Using everyday household items to make artificial skin sensors


Researchers have developed a paper-based sensor that mimics the sensory functions of human skin using items found throughout your house. 


Aluminum foil, Post-It notes, sponges and tape are usually not what would come to mind when thinking about embedded technology. However, a team of electrical engineers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has successfully used these everyday materials to create a low-cost sensor capable of mimicking the human skin’s natural ability to feel sensations such as touch, pressure, temperature, acidity and humidity.

paper-skin-1

The aptly named Paper Skin performs as well as other artificial skin applications currently being developed while integrating multiple functions using cost-effective materials. Because of its unique features, Paper Skin could one day transform the field of medicine and robotics by laying the foundations for flexible and wearable multi-purpose sensors, including wireless monitoring of patient health and touch-free computer interfaces.

The engineers developed the artificial skin through a process called “a garage fabrication approach,” combining a bunch of things typically found in any kitchen drawer: tape, aluminum foil, sticky notes and sponges. These household items were then integrated into a paper-based platform connected to a device to perceive changes on electrical conductivity. The team tapped into specific properties of the objects, such as adsorption, elasticity, porosity and dimensions. Even more impressively, the total cost of goods to produce a a skin patch 6.5 centimeters on each side came to just $1.67.

Coloring a piece of the Post-It with an HB pencil allowed it to detect acidity levels, while sponges and wipes were used for pressure and aluminum foil for motion. Increasing levels of humidity, for instance, increased the platform’s ability to store an electrical charge, or its capacitance. What’s more, exposing the sensor to an acidic solution raised its resistance, while exposing it to an alkaline solution decreased it. Fluctuations in voltage were sensed with temperature changes. Bringing a finger closer to the platform disturbed its electromagnetic field, decreasing its capacitance.

109489_web

While this innovation clearly has the potential to be revolutionarily, it still has to overcome a few challenges before a flexible, multi-functional sensory platform can become a commercial product. For this to happen, wireless interaction for the Paper Skin must be developed. Reliability tests also need to be conducted to assess how long the sensor can last and how good its performance is under severe bending conditions. From there, researchers hope to first employ the Paper Skin in the medical setting by monitoring real-time vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, breathing patterns and movement.

Intrigued? You can read all about the Paper Skin project here.

[Images: KAUST]

tinyAVR in 8- and 14-pin SOIC now self-programming


The ATtiny102/104 retain the AVR performance advantage — still a 12 MIPS core with 1KB Flash and 32B SRAM — and upgrade many of the features around it.


At this week’s Embedded World 2016, Atmel is heading back to 8-bit old school with their news, straight to the low pin count end of their MCU portfolio with a significant upgrade to the tinyAVR family.

According to Atmel’s briefing package, development of the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104 has been in progress for some time. We got a peek at the company’s roadmap for AVR where these are labeled “next generation tinyAVRs,” and all we can say is this is the beginning of a significant refresh — alas, we can’t share those details, but we can now look at these two new parts.

What jumps out immediately is how the AVR refresh fills a significant gap in Atmel’s capability. The existing tinyAVR family is anchored by the ATtiny10, a capable 8-bit AVR core running at up to 12 MIPS with 0.5 or 1KB Flash and 32B of SRAM. The pluses of extended availability are obvious at the beginning of the lifecycle, but by the midpoint of a long run, the technology can start to seem dated.

 ATtiny102/ ATtiny104

ATtiny102/ ATtiny104

That is certainly the case for the ATtiny10 introduced in April 2009. At that time, the ATtiny10 was a shot straight at the Microchip PIC10F, with much higher CPU performance and a competitive 6-pin SOT and 8-pin DFN package offering. Outside of the CPU itself, the ATtiny10 and PIC10F line up pretty closely except for two areas: self-programming, and the accuracy of on-chip oscillators and voltage references. ATtiny10 parts require pre-programming from Atmel or a distributor, and its rather wide accuracy specs need help from product calibration and external componentry – however, cost and code compatibility still have a lot of sway, and the popularity of the ATtiny10 was unshaken.

