Tag Archives: Atmega32u4 MCU

Makers bring some iconic 1980s tech back to life


Warning: This blog post will cause some serious nostalgia.


Ah, the 1980s. A time when indispensable devices like the personal computer, the Walkman and the portable gaming console hit critical mass and found their way into the heart of pop culture. After being challenged by one of our social followers to do a “Throwback Thursday” post around this iconic period, we decided to highlight some of the most memorable innovations from the decade along with their reincarnations by Makers today. Let’s take a look!

The Walkman

Long before the days of the iPod and MP3 player, there was the Sony Walkman. With one still in his possession, Maker Robot Swans had taken his malfunctioning device and transformed it into a new instrument for his band. Using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) to drive the Walkman’s motor, it can now play a pre-recorded note at different speeds to complement his drum machine quite nicely.

Nintendo NES

The ’80s introduced a new era of video gaming with the debut of NES. Duck Hunt, Blades of Steel, Donkey Kong… the list goes on and on. Inspired by these classics, the Uzebox is a homebrew console based on an ATmega644 MCU that was designed to serve as the simplest device possible with decent enough sound and graphics to implement interesting games. Mission accomplished! For those interested in similar hacks, there’s plenty more, ranging from a Maker who decided to play NES inside a cartridge to another who crafted Super Mario Bros. musical LED sprite pieces.

The Power Glove

While on the topic of Nintendo, who can ever forget the Power Glove? Equipped with traditional NES controller buttons on the forearm, the wearable gaming device failed to catch on in terms of popularity. However, that didn’t stop Maker Greg Sowell from rigging the obsolete NES Power Glove into a psychedelic light suit using addressable LED strips and an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328).

Omnibot

The motorized bot managed to carry out a variety of functions such as transporting light objects, rovering across the carpet, playing cassette tapes and even speaking in robotic fashion via a remote microphone. While reminiscing about his childhood desire to attain an Omnibot of his own, a Maker dubbed “pinter75” decided to teardown the gizmo and give it a full makeover with new paint, stickers, and Arduino control gear. Then, there’s DIYer DJ Sures, who modded a fully-operational Omnibot that he got off of eBay with voice recognition, camera, color tracking, servos and Bluetooth.

The ZX Spectrum

Credited as one of the first mainstream home computers, ol’ Speccy featured classics like Atic Atac, Elite and Manic Miner. Looking to spark up some 8-bit nostalgia, Alistair MacDonald took a broken ZX Spectrum and repurposed it as a fully-usable keyboard that could function with a PC, Raspberry Pi or an Android device supporting HID via a USB host adapter. The project is based on an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328).

Armatron

Manufactured by RadioShack, the crane-like robot seemed pretty high-tech at the time. In hopes of giving the arm a modern-day update, Maker “ckung0400” embedded an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) and used an IR remote to enable its six-motor control.

Teddy Ruxpin

This endearing, animatronic stuffed bear was every child’s favorite storyteller. Thanks to a Portland-based DIYer and self-proclaimed geek father Sean Gallagher, BearDuino is a hardware-hacked Teddy Ruxpin that has been turned into a kit using either an Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32u4) or Uno (ATmega328).

Dot Matrix Printers

Back in the ’80s, these dot matrix machines were considered quite the combination of expense and versatility before they were gradually succeeded by inkjet printers. Well, a hacker by the name of MIDIDesaster has made a habit of turning these dot matrix printers into MIDI-compatible sound generators capable of emitting tunes such as the Macarena and Eye of the Tiger. The DMP is equipped with a stalwart ATmega8 MCU and an FPGA connected to various sectors of the original printer’s circuit board.

The Boombox

Boombastic, very fantastic! Boomboxes became quite the status symbol of the 1980s — whether it was being held in the air by John Cusack in Say Anything to being lugged on the shoulders of hip-hoppers at the park. In order to bring the antiquated gadget into the 21st century, David Watts pieced together one of his own packed with an Arduino, Bluetooth, FM radio and line-in connectivity. It made use of an MSGEQ7 IC for the spectrum visualizer, a Nokia 5110 display, and ran off six AA batteries.

Atari 2600

This system is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and ROM cartridges containing game code. Maker “jolt527” managed to get his hands on a vintage Atari 2600 joystick and used an Arduino Duemilanove (ATmega328) as its input/output controller. The makeshift piece is tasked with directing the output to a seven-segment display to show what is being done with the joystick.

The Clapper

Clap on, clap off… Need we say more? The Clapper was a sound activated electrical switch, which became incredibly popular halfway through the ’80s. MAKE: Magazine’s Jason Poel Smith recently showed off a DIY version of the gadget, not only capable of evoking your lights but appliances as well.

Lazer Tag

Also known as “laser tag,” the game was first introduced by Worlds of Wonder in 1986, while the Lazer Tag brand is now currently a subsidiary of Hasbro’s NERF toy line. A fresh take on the classic activity, Skirmos is an open-source, versatile laser tag system that features an ATmega328P, an Arduino bootloader, a color LCD screen (that acts as a real-time HUD), and an infrared LED.

