Rewind: Some abstract and awesome Arduino projects from 2014

Atmel powers Arduino. Arduino enables Maker. Maker inspires the world. While there are countless creations all over the web, we’ve compiled just a few of the most dynamic and different ‘duino projects from the past 12 months. Feel free to share some of your favorites as well!

Right on pointé


Designed by Lesia Trubat, Electronic Traces (E-Traces for short) are a pair of embedded pointé shoes which allow ballerinas to recreate their movements into visual sensations using an accompanying mobile app.

Chameleon-like jacket


Designed by Oslo, Norway design firm Drap go Design, the Interacket is an ATmega328 powered jacket that lets a wearer interact with the objects around them by mimicking their color.

Click your heels three times and call an Uber ride


Designed by Maker DJ Saul, Dorothy is a physical trigger that can turn a dumb ol’ shoe smart. Adhering to the “if this, then that” principle, the Ruby is an Arduino-based device equipped with a Bluetooth chip, accelerometer and coin cell battery, while its housing is 3D-printed. The small gadget can be either slipped into or clipped onto any piece of footwear and connected to a smartphone app that will automatically call a cab or send a message.

This talking fridge can sell itself


Earlier this year in an attempt to provide shoppers with a less intrusive experience, Samsung equipped a number of its refrigerators with Arduino units that were capable of detecting customers and speaking to them in real-time. Whenever movement was sensed by any of the fridge’s interior compartments, the Arduino sensors activated a voice playback and explained the appliance’s features and benefits to the prospective buyer.

When ‘duino found Nemo


Dutch design group Studio Diip modded an existing tank with wheels and sensors that would allow its inhabitant to operate the vehicle by swimming in a specific direction. The project, dubbed Fish on Wheels, is an attempt to “liberate fish all over the world.”

Color-changing fabrics react to heat and sound


Judit Eszter Karpati, a Budapest-based textile designer, wanted to further blur the fading boundaries between the digital realm and physical world. To do so, the Maker created an e-textile that alters its patterns based on its surroundings, which is made possible by an Arduino board, a 12V power supply and nearly 20 custom PCBs. These components control four industrial 24V DC power supplies that are responsible for heating the two moving textile displays — each of which are woven with nichrome wires, screenprinted with thermochromatic dye, and pre-programmed with Karpati’s patterns.

An interactive fabric you’ll want to touch


Developed by Esteban de la Torre and Judit Eszter Karpati, OCHO TONOS is an audible textile interface for multi-sensorial interaction, involving both touch and sound. According to its creators, the objective of the project was to create a soundscape through sensor technology inviting audiophiles to perform and explore with reactive textile elements. In order to accomplish this feat, EJTech employed an Arduino Mega ADK (ATmega2560).

Re-imagining the radio interface


Audio broadcasting radios have been around since the 1920s. In fact, their control interface share many similarities — knobs, sliders and switches — with those designed by our ancestors nearly 100 years ago. Now, what if we could re-imagine the entire radio control experience to create a more meaningful relationship between the user and the artifact? Seeking to do just that, Carnegie Mellon University design student Yaakov Lyubetsky has developed a fully-functional prototype of his latest The Experimental Form Radio using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328).

Wake up and smell the coffee


For a majority of us, mornings just aren’t complete without your daily cup ‘o joe. Now, what if your instant coffee literally woke you up? Earlier this year, Nestlé teamed with Mexcio City-based agency Publicis Mexico and Los Angeles studio NOTlabs to debut the Alarm Cap — a limited-edition, 3D-printed lid powered by an Arduino. The unique design is comprised of seven distinct alarm sounds, including a bird song, that are played in tandem with a gently pulsing light. To switch off the alarm, the user opens the lid and is greeted with the invigorating smell of Nescafé coffee.

