Tag Archives: ESP8266

This ‘useless IoT device’ prints out Reddit’s Shower Thoughts

With the press of a button, Thinking Man produces a random amusing thought from Reddit’s popular subreddit Shower Thoughts. 

If you’ve never seen it, the subreddit /r/Showerthoughts is full of brilliant, concise and often hilarious insights that come to mind while, you guessed it, showering. Amidst all of that lathering and rinsing, our brains wander. The question is, what do you think about during your most vulnerable moments?


Cognizant of this, the crew at MAKE: Magazine have developed a “totally useless and ridiculous desk toy” that prints out snippets from Reddit’s infamous feed. With one press of a button, the aptly named Thinking Man generates a random amusing thought from its onboard thermal printer, which is downloaded from the social network via Wi-Fi. The result is an objet d’art (or “work of art”) that can surprise you with its cleverness.

Aside from its thermal printer, this Internet of Useless Things project combines an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), an ESP8266 module and a plastic mannequin head. (You can see how to program the ‘duino, wire the boards, work with code and power up the device referring to its in-depth writeup here.)


“Because the entire response from Reddit is too large for the Arduino to store in memory, the microcontroller has to pick out the relevant data as it is received. The included source code does just that, and can be adapted to read data from anywhere on the Internet or your home network,” MAKE: explains.

With a little tweaking, you can configure your own Thinking Man to produce jokes, or even more useful tidbits such as to-do lists, headlines, weather reports and class schedules. The possibilities are endless. Intrigued? Then head over to MAKE:’s entire write up here, or watch the team’s weekend project video below!

Optimizing crop irrigation with Arduino

To optimize crop yield, this group of Makers developed an Arduino-based irrigation system that uses sensors and a weather station.

As part of a recent hackathon in Madrid, one team of Makers created a grid system to optimize crop field irrigation through an array of soil moisture sensors and a weather station.


Crop Squares (inspired by alien crop circles) was initially conceived as a way to make the irrigation process both sustainable and efficient by continuously reading and sending sensor data. However, the ultimate goal is that that one day, the system can implemented in developing countries and rural areas with scarce resources.

For its prototype, the group employed an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) along with moisture sensors in potted plants to detect moisture levels, and a Raspberry Pi was used to garner weather data for the area under surveillance. Meanwhile, data was wirelessly transmitted through an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module. As a way to show off its automated potential, an Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32U4) was tasked with reading another moisture probe and activating a servo motor that pushed up a water bottle to perform the irrigation process, whenever levels dipped below a predefined threshold.


The project features a graphical touchscreen user interface running Dizmo software that shows a map of the field along with collected sensor measurements. Rectangles assigned to each soil sensor change their colors (green, yellow and red) depending on moisture levels. According to its creators, the display could even share weather station results for that area in real-time.

On the backend, the Makers compiled Node.js runtime and installed the Node-RED workflow tool to deliver sensor information via the IBM Bluemix IoTF MQTT Broker. They also wrote Python scripts based on Adafruit’s libraries to read data from the weather station sensors and broadcast them through MQTT.


Intrigued? Check out their entire project here.

moodLight is a smart box that displays real-time emotion

moodLight is a Wi-Fi-connected desk lamp that illustrates the mood of the online world with beautiful twists of color.

It’s safe to say that social media has not only revolutionized the journalistic landscape, but the way in which we gather news, events, gossip and other share-worthy content. However, wouldn’t it be cool if you could actually see how the world responded to such information? That is exactly what Connor Nishijima set out to accomplish with moodLight — a three-inch tall, USB-powered smart lamp that beautifully shines a spectrum of colors based on the emotion of Twitter users.


To bring this to reality, the Maker collates a sampling of experimental social data from all over the globe and displays that deep connection in the form of nine LEDs. The gadget works by sifting through millions of tweets each day and checking them for several dozen keywords tied to one of six emotions: love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear. These emotions are graphed in real-time, placed on a server, downloaded by the moodLight and then translated into colors that are shown in the form of RGB LEDs inside a laser-cut box.

“For example, ‘I am so proud of my son for getting his degree! I’m going to miss him at home,’” Nishijima explains. “This tweet contains the word ‘proud’ (Joy > Pride > ‘proud’) and the phrase ‘miss him’ (Sadness > Loss > ‘miss him/her/you/them’) making it a bittersweet tweet of both joy and sadness. These emotions would result in a twist of goldenrod and cyan in your lamp.”


The system keeps a weighted moving average of each emotion’s tweet count per minute and uses this to build a sort of baseline average for each feeling. From there, it compares the most recent minute’s data to the average to deliver a percentage value.

