Tag Archives: bootloader

Take over the world with this $500 mind-controlled robot

Have you ever thought of controlling your own legion of robots with nothing but your mind? Chip Audette has made that fantasy a reality.


Using OpenBCI, a low-cost programmable open-source EEG platform that gives Makers easy access to their brainwaves, Audette has been able to use just his mind to control a Hexbug Spider.

When he closes his eyes, the robot moves forward; when he focuses on specific flashing images, the robot to turn left or right. Generally, there are two images on a computer screen, each flashing at a different frequency. As the Maker stares at one image, the brainwave reader can assess how quickly the image is flashing and therefore determine which direction to turn.


As with many prototypical designs, there are some glitches, but the fact that Audette has created any sort of functionality for this low cost is impressive. The Maker used OpenBCI’s EEG electrodes and custom brain-signal-processing board, all connected to an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), which serves as the interface between the Hexbug and his computer.

“The PC processes the EEG data looking for the Alpha waves or the visually-entrained waves. If any are detected, it decides what commands to give the robot. The commands are conveyed back to the Arduino, which then drives the remote control, which the Hexbug receives over its usual IR link,” Audette noted in his blog.


Though the current system is limited by the simplicity of its technology, the Maker says, “Ideally, I’d just think the word ‘Fire!’ and the robot would respond. Unfortunately, those kinds of brain waves are too hard to detect.”

As Wired’s Robert McMillan writes, scientific-grade electroencephalography (EEG) monitors can cost thousands of dollars, but thanks to devices such as the Emotiv, there’s been a mini-boom in low cost brain-hacking gear. OpenBCI wants to be the open-source player in this space. Their kit comes with its own mini-computer and sensors that you jack into a black helmet-like device, called “Spider Claw 3000,” that you make on a 3D printer.

“What we really want to do is just provide the hardware to let people being learning,” explains Conor Russomanno, one of OpenBCI’s creators.

Brain-computer interfacing remains a relatively new field of science that offers a wide range of potential uses. For instance, medical grade BCIs are often used to help individuals with damaged cognitive or sensory-motor functions, while more affordable BCIs are being designed to address various neurotherapy applications.

Though these accessible technologies like OpenBCI are more focused upon education, rather than world domination, there is no telling what the future holds!

FTDI’s VM800P HMI dev board packs an ATmega328P

FTDI Chip has expanded its lineup of development platforms with the Atmel-equipped VM800P series.

According to Paul Huang, Display Product Line Manager at FTDI Chip, the VM800 family offers engineers a comprehensive platform to implement more effective human machine interfaces (HMIs) with display, audio and touch elements, as well as data processing aspects.

“These units can be programmed via the Arduino IDE (using a pre-programmed Arduino-compatible bootloader), thereby taking advantage of the popularity that this open source development ecosystem now has amongst the global electronic engineering community,” Huang explained.


“With comprehensive support for various Arduino libraries provided, every VM800P incorporates an FTDI Chip FT800 EVE graphic controller IC and its FT232R USB interface IC, as well as an ATmega328P 8-bit RISC-based microcontroller (running at 16MHz).”

Additional key specs include:

  • Touch-enabled display LCD panel
Backlight LED driver
  • Audio power amplifier + micro speaker
3.5-inch, 4.3-inch or 5.0-inch display form factor
  • USB serial port for firmware upload and app comms
  • Battery-backed real time clock (RTC)
  • Micro-SD socket + 4GByte SD card with pre-loaded sample apps
Runs off a standard 5V via micro-USB cable or direct external supply

“[The] PLUS boards are complete stand-alone display sub- systems based on Arduino with all the attributes necessary to create game- changing HMIs – from the initial conception phase right through to final deployment,” Huang added.


“They can be utilized solely for development purposes or alternatively they will be easy for engineering teams to integrate into end product designs if this is preferred.”

Unit pricing for the VM800P series begins at $89, with Arduino libraries, software and support documentation provided free of charge. Interested? You can check out the product’s official page here.

Arduino Micro helps design the perfect keyboard

Writing for ExtremeTech, Sebastian Anthony reports that Jesse Vincent is working to design the perfect keyboard using an Atmel-powered Arduino Micro (ATmega32u4 MCU).

Vincent has already 3D printed a number of plastic prototypes, with mechanical key switches and (commodity) key caps. Inside the latest keyboard (Mark 13) is a programmable Atmel-Arduino microcontroller that provides a USB interface so the DIY keyboards can be plugged into a PC.

“As an Arduino, it’s programmable directly in the vanilla Arduino IDE. It even includes native support for ’emulating’ a USB keyboard and mouse,” Vincent explained in a recent blog post. “The bootloader is an AVR109 compatible Arduino bootloader. It’s free to use and modify. The hardware design is also free to use and modify.”

On the software side, Vincent says he learned Arduino C and wrote the first fully functioning version of KeyboardioFirmware in an hour and a half.

“It turns out that Arduino really is easy to develop for. I’ve [also] added support for keyboard-driven mouse emulation, multiple keymaps, rudimentary macros and dramatically improved reliability and memory efficiency.”

The next step for Vincent is to prepare the Mark 13 for mass production via a process known as design for manufacturability (DFM). Although every key switch has thus far been hand-wired, the final version will use a printed circuit board that has yet to be designed, along with a hard-wearing material for the keyboard’s chassis.

Interested in learning more about the Mark 13 keyboard? You can check out Vincent’s detailed blog post here.

OpenBCI is a brain-computer interface for Makers

OpenBCI – designed by Joel Murphy & Conor Russomanno – is a low-cost programmable open-source EEG platform that gives Makers easy access to their brainwaves.

“Our vision is to realize the potential of the open-source movement to accelerate innovation in brain science through collaborative hardware and software development,” the duo wrote in a recent Kickstarter post.

“Behind the many lines of code and circuit diagrams, OpenBCI has a growing community of scientists, engineers, designers, makers, and a whole bunch of other people who are interested in furthering our understanding of the brain.”

Brain-computer interfacing (BCI) is a relatively new field of science that offers a wide range of potential applications. For example, medical grade BCIs are often used to help individuals with damaged cognitive or sensory-motor functions. In addition, more affordable BCIs are being designed to address various neurotherapy applications.

“Both neurofeedback and biofeedback are starting to be used more frequently by artists, musicians, dancers, and other creative individuals who want to find new ways of connecting people with the world around them, making more immersive experiences,” the two explained. “There’s great potential for research in psychology and behavior studies with portable EEG devices that can record brain activity in real-world environments.”

In addition to an ADS1299 IC, the OpenBCI is equipped with Atmel’s ATmega328 (+ Arduino’s latest bootloader). Murphy and Russomanno have thoughtfully broken out all the Arduino pins, allowing Makers to blink lights or drive motors. In addition, Version 3 of the OpenBCI board uses bluetooth low energy (BTLE) for data transmission and programming of the ATMega controller.

On the software side, OpenBCI includes code examples written in Arduino, Processing, Python and openFramworks.

“We have no intention of reinventing the wheel, so we are actively working to make the hardware data accessible to all commonly used open-source EEG signal processing applications, such as BrainBay, OpenVibe and more,” Murphy and Russomanno added. “Because you have direct access to the data on the hardware side, making it portable to any existing EEG software is as easy as structuring the way the data is formatted and related.”

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