Simon

Think of it as HORSE yet in digital form. The flash game made for some fun and frustrating times depending on how great your photographic memory and timing were. To combat its tediousness, Maker Ben North and his 7-year-old daughter have built a Simon-playing robot. To detect the lights, the Maker duo connected four phototransistors to an Arduino Duemilanove (ATmega328), while the Arduino recorded the pattern of lights on the Simon and activated the LEGO arms in response to that pattern.

Shoulder Pads

Don’t ask us why, but it was surely a wardrobe staple of the time. Here’s a new spin on a trend most of us would hope never to see again! These glitteriffic shoulder pads shine bright with 50 LEDs that are controlled by an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4).

Apple II

Let’s just say that had the Apple Watch came out in the 1980s, it would’ve looked just like this. Instructables user “Aleator777”  packed a Teensy MCU, a 1.8″ LCD screen, a rechargeable battery, and a tiny 2W speaker for emitting alerts, all inside a 3D-printed shell.

Space Invaders

Originally released in 1978, the laser cannon shooting game led the way for the industry in migrating from just Pong-inspired sports games towards action-packed ones involving fantastical scenarios. However, the pixelated blocky graphic graphics always seemed a little unrealistic. That’s why one engineer has made a real-world version with real-world lasers using the hardware of a modified Whitetooth A1 laser cutter along with a laptop keyboard to serve as its gamepad. Meanwhile, an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) was mounted to a custom 80W laser controller to enable side-to-side movement to help shoot the paper invaders, each clipped to a plate and driven by stepper motors.

Pac-Man

This arcade game was a fixture at ice cream shops and pizza parlors throughout the ‘80s. And today, it can even be found at bus stops throughout Trondheim, Norway. That’s because a group of Makers created interactive stops consisting of pre-cut sheet of plywood, old computer screens, a Raspberry Pi installed with Pac-Man, and MaKey MaKey (ATMega32U4) controlled by aluminum foil tape on the glass front of the poster box.

Show off your colorful side with the Arduino-compatible MangoCube

MangoCube — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is a pocket-sized, Arduino-compatible development board powered by an ATmega32u4 microcontroller (MCU).

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Created by London-based Maker Bhargav Mistry, MangoCube provides developers with an uber-mini, stackable header-friendly board that comes in three versions: MangoCube LEO, MangoCube BLE (Bluetooth 4.0) and MangoCube Wi-Fi. Additionally, it can be found in a selection of five vibrantly colored cases, each of which allow a Maker to express his or her personality.

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“If you think Arduino is fun to program but wish your development board was small in size, cool in appearance and easy to carry in your pocket, then MangoCube is for you.” Mistry shares.

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In order to develop the MangoCube, Mistry specifically developed an Arduino-compatible board, aptly dubbed LeoBoard. The dev board is equipped with an Arduino Leonardo bootloader pre-installed on the chip, enabling MangoCube to be fully-compatible with Arduino software and programming.

MangoCube, which is powered by either a USB via PC/laptop or external 5V batteries, can be used in a wide-range of applications ranging from sensors to remote control capabilities, as seen below.

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Apart from the colorful exterior enhancing its aesthetics, the hard shell ABS case protects the core board. MangoCube’s case boasts some cool features like holes for lanyard, keychain and mounting on uneven surfaces, which making it super easy to carry around.

This small case can also include a Bluetooth or a Wi-Fi board. According to its creator, this extra functionality of wireless communication makes MangoCube a perfect choice for any portable or wireless project. The ATmega32u4 based project, which is currently over on Kickstarter, has already well-exceeded its original £3,000 ($4,815) pledge goal. Interested in learning more or backing the MangoCube for yourself? Head over to its crowdfunding page here.

Designing a DeLorean-inspired time circuit clock with ATmega32u4

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shh….”

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While the DeLorean may have been the most iconic part of Back to the Future’s time-traveling machine, we can’t forget the flux capacitor, Mr. Fusion and of course, the future time circuit display, that made it all possible.

Paying homage to the cult classic, Maker Phil Burgess recently recreated the futuristic clock along with an accompanying tutorial on Adafruit so any movie fanatic could bring their favorite ‘80s movie prop to life. Though the creator admits that he doesn’t own a DeLorean, or any car for that matter, using it as desk or Halloween decor should work just as well.

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The base of the clock is comprised of a set of LED displays in a metal-painted, laser-cut acrylic housing, controlled by an ultra-slim Teensy dev board (ATmega32u4).

Ready to channel your inner Doc Brown? Access the entire step-by-step breakdown of the time circuit by flying over to its official Adafruit page.

Divergence is a wearable EMF detector powered by ATmega32U4

A Maker by the name of Afrdt has created a wearable EMF detector, aptly named “Divergence,” that provides haptic and sonic feedback of surrounding electromagnetic sources.

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As Hackaday writes, after spending two weeks on a boat as an artist-in-residence in Linz, Austria, Afrdt decided to design a dress that detects EMF waves and outputs them to vibration motors and a headphone jack.

“Divergence is inspired by sci-fi aesthetics and real physics and questions the way we perceive our surroundings. It deals with the question of how to create physicality in order to demonstrate and sense the invisible forces that surround us.”

