Tag Archives: Bluetooth

playDXTR is a new smart toy that monitors child development

Building blocks for kids just got cooler and smarter.

If there is one toy that has managed to be a staple in every kid’s play area, it’s probably building blocks. But in today’s screen-based world, digital devices lately have been the focus of playtime. Now, the analog building block just got a tech upgrade for the 21st century kid. PlayDXTR is a set of building blocks with embedded technology that can observe, monitor and quantify a child’s cognitive development.


PlayDXTR comes from the playful imaginations of Rene Lund, Mikkel Moos, Frederik Nielsen and Kenneth Madsen at DXTR Tactile. Their goal is to “bring toys toward the future by leveraging modern technology with good old-fashioned play,” and their latest product does just that.

27 different smart and magnetic blocks, called Kubits, make up playDXTR. With its built-in sensors, each Kubit can communicate with other Kubits by registering motion, direction, orientation and relative connections. An accompanying mobile app prompts children to construct things and arrange blocks in certain ways, which creates a stimulating and imaginative play experience for kids.

As the child plays with the blocks, the movement is monitored and analyzed, subsequently delivering data to parents about their child’s developmental progress. To name a few, parents will receive real-time information on their child’s critical thinking, problem solving, planning, memory, motor skills and attention span. Additionally, playDXTR offers insight to games and activities that can strengthen certain skills. What’s great about playDXTR is that it’s a fun toy for kids and a useful tool for adults.


Inside the waterproof, shock-resistant casing of the Kubit are RBG LEDs, a Bluetooth Low Energy module and motion sensors. Funds from the project will help the DXTR team assemble the next generation of hardware, which will include a 32-bit microprocessor, a low-power IMU and a rechargeable lithium polymer battery.

Intrigued? Head over to playDXTR’s Kickstarter campaign, where the DXTR Labs crew is seeking $50,000. Delivery is slated for April 2016.

SmartEgg connects all your remotes to your phone

A truly universal and eggscellent remote for the Internet of Things.

It seems like today we have remote controls for everything and keeping track of them can be a hassle. Our current home entertainment systems alone require more than one remote to rev up our TV, cable box, audio system and DVD player. Do we honestly use all the buttons on each of these remotes? Unlikely. The team at AICO Technologies are making things easier for us by replacing all of those remote controls with just one.


You may be thinking, “But universal remotes already exist!” True, but what’s been on the market is either only for home entertainment or smart home automation. What about the other appliances with controls in our house? Meet SmartEgg, an all-in-one smart remote that pairs to your phone. It not only controls your home electronics, but also your thermostat and any infrared devices via Bluetooth.

SmartEgg is backed with a cloud database that already contains a growing list of over 5,500 remote controllers and 125,000 infrared hex codes, so it can sync your phone to any of your devices. Additionally, SmartEgg has self-learning capabilities for the slim chance that your gadget is not in the database.


Since SmartEgg stores all the control keys of your appliances, you can combine keys from any of those controllers to fit your scene. Its user-friendly interface allows you to customize the control buttons by removing unwanted buttons and reordering them. Now you’ll have a control with only the functions you need. This is ideal for your home entertainment experience. The process of turning on your TV and DVD player, then switching to DVD input and pressing play, is minimized to a single click.

What really sets SmartEgg apart from other universal remotes is its smart technology. Living up to its name, SmartEgg interacts with other devices if certain conditions are meet. For example, it can mute the TV when you’re receiving a call or set the thermostat an hour early before you arrive home from work. The unit employs Bluetooth Low Energy proximity sensing, also known as iBeacon technology, which triggers a scene automatically whenever your phone is detected nearby.


The SmartEgg boasts a wireless reach of 20m (65ft) indoors and 50m (164ft) outdoors, as well as an infrared range of more than 10m (32ft). With SmartEgg, you no longer have the inconvenience of replacing batteries for your various remote controls. Its battery consumes less energy, making it last over 12 months.

Interested? Head over to the SmartEgg’s Kickstarter page, where the AICO team is nearing its $50,000 goal. Delivery is expected to get underway in February 2016.

This biometric band can unlock your touchscreen device

Instead of passwords, what if your tablet authenticated you each time you touched the screen?

Having to continually enter passwords isn’t so convenient, especially when you’re in a rush. With hopes of putting an end to login prompts, two researchers have developed an innovative way of authentication for pretty much any touchscreen device. The brainchild of Christian Holz and Marius Knaust (who you may recall from their earlier project Bodyprint), Bioamp is a smart strap that uses a biometric sensor and a low data rate transmitter to access and protect content on tablets.


