Tag Archives: Arduino IDE

The CANBus Triple is like an Arduino for your car

According to Maker Derek Kuschel, there is a massive pool of hidden data flowing around within a car’s computer units. In an effort to display this data, Derek recently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for a device that taps into these binary riches. If you’re someone who enjoys tinkering with their vehicle, you’ll certainly be interested in his new car hacking platform, the CANBus Triple.


CANBus Triple has been developed in hopes of providing an Arduino-style device for cars that can be used to bus data and add awesome functionality to your vehicle.

The Controller Area Network (CAN) is a message-based protocol found in modern automobiles, which carries significant amounts of data all around your vehicle while you drive, with much of it being unavailable to the average driver. In fcat, . Atmel offers a wide range of solutions for CAN networking, including AVR 8-bit RISC microcontrollers and transceivers.

However, it didn’t sit well with Derek that this much data was going to waste; therefore, through a series of three prototypes, he finally developed a system to display this sought after automobile information.


“The CAN Bus Triple gives you an easy way to read and write raw CAN data packets, and perform operations with that data easily,” the Maker elaborates. Using an Atmel ATmega32u4 MCU, the device can read and analyze numerous data sets that are traditionally hidden within the vehicle’s inner workings.


You can use the CANBus Triple to simply watch all the data on your CAN Bus, or send your own packets out to the network. “Simply attaching the two CAN High and Low lines it’s all you need to send and receive raw CAN data packets,” its Kickstarter page explains. “The real fun comes in when you physically cut the CAN Bus and use the CANBus Triple to read and augment the packets. Each packet is read and processed, then optionally sent back out and your car doesn’t know the difference.”

As Derek points out, using this method, one can listen for all of the hidden data on the bus and send it over Bluteooth LE, or even send out your own packets to an in-dash OEM display as shown below on a Mazdaspeed3.


Given the open-source nature of his project, Derek has provided fellow Makers with the coding and schematics needed to produce their own software for the CAN Bus Triple platform as he envisions his project as “a toolkit for adding to and augmenting your vehicle.”

Both the ATmega program and Bluetooth firmware are flashable without any additional hardware, the Maker explains. “You can add functionality to the Bluetooth module and upload the firmware over USB!” Now, add in the fact that the Triple is compatible with the Arduino IDE and can run on multiple mobile platforms, and any mechanic Maker should be ready to rev their engines!

Derek is currently beta testing his machine in a variety of cars. He has used the device in his Mazdaspeed 3 for over two years without a single issue. Next up will be large-scale production, and shortly thereafter hopefully customer distribution by the end of the year.

The open-source car hacking platform garnered just shy of $68,000 in pledges, tripling its original goal of $18,000. For more information about Derek’s project or how you could obtain your own unit, head over to his Kickstarter page.

ATmega328 on board for near space launch

A Maker named Ugifer recently sent a box of electronics attached to a balloon approximately 124,000 into the air.

As Alan Parekh of Hacked Gadgets reports, the balloon was tracked using the Space Near Us system, with Ugifer creating a custom PCB to keep the circuit as robust and compact as possible.

The finished PCB includes an NTX2 radio module, microSD card, DS18B20 temperature gauge, Ublox GPS, a Honeywell pressure sensor and Atmel’s stalwart ATmega328 microcontroller (MCU).

[Atmel’s] ATMega328 MCU is a great option because it can be programmed from the very easy Arduino IDE,” Ugifer explained.

“It will also run on 3v3 but only a 8MHz. However that’s plenty of processing power for reading a GPS and running a low baud-rate radio.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here and the HackedGadgets write up here.

ATmega32u4 + Bluetooth = Blend Micro

RedBearLab has launched the Blend Micro, a mini development board targeted at the Internet of Things (IoT). Powered by Atmel’s popular ATmega32u4 microcontroller (MCU), the board is also equipped with a Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Energy chip.

Blend Micro is compatible with Nordic’s Bluetooth Smart SDK for Arduino, making software development easy via the official Arduino IDE.

So, how does the board work? 

