Posts | Comments

Planet Arduino

Nixie tubes require electricity in the range of 180VDC, making them challenging to work with. Maker Christine Thompson, however, decided to take Nixie art to a new level, creating a clock with three different types of tubes! 

This clock, or perhaps more accurately “info display,” shows the time and date with six IN-18 tubes mounted on the top. In the front, six IN-12A and two IN-15A tubes are also available to show time, date, pressure, temperature, and humidity.

A pair of Arduino Mega boards are used to control this retro-inspired contraption, along with an array of wiring, perf board, and other components, stuffed inside a very nice wooden enclosure. 

This is my first Nixie styled clock I have constructed. The clock actually consists of two clocks, the first being a 6 x IN-18 tube clock which is mounted on the clock’s top and displays both time and date. The second clock, this time based on 6 x IN-12A and 2 x IN-15A nixie tubes displays at the front of the clock and can display, time, date, pressure (with units and trend), temperature (both Centigrade and Fahrenheit) and, humidity (with units and trend). The time and date are separated with two single neon lamp-based separators, while only one of these lamps is displayed, to represent a decimal point, when the pressure, humidity or temperature is displayed. Both these clocks use “Direct/Static Drive” to power the displays and are based on two Arduino Mega 2560 boards. The fourteen tubes are driven by 12V to 170V DC to DC boost power supplies and 14 x K155 IC chips. The clock also powers two sets of Neon Lamps which switch off while the clock goes through its cathode cleaning cycle which happens at 19, 39 and 55 minutes past each hour. This cathode cleaning cycle consists of all six tubes displaying the digits 0 through 9 in sequence 6 times.

In addition the clock will sound a chime at 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes. At the 60 minute chime the hour chime is also sounded. The chimes are standard MP3 files using a simple MP3 player controlled by the Arduino mega. In order to save on tube life all tubes are switched off automatically when the light level in the room dims to a predefined level, this is achieved using a LRD resistor located at the back of the clock. To help dissipate any heat build up both Arduino Mega ICs have copper heat fins attached and a 5V fan draws air out of the clock, cool air entering through a hole in the bottom plate.

The user can adjust the time, date, chimes, and chimes volume using one of two 16×2 LCD displays, located at the back of the clock. The BME280 temperature, humidity, and pressure sensor is mounted on the back of the clock so as to not be affected by the clock’s internal temperature.

A demo is seen in the video below, while more info and Arduino code can be found in the project’s write-up.

Ping pong balls have long been known as excellent LED diffusers, but few have taken this technique as far as Thomas Jensma. His colorful clock features 128 LEDs, arranged in an alternating pattern, and housed in a stretched-out hexagonal wood frame. 

For control, the device uses an Arduino Nano, along with a RTC module for accurate timekeeping. Demos of the clock can be seen below, cycling through numbers and testing out the FastLED library.

Code for the build is available in Jensma’s write-up. This also includes tips on using table tennis balls as diffusers, as well as how to create an orderly array out of these spheres—useful in a wide range of projects.

This year’s Arduino Day, held on March 16th, consisted of 659 celebrations across 106 countries with talks, project exhibitions, open activities, workshops, live demos, hackathons, and Ask the Expert sessions.

The Official Arduino Day event took place in Milan, in collaboration with Manifattura (see photos), where Massimo Banzi and Fabio Violante unveiled some important figures on Arduino, including the number of IDE downloads over the last year (28M), active users (863K), and Forum contributors (762K). They also presented the latest additions to the MKR family — the MKR GPS Shield, the MKR RGB Shield, the MKR ENV Shield and the MKR THERM Shield — as well as announced the development of the Vidor Visual Composer.

Other keynote sessions by our team focused on Arduino and the open source community, the winners of the Arduino Day Community Challenge, the new Arduino IoT Cloud, and highlights around Arduino Education.

Were you unable to join us in Italy or tune in to the Arduino Day live stream? Well, we’ve got some good news. You can watch the event in its entirety below, including the AMA with Massimo Banzi!

We are immensely proud of the amazing success of Arduino Day 2019, and we want to THANK all of the communities that helped make this special occasion possible. Already looking ahead to next year? Mark your calendars, because Arduino Day 2020 will be taking place on March 21st. In the meantime, don’t forget to share any images or videos of your Arduino Day fun with the hashtag #ArduinoD19!