Comprised of soft-circuitry, an [ATmega32U4 MCUAdafruit FLORA sewn into the body of the dress is responsible for providing the feedback.

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“The haptic feedback is experienced in the form of vibration patterns and the sonic feedback in the form of tones that variate in pitch depending on the strength of the signal. The detection takes place through the creation of two embroidered coils incorporated in sleeves of the garment that serve as ‘antennas’ for sensing EM fields.”

In addition, the zipper functions as a low-pass filter and volume control for the jack. One side bears resistive tape and runs to the FLORA, which is programmed to play an 800Hz tone; the other runs to the headphone jack via conductive thread. Hackaday notes that when the zipper is opened, the pitch increases to toward the maximum pitch of 880Hz.

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Interested in learning more? You can head over to the project’s official page here.

ATmega32u4 powers these wearable turn signals

Metasphere, who recently created a motorcycle remote started using an Arduino and a smartphone, has transformed a once-ordinary biker accessory into a “smart riding jacket.” The garment displays right and left light-up turn signals synced with the bike’s own blinkers via the ATmega32u4 powered FLORA wearable platform and NeoPixels sewn into the jacket’s fabric.

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Metasphere — a responsive platform that acts as mission control for Makers’ programable hardware and software projects — allows the data to be instantly relayed from the bike to the jacket, creating a real-time integrated product that communicates a rider’s intentions clearly and safely.

The Metasphere SDK enabled the Atmel based Arduino board within the motorcycle and the FLORA microcontroller embedded in the jacket to communicate with the iPhone via Bluetooth.

Adafruit NeoPixels were then lined up in a symmetrical pattern on a fabric swatch, sewn with conductive thread and sealed on the back with sugru to preserve the connections. Once completed, corresponding holes were cut into the jacket lining. A SparkFun LilyPad Vibe Board, which was stitched into the inside collar, produces a small vibration whenever the jacket comes within range of the motorcycle and completes the connection.

According to the team of Makers, a FLORA Lux Sensor was added to the outer shoulder area to sense outside light intensity and adjust the brightness of the NeoPixels accordingly. Once these NeoPixels were secured into place, the FLORA and XBee LilyPad were tucked securely into a closed inner pocket, keeping them from getting tangled or interfering with the function of the jacket.

To read more about the wearable turn signals, zoom on over to Metasphere website here.

 

The Burning Man vest you wish you had!

Burning Man has arrived. This week, tens of thousands of burners will head into the Black Rock Desert for the seven-day festival. For those descending into northern Nevada, you’ll love this blinking vest produced by Maker Shaidarelam.

Shaidarelam took Adafruit’s advice and has been working arduously on his costume for nearly a year. Using the ATmega32u4 MCU-based FLORA platform, the Maker has made a vest that’ll clearly make him stand out in any crowd, even the eclectic gathering at Burning Man!

According to Adafruit, this is the second iteration of his light vest, as this year’s version will be bigger and better than the one he sported to the festival in the past. Using NeoPixels and some nifty sewing, our Maker has created one of the coolest wearable’s we have seen of late.

By incorporating a microphone, the vest can now react to music and even sports a solar power source. As any festival veteran can tell you, charging capabilities are worth their weight in gold at these events. Using the sun to power this vest is nothing short of genius and will make him an even bigger hit among the crowds.

This smart umbrella tracks air pollution

What if your umbrella could help protect the world from air pollution while it protected you from rain? Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design students Saurabh Datta, Akarsh Sanghi, and Simon Herzog recently debuted an umbrella capable of just that. Appropriately dubbed “Sensing Umbrella,” the smart device has the ability to collect air pollution data during a nice stroll through the park or en route to work.

In order to bring the project to life, the team collaborated with Arduino Co-Founder Massimo Banzi. Created in conjunction with Giorgio Olivero of ToDo Design, the smart umbrella equipped with an Arduino Yún (ATmega32u4 MCU) is tasked with measuring local carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide pollution levels.

According to Co.Design’s Carey Dunne, the umbrella then visualizes this data in real-time through a sparkling LED light display on its surface. “Firefly-like lights change their color and rhythm in response to local pollution levels, spreading awareness of the air quality to city dwellers,” Dunne explained.

“This timestamped and geolocated data gets uploaded to the Cloud–to pollution databases–to be analyzed.”

With the emergence of the latest and greatest ’smart’ designs, this is rare piece of tech that aspires to do greater social good than just quantify and improve our individual selves. “As designers, we wanted to embrace this ongoing revolution of ‘The Internet of Things’ with a clear mission: to actively care for the people who use these connected devices,” Maker Akarsh Sanghi tells Co.Design.

In the long term, the Institute of Interaction Design students hope to generate local maps of air pollution hosted on an openly available web-based platform. “This project is entirely based on open-source hardware and software,” Sanghi says. Though the team doesn’t plan to monetize the project or open a company based on the concept, they do hope to create a worldwide event, or movement, in which crowdsourcing data via umbrella turns every person in society into a node in a larger network.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the Sensing Umbrella’s official page here or watch it in action below.