According to the RedBearLab crew, the nRF8001 chip communicates with Atmel’s Atmega32u4 MCU via the ACI (Application Controller Interface). Although the ACI is similar to SPI, it does not actually function as SPI. Indeed, SPI consists of MOSI, MISO, SCK and SS, whereas ACI includes MOSI, MISO, SCK, REQN and RDYN.

“Since the nRF8001 chip may receive data anytime (even when not selected by SPI master) the SS line is not needed. For the ACI, data exchange [is routed] through MOSI and MISO, [while] SCK provides the clock generated by master,” a RedBearLab rep explained.

“When the master wants to request data from BLE Shield, it [shifts] the REQN to low until RDYN line is put to low by BLE Shield. The master then generates the clock to read out the data. After reading out the data, master will release the REQN and BLE Shield release the RDYN, putting them to high.”

The Blend Micro runs at 3.3V to reduce level shifting, since the nRF8001 chip only accepts 3.3V. As such, the onboard LDO converts 5V from the USB power source into 3.3V for the board.

“Normally, you should set Blend Micro to run at 8 MHz/3.3V. However, if you want to run faster and not concern about the reliability (we do not see any issue so far), you can run it as 16 MHz [for a] so-called ‘overclock,’ the rep added.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Blend Micro’s official page here.

Drawing circuits with the Papilio Duo

The Papilio DUO – which recently made its Kickstarter debut – is equipped with both an FPGA and Atmel’s ATmega32U4 microcontroller (MCU).

According to Papilio rep Jack Gassett, the board allows Makers and devs to easily draw circuits, move pins, connect extra serial ports and even link a Bitcoin miner to the ATmega32U4.

“The Papilio DUO is much more than just a hardware project. In fact, the software is the secret sauce that sets the DUO apart from other FPGA boards. It lets you draw up circuits without investing time and energy in learning VHDL/Verilog,” Gassett explained.

“We start with the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and supercharge it by adding circuits into the mix. We bring all of the pieces needed to draw and debug your very own circuits in one place. It’s an easy and seamless user experience that we call Papilio DesignLab for use with both Windows and Linux.”

Aside from Atmel’s ATmega32U4 microcontroller, key hardware specs include:

  • Spartan 6 LX9 FPGA
  • High efficiency LTC3419 switching voltage regulator
  • Dual channel FTDI FT2232H USB 2.0 interface
  • 512KB or 2MB ISSI IS61WV5128 SRAM
  • 64Mbit Macronix MX25L6445 SPI Flash
  • 4 I/O pins arranged in an Arduino-compatible mega form factor
  • Digital pins 0-16 connected to FPGA and ATmega32U4

It should be noted that the Papilio team is also offering a classic computing shield that provides the necessary hardware to recreate classic computing systems on the board, such as:

  • socz80: Z80 Retro MicroComputer
  • ZX Spectrum
  • Commodore VIC20
  • LadyBug Hardware
  • Jet Set Willy on ZPUino
  • Bomb Jack
  • Sega Master System
  • All Classic Arcade Games at Papilio Arcade

Interested in learning more? You can check out Papilio DUO’s official Kickstarter page here.

1:1 Interview with Mel Li (Part 1)

In 2013 there were 100 Maker Faires held around the world with nearly 530,000 people in attendance. Among the events, there are players and exhibitors who showcase their creation to the spectators. Many young techies, savvy tinkers, and even academic researchers are turning to tinkering. According to Makezine, there are over 40 million people who are classified as being part of this broader creative class. Among this creative class, there lies a blend of creative professionals. They are estimated at nearly 40 million people, all who create for a living, and are involved in a variety of fields from engineering to biotech to education to small business. We are witnessing the rise of the creative class – the Maker Movement.

Among this creative class, there are also some Makers who love the blend of creativity, fantasy, and technology in fantasy role-play (also known as “cosplay”). They live and advocate artistry, practice creative fiction, or conduct game play by integrating experimental R&D into their lives. The integration of new technologies into the Maker movement allows people to bring their creative or artistic endeavors from fantasy into reality. Below we interview Mel Li, a Biomedical Engineer and Maker, whose work showcases an illuminating wearable technology. She participates in an entertainment technology fantasy role-play coupled with imagination and real-world integration, all made possible by the advent of embedded mediated digital technologies. Mel Li is a Biomedical Engineer by day and creative Maker by night. Today, this dual-role is adopted by many graduates and researchers who are technologists, passionately wielding technology for artistic expression, research and advancement.

