiFi and Bluetooth module. This is a really great set of chips, and if you’re looking to get into FPGA development, this might just be the board for you. We haven’t yet seen the graphic editor that will be used to work with IP for the FPGA (for those who don’t care to write their own VHDL or Verilog), but we’re looking forward to the unveiling of that new software.

Arduino Just Introduced an FPGA Board, Announces Debugging and Better Software

Today ahead of the Bay Area Maker Faire, Arduino has announced a bevy of new boards that bring modern features and modern chips to the Arduino ecosystem.

Most ambitious of these new offerings is a board that combines a fast ARM microcontroller, WiFi, Bluetooth, and an FPGA. All this is wrapped in a package that provides Mini HDMI out and pins for a PCIe-Express slot. They’re calling it the Arduino MKR Vidor 4000.

Bringing an FPGA to the Arduino ecosystem is on the list of the most interesting advances in DIY electronics in recent memory, and there’s a lot to unpack here. FPGA development boards aren’t new. You can find crates of them hidden in the storage closet of any University’s electronics lab. If you want to buy an FPGA dev board, the Terasic DE10 is a good starter bundle, the iCEstick has an Open Source toolchain, and this one has pink soldermask. With the release of the MKR Vidor, the goal for Arduino isn’t just to release a board with an FPGA; the goal is to release a tool that allows anyone to use an FPGA.

The key to democratizing FPGA development is Arduino’s work with the Arduino Create ecosystem. Arduino Create is the company’s online IDE that gives everyone the ability to share projects and upload code with Over-the-Air updates. The MKR Vidor will launch with integration to the Arduino Create ecosystem that includes a visual editor to work with the pre-compiled IP for the FPGA. That’s not to say you can’t just plug your own VHDL into this board and get it working; that’s still possible. But Arduino would like to create a system where anyone can move blocks of IP around with a tool that’s easy for beginners.

A Facelift for the Uno WiFi

First up is the brand new Arduino Uno WiFi. While there have been other boards bearing the name ‘Arduino Uno WiFi’ over the years, a lot has changed in the world of tiny radio modules and 8-bit microcontrollers over the past few years. The new Arduino Uno WiFi is powered by a new 8-bit AVR, the ATMega4809. The ATMega4809 is a new part announced just a few months ago, and is just about what you would expect from the next-generation 8-bit Arduino; it runs at 20MHz, has 48 kB of Flash, 6 kB of SRAM, and it comes in a 48-pin package. The ATMega4809 is taking a few lattices of silicon out of Microchip’s playbook and adds Custom Configurable Logic. The CCL in the new ATMega is a peripheral that is kinda, sorta like a CPLD on chip. If you’ve ever had something that could be more easily done with logic gates than software, the CCL is the tool for the job.

But a new 8-bit microcontroller doesn’t make a WiFi-enabled Arduino. The wireless power behind the new Arduino comes from a custom ESP-32 based module from u-blox. There’s also a tiny crypto chip (Microchip’s ATECC508A) so the Uno WiFi will work with AWS. The Arduino Uno WiFi will be available this June.

But this isn’t the only announcement from the Arduino org today. They’ve been hard at work on some killer features for a while now, and now they’re finally ready for release. What’s the big news? Debuggers. Real debuggers for the Arduino that are easy to use. There are also new boards aimed at Arduino’s IoT strategy.

The Future of Arduino

As you would expect in the world of embedded development, the future is IoT. Last week, Arduino announced the release of two new boards, the MKR WiFi 1010 and the MKR NB 1500. The MKR WiFi 1010 features a SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ microcontroller and a u-blox module (again featuring an ESP-32) giving the board WiFi. The MKR NB 1500 is designed for cellular networks and features the same SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ microcontroller found in the MKR WiFi 1010, but also adds a u-blox cellular module that will connect to LTE networks using Narrowband IoT, but the module does also support Cat M1 networks.

But IoT isn’t the only thing Arduino has been working on. On the leadup to the World Maker Faire this weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with Fabio Violante, CEO of Arduino, and Massimo Banzi, Co-founder of Arduino, and what I heard was remarkable. There’s going to be an update to the Arduino IDE soon, and real debugging is coming to the Arduino ecosystem. This is a significant development in Arduino’s software efforts, and when Fabio was appointed CEO last July, this was the first thing he wanted to do.

Also on deck for upcoming bits of hardware is a slow upgrade from ARM Cortex-M0 parts to Cortex-M4 parts. While this change isn’t exactly overdue, it is a direct result of the ever-increasing power of available microcontrollers. The reason for this change is the growing need for more compute power on embedded platforms, and simply the fact that more powerful chips are cheaper now.

Massimo, Fabio, and the rest of the Arduino team will be showing off their latest wares at Maker Faire Bay Area this weekend, and we will be posting updates. The FPGA Arduino — the MKR Vidor 4000 — will be on display running a computer vision demo, and there will, of course, be fancy new boards on hand. We’ll be posting updates so keep your eye on Hackaday!

Hack a Day 18 May 16:03