This washing machine orders detergent when you’re out


Cloudwash — designed by the folks at Berg — is a prototype washing machine (based on a standard Zanussi model) connected to a web platform. The team created the futuristic device to explore how the ever-growing Internet of Things would change the appliances most commonly found in our homes, and to discover what new, innovative features would be made possible. With the smart machine, users would be able to remotely program wash loads and even purchase detergent, for instance, all through the touch of a button using its simple companion mobile app. In order to make this a reality, the team modded a Zanussi and intercepted both its connection and system controls by inserting an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280). This would then enable the megaAVR based board to read and write the serial data that was passing to and fro.

A purse that’ll keep you from overspending


Using an ATmega32U4 MCU based FLORA and a real-time clock, the iBag was designed to physically deter shoppers from accessing their credit cards during their most vulnerable moments. The purse is also equipped with an Adafruit FLORA GPS and LED lights that flash when a shopper gets a bit too close to their favorite stores, or as the company puts it, “danger spending zones.” RFID modules record every swipe of a shopper’s wallet leaving the bag and a GSM module can also send text messages to a responsible other, such as a husband, wife, or parent.

A floating orb captures and replays ambient noise


The brainchild of designers Francesco Tacchini, Julinka Ebhardt and Will Yates-Johnson, 

Space Replay is a giant ball that constantly records and replays the sounds of public spaces, creating a delayed echo of human activity. To make the floating orb, the Maker trio used a latex balloon filled with enough helium to be able to lift a battery-powered, an Arduino board, an Adafruit Wave Shield and a small speaker.

Samsung is making your bike smarter


Designed by Italian frame-builder Giovanni Pelizzoli and student Alice Biotti, the Samsung Smart Bike is built around an aluminum frame that boasts curved tubes to soak up vibrations from riding on rough city streets. The frame is also equipped with a battery, an Arduino board, as well as WiFi and Bluetooth modules. Meanwhile, a rearview camera is located between the seat stays of the frame to stream live video feeds to a handlebar-mounted Samsung smartphone.

Designing your own pair of Google Glass


13-year-old Clay Haight recently designed something not many kids would have even imagined: a Google Glass-inspired, intelligent pair of glasses. The young Maker used the sensors on the Arduino Esplora (ATmega32U4) and an Arduino LCD screen, before piecing it all together on a 3D-printed frame.

This robot wants to add AI to everyday household objects


Sure, robotic concepts are dime a dozen these days. The question is, however, how close are we to an era of ubiquitous multi-function droids? According to Flower Robotics, soon. The company is envisioning a future where everyday household items, such as lamps and plants, come to life and move freely about our homes. In an effort to lower the barriers for development and adoption of in-house robots, the Tokyo-based design studio recently launched its futuristic device, Patin. Need an extra hand to carry your groceries? A little more light? A reminder to water your plants? To turn up the tunes? Each of these tasks (and more) can be accomplished by the open-source, Arduino-based bot.

Saying ‘I Love You’ with the IoT


Israeli design student Daniel Sher has developed a trilogy of creations that can transmit silent gestures between loved ones. Using an Arduino for all three devices, the Maker utilized the Internet of Things to establish a new way for loved ones to communicate from afar. With the Atmel based board, the Maker incorporated a series of sensors and wires that allowed various physical traits to be measured and relayed across long distances.

Free beer for your timesheet 


Let’s face it, no one enjoys filling out timesheets — yet they are imperative in order to get paid. That’s why Minneapolis ad agency Colle + McVoy has devised a new way to not only get employees to fill out their time cards, but to reward them with some draft beer. Dubbed TapServer, the multi-keg beer deployment system combines RFID tags and some custom-written software to seamlessly sync with the agency’s time-keeping application. On the hardware side, the program is comprised of several Arduino Uno (ATmega328) boards, a Node-based server, solenoids and a Raspberry Pi.

TinyScreen is a thumb-sized color display


With much of the tech community is abuzz about larger screen sizes, the TinyScreen is here to show customers just how adaptable a miniscule display can be in a world overrun by massive screens. The screen itself is only 1.02″ x 0.98″, with a 0.96” viewable area that features 96×64 OLED display and 16-bit color depth. Powered by an ATmega328P, the device is built to be customized and programmed by the clever user base, both novice and expert. The team champions its one-click ability to download new programs and run them with little interuption. Even better, the TinyScreen comes with some incredibly useful programs, such as a clock display, already loaded onto the unit out of the box.