The ATtiny102/104 retain the AVR performance advantage — still a 12 MIPS core with 1KB Flash and 32B SRAM — and upgrade many of the features around it. First and most noticeable is a packaging improvement. The ATtiny102 comes in an 8-pin SOIC (with the 8-pin DFN option still available). For a generation of applications needing more I/O in a low-cost part, the ATtiny104 comes in a pin-compatible 14-pin SOIC with 6 extra I/O pins.

Features for ATtiny102/ ATtiny104

Self-programming of Flash has been added to both versions, and with the same core footprint a single production image for both parts is achievable. Fast start-up time is available as an option as well. The internal voltage references are now highly accurate, with calibrated 1.1V, 2.2V, and 4.3V taps at +/- 3%. Internal oscillator accuracy is now +/- 2% over a 0 to 50 degrees C temperature range at fixed voltage. Those changes prompted expanding successive approximation ADC resolution to 10-bit, and channels are doubled to eight. Two of the I/O pins can now be configured for a USART, adding serial communications capability. A new 10-byte Unique ID provides a serial number.

Those features translate to customer satisfaction with intelligent devices using the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104. The more accurate internal oscillator improves the precision of motor control in personal care devices such as toothbrushes and electric shavers. The calibrated voltage references enable applications where rechargeable battery management is a primary function, for example in the d.light family of portable solar-powered lighting.

For more information on the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104 MCUs, you can check out Atmel’s recent post here.

This announcement, and what I think will follow from Atmel later this year, reaffirms just how important 8-bit is for the future at Atmel. The AVR architecture is beloved because of its simplicity and ubiquity with over 7B cores now shipped. The advances in the ATtiny102 and ATtiny104 are aimed at reducing BOM and manufacturing costs and enabling further innovation in intelligent consumer devices.

Trojan 77 is a gamified simulation of the Trojan virus


Inspired by labyrinth, this project highlights the most significant effects of the Trojan virus.


Developed by a team of students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, Trojan 77 is a gamified simulation of the infamous Trojan virus — a malware that provides unauthorized remote access to a user’s computer. The game, which was originally devised as a tech museum exhibit, aims to shed light on the most important effects the virus.

trojan77.jpg

Much like the labyrinth game you played growing up, Trojan 77 simulates a few key effects of the virus, such as passwords leaking out and files being deleted, culminating in a system failure. To help explain the intricacies of the malware, the team built the project on the metaphor of a maze with players having the perspective of the hacker.

As you can see in the video below, the ball represents the Trojan virus. The player must get the ball to stop at cetain touchpoints throughout the maze by tiling the structure back and forth. Each touchpoint holds valuable data, like passwords and pictures. Once a touchpoint is hit, the data can be then be ‘accessed’ by the hacker. If successful, the vrius will crash the system once the final touchpoint is reached.

projection

“The idea of designing something analog to explain a digital construct was an exciting challenge to undertake. The way that computer viruses operate can be very complicated and hard to explain without overloading people with detailed information,” the team writes. “Making this information visual via animated projections helped to communicate the effects in a fun and memorable way. It also enabled us to communicate the same information to children without any negative connotations, but simply educational.”

Housed inside the wooden structure lies an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and two servo motors, controlled by a joystick that enables the tilting.

 

ATtiny102/104 are self-programmable, 8- and 14-pin tinyAVR MCUs


New tinyAVRs deliver industry’s smallest and lowest power 8-bit MCU on the market today with 1KB Flash.


Making its debut at Embedded World 2016, Atmel has returned to its old-school ways with the world’s highest-performance, low-power, 8-bit microcontrollers boasting 1KB Flash memory. The all-new ATtiny102/104 run up to 12MIPS and integrate features previously only available in larger more expensive MCUs, making them ideal for smaller applications including logic replacement and the latest cost-optimized applications in the consumer, industrial and home automation markets.

TinyAVR_Google_Final_1160x805.jpg

The majority of today’s 8-bit market growth is coming from applications that previously only required discrete components. With many of these requiring simple intelligent functions such as timing, motor control or on/off functionality, 8-bit MCUs are becoming an essential feature for the personal healthcare, small kitchen appliance and consumer markets.