“From each touch, the touchscreen senses the 2D input coordinates and at the same time obtains biometric features that identify the user. Our approach makes authentication during interaction transparent to the user, yet ensures secure interaction at all times,” the duo explains.

To test their concept on today’s gadgets, they first created a watch-like prototype. Bioamp is equipped with several electrodes that sense the impedance profile of a wearer’s wrist and then modulate a signal to the body through their skin. From there, the touchscreen obtains the biometric data, identifies the particular user, and continuously grants permission for each interaction.


As Hackaday notes, Bioamp’s electrodes couple a 50V 150kHz signal through a wearer’s finger to the touchscreen, which picks up both the finger’s location via capacitive sensing and the background signal that’s transmitted by the bracelet. This background signal is modulated on and off, relaying the biometric data.

“Since Bioamp senses contact with skin, it is sufficient to collect biometric values initially and then ensure that the same user is wearing the device during further use. When Bioamp detects that the user has taken off the band, it stops transmitting signals, waits for the band to be put on again, and repeats the biometric measurements for subsequent modulation,” the duo writes.


The researchers integrated their approach into a Surface 2 Pro running Windows 8.1 to demonstrate various use cases, which include payment for app store purchases, authentication for emails and notifications, as well as temporary access for sharing photos. Additionally, Bioamp supports logins that require more than one person to be present at a time. For example, two users would need to touch a single login tile simultaneously in order to unlock and open sensitive emails.

In terms of hardware, Bioamp is driven by a Blend Micro. This board features an ATmega32U4 MCU and an nRF8001 BLE chip, which handles the wireless data transmissions to the tablet to compensate for low touchscreen sampling rates. Meanwhile, power is supplied by a pair of 110mAh LiPo batteries.

While some may argue that there are limitations to the design, this idea of making touch interaction convenient and secure is pretty darn cool. You can see it in action below, and be sure to read all about it in their research paper here.

Build your own remote car starter with Bluetooth

With wintry weather approaching, create your own remote start unit for your car using Arduino and Bluetooth.

Remote door locks are pretty standard nowadays, but chances are you don’t have a remote start unit for your car. You could always just buy one and install it, but if you’re (former) Subaru Forester owner Chris Johnson, you would instead design your own using an ATmega328 chip and a Bluetooth module.


His control box, seen as a prototype in the video below, uses a computer to connect to the in-car module and start the vehicle via several relays. It takes into account whether the car is in gear and if it’s running during this sequence. It shuts off when driving, or after 30 minutes. Physically, the starter (now fully inside the black box) connects to the car via a DB-9 connector, so removal for reprogramming was quite easy.

Johnson was able to get information on the engine control module (ECM) via the car’s maintenance manual, but verified these values using an oscilloscope. Of this process, he notes that, “You probably would have enjoyed watching me trying to read the waveform period on the oscilloscope as I drove around the parking lot.”

As with most projects on this site, if you want to try it yourself, proceed at your own risk. Control of a heavy and, though we don’t always think about it, extremely fast object is a serious responsibility. Also, though certainly entertaining, it’s probably best not to ‘scope and drive — get someone to help you! As the wicked wintry weather approaches, be sure to check out the remote starter in more detail here.

SmartEverything is like the Swiss Army knife of IoT boards

The SmartEverything dev board is an Arduino form-factor prototyping platform that combines SIGFOX, BLE, NFC, GPS and a suite of sensors.

Announced earlier this year, SmartEverything is an IoT development platform from Arrow Electronics. Living up to its name, the latest iteration of the SoC, dubbed the SmartEverything Foxboasts a familiar Arduino form-factor with an array of factory-bundled I/O ports, sensors and wireless connectivity.


Impressively, the kit combines SIGFOX, Bluetooth and NFC technologies with GPS and a suite of embedded sensors. An Atmel | SMART D21 at its heart is used to integrate the featured devices, while a SIGFOX module provides IoT enablement.

The SIGFOX standard is energy efficient and wide-transmission-range technology that employs UNB (Ultra Narrow Band) based radio and offers low data-transfer speeds of 10 to 1000 bits per second. However, it is highly energy-efficient and typically consumes only 50μW compared to 5000μW for cellular communication, meaning significantly enhanced battery life for mobile or portable smart devices.


A Telit LE51-868 S wireless module gives design engineers access to the rapidly expanding SIGFOX cellular wireless network and covers the 863-870MHz unlicensed ISM band. It is preloaded with the SIGFOX network stack and the Telit proprietary Star Network protocol. What’s more, the Telit cloud management software provides easy connection up to the cloud.