Potentially, one of the great things about having a device connected to the network is that you can update it remotely. However, how do you make that happen? If you use the Arduino setup for the ESP8266 or ESP32, you might try [scottchiefbaker’s] library which promises to make the process easy.

Adding it looks to be simple. You’ll need an include, of course. If you don’t mind using port 8080 and the path /webota, you only need to call handle_webota() from your main loop. If you want to change the defaults, you’ll need to add an extra call in your setup. You also need to set up a few global variables to specify your network parameters.

The only caveat is that long delay statements in your loop can block things from working and aren’t a great idea anyway. If you have them, you can replace all your delay calls with webota_delay which will stop the system from ignoring update requests.

The code started from a different online tutorial but packaged the code up nicely for reuse. To do an update, simply navigate to the device with a web browser and use the correct port number and path. From there you can upload a new binary image taken from the Arduino IDE with the export compiled binary command.

The only concern we saw was the code didn’t appear to authenticate you at all. That means anyone could load code into your ESP. That might be ok on a private network, but on the public Internet it is surely asking for trouble. The original tutorial code did have a hardcoded user and password, but it didn’t look very useful as the password was in the clear and didn’t stop you from uploading if you knew the right URL. Dropping it from the library probably makes sense, but we would want to build some kind of meaningful security into anything we deployed.

If you have a network connection, we’ve seen the same trick done with a normal Arduino with a wireless chip. You can even do it over WiFi but using an ESP8266 which you’ll then want to be able to update, too.

Michael Sobolak was inspired by the hardware dedicated to Ableton digital audio software, along with the DIY MIDI Fighter pads that others have constructed, to make his own light-up version

His device is cut out of ¼-inch MDF, housing a 4×4 array of main buttons, 18 smaller buttons on the bottom and eight potentiometers, four of which are surrounded by NeoPixel rings.

To handle this massive array of inputs, he turned to the use of multiplexers, creating a spaghetti-like—though functional—wiring arrangement hidden underneath. The pad uses an Arduino Uno to control the NeoPixels, while a separate board is tasked with the MIDI interface. 

You can see Sobolak’s project crank out music in the video below, with LEDs that react to potentiometer input settings.

Arduino boards are used in a wide—massive even—variety of projects. Sometimes, however, all you need is something to give your project the ability to blink an LED, sound an alarm, or accomplish some other simple task. 

For this purpose, maker Jeremy S. Cook has developed a sort of standard method for using these devices, with a 4-position DIP switch soldered to inputs D9-D12, and a double-CR2032 battery pack attached with shrink wrap.

This standardization makes for a very compact setup that can be implemented in a project very quickly. The configuration also highlights the use of “INPUT_PULLUP” in Arduino code, with switches wired to ground. Cook’s technique avoids floating inputs without the need for external resistors.

It’s wasn’t so long ago that RC transmitters, at least ones worth owning, were expensive pieces of gear. Even more recently than that, the idea of an RC transmitter running an open source firmware would have been considered a pipe dream. Yet today buying cheap imported transmitters and flashing a community developed firmware (if it didn’t come with it pre-installed to begin with) is common place. It’s not much of a stretch to say we’re currently in the “Golden Age” of hobby RC transmitters.

But what if even cheap hardware running customizable software isn’t enough? What if you want to take it to the next level? In that case, [Electronoobs] has an Arduino powered RC transmitter with your name on it. But this is no scrap of protoboard with a couple of cheap joysticks on it, though he has made one of those too. The goal of this build was for it to look and perform as professional as possible while remaining within the hobbyist’s capabilities. The final product probably won’t be winning any design awards, but it’s still an impressive demonstration of what the individual hacker and maker can pull off today with the incredible technology we have access to.

So what goes into this homebrew radio control system? Inside the back panel [Electronoobs] mounted the batteries, charging module, and the voltage regulator which steps the battery voltage down to the 3.3 V required to drive the rest of the transmitter’s electronics. On the flip side there’s an Arduino Nano, an NRF24 module, and an OLED display. Finally we have an assortment of switches, buttons, potentiometers, and two very nice looking JH-D202X-R2 joysticks for user input.

As you might have guessed, building your own transmitter means building your own receiver as well. Unfortunately you won’t be able to bind your existing RC vehicles to this radio, but since the receiver side is no more complicated than another Arduino Nano and NRF24 module, it shouldn’t be hard to adapt them if you were so inclined.