A modern-day message in a bottle


Created by ECAL graduate David Colombini, Attachment is an ATmega1280 powered poetic machine that enables you to send text, images or videos into the air using a biodegradable balloon with the intention of “rediscovering expectation, the random, and the unexpected” uncommonly found in current means of communication.

A hackable, Wi-Fi-enabled GIF camera


Oakland-based creative lab Next Thing Co. debuted the OTTO, a smartphone-enabled GIF-making camera that allows users to create GIFs one frame at a time, add image effects, and instantly share their creations on the web. OTTO lets users take photos with a real camera, while still being able to easily share them with their friends, family and other favorite people. Photos taken with OTTO are viewed and shared from your smartphone. By attaching an Arduino-powered FlashyFlash to the USB port hidden under the OTTO logo plug, you can easily add electronics to completely change how OTTO works.

Backpack destroys personal data 


The backpack — which was originally designed as an Art Center College of Design project — intercepts data that’s about to go to the cloud and ‘vaporizes’ it at the same time, creating both a real and symbolic shield. The backpack includes an ‘inhaler’ device that attaches to your hand and triggers it either when someone gets too close to the inhaler’s proximity sensor or when you breathe into it. An Arduino board then tells a valve inside the backpack to rotate hot water and dry ice and starts a fan that pushes the vapor out. The backpack can be used both to obscure your own data or destroy the data of those around you.

Taste the music on the radio


Can music be translated from something we hear into something we can taste? A group of students believed so, and decided to find out. Beatballs is a project created by 54 students from the Interactive Art Director program at Hyper Island in Stockholm who developed a code that translates specific songs into different meatball recipes based on tempo, cadence, mood, key, and other tuneful attributes. The team also devised a prototype of a machine made with Arduino and recycled objects.

Turning air pollution into art


Media artist Dmitry Morozov — more commonly known as ::vtol:: — recently found a way to turn offensive pollution into enticing art through a portable, Bluetooth-connected device entitled Digioxide. In an attempt to raise public awareness of the environmental pollution by artistic means, the Maker’s wireless creation uses a set of sensors to measure the presence of gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and even dust in the air, which are translated into volts. An Arduino algorithmically then converts those volts into the shapes and colors you see below. The interactive project utilizes an Arduino Nano (ATmega328), HC-06 Bluetooth module, gas and dust sensors, as well as an LG mobile printer.

Lamp changes color with your mood


The Mood Lamp is an Arduino-based project created by Italian developer Vittorio Cuculo. As the name suggests, the hacked IKEA lamp adjusts its lighting output based on the facial expression of a user.

A shape-shifting, morphing table


Dubbed inFORM, the table is equipped with 900 individually actuated white polystyrene pins that make up the surface in an array of 30 x 30 pixels. The interactive table can display 3D information in real-time and in a more accurate and interactive manner compared to the flat rendering often created by computer user interface. An overhead projector provides visual guidance of the system, with each pin capable of actuating 100mm and exerting a force of up to 1.08 Newtons each. Actuation is achieved via push-pull rods that are utilized to maximize the dense pin arrangement — making the display independent of the size of the actuators. The actuation is achieved by motorized six  slide potentiometers mounted on a custom-designed PBC, driven by an ATmega2560 and TB6612FNGCT-ND motor drivers.

A kinetic-audio installation


In collaboration with FutureEverything and Moscow’s Laboratoria Art & Science Space, media artist Dmitry Morozov has designed a kinetic audio installation that creates quantum entanglement-inspired sounds. The artwork is comprised of six rotating acrylic discs, each equipped with spinning speakers and microphones. The microphones are connected via computer and the rotary axis to the speakers on the discs. In addition, the installation features an Arduino and a Geiger-Mueller counter that detects the ionizing radiation in the surrounding area. The synchronizing phases of the spinning hardware produces feedback, generating sound when the rotational phases are in sync. These sounds are then processed through digital signal processors, which results in the variations experienced by the viewer.