TV: What is your opinion of the Maker Movement?

ML: For me, technology should not only be about practicality, but should also be creative and aspirational. It really exists in the mind and the imagination. Without creative visions from artists, writers, and engineers, we have goals to work towards. I think this is the root cause for a lot of transformative ideas and technologies. For example, Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk classic “Snowcrash” predicted a lot of the Internet and I think many sci fi aficionados can see that current technologies from Google Glass to Amazon quadcopters and self-driving cars owes a lot to creative influences. These advances are a motivation to learn more about the world around us… I think we’re living in a really exciting time. I want to be part of something important that makes a difference. “Making things” makes me feel resourceful; it makes me feel I can do things I did not know I could do.

Also, I am excited to be part of this super trend for wearables. There is a lot of “Maker Movement” in all of us. We have been making for countless centuries. Making is an attitude that isn’t the sole domain of the young, or the old. Today, the tools to build complex or innovative things are simply faster and more available to everyone. Using Arduino, I quickly realized I too could make creatively. It gives me a great feeling that I am a participant in this Maker Movement. A lot of modern technology is now simplified and easily broadcast. On Twitter, I can interact with famous and inventive people; I can tweet with Obama or communicate with the next contemporary cool inventor. 3D printing is not for small one time use or useless parts or useless created things. Technology in general is used to making things in a mass produced way. It’s all changing now. 3D printing is helping make highly personalized products. People make their wedding rings. Doctors and researchers make prosthetics and print unique designs for custom tailored patients. Even still, there are many more uses. Tech is becoming super personal and highly personal, it’s digitally produced, it can be tailored to fit your imagination.

Figure 2: Photo by Benny Lee

Photo by Benny Lee

Most importantly, you can express who you are to people by building their own things. These are the strong pillars, and can cause a resurgence of manufacturing. Prototyping phases are condensed. The risks have been removed with new instruments such as crowd-funding. You no longer have to think about high volume or highly invested factory models. It’s through crowd-funding where Kickstarter tied to R&D can make a lot of sense. Going to a hackerspaces and crowd-funded models to validate, get help, print out whatever is on your mind. Early phases can now be easily proofed and transparently evolved through open-source troubleshooting. The Maker Movement is important. It’s really the first time in digital technology where tools or ideas have become economically feasible and available.

Figure 3: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

TV: Can you talk a little about Arduino and AVR MCUs?

ML: Arduino is one of the best things that happened to Makers, artists and engineers. Arduino is such a great revolution. A lot of people close to me or in my lab research groups use it for personal or professional projects. For example, some have used it for persistence of vision (POV) bike wheel displays, others for piloting hobby drone helicopters for surveying hiking conditions. These machines are now our friends and part of the cast. Whether among friends or professional coworkers/collaborators, Arduino and Embedded design have become part of our discussion and rapport with one another.

This world had become much easier for entry and the barriers to learning are now far removed – allowing more and more people from other core disciplines to get more tightly involved with their ideas. It’s a deeply knitted thread into everything in our lives. In fact, this sort of technology is serving as an invaluable tool. It’s sort of an extension to our imaginations and thoughts.  We are now able to not only have a discussion on the topics or matter at hand, but we can actually work together to help demonstrate and move great ideas from concept to reality. For me, it would have been too taxing and exhausting if I had to program in basic using exotic and difficult learning languages which are really expensive to do without the helpfulness, openness and availability of open hardware, open source, Arduino IDE and Atmel. These things that use to be beyond our limits have now come closer to “easy.”  Now the more important question becomes what we are working towards.

Figure 4: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

TV:  How does imagination and creativity meet technology? 

ML: Imagination and creativity are important for seeing beyond what exists out there and instead looking forward to what could be. Technology is about obtaining the depth to make these dreams real. A lot of my spare time is in the depth of the research or personal build. Technical depth helps pull away the curtain of mystery and make things transparent. It unfolds the creativity with logic and fuses them together with others.

