This quad band GSM board is claimed to be the worlds smallest of its kind. We have no way to verify this bold claim but let’s all agree that this is a pretty small board that lets you send texts and make calls. The GSM feature is an addition to the OLEDiUNO Cube range that we have mentioned previously on the blog.
The idea is each OLEDiUNO board has an OLED display and uses an Arduino compatible microcontroller to make programming nice and simple. Some other examples of the OLEDiUNO projects include displaying GPS co-ordinates, displaying Tachometer data, or a spectrum analyser. GSM is a nice addition to the range and will open up some cool project possibilities for people that want a display, a GSM module, and the option of battery power all in the one easily programmable package.
To get an idea of some of the features this board has, check out the video below. You can also appreciate how small this board is sitting in Phoenic CNC’s hands. There is also the possibility that he has giant hands giving the illusion of a small board but we’ll let you decide that one.
Sometimes you want a dev board you can take anywhere and test out an idea at the drop of a hat. The Ultimat3 dev board aims to do just that by cramming a microcontroller on a PCB along with a 9-axis gyro sensor, a Temperature/Pressure/Humidity Sensor, an OLED display, a micro SD card slot and a LiPo charging circuit. That’s quite a bit of hardware to jam into such a small space which really puts this dev board in a league of its own.
The microcontroller used is the SAMD21G18A ARM Cortex M0+ which is compatible with the Arduino IDE since the Arduino Zero board also uses it as its processor. The gyro sensor is the MPU6050 and the Temp/Pressure/Humidity sensor is the BME280 which are both pretty familiar chips that have plenty of libraries out there especially for the Arduino platform.
With the full colour OLED display you can do all kinds of graphing or gaming or whatever else you can think of. The micro SD card slot can be used to easily log values from any of the onboard sensors. The LiPo charging circuit lets you charge a small LiPo battery using the programming header and of course run the board on battery power which is a nice little extra feature of this board. Check out the video below showing some of the things this board can do:
This project aims to fix a problem that arises pretty often when working on electronics projects. A signal you are dealing with is too small and you want to amplify it before looking at it on a scope or feeding it into an ADC. Most of the time the only option you have is to start rummaging around in the parts bin looking for an op-amp, resistors, bits of wire, and a breadboard. Then you put it all together and power it up only to find it doesn’t work so you spend ten minutes troubleshooting then finally find the loose wire that was causing the problem. Only then, finally, do you have your amplified signal.
Over on Hackaday.io, user Radu Constatin has made a configurable amplifier board that would be perfect for amplifying the majority of low amplitude signals a hobbyist is likely to come across. The specifications of the amplifier includes a user selectable gain of 1-9000, a 145MHz gain-bandwidth product, a 3.3-26V supply voltage range, and it can be configured as an inverting or non-inverting amplifier.
This really seems like a handy tool to have that isn’t already out there as far as I can tell. There are plenty of audio amplifiers with variable gain but normally the gain range and bandwidth is too small to be used as a Swiss army knife type amplifier. This board isn’t currently for sale on Tindie but Radu does mention he is thinking of selling it on his Hackaday.io page. If you want one, let him know and maybe he’ll get around to selling some. If you can’t wait, he also has the schematics included in the build logs so you could roll your own board. The one change to consider would be get rid of the BNC connectors and put in some screw terminals so whatever wires you are working with you can hook them up with no hassle. Cool project Radu!
This Internet connected LED matrix keeps it simple by using a particle photon microcontroller and webhooks to control it. The particle photon is a WiFi based development board that has the added advantage of access to particle cloud based services. These cloud services mainly make it easier to interface with hardware devices over the Internet. One of these services from particle is called ‘webhooks‘ which is an easy way of using POST, GET, and PUT requests to send or receive information using the web.
The great thing about the particle is you get the hardware WiFi board as well as the cloud services so you can get a project up and running with the minimum of fuss. The LED matrix project is just one example of what you can do with the particle platform. Over on Hackaday.io there are several particle projects including real time weather maps, electricity meters, and a toddler door monitor. These projects could all be done with any WiFi based development board and some web know-how but the particle platform takes the difficulty of these types of projects down a couple of notches. This lets you just get to work without spending all day trying to turn on an LED from your phone.
This is an ingenious little tool that will come in especially handy if you make your own PCBs and want to keep them small and slim. Ever made a tiny PCB only to have the programming header pins sticking out way above the rest of the board? This USB to UART programmer with pogo pins will do away with all of that while also letting you program your boards in the blink of an eye. You could of course put some other type of programming header on your board, but this way is easier, and much faster if you have 20 or 200 boards to program.
The creator of this little adapter is called Phoenic CNC, and they also make the OLEDiUNO range of products. They are little cubes with OLED screens on the front. The cubes are made from layers of PCBs with each OLEDiUNO containing a different type of sensor. You can get GPS, Tachometer, Spectrum Analyser, Gear indicator for cars/motorcycles and so on.
You can see the pogo pin adapter being used to program some OLEDiUNO boards in the video below. It’s a really handy tool to have especially if you hate using header pins for programming your boards.
Finding out your exact location when outside is a relatively simple thing to do these days thanks to several GPS satellites orbiting the earth. Knowing your position relative to your surroundings whilst indoors is actually a more challenging problem for the end user because there isn’t an existing framework like GPS you can just tap into and get your coordinates.