Low-cost consumer RC transmitters can be something of a mixed bag. There are some surprisingly decent options out there, but it’s not a huge surprise that hackers are interested in just spinning up their own versions either.

The great irony of the social media revolution is that it’s not very social at all. Users browse through people’s pictures in the middle of the night while laying in bed, and tap out their approval with all the emotion of clearing their spam folder. Many boast of hundreds or thousands of “friends”, but if push came to shove, they probably couldn’t remember when they had last seen even a fraction of those people in the real world. Assuming they’ve even met them before in the first place. It’s the dystopian future we were all warned about, albeit a lot more colorful than we expected.

But what if we took social media tropes like “Likes” and “Follows”, and applied them to the real world? That’s precisely what [Tuang] set out to do with the “Social Touch Suit”, a piece of wearable technology which requires a person actually make physical contact with the wearer to perform social engagements. There’s even a hefty dose of RGB LEDs to recreate the flashy and colorful experience of today’s social media services.

Every social action requires that a specific and deliberate physical interaction be performed, which have largely been designed to mimic normal human contact. A pat on the shoulder signifies you want to follow the wearer, and adding them as a friend is as easy as giving a firm handshake. These interactions bring more weight to the decisions users make. For example, if somebody wants to remove you as a friend, they’ll need to muster up the courage to look you in the eye while they hit the button on your chest.

The jacket uses an Arduino to handle the low level functions, and a Raspberry Pi to not only provide the slick visuals of the touch screen display, but record video from the front and rear integrated cameras. That way you’ve even got video of the person who liked or disliked you. As you might expect, there’s a considerable energy requirement for this much hardware, but with a 5200 mAh LiPo battery in the pocket [Tuang] says she’s able to get a run time of 3 to 4 hours.

Considering how much gadgetry is packed into it, the whole thing looks remarkably wearable. We wouldn’t say it’s a practical piece of outerwear when fully decked out, but most of the electronic components can be removed if you feel like going low-key. [Tuang] also points out that for a garment to be functional it really needs to be washable as well, so being able to easily strip off the sensitive components was always an important part of the design in her mind.

The technology to sensors wearable and flexible is still largely in its infancy, but we’ve very excited to see where it goes. If projects like these inspire you, be sure to check out the presentation [Kitty Yeung] gave at the Hackaday Supercon where she talks about her vision for bespoke wearable technology.

The modern keyboard enthusiast is blessed with innumerable choices when it comes to typing hardware. There are keyboards designed specifically for gaming, fast typing, ergonomics, and all manner of other criteria. [iot4c] undertook their own build for no other reason than nostalgia – which sounds plenty fun to us.

An Arduino Leonardo is pressed into service for this hack. With its USB HID capabilities, it’s perfectly suited for custom keyboard builds. It’s built into a working Atari 65XE computer, and connected to the keyboard matrix. The Keypad and Keyboard libraries are pressed into service to turn keypresses on the 80s keyboard into easily digseted USB data.

There’s plenty of room inside the computer for the added hardware, with the USB cable neatly sneaked out the rear. [iot4c] notes that everything still works and the added hardware does not cause any problems, as long as it’s not used as a computer and a keyboard at the same time.

It’s possible to do a similar hack on the Commodore 64, too. If you’re doing tricky keyboard builds yourself, you know where to send ’em.

Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have a brain-computer interface that can measure brainwaves. What did they do with it? They gave it to Alma, a golden labrador, as you can see in the video below. The code and enough info to duplicate the electronics are on GitHub.

Of course, the dog doesn’t directly generate speech. Instead, the circuit watches her brainwaves via an Arduino and feeds the raw data to a Raspberry Pi. A machine learning algorithm determines Alma’s brainwave state and plays prerecorded audio expressing Alma’s thoughts.

Alma’s collar duplicates — to some degree — the fictional collar from the movie Up. Of course, Dug was a bit more loquacious. It isn’t very clear from the video how many states the program classifies. A quick peek at the code reveals five audio clips but only one appears to be wired to the recognizer — the one for a treat. We think it might be a harder problem to figure out when the dog does not want a treat.

The last time we saw a talking dog collar it was phone-controlled. If you really want to probe a brain — canine or human — you could do worse than to check out OpenHardwareExG.

Oh. By the way. Good dog! Very good dog!

  • Newsletter

    Sign up for the PlanetArduino Newsletter, which delivers the most popular articles via e-mail to your inbox every week. Just fill in the information below and submit.

  • Like Us on Facebook