Tag Archives: Arduino Pro Micro

This system lets you experience the hidden politics of networks in everyday products

Politics of Power explores how a mass-manufactured products could behave differently depending on the nature of its communication protocol. 

If the U.S. presidential election took place tomorrow, and only power strips were running, at least we would now still have a choice of candidates and political ideologies. Shunning the two party system, design consultancy Automato has decided to create a three types of power strips, each with its own method of distributing electricity.


“With a growing number of networked and autonomous objects as well as the outbreak of fields such as ‘the IoT,’ communication protocols used by connected products are increasingly important as they act as the network’s backbone. Since the end product is ‘black-boxed’ to the user, we often assume that all nodes of a network are equal,”the team writes. “But is it? For example, in a home, two appliances in the same network must be working at the same time, but because of a power shortage, they cannot run in parallel. This bring us to question, who should be given the priority and why?”

Politics of Power is an exploration into these questions on a micro-scale by employing a simple ubiquitous gadget, the multi-plug. These power structures include the generally democratic and physically circular “Model D,” featuring five plugs all running at 220V. In this system, a delegate (socket) is elected and it’s power grows until it’s unplugged. “Model M” is somewhat more repressive, with one plug running at 220v, two plugs at 180v, and three plugs at 110v.


Finally, the “Model T” power strip is most repressive, with one one plug running at 220v, while the other four have to be content with 5V. They protest their situation at times by blinking power on an off, however the leader can shut power off to them if it so chooses. It is noted that this strip can turn into a “Model D” if the leader is taken out of the equation, though one might suspect another socket would rise to power in a violent power grab.

Politics aside, these power strips are controlled by an Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4), with a phase detector to sense changes in current. Meanwhile, a TRIAC gate circuit is used to control the power output to the sockets.

The whole setup is quite interesting, both visually and as a social commentary. This project offers a simplified way of looking at what’s at stake in debates over net neutrality, peer-to-peer networks, encryption backdoors and other modern-day controversies. And as smart devices continue to emerge throughout our daily, it certainly makes us wonder: Who’s actually in charge of making the decisions? Meaning, what are some of the hidden rules, structures and logic behind products such as power strips that were often thought of as being ‘neutral?’ You can see the results in the video below.

[h/t Creative Applications]


What’s the temp in your house? This Arduino-based Nixie tube thermometer will tell you

Because every engineer loves a good Nixie tube thermometer.

If you want to know the temperature, normal digital thermometers, or increasingly the Internet, are usually good enough. Visually though, it’s hard to beat the warm glow and retro look of a Nixie tube. What better way to display this than with a three-digit tube display like Luca Dentella’s build.


His process is outlined in a series of 10 posts that can be found here, or you can just skip to the completed version. The “brain” of this display is a Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4). It uses a thermistor-style temperature sensor, which has a resistance than changes depending on the temperature, to tell how hot it is.

The display is, of course, three nixie tubes. The first thing that’s interesting about the setup is that the third tube shows “°C.” Dentella is using an “IN-19A” tube for this purpose, which can also reveal a number of other symbols. In this case, it shows the degrees Celsius value at all times.

The other interesting part of this design, besides the generally clean layout and printed circuit board use, is that each tube has a programmable LED under it. This allows for a unique coloring, and could certainly have produce many interesting visual effects. Perhaps in another life, this type of display could serve as a sound level meter, with the LEDs pulsing on and off to the beat of the music.


Maker builds a $20 mouth-operated mouse

This DIY mouthpiece allows those with disabilities to easily surf the web. 

Out of more than 170 submissions, Maker Tobias Wirtl’s Mouth Operated Mouse has been named the winning entry in Thingiverse’s Assistive Technology Challenge.


After reading about difficulties those with disabilities face in accessing new technologies, Wirtl wanted to create an affordable and easily accessible device that could enable more people without the use of their arms and hands to navigate the Internet. Even better, the mouth-operated piece can be built for $20 using a 3D-printed case and off-the-shelf components — a mere fraction of the cost of commercial solutions on the market today.

“There are many new technologies that people with disabilities can’t access and in my opinion everyone should be able to benefit from today’s media, especially the Internet,” Wirtl explains.