Truly like the Swiss Army knife of the IoT, the SmartEverything board is equipped with: an Atmel Crypto Authentication chipset; an 868MHz antenna; a GPS module with embedded antenna for localizations applications, which supports the GPS, QZSS and GLONASS standards, and is Galileo ready; a proximity and ambient light sensor; a capacitive digital sensor for humidity and temperature measurement; a nine-axis 3D accelerometer, a 3D gyroscope and 3D magnetometer combination sensor; a MEMS-based pressure sensor; an NTAG I2C NFC module; and a Bluetooth Low Energy transceiver.


The SmartEverything measures only 68.8mm x 53.3mm in size, and includes USB connectors, a power jack and an antenna extending that extend the board. The unit can be powered in one of three ways, either through two AA 1.5V batteries (1.4V to 3.2V), a 5 to 45V external supply or a 5V mini-USB connector.

For quick and easy software development, the SmartEverything Fox board is fully supported by the Arduino IDE and Atmel Studio. Can it get any better than that? If you’re looking for an IoT board that does just about everything, you may want to check this SoC out.

Bring your LEGO projects to life with the Brick Sound Kit

This rocket-shaped device will add motion-activated sound effects to any LEGO or Mega Bloks project. 

“What if there was a way to record our own sounds and play them back whenever we flew our Lego spaceship?” This was the simple question that prompted eight-year-old Chase Freedman to explore his imagination and resulted in the conception of the Brick Sound Kit — an attachable device that allows users to record or download sounds to enhance their playing experience.


Instead of having to actually make the typical “whoosh,””pew pew” and “pow pow” noises  yourself, the Brick Sound Kit enables children (and those who are still kids at heart) to transform their toys into interactive machines. Recreating your favorite scenes from Star Wars has never been so much fun!

The BSK is built around an Arduino-friendly board equipped with an ATmega328, LEDs, light-up buttons, a AAA battery and a gyroscope, all protected by a highly durable, rocket-shaped enclosure. This casing not only functions as a standalone toy, it can easily snap onto anything you build with Lego, Mega Bloks, Kre-O and other compatible brick building sets.


Freedman’s innovation is ready for use right out of the box. What’s more, it can be paired over Bluetooth with the accompanying BSK Sound Effects App, along with other apps and games to add more interaction to the your bricks in just minutes.

And that’s not all. The Brick Sound Kits includes an FTDI USB adapter and cable so you can reprogram the gadget’s capabilities using free Arduino tools. Open source SDKs let anyone build their own apps and games controlled by the BSK. All programming is super simple for users of any age or skill, and will be supported by the team through a developer portal.

The young Maker didn’t do this all by himself; in fact, he collaborated with his father, Chuck, to bring the idea to life — and now Kickstarter. After receiving enormous amounts of great feedback from friends and family, the duo looked into how they could commercialize the invention and make it something that other people could use. The two ended up contracting Boston University Electronics Design Facility to develop the kit’s circuit board and Clear Design Lab of Boston to design the housing.


“The Brick Sound Kit is not only a device for kids. It was also developed to be used by enthusiasts and collectors, that want to enhance the device even further and create their own programs and sounds. All this comes together in a marketplace where sounds, apps and games can be exchanged between Brick Sound Kit users and developers,” dad explains.

Are you ready to make the spaceship of your dreams? Then fly on over to the Brick Sound Kit’s Kickstarter campaign, where the father-son duo is currently seeking $18,000. Amazingly, Chase is actually the second eight-year-old Maker to launch a crowdfunding campaign this year. Over the summer, Omkar Govil-Nair debuted his O Watch, which went on to garner more than $18,000.

Maker builds a pocket-sized chording keyboard

This Arduino-based chording keyboard can communicate over Bluetooth or USB.

Per Brian McEvoy’s Instructables article, “A chording keyboard is a device which relies on pressing multiple keys at once, similar to playing a chord on a guitar.” This type of computer interface can be quite fast as you don’t have to move your fingers off of the home position. In McEnvoy’s case, he designed his keyboard so that it would be extremely portable for a cyberpunk costume he’s assembling.


His 3D-printed keyboard features three thumb buttons and a button for each finger, and uses an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4) to translate key combinations into something that a computing device can recognize. According to his writeup, the seven keys and processor are required, but many of the other components, including the Bluetooth module, accelerometer, battery holder and USB port are optional. On the other hand, it appears one could need either a battery holder or USB port to get power from somewhere, so one of the two is probably necessary.


It would seem like something similar to this running under Bluetooth would make an excellent phone accessory, perhaps as a custom case. The learning curve would be steep, but once learned, this type of accessory could make texting or phone-emails much, much faster.

You can find even more information about how this device came to be on his 24 Hour Engineer site!