The ATtiny102/104 provide all the necessary features to help spur the growth in these applications with its small, cost-optimized low-pincount package with just 1KB of Flash memory. These features include self-programming for firmware upgrades, non-volatile data storage, accurate internal oscillator to provide more reliable motor control, high-speed serial communication with USART, operating voltages ranging from 1.8V to 5.5V 10-bit ADC with internal voltage references, and sleep currents at less than 100nA in power down mode with SRAM retention.

“Atmel has already sold more units of its 8-bit AVR core-based MCUs than the 7.4 billion people on Earth,” says Oyvind Strom, Atmel’s Senior Director of MCUs. “We continue to expand our AVR portfolio with the new ATtiny102/104 8-bit MCUs. These are the first two devices in our new tinyAVR portfolio that are packed with features optimized for tiny, compact MCU systems such as LED lighting, fan control and other small applications.”

image1

Key specs of these tinyAVRs include:

• 1KB Flash / 32bytes SRAM
• 8- and 14-pin packages down to 2mm x 3mm in size
• Up to 12 MIPS at 12MHz
• Self-programmable Flash
• Accurate (±3%) Internal oscillator
• Multiple calibrated internal voltage references (1.1V, 2.2V, 4.3V)
• 10-bytes Unique ID (serial number)
• USART
• 10 bit ADC and analog comparator
• 1.8V to 5.5V voltage range
• -40°C to +105°C and -40°C to +125°C temperature ranges

The ATtiny102/104 engineering samples are now available with mass production samples slated for May 2016. The latest tinyAVRs are fully supported by Atmel Studio 7. Additionally, designers have access to the company’s embedded software, including the Atmel Software Framework and application notes, as well as the Atmel Gallery ‘app’ store.

Hate clapping? Simone Giertz’s latest machine is for you


Let’s give this project a round of applause! 


Guess who’s back with another robotic solution to yet another problem. Simone Giertz, of course! Any of us who’ve ever had to sit through a graduation ceremony, an hour-long presentation, a tennis match, a ballet recital or a political debate know all too well how annoying having to constantly give an applause can be.

Simone.png

So, as part of her aptly named “There Must Be A Better Way” series, the frequent YouTuber and Maker has developed an automated applause machine. Why? Because “clapping your own hands is tiresome and a cruel practice.”

For the mechanism itself, Giertz employed a pair of kitchen tongs and attached a metal spring below the grippers, then put an oval-shaped DC motor between the two arms. This way, when the motor spins, it forces the tongs to open and close, creating a clapping motion.

“For the machine’s hands, I wanted to find a pair that would create the most realistic clapping sound possible. So I bought four different types of plastic hands from a party-supply store. After some experimentation, I decided that hollow hands made of rigid plastic created the best noise. I fastened them to the tongs’ grippers with small bolts,” the Maker explains.

The machine was brought to life using no other than an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) connected to a MOSFET, housed inside a laser-cut base. What’s more, a slider was added to the front of the device to control the speed. According to Giertz, she can now gradually adjust the applause from a “snarky slow clap” to a “breakneck 330 claps per minute.”

Admittedly, this may be one of her best, most practical and well-polished projects yet. We love it! Now how ‘bout a round of applause for Giertz?! You can watch the future of clapping hands below, as well as read her recent write-up in Popular Science here.

HydroMorph turns splashing water into an interactive display


This MIT team has created what they call a water “membrane” that can shift shapes instantly.


A team from MIT’s Tangible Media Group has discovered a new way to turn splashing water into an interactive display, exploiting the same phenomena you’ve experienced if you ever ran a spoon under a faucet.

HydroMorph_main

Using a series of actuators and sensors placed under a stream of water, HydroMorph is able to change the shapes that result whenever water splashes onto the surface of the device, creating what they call a “dynamic spatial water membrane” that can shift from a flower to a flapping bird to an interactive countdown timer.

“HydroMorph gives a life to water, giving it a voice through its shape change. We envision a world filled with living water that conveys information, supports daily life, and captivates us,” the team writes.

Aside from the water-shaping device, the system is comprised of a computer, a camera, an Arduino (ATmega328), and a water source. As the stream hits the device, various shapes are created based on the actuation data sent from software on the computer through the MCU. The camera, which is mounted above the system, detects physical objects and human hands around the device by distinguishing color of them.