The mouth-operated mouse moves the cursor by using a mouthpiece, which works like a joystick. Pushing the mouthpiece towards the case operates the right mouse button, while the left button is emulated by a $5 e-cigarette sensor that recognizes when the user sucks air through it. The system is all controlled by an Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4) and can be connected to virtually any PC via USB.

This winning design follows in the footsteps of several other Maker projects, including Hackaday Prize champion Eyedrivomatic, that could ultimately change the lives of others.

Creating fake passports from your personal data

This robotic installation will steal and share your data — with your help. 

The brainchild of ECAL student Martin Hertig, Sensible Data is a unique project designed to show just how easily people are willing to give up their personal information in exchange for fun. The playful installation collects a user’s data, judges their mood, age, gender and beauty, and creates a faux passport that is also randomly sent to another participant without them knowing.


If you think about, what really happens when you openly give your name, numbers and other information online, and where does it go? Although the experiment was done intentionally to test a small sampling’s confidence in how data is collected, it does highlight a much broader privacy issue that exists today, especially in the wake of several mainstream leaks.

The Maker’s exploration is comprised of three machines that are essentially modified versions of the Piccolo CNC, an open source drawing device based on the Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4). Meanwhile, a Raspberry Pi acts as the brain of the installation, running a Python script for every step of the process. Each script listens to the desired input and relays the plotting commands to the necessary gadget.


How it works is pretty straightforward. First, a participant snaps a selfie with an iPad that’s automatically synced up to a Raspberry Pi using Dropbox. A Python script takes this picture and converts it into a line drawing with the help of OpenCV. The user is then prompted to send a blank email to the project’s iCloud address.


From there, the person’s face is analyzed. Upon receiving an email, the Raspberry Pi transmits the previously taken image to the Rekognition API. The facial recognition program is able to properly determine one’s mood, age, gender and their beauty, which is measured as a percentage. This information is stored in a database and inked onto the novelty passport letter by letter using a laser-cut stamp-wheel.


Last but not least, the participant is asked to press a dubious button that is actually a fingerprint scanner. Once the validation step is complete, an email with a matching participant’s data including their fingerprint, photo and email address is sent to the user. (Absurdly, the matchmaking is determined by the amount of lines in the portrait.)

The idea is that, when encountered with a decision, more times than not people are willing to just hand over their likeness, not knowing what will be done with it. Intrigued? Check out the entire project here, and be sure to watch it in action below!

Let this swiping bot pick your Tinder dates for you

This Tinder robot will automatically choose users you find attractive based on your preferences. 

Online dating has come a long way in recent years, especially with the advent of Tinder. While in search of Mr. or Mrs. Right, the app lets you quickly swipe your way to a potential match. But sometimes all that swiping can be tiring for your thumb. And so, Saurabh Datta has developed a robotic mechanism that can do it for you.


The project, which he calls Conditional_Lover, is a robotic swiper that employs a connected camera to analyze profile pictures and then approve or reject users with its two prongs that serve as fingers. To get started, you first select your preferences (age, smile, glasses and ethnicity) which the bot uses to perform actions depending on the extracted information from the Tinder images. As Datta explains, it is intentionally made just to act, not so much to learn. Meaning, don’t count on the device being a substitute for a human matchmaker.


Conditional_Lover was originally created as weekend project, based on the belief that tasks which don’t require human dexterity will eventually be delegated to machines. The unit itself consists of an Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4), two styli attached to servos, limit switches, a Bluetooth module for communication, and a mounted webcam that looks down at the phone screen.

“The underlying intention was to see what it takes for conditional logics to appear as pseudo unconscious AI. A kind of idiosyncratic manipulation of rule-based behavior to achieve different ends, reflecting on human dependency over software decisions,” the Maker writes.


Needless to say, even if it’s just an experiment, the bot could very well be a sneak peek at the future of how online dating. Intrigued? Head over to Conditional_Lover’s page here, or watch it in action below!

Retrofitting an NES console with a Nexus Player

This project doesn’t just boast the features of a media player, it still works as an NES system as well. 