TV:  What is the pursuit?

ML: I like to blend fantasy with reality. I mean simply thinking about it, lots of the tech and smart electronics we use today were once unexplained or unimaginative a decade or so ago. The fantasy world helps unleash abstract concepts in my drawings and paintings. Now there is an availability of technology and lowered barriers for entry such as what you find with the ease of Arduino and forgiving Atmel AVR chips. It’s his ease-of-use which help provide a concrete bridge to formulating my day-to-day work. This technology provides a platform to someone like me, who is immersed into creative/research academia; a canvas to exhibit my work.

Figure 5: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

I have always been a big fan of the fantasy and game world. It’s a relief, pleasure, and balance, being also a research scientist trying to figure out and solve difficult problems. The electronic cosplay collection as a maker help stretch the imagination. The Maker work helps extend my parameters of creativity, lift any preconceived barriers and make thoughts elevate more open. With my graduate research work, the Arduino inspired fluorescent LED costume helps personify the notion of science and tech, where these two disciplines of study are typically not necessary known to be social. When you are in a gaming cosplay, it truly is really easy to share and quickly attract interest. Gaining interest in your project portfolio to present your maker work is not difficult.  When you are at an open convention, people will come up and talk to you… The best feeling is being able to share what you have created.

TV:  What is accelerating the Maker Movement?

ML: Arduino has been so fantastic, with cost and ease of use its primary valued traits. These platforms help me on the weekend. I really like to learn and use motor control and so I have used these controls in a bunch of projects. Time-wise, it’s practical and some of my projects usually took a weekend or week at most.  I used to play a lot of computer games. This led me to building my own computers then I tore things apart to break things and build them back again. It made me feel very knowledgeable and empowered. This whole Maker Movement which is being accelerated more by the Internet, Adafruit, Etsy, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Sparkfun, Seeed Studio, crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, etc…  To me, it’s really doing things in a more sharply defined or distinct ways and building hardware. Making is an attitude that isn’t the sole domain of just the hacker, young techie, or the old adapting to what’s new. Creativity with raw materials, the introduction of digital tools, social sharing, communities, and thriving or developing potential market for wearables or IoT apply to today’s Maker Movement.

Together with the social sharing and instant accessibility, the Movement has become more active. We can find this in academia or even in a social community gathering where people get together with a shared common belief.  For example, Makers and hackers are some of the friends I have at Georgia Tech. We find new platforms to constantly test and stretch our imaginations. Some are building robots together and finding similar pursuits in chasing their imagination. This helps in the exchange of creativity and innovation but also with fostering interesting new ideas. Of course, this all happens when you build something that has a personal expression and share something very meaningful or passionate towards …  Technology has become very personalized.

Figure 1: Inspirational work from Anouk Wipprecht's fashion designs

Inspirational work from Anouk Wipprecht’s fashion designs

TV: How would you characterize yourself?

ML: Well for me, I’m at heart two coalesced into one. I’m a Biomedical Engineer and a Maker. I’ve recently completed a PhD program at Georgia Tech and I’m currently a postdoc over at the University of Washington. At the same time, I really enjoy personal projects. I love to research and create – expand the creative envelope and engage in pursuit of the imagination. This makes me a true Maker at heart. I enjoy pursuing my projects with wearable electronics and I created DIY laboratory automation. Through my creative cosplay and imaginations, I am very passionate around wearable technology as an expression. I have created wearable electronics, which are powered by the Atmel microcontroller and Arduino boards. For example, during this year’s Maker Faire (Bay Area), I showcased some items from my DIY laboratory automation projects which demonstrates how the Atmel MCU and Arduino can be used for low-cost, multi-channel optics control and fluorescence visualization.

Part Two of the interview with Mel Li can be read here.

ATmega32u4 drives Hummingbird Duo robotics kit

BirdBrain Technologies (a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff) has debuted the Hummingbird Duo, a robotics kit powered by Atmel’s ATmega32u4 microcontroller (MCU).

“The Hummingbird Duo is essentially two boards in one,” a BirdBrain rep explained in a recent Kickstarter post.

