Posts with «research» label

A low-cost approach to Intrinsic optical signal

Leonardo Lupori and Raffaele Mazziotti are active in the field of neuroscience at Tommaso Pizzorusso’s lab at Neuroscience Institute CNR of Pisa respectively as molecular biologist and experimental psychologist. They created an Arduino-based and MATLAB-controlled tool called IOSIC (Intrinsic Optical Signal Imaging Chamber), powered by an Arduino Micro and focused on intrinsic optical signal (IOS) imaging apparatus to run experiments on the plasticity of the brain.

Intrinsic optical signal (IOS) imaging is a functional imaging technique that has revolutionized our understanding of cortical functional organization and plasticity since it was first implemented, around 30 years ago. IOS is produced by the brain when processing information and is similar to the information recorded with the plethysmograph (the instrument to measure heart rate from a finger) and it is useful to investigate how the brain works. The researchers are especially interested to investigate how the brain is able to adapt to the environment to store information but also acquire new skills and these studies are really useful to understand what happens to the brain when is in good health or during a disease.

Even if their lab has a long-standing expertise in electrophysiological studies, they decided to  developed a fully functional apparatus for IOS with tools already available and low-cost:

To set up the entire system we used a mix of components commercially available and custom-made. The most expensive tool we used is an imaging camera from Hamamatsu (it is necessary because we need to analyze data quantitatively), but you can also use a cheaper camera (at least with a CCD chip 12-bit depth is recommended). The rest is stuff collected from old tools of the lab. For example, the microscope, that in our case is an old Olympus confocal microscope, but any transmitted light microscope or macroscope should be ok, was already in the lab and is currently used also for other purposes. For light illumination, we used a custom made crown-shaped LED holder that can be attached to the objective and provide a really stable light source. Afterwards, we wrote a MATLAB script to control the camera and then we built an imaging chamber to analyze the animal preparation. The imaging chamber is essential to keep the animal stable during the imaging session (about 7 minutes) and also to maintain its physiological temperature during the time course of anesthesia. An additional feature added to the chamber is the possibility to change the animal’s visual field automatically allowing us to measure rapidly, efficiently and repeatedly a very important parameter of plasticity called ocular dominance. The chamber is composed by a 3D printed structure on which an Arduino MICRO, two servo motors, a heating pad, an IR thermometer and a magnetic ring have been installed. Currently we are using this system with success and we hope to discover something really relevant.

You can download IOSIC code for the Arduino MICRO here. The code uses third-party libraries : TMP006 and Servo. MATLAB code to control shutters is available here.

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The Developer Economics research program tracks developer sentiment across platforms, revenues, apps, tools, APIs, segments and regions, tackling some of 2015’s most commonly asked questions. It’s the largest, most global app developer research & engagement program reaching up to 10,000 developers in over 140 countries and we believe open source developers could give an interesting point of view on the topic!
After  taking the survey, you can download immediately a free chapter from one of VisionMobile’s premium paid reports taking a close look at app profits & costs and also enter a draw to win prizes such as an iPhone 6, an Apple Sports Watch, an Oculus Rift Dev Kit, and many more.
Arduino Blog 20 May 17:25

Project feature: Accessing YQL from Arduino

The ethernet shield opens up lot of possibilities for Arduino. One of which has been explored by Sudar. He has found a way to make YQL calls and even parse the JSON response using Arduino and Ethernet shield.

So what is YQL?

YQL stands for Yahoo Query Language. It is an expressive SQL-like language that lets you query, filter, and join data across Web services. You can read more about YQL from the Yahoo Developer network page.

Checkout the tutorial and the source code at his blog

He is a Research Engineer at Yahoo Research Labs India, by profession, and a hardware hacker by passion. More of his projects can be found here.

Arduino Blog 08 Jan 14:46
hacks  research  users  yql  

Labview and Arduino: 3Dmicro Toolkit Arduino Expansion (beta)

3D SuperVision Systems is an italian spin-off from “Università Politecnica delle Marche“, whose mission is to design and to develop new solutions for embedded applications.
Few days ago, they published the latest release of 3Dmicro toolkit, a software add-on to NI Labview usable for firmware rapid prototyping on 32-bit PIC microcontrollers, by using Labview’s easy-to-use graphical programming language; along with this, an Arduino-oriented version has been released as well for academic beta testers, which allows users to make use of Arduino’s I/O, ADCs, timers, PWM and serial communication directly from Labview’s interface.