HydroMorph itself consists of a flat circular surface and an array of 10 arrow-like modules, each composed of an actuated block, a linkage mechanism and an Arduino-controlled servo motor. These arrows are arranged in a circle and pointing upward towards the stream.

HydroMorph_device

As a stream of water hits the flat surface, a membrane is formed and each module blocks the membrane to manipulate the particular shape. Using the linkage mechanism to convert the rotary motion to linear motion, servo motors enable a vertical displacement of the blocks. The software, built using Processing, generates the shapes based on the way water reacts to the height of each blocker.

“Imagining this device applied in daily life or in public spaces would give, on a practical level, a more responsive and sensitive way to interact with water. On a conceptual level, HydroMorph expands the vocabulary of interactions with this everyday medium of water,” the group adds.

Some of the use cases include notifying you whether or not water is safe to drink by revealing a full-bloomed or wilted flower, extending the functionality of a faucet by filling one or more cups by directing streams of water into them, as well as revealing the weather forecast by showing the iconic shape of an umbrella or sun.

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s paper, or watch it in action below.

Check the time on an ATtiny 85 ring watch


One ring to rule them all, one ring to tell time!


Watches come in all shapes and sizes, but this DIY ring watch featuring the ATtiny85 is quite a feat of miniaturization! It’s based on two previous posts by Maker Chen Liang, explaining how the watch guts work on a breadboard and how he put a similar design together in a more traditional wrist watch. As he had to use a smaller battery than the breadboard version in his ring, he expects battery life to be around half a year.

Virew1.png

The ring’s ATtiny85 was programmed using a Digispark (as outlined here), and the device’s circuit was set up on three tiny boards for physical flexibility. The circuit board sections included one for the chip, another for the display, and another for three tightly-spaced buttons. These buttons were able to share one analog input pin on the tinyAVR MCU by using a clever technique involving resistors across two of the button circuits. The three buttons were wired into an analog input, giving different voltage reading depending on the button pushed. Since the ATtiny85 could differentiate between these readings, only one pin was needed for control.

Side View

The watch band was 3D-printed, and covered with a clear thermoplastic layer. Although impressive by itself, Liang has plans to “research sync time method, GPS, Wi-Fi + Internet, BLE + mobile phone, and more.” Maybe we’ll see this project expand to a variety of rings that can be worn and linked via Bluetooth depending on what is needed in a particular situation. Do we sense a Kickstarter? In the meantime, check out the Maker’s entire build here.

 

Hear the sound of 300 stars with Arduino


Artist Francesco Fabris created a sonic representation of stars and constellations through a dedicated interface.


Unlike some science fiction movies would have you believe, there is no sound in space. With this fact in mind Francesco Fabris created Stellar. This interactive art installation was designed to be “a sonic representation of stars and constellations through a dedicated interface.”

stellar-e1455661629139

This project takes the form of a cylinder with several important constallations represented below its transparent cover. Inside this cover are two robotic arms which are controlled by hand motions via a non-contact sensors and an Arduino Uno (ATmega328). These arms are used to select the star that is seen and heard.

Once selected, several aspects of that star are analyzed, including temperature, brightness (as seen from Earth), distance (from Earth), frequency, amplitude and duration. These statistics are then represented and displayed as a sound and color. The video below shows the installation in action, or you can check out the “making of” video at the end for more insight into this project.

87422-1024x573

“The project has been developed using Arduino and Max7 software,” Fabris explains. “Data of more than 300 stars and 44 constellations have been stored from the open-source software Stellarium.org, and coded to interact with the robotic arms.”

In addition to Fabris, several other people helped make Steller a reality: Patrycja Maksylewicz, Przemysław Koleszka and Eloy Diez Polo. It looks like this was a huge undertaking, involving quite a bit of programming, and a lot of work at the project’s location to get everything set up.

KeKePad is an ATmega32U4-powered wearables platform


KeKePad is a plug-and-play platform that replaces conductive thread with tiny connectors and thin cables.