Chances are that, if you have an old Nintendo system lying around, at one time or another you’ve thought about tearing it apart and rebuilding it with a Raspberry Pi. While Maker Adam Haile could never find the time to get around to doing that, he did recently manage to cram a Nexus Player inside his NES console. Even better, the weekend project doesn’t just work as a modern-day media player, it still functions as a gaming system should he want to relive the days of Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and Blades of Steel.  


The low-cost Nexus Player runs Android and packs much more power than the original Chromecast. With this in mind, Haile  knew that this would surpass the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi and even enable him to run NES emulators.

“My main desires for this build was that the NES look completely stock and unchanged from the front and that original, unmodified, NES gamepads worked via the original gamepad ports. Fortunately, this turned out not to be too bad,” the Maker notes.


Unlike today’s gaming consoles, the NES turned out to be pretty simple to pull apart, requiring nothing more than removing a few screws and the motherboard. To do this, he also had to disconnect the power connector and two gamepad connectors.

The Maker used a custom PCB, an Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4) and an NES gamepad library to interface the original controllers to the Nexus Player. 3D-printed brackets were employed to ensure that everything fit nicely inside the NES case, too.


“The reason I use an Arduino Pro Micro is that it is based on the awesome ATmega32U4 (just like the AllPixel) which includes on-chip USB functionality. This makes it really easy to make the board show up as a USB keyboard and send keystrokes to a computer. 100 lines of code was all it took to convert the gamepad button presses (for both gamepads simultaneously) into keystrokes that could be used on anything that supports USB keyboards,” he explains.

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s official page, where you’ll find a step-by-step breakdown of the build along with all of the necessary files and software.

Tracking Bitcoin conversion rates with Arduino and ESP8266

Maker creates a Bitcoin price ticker using the combination of an Arduino Pro Micro and an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module.

What do you do when you have an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module just lying around? Well, if you’re Bitcoin enthusiast Kendrick Tabi, you make an Arduino-based Bitcoin price tracker.


For this project, the Maker decided to employ the combination of the incredibly popular Wi-Fi chip along with a 5V Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4). The ESP8266 interfaces with the Arduino via serial connection, and operates at 3.3V. Meanwhile, two 3.6V Zener diodes handle the logic level conversion.


“Since I am using an Arduino Pro Micro which only has a 5V output, I made a little tweaky experiment to achieve a 3.3V to 3.7V output. Using a two 3.6v Zener diodes connected in series, I managed to get a voltage drop of 1.05V and an output voltage of 3.74V from the 4.79V output of the board. This seems enough to make the ESP8266 work and to prevent overpowering the module,” Tabi explains.


The code running on the Arduino is tasked with checking the CoinDesk API every 60 seconds, retrieving the incoming JSON data and then displaying the current Bitcon price in the serial monitor. While this may be a bit of an elaborate project for simply monitoring conversion rates, it’s pretty cool nonetheless and opens the door to a wide range of potential apps.

Intrigued? Head over to the Maker’s project page here.

AllPixel is like a video card for LED strips

AllPixel is an open-source board measuring just 2.7″ x 0.9” that provides easy USB control of all major programmable LED strips.

Designed by the team at Maniacal Labs, AllPixel — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is a USB interface capable of controlling up to 680 pixels on any popular LED strip equipped with a USB port.


The AllPixel is a small, open-source board measuring just 2.7″ x 0.9” that provides easy USB control of all major programmable LED strips. It is compatible with Linux, Mac and Windows platforms, and can run on any device that supports Python, including Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, or pretty much any desktop/laptop.

“Working with addressable LED strips, we’ve found that the extra components required to communicate with and power them complicate designs and limit the options for how they can be used. Each chipset requires its own special protocol and supporting hardware components. This is where the AllPixel comes in. Think of it as a video card for your LED strips,” its team writes.

At its core, the AllPixel isn’t much different from other boards like the Arduino Leonardo, Arduino Pro Micro, or even Teensy 2. That’s because at the heart of the open-source device is an ATmega32U4, which as its creators note, “allowed them to provide such amazing frame rates, since it is capable of full 12Mbps throughput on the USB Serial connection.

