Tag Archives: Atmel MCU

Hyperalarm forces you to wake up and get moving

This smart alarm will put an end to repeatedly hitting the snooze button. 

Are you a heavy sleeper who can never seem to get up in the morning? Well, you’re in luck. Madrid startup Think Big Factory has developed a smart alarm that combines both sound and motion to get you out of bed. That’s because the only way to shut it off is by throwing off the covers and walking out of the room. In the past, “five more minutes” may have worked with your mom, but the aptly named Hyperalarm doesn’t take excuses.


The device features a sleek, non-intrusive design and connects with an accompanying mobile app via Bluetooth. This allows users to easily set up and manage their alarm seamlessly with both iPhone and Android smartphones. What’s more, Hyperalarm will soon also be compatible with Apple Watch, Pebble Time and other wearables. At just about four inches tall and two inches wide, it can be placed just about anywhere — desk, nightstand, dresser.


The alarm emits high-frequency sounds of varying, interwoven pitches that are nearly impossible to ignore. This prevents a person’s brain from every become accustomed to a simple tone, all while not having to deal with the unpleasant noises that come from a more conventional clock. The team adds that they will be including new sounds with every software update, not just for awakening but helping ease users into a deep sleep and creating special notifications as well.


As for what’s inside of its ABS / polyethylene casing, the gizmo packs an ATmega32U4 MCU at its core along with a Bluetooth Low Energy module, an LED display, 3D accelerometer sensors, a high-quality speaker, and a LiPo battery. Beyond that, Hyperalarm boasts a fail-proof battery system that won’t let a user activate the alarm if the remaining battery is running low. Instead, he or she will be notified via a pop-up alert.

For those days when leaving a room to turn off an alarm might be inconvenient or not practical, the gadget’s Hyper mode can be turned off, transforming it into a simple smart alarm clock. Are you someone who is prone to hitting the snooze button a few more times than they should? Head over to its official Indiegogo campaign, where Think Big Factory is currently seeking €210,000. Shipment is expected to begin in December 2015 — just in time for the holidays!

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).


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).


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.


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.


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.

These origami cranes can bust a move

Origami cranes are cool, but do you know what’s even cooler? Origami cranes that groove to an LMFAO-like beat. 

When inanimate origami no longer suffices, you can always do what multimedia artist Ugoita has done: create a slick electromagnetic stage to bring a quintet of paper cranes to life. The aptly named Dancing Paper project uses several individually-controlled magnets to move the handmade objects from side to side along with a few twirls thrown in the mix. The installation shares the same animation method used in those miniature Christmas village skating pond decorations. In this case, each of the supporting dancers have a line of four magnets, while the featured dancer (after all, every group has a lead) boasts a 5×5 matrix. The 41 electromagnets were wound around bolts with the help of a Tamiya motor and gearbox.

“The actual dance moves are controlled by C code which appears to be running on an Atmel MCU. Of course a microcontroller wouldn’t be able to drive those big coils, so some beefy TO-220 case transistors were employed to switch the loads,” Hackaday’s Adam Fabio notes. “The cranes themselves needed a bit of modification as well. Thin pieces of wire travel from the neodymium magnets on their feet up to the body of the crane. The wire provides just enough support to keep the paper from collapsing, while still being flexible enough to boogie down.”

Watch the whimsical performance below, as the paper cranes pull off a couple of moves that would even impress the likes of Tony Manero and Beyonce!

Video: This snake robot could help search and rescue missions

For years, scientists have pondered as to why some snakes could slither effortlessly through the desert, while others have difficultly sliding up desert slopes. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Oregon State University, and Zoo Atlanta have now come together to solve this conundrum by analyzing a sidewinder snake’s ability to quickly and efficiently climb these sandy hills and slopes, by mimicking that ability with robotic snakes.

“Our initial idea was to use the robot as a physical model to learn what the snakes experienced,” explained Daniel Goldman, Associate Professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Physics. “By studying the animal and the physical model simultaneously, we learned important general principles that allowed us to not only understand the animal, but also to improve the robot.”