More information can be found here, while interested beta-testers can sign up this application form.

Arduino based Milling Machine

This is a working model of an Arduino based Milling Machine created using FischerTechnik. For those of you who are unaware of FischerTechnik, it is similar to the LEGOTM Building Blocks.

A group of four Mechanical Engineering students at the Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) created this project as part of their Mechatronics class in their Second year of Bachelor of Sciences (B.Sc.) Program.

Laurens Valk, one of the creators, explains the essence of Arduino in the project:

“The system uses the Adafruit motor shield to run two stepper motors, and the Sparkfun EasyDriver for the third stepper motor. The Arduino runs code that listens to Matlab commands over USB. We expanded that code a little to make it possible to add the third stepper motor and some other commands. Most of the actual code was programmed in Matlab, with the Arduino as the interface between computer and motors/sensors.”

We had a little chat with Laurens. Here is the excerpt:


When did you first hear about Arduino, and when did you first start using it?
I’ve seen a lot of Arduino projects over the years, but this was the first time we used it in a project. Personally, I usually build robots with MINDSTORMS NXT, but this felt like a good opportunity to combine mechanical work (the printer hardware) with real electronics (Arduino).
How did you end up making a Milling Machine/ 3D Printer for your project?

We chose to come up with our own design challenge and decided not to do the standard exercise. Initially we thought about making a (2D) plotter or scanner. Then quickly we started thinking about the same things, except in 3D. One of the projects that inspired us was the LEGO Milling Machine by Arthur Sacek. Both a scanner and printer would still be doable in 3D, but the time was limited, so we settled with the printer idea.

All construction had to be done in one workweek for logistical reasons. To make sure we were able to finish in time, we prepared much of the electronics and software outside the lab. We finished just in time, but unfortunately we could do only one complete print before we had to take it apart. Not surprisingly, it was very exciting to wait for the result of the one and only complete test run. We couldn’t see the result until we used the vacuum cleaner to remove the dust.

Here is a video showing the working of this machine. [And the Vacuum Cleaner Laurens is talking about]:

This gives an Insight into the many feats that an Arduino can accomplish.


Space experiments for everyone: the ArduSat project

ArduSat, which stands for “Arduino satellite”, is a recently kickstarted project that aims at developing an open platform usable to emulate space scientists:

Once launched, the ArduSat will be the first open platform allowing the general public to design and run their own space-based applications, games and experiments, steer the onboard cameras to take pictures on-demand, and even broadcast personalized messages back to Earth.

ArduSat will be equipped with several sensors (such as cameras, gyros, accelerometers, GPS and more) packed inside a small cube (the side will be approximately 10 cm long) that can be accessed through a set of Arduinos.

Once in orbit, the ArduSat will be accessible from the ground to flash the required firmware for the experiments and for getting back all the collected information. People interested in performing space experiments will have access to a ground replica of ArduSat explotable to test and debug their code before the actual deployment.

The project is very ambitious, and it is expected that such an open accessible space platform will have a considerable impact on how simple space experiments will be carried out in the forthcoming years, in the case of fundraising success.

You may find the Kickstarter page of the project here.

[Via: Hack A Day and Kickstarter]

XOrduino: an Arduino-compatible board for the OLPC XO laptop

Dr. Scott Ananian, from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, conceived an Arduino Leonardo-compatible board especially designed for the OLPC XO laptop, with the goal to cut down its price as much as possible, to foster its adoption even in developing countries. From Scott’s blog:

The board uses mostly through-hole parts, with one exception, and there are only 20 required components for the basic Arduino functionality, costing about $5 (from digikey, quantity 100). It is reasonable for local labor or even older kids to assemble by hand.