“It [the ATmega32U4] also provides 2.5KB of SRAM, 2K of which is used to buffer the pixel data. Not needing to waste SRAM on the serial buffer was also a huge advantage of using this chip over the venerable FTDI and something without built-in USB support.”


To achieve the speeds they desired, Maniacal Labs turned to Teensy Arduino cores and modded their own variant core. These newly-devised core libraries enabled them to run full USB speed on anything with an ATmega32U4, including their original Arduino Pro Micro mockup.

The AllPixel comes with an assortment of optional user-installed parts to allow for a variety of hook-up configurations, ranging from a 2.1mm DC barrel jack and a 4-pin 0.1” male header to a 1000uF capacitor and 1N5817 Schottky diode. With the 2.1mm barrel jack, an external power supply can be connected to provide up to 5 Amps to the attached LEDs. According to the team, AllPixel can even be configured to power LEDs directly from USB power for short runs.

In order to join and power multiple connected strips, the crew at Maniacal Labs developed the PowerTap, a small board with input and output terminal blocks and a 2.1mm DC barrel jack. They are offering this small board un-assembled, thereby allowing Makers to configure it as they see fit.


“We’ve been working for over a year on a Python animation library called BiblioPixel. Where the AllPixel takes the pain out of the hardware interface to your LED strips, BiblioPixel takes the pain out of controlling your LEDs and programming your animations,” a company rep shares.

Additionally, its companion FastLED library serves as the “universal translator” of the entire operation, which as the team points out, not only knows how to talk to all the different LED strips but is super fast doing it.

Looking for a USB interface for all of your holiday LED needs? You may want to check out its official Kickstarter page here. Originally seeking $5,000, the team well exceeded its goal in a matter of just 48 hours.

Building an ATmega32U4-based FinalKey

The FinalKey is a one-button device tasked with securely encrypting and storing multiple passwords. Interested in building your own? Well, you’re in luck because CyberStalker recently posted detailed DIY build instructions for his FinalKey project.

Key project components include:

  • 1x Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4)
  • 1x 6x6x7 mm Tact switch
  • 1x 3 mm LED
  • 1x 380 Ohm Resistor for LED
  • 2x 4.7K Ohm Resistor for I2C Pullup
  • 1x EEPROM
  • 1x The Final Key Case
  • Thin insulated wire (optional but highly recommended for ease of assembly)

Although building the FinalKey is relatively straightforward, CyberStalker recommends DIY Makers read up on basic soldering, using a hot-glue gun and burning firmware to AVR chips.

Recommended tools?

  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Hot-glue gun and hot-glue stick
  • Micro-USB cable
  • Small wire-pliers
  • Flat-head screw-driver
  • Optional: An ISP programmer like AvrISP-MKii

“Note that the optional ISP programmer is for burning the firmware without the Arduino bootloader,” CyberStalker wrote in a recent blog post.

“This option is the most secure as a bootloader on the chip leaves it open to attackers who could install compromised firmware on your FinalKey if it is connected to a compromised computer.”

CyberStalker kicks off the project by soldering the EEPROM chip to the Arduino.

“I used a bit of SuperAttack glue to hold it in place,” he explained.

“Place the EEPROM directly on top of the AVR chip and align its pins such that EEPROM pin0 is at Arduino pin A0 and EEPROM pin 5 (diagonally opposite of 0) is at Arduino pin 2. Then bend the pins down to holes and solder them in place.”

Next, CyberStalker turned the board around and soldered the two 4.7k pullups. They both connect to pin 15, one to pin 2 and the other to pin 3.

“Cut leads to reasonable lengths and fix the button and LED into the case before soldering the next components. I used a small amount of glue to fix the button, be careful about thin glues and tact switches,” he said.

“Solder a short length of wire to the switch and Arduino pins 9 and 7. Solder a short piece of wire to LED- and Arduino pin 10 and solder the 380 ohm reistor to LED+ [with] a small wire going to Arduino VCC.”

In terms of burning, CyberStalker modified a number of files in the Arduino distribution, so DIY Makers should use the patched files from the FinalKey firmware package.

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