Putting a unique spin on political debates


This interactive installation by Maker Georgios Cherouvim features a real-life demonstration of a vocal debate between two characters. Instead of a productive dialogue promoting their ideas on a range of issues from voting and local government to war and taxes, the “politicians” share a constant yet indecipherable argument with one another, causing the viewers to lose interest in the conversation and politics all together. A rather noticeable dissimilarity between the installation, which is aptly named Debate, and an actual politician showdown is that the figures are actually plastic mannequins. Each character is an autonomous and independent unit, powered by a combination of custom electronics and a conversation-simulating program along with an Arduino Uno (ATmega328).

This wireless iPhone charger is a work of art 


Developed as part of a diploma project by a University of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (ECAL) student, Spira is a magnetic docking station that wirelessly restores power to an iPhone while turning the device into a decorative wall clock. Described by its creator Alica Robbiani as an interactive picture, charger and clock, Spira was built around an Arduino board and the principle of inductive charging. Utilizing a blend of wood, metal and plastic, the Maker sought to devise an ambient frame that would enable a magnetized iPhone case to hang decoratively on the wall thereby giving it a “place of honor in the home atmosphere.”

Etching graffiti for those in the distant future


As we look into the future, have you ever considered how you might communicate with your distant offspring — say 50,000 years from now? Well, German artist Lorenz Potthast has. The Maker has created what he calls a “positive vandalism machine,” for communicating with next generations. The Petroglyphomat is a portable, computer-operated milling cutter that can pass along messages by etching them into ancient monuments.

Long exposure photos reveal invisible motions in sports


Canadian photographer Stephen Orlando has introduced a new way to visualize action sports through the use of LED lights and an Arduino. The technique reveals beautiful light trails, which are not artificially created using applications like Photopshop, and represents the actual paths of familiar objects. Orlando’s long exposure photos turn repetitive, invisible motions seen in outdoor activities such as kayaking, canoeing, tennis, swimming and soccer into enchanted braids of light. Each sport requires the photographer to fine-tune his technique. Orlando’s images use programmable strips of blinking LED lights that are capable of changing colors over time. A custom Arduino-based rig enables him to not only program the color and pattern of the LEDs, but accentuate the movements of whatever activity is being captured. In an exposure of 20 or 30 seconds, for instance, the kayak becomes invisible, yet the trail of light left behind as the kayakers paddle gets picked up and transformed into a vibrant light show.

This lamp mimics thunderstorms


Richard Clarkson has created Cloud, an interactive lamp and speaker system out of an Arduino, fluffy cotton and cloth cord. According to the designer, the Cloud acts as both a semi-immersive lightning experience — or as a speaker with visual feedback — to mimic a thunderstorm in both appearance and entertainment. The outer fluff is fastened to a styrofoam core that’s embedded with the Arduino, LED lights, a motion detector and other electrical inputs.

Gaming system draws actual blood every time your character bleeds


It’s no secret that today’s video games are inching closer to bridging the gap between our digital and physical worlds? But, one Maker project may have taken that concept to an entirely new level. What if, when you were injured and lost blood in a game, you lost blood in real life as well? While the premise may sound completely horrific and downright absurd, a pair of former digital advertising creatives are hoping that their latest project, aptly dubbed Blood Sport, will make donating blood more enjoyable. The technology behind Blood Sport is relatively simple. Using a modified game controller, an Arduino and a sharp needle, a player is hooked up to a blood collection system (like the ones typically used during blood drives). A wire is connected from the controller’s “rumble pack” to the blood collection machine via the ATmega328 based board. That way, every time a player’s character is injured and loses blood in the game, the connected controller vibrates and the collection system withdraws blood.