The board, named XOrduino, is open hardware (schematics and pcb files can be found on github), and can be directly plugged into the XO’s USB ports, which allowed Scott to save the money required for the USB connector. Moreover, its design has been inspired by other open hardware projects, such as SparkFun’s ATmega32U4 breakout board and SparkFun’s Scratch Sensor Board-compatible PicoBoard.

Scott designed also a second board, which is even cheaper than the first one, called XO Stick:

It’s based on the AVR Stick using the ATtiny85 processor and costs only $1/student. It’s not quite as user-friendly as the Arduino-compatible board, but it can also be used to teach simple lessons in embedded electronics.

A longer description can be found here, while detailed release notes can be found on github.

It’s very exciting to see how open technologies, such as open hardware and open source software, contribute to the way education and creativity can take place around the world, especially regarding their promotion in developing countries.

[Via: Ossblog, OLPC blog, Scott Ananian's blog]

Some advances in aerial vehicles: bat-inspired smart wings

Researchers from Centro de Automática y Robótica (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) and from Brown University carried out a very deep research about the specific behavior of bat flight, whose ultimate goal is to replicate the capabilities of bat’s wings by means of an ad-hoc designed micro aerial vehicle (MAV).

From the home page of the project:

[...] this research is oriented towards the development of a biological inspired bat robot platform, that allows to reproduce the amazing maneuverability of these flying mammals. The highly maneuverability is achieved by reproducing the flapping and morphing capabilities of their wing-skeleton structure. This structure is composed by several joints and a membrane that generates the required lift forces to fly.

To mimmic the muscular system that moves the joints of the wing-bones, Shape Memory Alloys (SMA) NiTi wires are used as artificial-muscles. Several challenges in controlling this SMA-based actuation system are regarded in this research.

A lot of research work has already been carried out (see here for a list of publications) and a bat-like MAV prototype has been designed and implemented to both evaluate and validate the research outcomes. Among the other stuff, the core onboard electronic is made up of an arduino-based board, an IMU, a radio transceiver and a rechargeable LiPo battery.

More details on this project can be found here.

[Via: BaTboT project homepage]

Arduino Blog 06 Jun 13:52

Touché with Arduino

Touché is a capacitive-sensing technology, developed by Walt Disney Research, which aims at providing touch and gesture sensitivity to a great variety of objects. From this research paper:

The technology is  scalable, i.e., the same sensor is equally effective for a pencil, a doorknob, a mobile phone or a table. Gesture recognition also scales with objects: a Touché enhanced doorknob can capture the configuration of fingers touching it, while a table can track the posture of the entire user.
The technique behind Touché is known as Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing (SFCS): at a glance, by monitoring the capacitive response of an object over a specific range of frequencies (instead of a single one), it is possible to infer about its interaction with the outside world.
In his blog, Dzl describes his personal approach toward the development of a system capable to emulate Touché’s behavior with Arduino. Currently, the project is still in a early stage, but improvements and further developments are expected soon.
More information can be found here.


MAKEmatics – Mathematics for Makers

Makers need to familiarize themselves with the core concepts and the theory involved in creating applications such as Motion Sensing and Face Tracking. As the technology is churning out new hardware day and night, DIYers need to work hard to keep up and always be in touch with the latest technology around them.


For example, anyone working with Accelerometers/ Gyroscopes or Inertial Measurement Units needs to understand the theory of Vectors, Force, Gravity and be able to work out complex mathematical problems. They may easily get an Arduino Board and an Accelerometer Breakout or an IMU Board and use a library instead of writing their own code but to truly understand the theory behind it; how the device actually works, is not for the faint of heart.


One such problem is the Face Tracking Application. Unless you know the real theory behind how the Algorithm actually works, you can only wonder about that robot which follows its master. Greg Borenstein had an idea of creating a website dedicated to this issue. Makematics – Math for Makers.


In an introductory post, Greg writes:

” I hope to show that a normal programmer with no special academic training can grapple with these areas of research and find a way in to understanding them. And as I go I aim to create material that will help others do the same. If I can do it, there’s no reason you can’t.”

More and more people should step forward and create or compile a good amount of research data to help fellow makers and DIYers in solving complex mathematical problems.