Like most Makers, Michael Yang enjoyed using the Arduino Lilypad for his wearable and e-textile projects. However, he discovered that conductive thread has a few drawbacks: it is expensive, it has no insulation and its resistance is quite high. Plus, in order to achieve a tight connection, the wires need to be soldered (which means that it becomes rather difficult to remove if there are any mistakes).

hao7bdiecunyned9pw7h

So, as any DIY spirited individual would do, he set out to solve this problem. The result? KeKePad, a new modular platform that’s 100% compatible with the Arduino LilyPad USB and can be programmed using the Arduino IDE. The board is based on the ATmega32U4 — the same chip that can be found at the heart of the wildly popular Adafruit FLORA — and features built-in USB support, so it can be easily connected to a PC. Like other wearable MCUs, the controller boasts a familiar round shape (which measures 50mm in diameter) along with 12 tiny three-pin Ke Connectors and 11 sew tab pins.

KeKePad-introduction-1024

What really sets the platform apart, though, is its unique wiring and connection method. The KeKePad entails a series of small sewable modules that link together via the Ke Connectors and special cables, or Ke Cables, with crimp terminals. This eliminates the frustration often associated with using conductive thread. With a diameter of only 0.32mm, the wire is extremely flexible, super thin and coated in Teflon.

eitufc.jpg

At the moment, there are approximately 20 different modules to choose from, including sensors for detecting light, UV, sound, barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, and acceleration, as well as actuator modules for things such as LEDs, MP3s, OLED displays and vibrating buzzers.

Intrigued? Head over to KeKePad’s Indiegogo campaign, where Yang and his team are currently seeking $2,000. Delivery is slated for April 2016.

This modified laser cutter can print complex 3D objects from powder


Rice University researchers have modified a commercial-grade CO2 laser cutter to create OpenSLS, an open source SLS platform.


Engineers at Rice University have modified a commercial-grade CO2 laser cutter to create OpenSLS an open source, selective laser sintering platform that can print complicated 3D objects from powdered plastics and biomaterials.

0222_SINTER-Osls-lg-28ae8kd-1.jpg

As impressive as that may be, what really sets this system apart is its cost. OpenSLS can be built for under $10,000, compared to other SLS platforms typically priced in the ballpark of $400,000 and up. (That’s at least 40 times less than its commercial counterparts.) To make this a reality, this DIY device is equipped with low-cost hardware and electronics, including Arduino and RAMBo boards. The Rice team provides more detail around specs and performance in PLOS ONE.

“SLS technology is perfect for creating some of the complex shapes we use in our work, like the vascular networks of the liver and other organs,” explains Jordan Miller, an assistant professor of bioengineering and the study’s co-author. He adds that commercial SLS machines generally don’t allow users to fabricate objects with their own powdered materials, which is something that’s particularly important for researchers who want to experiment with biomaterials for regenerative medicine and other biomedical applications.

To test their concept, the team demonstrated that OpenSLS is capable of printing a series of intricate objects from both nylon powder — a commonly used material for high-resolution 3-D sintering — and from PCL, a nontoxic polymer that’s typically used to make templates for studies on engineered bone.

0222_SINTER-clo-lg-2g0odvn.jpg

It should be noted, however, that OpenSLS works differently than most traditional desktop 3D printers, which create objects by extruding melted plastic through a nozzle as they trace out two-dimensional patterns and 3D objects are then built up from successive 2D layers. On the contrary, an SLS laser shines down onto a flat bed of plastic powder. Wherever the laser touches powder, it melts or sinters the powder at the laser’s focal point to form a small volume of solid material. By tracing the laser in 2D, the printer can fabricate a single layer of the final part. After each layer is complete, a new one is laid down and the laser is reactivated to trace the next layer.

The best way to think of this process, says Miller, is to think of “finishing a creme brulee, when a chef sprinkles out a layer of powdered sugar and then heats the surface with a torch to melt powder grains together and form a solid layer. Here, we have powdered biomaterials, and our heat source is a focused laser beam.”

The professor, who happens to be an active participant in the burgeoning Maker Movement, first identified commercial CO2 laser cutters as prime candidates for a low-cost, versatile SLS machine three years ago. According to Miller, that’s because the cutter’s laser already possessed the right wavelength and perfectly suitable hardware for controlling power and its axes with precision.

Intrigued? You’ll want to see it in action below, and then head over to the team’s Wiki page and GitHub repository to delve a bit deeper.

[Images: Rice University]