The Localino uses as a chip made by decaWave, a semiconductor company that develops ICs for use in indoor positioning systems. The exact type of chip used in the Localino isn’t mentioned in the Tindie description but it is likely the DW1000 IC. This is an impressive chip that boasts location of objects to a precision of 10cm whilst moving at up to 5m/s. Due to the short packet duration used, this chip can handle 11,000 tags in a 20m radius. That isn’t a typo, eleven thousand tags in about 1,200 square meters. This raises the question, could you physically fit that many tags in that space? It is really impressive regardless!
For around $200 you can build DIY kits like the Localino which include three ‘anchors’ and one ‘tag’. Obviously, the anchors don’t move, they are used only to localize the position of the tags. Check out the YouTube video below showing the Localino in action. The results are very promising and open up a whole host of possibilities for mapping and tracking related projects.
Thermal imaging sensors can easily run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars for really high end sensors. If you are looking to do some basic thermal imaging on the cheap, you may want to consider the MLX90621 IR sensor made by Melexis. It currently costs around 45 USD from Digikey for a single unit. For that relatively low price you get some pretty decent specs that would be more than good enough for a lot of basic thermal imaging projects.
The IR array is arranged in a 16×4 pixel format so you get a vertical or horizontal strip of temperature data depending on sensor orientation. The sensor itself has a 0.5-512Hz programmable refresh rate and can measure object temperatures from -20 to 300 degrees Celsius. The field of view on this sensor is 30°x120° but it is also available in 60°x15° and 40°x10° versions.
Tindie seller Pesky Products sells a breakout board for this sensor which takes care of the low-dropout voltage regulator and some necessary pull-up resistors. All you have to do is solder the sensor to the board and you are good to go. There is also a Raspberry Pi based thermal imaging project that uses the MLX90621 sensor over on Hackaday.io. The build log contains some handy tips on hooking up the MLX sensor to a Pi.
Setting an oscilloscope to X-Y mode and displaying images like rotating cubes and so on has been around for years. If the frequency being used to generate the images was in the audio range and you had a speaker connected you would also be able to hear tones generated alongside the images on the scope. A person by the name of Jerobeam Fenderson has taken this concept to the next level and actually started out with a song and then encoded it with images that can be displayed on an oscilloscope.
Check out this YouTube video showing off some of Jerobeam’s work (actually shown on an audio waveform display, not oscilloscope). It really is a crazy to behold because the music ‘video’ and the music are one and the same. The fact that this is possible at all is a quite difficult to get your head around. There is an FAQ on Jerobeam’s website and it mentions which software packages he uses but not exactly how it is done.
We have mentioned generating Lissajous Figures on using a Digital-to-analog converter, although that was images only. Lissajous figures are pretty cool but encode them onto some music and it gets ten times cooler. Props to Jerobeam Fenderson for having such a cool name and putting together this ultra-cool project.
There is also a subreddit dedicated to oscilloscope music. If you want more of this type of thing, check it out.
This project is pretty cool. Normally having a big LED array is challenging enough to get working properly considering how much power it can draw. Making it flexible adds another layer of complexity but the payoff is worth it considering all of the novel applications it opens up. One such application this project has been used in is a Major League Soccer match.
This LED array was placed under a players jersey and displayed information like the current score and other match statistics. This was an exhibition match, but shows off but one interesting application if you can make the state of the art more amenable to the softness of our bodies and the garments surrounding them.
There has got to be loads of other cool stuff that can only be done (or made easier) with flexible LED panels. Have you considered wrapping the entire light post in your front yard with something like this rather than just having one bulb on the top? What about gathering multiple flexible displays to replicate Megascroller Mario? If you have a project that uses one or just have something in mind you would use one for , tweet us at @tindie
A developer by the name of Brian Kane has made millions of people feel slightly unsettled by hooking up Amazon’s Alexa into an animatronic singing fish called Billy The Bass. No details as to how this was actually done are provided with the video but you can see some kind of development board in the lower left part of the frame indicating this is probably a legit hack as opposed to just syncing Alexa’s voice to the fish movements manually. The question is, does this simply process audio in real time for lip syncing, or is it precalculated?
Precalculated methods have been used in the past in the form of text-to-speech readers. But this is using the voice of Alexa and it’s more difficult to figure out how a precalculating method would work. Modern microcontrollers are powerful enough to analyze audio on the fly, and that may be what’s going on here. You just need some type of WiFi dev board and an Amazon Dot for input, using it the microcontroller to flap the jaw as necessary.
A more refined version might make the Billy Bass its own Alexa device and for that you have to go through the Alexa Skill Set. It is a set of APIs providing access to a whole host of things ranging from playing music to setting an alarm. You can also write your own ‘skill’ which is how the interface with a microcontroller is built. Communication with Alexa is done over HTTP requests so you could probably use any development board with a WiFi chip on it for this type of project.
One of the main attractions of the Amazon Echo is the seven microphones it has mounted on its rim. This lets it pick up sound from any direction even if there is music playing. There have been some attempts at a voice based home automation service for the Raspberry Pi, Jasper is one example. Whatever microphone you hook up to a Pi still probably won’t be nearly as good as the Echo. Picking up normal speaking level voice from across the room is tricky and the Echo seems to have cracked it. For clarification, the Echo is the physical device containing the microphones and speakers. The echo streams your speech to a server where the web service ‘Alexa’ analyzes it and can respond and perform tasks etc.
While the Echo and Alexa are still in the early stages of the whole IoT and home automation scene and the whole thing is riddled with Amazon specific terminology like ‘skills’ and ‘lambda functions’, it is a step in the right direction. By making it easier to hook up a microcontroller to these types of services, it will hopefully be fertile grounds for new types of projects we’ve not seen before.
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