“It operates as either an original Hummingbird controller or as an Arduino Leonardo with an integrated motor/servo shield and improved connectors.”

According to the BirdBrain rep, the Atmel-based Duo controller will be the core of all new Hummingbird kits, with a second Atmel chip, an Attiny24A, tasked with controlling motors and servos.

“The kits will include various additional components as well: motors, servos, vibration motors, LEDs and sensors,” the rep continued.

“All kit components are soldered with 24′ braided wires and terminate in bare, tinned wire to prevent wire fraying. Securely connecting them to the Duo controller is easy due to Duo’s clear labels and spring-loaded terminal blocks.”

On the software side, Hummingbird supports a wide range of programming environments, including CREATE Lab Visual Programmer, Scratch 2.0, Snap! and the official Arduino IDE. More advanced Makers can also write their own firmware with AVR’s GCC.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered Hummingbird Duo? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

This xylophone is powered by an Arduino Uno

A Maker by the name of LaurenCallahan has created an Arduino-powered xylophone.

More specifically, the xylophone uses an Atmel-based Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and multiplexer to identify when one of 8 keys are struck – playing the selected sound via MIDI on a PC.

Aside from the Uno, key project components include:


9 V battery with Arduino adaptor
  • Arduino to USB connector
  • 8 piezo disks
  • 8 1 M Ohm resistors
  • Protoboards (two separate)
  • Terminal connectors
  • Strips of acrylic and a box (or something to make the xylophone with)
  • Plenty of wire 
16 LED lights (two for each bar, cannot be more than two)
Suitable resistor (Maker used 220 Ohms)

“The multiplexer is key to this project, as it allows you to take 8 analog ins or outs, as opposed to the 6 on the Uno,” LaurenCallahan explained in a recent Instructables post.

“Using one analog in and three digital ports on the Arduino, the multiplexer runs through each input and reads any changes. In this case, the multiplexer reads any change in the piezo disks.”

On the software side, LaurenCallahan uses the Arduino IDE, hairless serial to MIDI converter, MAX MSP, Max Patch and the Arduino MIDI Library. After uploading the appropriate sketch, LaurenCallahan recommends opening Hairless, the MAX patch, the “Audio MIDI Setup” on OS X or creating a loopMIDI virtual port.

“After opening Audio MIDI Setup, go to Window–>Show MIDI Window. Make the selections shown in the second photo in the IAC Driver Properties window, assuring that ‘Device is online’ is checked,” she added.

“Return to Hairless, find your Arduino in the left-hand drop down window, unselect ‘Serial MIDI Bridge On,’ and choose the two options in the photo for the MIDI In and Out. Arduino will not be able to upload anything to the Arduino Uno if the ‘SerialMIDI Bridge On’ option is checked, and your computer will likely crash, so this step is very important.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page here.

An elegant AVR holocron for a more civilized age

A holocron, short for holographic chronicle, is defined by Wookiepedia as an organic crystal-lattice device used to store large quantities of data guarded by the device’s gatekeeper.
 In the Star Wars Universe, holocrons typically stored information on Force techniques, beginning with the Sith and the Jedi approximately three thousand years later.

Up until now, most of us Star Wars fans could only stare wistfully at the holocron rendered on our HDTV screens. Fortunately, NoMuse – aka The Starving Theater Artist – has meticulously created an AVR-powered holocron Instructables thumb drive replica for the masses.

Key project components include:

  • Atmel ATtiny85 microcontroller (MCU)
1/8th Acrylic sheet in pale blue and dark blue transparent
  • Primer
Rustoleum Hammered-Finish metallic
  • Thumb drive
USB cable
  • Super-bright LED

NoMuse kicks off the project by building a shell consisting of 6 pieces of laser-cut acrylic which, in the original kit, are identical in size.

“If you are making your own, you make them in three different sizes — which makes assembly much simpler. I chose to create the ‘overlap’ on this build by gluing little strips of 1/8″ acrylic rod to selected edges,” he explained.

“Since lasers don’t cut at pure right angles (the cut opens up towards the bottom), [this] meant I had to sand the pieces flat again after gluing. And then sand the whole assembly for quite some time after the box was built. Following gluing, and flat-sanding to as clean as possible, prime it, then address remaining seams and divots with Bondo Spot Putty. Sand again, prime again.”