Limbless animals, such as snakes, can easily make their way through a broad range of surfaces, which make them quite attractive to robot designers. Researchers using modular snakes have frequently turned to Atmel AVR microcontrollers, as seen in recent projects from International Institute of Information Technology – HyderbadNorwegian University of Science and Technology, and Carnegie Mellon (which also featured roboticist Howie Choset from the latest study).

Published in Sciencethe researchers discovered that the snakes move by waving down their bodies not only side-to-side, but also up and down, and each movement made was at a 90-degree angle from the previous wave. The snakes can therefore control how much their body comes into contact with the sand, as they adjust themselves at different angles of the incline.

These attributes have also led to the exploration of the use of limbless robots during search-and-rescue missions. Given that the slithery machines can snake their way through rubble in a disaster zone, crawl into a collapsed building, or even inspect hazardous nuclear power plants, they are quite the suitable alternative.

Watch as the researchers used the robotic sidewinder snake to simulate how the real-life serpents would move through the sand.

Interested in learning more? You can the entire paper from Carnegie Mellon University here.

Building a Halloween knock box with an Atmel MCU

A Maker by the name of Kyle has constructed a “Halloween knock box” powered by Atmel’s versatile ATtiny45 (or 85) microcontroller. According to Kyle, the box is fairly easy to put together, as basic components include an MCU, a piezo element (amplifier) for the knock sensor and a motor to provide the knocking feedback.

“The motor I originally tried was a cheap 6v [unit] for $2 or $3. Unfortunately, it didn’t have enough torque to move the weighted end and it had several ‘dead’ spots where it wouldn’t engage,” Kyle explained in a recent blog post. “I had even taken careful measurements of the motor’s dimensions and transferred them to Sketch-Up where I created a motor mount and later printed it in ABS. In the end, I rummaged through my junk boxes and found a motor that seemed small enough to fit.”

To make the knocking sound, Kyle took a small section of 12 gauge wire (about 1.5″) and made two loops – one for the knocking end and the other to mount to the motor.

“I used a hammer to tap the loop end of the wire over the motor shaft and used some super strong double stick tape to adhere the motor to the box. I had problems with the motor not returning fast enough and the knocking sound being too quiet,” he continued. “To fix this I put a weight (in this case a bolt) on the end. This gave it more than enough momentum to move the box and allows the motor to return fast. To get rid of that annoying clunk sound when it returns to the resting position, I glued some foam to the back of the weight.”

As noted above, electronic components for the Atmel powered Halloween knock box include a driver for the motor (simple 2n2222 transistor with a protection diode) and an amplifier for the piezo element, the latter of which allows the circuit to detect quieter knocks.

“The amplifier consists of a NTE490 MOSFET which was measured to have a threshold voltage of 1.7v,” said Kyle. “[Meanwhile], the gate is biased at just under 1.7v by a series of 7 diodes and a 11MΩ current limiting resistor. The current is so small that the diodes don’t fully conduct and as such, only drop about 230mV each.”

Once Kyle was satisfied with the operation of the circuit, he drew up a quick board in DipTrace and laid out the board in just under 1.5″x1.0″, allowing it to neatly fit on the smaller side of the box. The board was subsequently etched and populated, with Kyle continuing to test the microcontroller on the breadboard.

“On the software side of things, the microcontroller sleeps while waiting for a knock to trigger an interrupt. Once triggered, TIMER1 begins counting. When the next knock occurs, the current TIMER1 value is recorded in an array and TIMER1 cleared for the next knock. This repeats until either TIMER1 overflows or the array is filled,” he added. “If the overflow event occurs, then the knock timed out and it begins repeating the pattern back with the motor. A special event occurs when either 13 or 20 knocks are registered. When the first occurs, the box plays the Addam’s Family theme song. When the latter occurs, then the box waits for 15 seconds, then randomly begins knocking at the box for 30 second.”

Interested in learning more about building an Atmel powered Halloween knock box? You can check out a detailed breakdown of Kyle’s project here.