Experiencing the Northern Lights with Arduino


Many travelers consider the Northern Lights to be a mysterious phenomenon that is nearly impossible to explain to someone unless they have experienced it as well. French graphic designer Bertrand Lanthiez wished to bring that indescribable occurrence to the masses. The Maker traveled to Northern Europe to find inspiration for this illuminating project. He recorded the sights, sounds and happenings throughout his journey. In turn, he created an art installment that would demonstrate the sounds, emotions and visuals that his trip instilled within him. The installation itself focuses on a flat surface sewn with conductive thread, which reveals map of Bertrand’s Northern European trip. Each thread is attached to an Arduino, which scans the touches of the user in real-time. The installation then responds with a series of colors and sounds that recreate the artist’s trek.

Brightening the Japanese waterfront with wind-powered lights


GwaGwa — a creative duo comprised of Makers Masamichi and Kozue Shimada — is known for a number of their innovative installation, hand drawing and stop motion animations. Most recently, the team was commissioned by Smart Illumination Yokohama 2014 to design “Colors of the Wind Way” along the Japanese city’s waterfront. To bring this vibrant idea to life, GwaGwa apportioned 50 wind-powered lighting devices in a grid across the breakwater, which runs approximately 100m (328 ft) in Yokohama Bay. Each device was embedded with a sensor, a wind power generator, a full-color LED and an ATmega328P MCU, each of which were controlled by an Arduino-based program to visualize the paths. Meanwhile, a stepper motor was installed for the generator unit.

This talking foundation wants you to drink more H2O


The Drink Up Fountain — recently created by YesYesNo Interactive Studio in collaboration withPartnership for a Healthier America — dispenses entertaining greetings intended to encourage everyone to drink more water more often. While the Drink Up device may look like a regular fountain, it sure doesn’t sound like one. When a drinker’s lips touch the water, the Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) powered fountain utters phrases like “Refreshing, isn’t it” and “Your feeding one trillion thirsty cells right now,” thereby completing a circuit and activating its built-in speakers. Once the drinker pulls his or her head away from the water, the circuit breaks and the fountain stops talking.

Drawing on glow-in-the-dark surfaces with lasers


An Instructables user named “ril3y” has devised a slick CNC single point projector that can draw on glow-in-the-dark surfaces with lasers, aptly named Laser Glow Writer. The gadget is driven by Arduino Due (Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E), which runs the TinyG CNC motion controller firmware. The SAM3X8E based board then controls the two stepper motors (X and Y axes) in a coordinated fashion, while turning the small laser on/off. Currently, ril3y is converting SVG images to Gcode, and putting them up on some glow-in-the-dark vinyl.

Wearing your Wi-Fi signal


Whereas a vast majority of us are in search of Wi-Fi signals on a regular basis, not many have been on a quest to visualize the networks that keep us connected in order to gain a better understanding of these wireless systems. In an attempt to do just that, architect Luis Hernan created a psychedelic Kirlian Device capable of picking up on Wi-Fi signals and translating them into colored lights. Built around an Arduino and LED lights, the device was tasked with translating Wi-Fi networks into colors — red indicating the strongest signal and blue, the weakest.

A night at the museum — with robots


For several nights back in August, four robots roamed around London’s Tate Britain, each streaming video to the masses. If it wasn’t cool enough to have bots navigate a museum in the dark, it got even cooler as people from all around the world were able to control their movements right from their computers. Built in collaboration with RAL Space, the nocturnal tour guides each featured an on-board Wi-Fi receiver, an Arduino, a Raspberry Pi unit, lights, sensors, a powerful electric motor, and of course, video streaming technology. The units maneuvered around the grounds using a sonar sensor and a custom 3D-printed enclosure.

 Humanoid robot drives its own car


Aldebaran Robotics teamed up with RobotsLab to unveil a NAO robot that was able to autonomously drive a miniature BMW Z4. The vehicle was equipped with an integrated laser range finder linked to an onboard ‘duino, which was responsible for analyzing its surroundings and then relaying steering inputs to the NAO unit in the driver’s seat. In addition, the robot boasted a two-camera computer vision system, a sonar distance sensor, two infrared emitters and receivers, nine tactile and eight pressure sensors.

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