Next, NoMuse painted the shell, fitted it with translucent plastic, laminated the diffused panels with cut-out patterns and engraved his creation. He then chopped up a USB cable, pried the housing off a thumb drive (the wires from the cut-off end of the USB cable were soldered directly to the exposed pins of the thumb drive), fitted the LED lights, inserted a LiPo battery, swapped in a tilt switch and installed Atmel’s ATtiny85 MCU in a specially designed 8-pin DIP socket.

“The AVR chips can do capacitance sensing natively. Atmel even has a free library. But you can also do it through the Arduino IDE, using the capsense library from the Arduino Playground,” said NoMuse.

“The way the library works, the ‘send’ pin is used to trickle a charge to the receive pin through a large resistor. The time it takes that pin to reach threshold is dependent on the RC value; hence, adding the capacitance of a human body changes it. With a resistor of 1 meg, actual touch is required. With ten meg ohms, you can trigger from a few inches away, and with more than that, you can push it out to a foot or more… This also increases the sense time, [so] to keep the rest of the circuit running smoothly I found it was better to stay with a mid-range value.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the the holocron’s official Instructables page here.

Video: Atmega328p MCU drives LINBUS signal injector

Zapta has created a LINBUS signal injector powered by Atmel’s Atmega328p microcontroller (MCU) to simulate an automatic “Sport Mode” button press in his vehicle.

Essentially, the Atmel-powered signal injector connects on a LIN Bus between the master and slave – observing and manipulating the data flowing on the line. 

The device is also equipped with a 115kbs serial interface for programming and logging bus activity on a standard computer, along with two LIN bus ports.

“One acts as a slave and should be connected to the LIN bus master and another that acts as a master and should be connected to the LIN bus slave,” Zapta explained in a recent blog post.

“The firmware includes a set of files named with the prefix custom_ that implements an application specific logic (simulating pressing the Sport Mode button of my car whenever the ignition is turned) and should be modified to match the target logic and behavior.”

In addition, the USB/Serial port is also compatible with the Arduino IDE (emulating an Atmel-powered Arduino Mini Pro) which can be used to edit/compile/download software updates.

“The serial output of the injector can be viewed directly with a terminal emulation software or using the provided script that adds timestamp,” Zapta added. 

”The injector provided sample application is configured for 19,200bps linbus that uses LIN V2 checksum but can be configured for busses with different speeds and checksum formula.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page and relevant files here.

Putting a mini industrial robot arm on your desk

UFactory – located in China’s Shenzhen – has debuted a 4-axis parallel-mechanism desktop robot arm. UArm, modeled after the ABB industrial PalletPack robot, is built around Atmel’s ATmega328 MCU which powers a custom board. 

The platform is constructed with acrylic or wood parts and fitted with standard RC hobby servos.

Most of the unit’s mass is concentrated at the base, which acts as a stabilizing factor while facilitating optimized response time. Three servos on the base control the arm’s primary movement, while a mini servo (on the top) moves and rotates an object.

“Once you got your uArm, you can immediately customize it with your own components. For example, you can add a LED to make a computer-controlled desk lamp, install it on the arm on a mobile robot chassis base and move it around, play music, or make a small assembly line at your desk,” a UFactory rep explained in a recent Kickstarter post.

“The possibilities are infinite; there are many more fun applications that can be done by using your uArm kit. And as you try to make it work, you will learn a lot about robotics and coding. Since it [can] be easily controlled with a smartphone (Android and iOS), people with [little or] no programming background [will] also enjoy the fun of robotics.”

UFactory has also coded a basic Windows app that allows the uArm to be maneuvered with a keyboard or mouse.

“Our embedded inverse-kinematics algorithm [allows] the uArm to be precisely controlled using coordinates,” the rep continued.

“[In addition], we have written an Arduino library specifically for controlling the uArm. So if you are familiar with Arduino, you can program it directly with Arduino IDE. By calling different functions, you can move uArm to [a specific] position without doing tons of hard math.”

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered uArm? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.