Tag Archives: apps

ATmega328 powers open source WatchDuino

Watch-a got on your wrist?

The WatchDuino is an open source project that combines inexpensive electronic parts with complex Arduino (C++) code.

Key project components include Atmel’s versatile ATmega328 microcontroller (MCU), a crystal oscillator, LiPo battery and Nokia’s 5110 LCD screen.

“WatchDuino is not only programmable, it’s fully hackable from hardware to software. You can build your own out of [inexpensive] components [available] at a local electronics store,” a WatchDuino rep explained.

“[Plus], you have the full source code of the watch’s operative system at your disposal. The ability to build the whole thing from scratch and being able to hack at every level of it will greatly appeal to electronics hobbyists and Makers.”

Currently, primary WatchDuino features include:


Time and date (analog and digital output)
  • Alarm / countdown (with custom music)
  • Games (Pong & Snake)
  • Rechargeable battery (via USB) and meter
  • Low-battery mode (lasts up to two years with a 240mAh battery)
  • Integrated screen light
  • Compact design
  • Framework-like architecture to easily program custom screens

On the software side, the WatchDuino can be programmed via two methods: hacking the system itself or simply customizing various features and apps.

“Since WatchDuino’s software is open source, you have the full source code at your disposal to make any modifications you like,” the rep added.

The WatchDuino will likely hit Kickstarter at some point in the near future as a fully assembled device. In the meantime, you can check out the project’s official page here.

Building a Sugarcube MIDI controller

Amanda Ghassaei has designed a portable, Arduino-powered, grid-based MIDI controller capable of running a number of sound-related apps.

The Uno-based (ATmega328 MCU) controller, which recently surfaced on Instructables, is equipped with 16 backlit buttons, used as both inputs and outputs to provide the controller with visual feedback. 

Meanwhile, two potentiometers are tasked with analog control. Depending on the app, the pots are assigned to tempo, MIDI velocity, pitch and scrolling.

“An x/y accelerometer and an x/y gyroscope add some playful, gestural control to the device; most of the apps implement a ‘shake to erase’ control and several respond to tilt in various ways,” Ghassaei explained.

“It boots up into 7 different apps, though it has the potential to boot up into 16 total. This device is primarily a MIDI controller, but I’ve also written an app that allows you to pull the button and analog data into MaxMSP and to control audio.”

According to Amanda, the controller was inspired by both the monome and tenori-on.

“When I was in college, I built a large touchscreen display, based on the Arduinome monome-Arduino clone schematics and code, that worked with all the open source monome applications written in MaxMSP,” she said.

“With this project, I was interested in making a device that was a little more self-contained and relatively cheap to make. This controller does all its app processing itself, it does not rely on a computer to process button presses/analog controls into MIDI.”

Meaning, users can easily plug the Sugarcube directly into a synth or any device that “talks” MIDI.

Interested in learning more about the Sugarcube MIDI controller? You can access the project’s official Instructables page here and the relevant Arduino code on GitHub here. Readers 

may also want to check out previous MIDI-related Bits & Pieces articles here.

Yes, wearable apps are on the way

Writing for ComputerWorld, Matt Hamblen reports that an apps shortage has been a “major shortfall” plaguing many wearable devices. As Hamblen notes, some smartwatches might have only 15 to 20 apps – and often require Bluetooth to connect with a nearby smartphone.

“Compare that number to the 1 million-plus apps in Apple’s App Store or Google Play for smartphones and you begin to see the challenge,” wrote Hamblen. “Analysts expects not only an explosion of wearable devices in the next three years, but an explosion of mobile apps of all kinds.”

Indeed, Gartner has predicted that wearable devices will drive half of all app interactions by 2017, a projection reinforced by the flurry of wearable devices showcased at CES 2014 earlier this month in Las Vegas.

“The level of use of wearable apps is pretty nominal today,” Gartner analyst Brian Blau told ComputerWorld. “But the new cadre of smartwatches shown at CES and things pinned to clothes [or other devices indicates] it is safe to say that there will soon be a way to interact, through a mobile app, that’s in lieu of almost any other way of interacting, including the mobile Web or the desktop Web.”

Blau also confirmed that virtually all vendors are choosing mobile apps to interact with wearable devices.

“Apps are an obvious and convenient platform to enable great products and services to be developed. Our forecast on app usage is based on the basic trends of how many wearables will be out there and basic metrics around app interaction,” he added. “A good portion of what people are going to do will be based on some type of data that originated from a point in the past from a wearable device… Developers will follow the money.”

Wearables to create personal data streams

Did you know that mobile users will provide personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and services every day by 2017? 

Indeed, according to Gartner research director Brian Blau, wearable devices are expected to utilize mobile apps as their primary conduit for data exchange and user interface. As such, wearable devices will depend on apps for all types of user input or output, configuration, as well as content creation and consumption.

“While wearable devices will not fully rely on, or be a slave to, mobile devices, it is a way for manufacturers to keep these devices small and efficient, therefore significantly reducing device costs in favor of using apps, which are more easily maintained and updated,” said Blau.

“Considering their underlying service, most wearable devices need some type of user interface. Taking the example of a fitness-tracking device, ultimately its onboard data will need to be uploaded into the cloud, processed, and then analyzed in reporting back to the user. Apps are an obvious and convenient platform to enable great products and services to be developed [and] by 2017, Gartner predicts that wearable devices will drive 50 percent of total app interactions.”

Meanwhile, Gartner research director Sandy Shen noted that mobile apps often function as a vehicle for cognizant computing – with data gathered via apps and corresponding analytics becoming more important in both volume and value.

“Cognizant computing takes intelligent actions on behalf of users based on their historical data, preferences and rules. It can predict user needs and complete tasks without users initiating the action or interfering with the service,” said Shen.

“It can take the very simplistic format of completing a recurring event such as to turn on the water heater at a preset time, or the more sophisticated format of calling the rescue services and connecting with the doctor when an emergency occurs.”

Clearly, cognizant computing can play a meaningful role at home because residential settings are stable with relatively fixed equipment and the user behavior there is routine or at least predictable. Tasks tend to be linear, in that each stays in its own boundaries with little interactions among different disciplines.

“Smart home solutions will likely span across various brands and platforms in order to become ‘intelligent’ and deliver good user experience. Those that are restricted to a single brand are likely to lose the competitive edge,” Shen added.