In terms of hardware, moodLight is equipped with an ATmega328P at its core along with WS2812B LEDs and an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module that the lamp uses to make GET requests to the moodLighting website every second. While the VPS backend running the service consumes many gigabytes of data per day, it shrinks this content down into 25-byte summaries that the lamp consumes in one-second intervals. Impressively, this amounts to only 2.16MB of data consumed daily — which ends up being smaller than the size of an MP3.

The tabletop lamp can also be integrated with IFTTT, thereby opening up endless possibilities from serving as a basic notification portal to turning on a WeMo bulb or dialing your Nest thermostat to different temperatures based on a particular social media status update. For instance, you can define various combinations of colors for various alerts: flash red twice for an incoming email, blink brown and fade to blue for a UPS package delivery, or emit green if a Fitbit goal is achieved.


What’s more, each moodLight is controllable over UDP packets, making it easy to set your own color combinations. By sending packets very similar to the mood summaries above, you can change the hue of one or more of the nine pixels, set a global brightness level, put the lamp to sleep or wake it up, or stream color data at 30+ FPS, to name just a few. As its creators note, this essentially gives you the functionality of a Philips Hue or LiFX smart bulb.

Looking for new way to stay connected with news? Head over to the moodLight’s Kickstarter campaign, where Nishijima has blown past his $935 goal. Delivery is slated for early next year.

Nelson is a Arduino-powered, Wi-Fi connected device

Nelson is a tiny connected module designed to bring everyday objects to life, remotely.

With so many gizmos and gadgets becoming connected these days, sometimes it’s the simplistic ideas that stand out the most. Take Nelson, for example. Created by interaction designer Maxime Castelli, the tiny Wi-Fi module enables you to remotely control the mundane tasks in your everyday life. Need to feed the cat? Start the coffee machine as you wake up? Water the plants while away? This mechanism, though basic, can take care of all that for you.


Nelson is nothing more than an Arduino-powered robotic helper that’s based on the back and forth motion, like pushing a switch. Being wirelessly connected to the Internet allows you to control it from afar using an accompanying mobile app, along with pre-defined triggers that require just a push of a button. The project works seamlessly with your Wi-Fi devices, moving its little rod to and fro’ to carry out a variety of functions, which range from steeping the perfect cup of tea to turning on a fan.

Completed with the help of fellow designer Arthur Didier, Nelson is driven by an embedded Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4) that is linked to Wi-Fi via a ESP8266 module with a servo motor. The app itself was made with openFrameworks. Intrigued? Check out the project’s official page here, or see its different use cases in action below.

Node.IT is like the LEGO for building IoT devices

Node.IT is a super small and extendable Internet of Things system for Makers. 

It’s safe to say that one size does not fit all when it comes to DIY electronics. This has led countless Makers to embrace interchangeable, easy-to-use components like littleBits when beginning to tinker around with an idea. With aspirations of becoming the LEGO for the Internet of Things, Pontus Oldberg has developed a family of modules with different functions that can be stacked to create wide range of smart projects.


The concept for Node.IT was first conceived following the launch of the highly-popular ESP8266, an inexpensive, self-contained Wi-Fi SoC. Oldberg and his team had explored various ways of interfacing the device to other processors, but not before long discovered that the chip was already powerful enough to perform most tasks. And so, the ESP8266 was chosen to be at the heart of Node.IT’s base controller, which packs 4Mb of Flash, an efficient voltage regulator and can be programmed via microUSB.

“We quickly realized that if we created a base controller with a minimum set of features such as the ESP8266, a USB to Serial transceiver and a simple voltage regulator you end up with a completely autonomous board that can be hooked up to a USB port and programmed directly, without any other circuitry,” Oldberg writes.

This steered its creators toward the ESP210, a 27mm x 17mm module complete with everything needed to configure the device and hook it up to a wireless network. While the MCU itself was very expandable and provided easy access to all the GPIOs of the processor, it was rather cumbersome to build some of the necessary add-ons. Subsequently, Oldberg designed what he calls the +One and WorkStation boards to establish an entire infrastructure around the ESP210.


Similar to the Microduino mCookie and several others, the +One boards can be stacked on top of one another with LEGO-like ease. There’s currently a handful of +Ones available, including a Li-ion charger, an enviornmental sensor, a GPIO expander, a four-channel 12/16-bit A/D converter, a battery-backed real-time clock, as well as a two-channel DC driver that is in the works.

The final member of the family, the WorkStation, acts as the carrier board for the entire Node.IT stack. Equipped with an Atmel | SMART SAM D10, these microcontrollers expand the ESP210 with up to eight analog (12- or 16-bit) ADC channels, eight normal GPIO lines, and six timer/counter/PWM pins.

“The +One boards works very much like Lego bricks in that they plug on to the headers of the ESP210. The WorkStation boards can be considered the reverse of the +One boards in that the ESP210 plugs in to the WorkStation board. This way we can build add-on boards that can build in every direction.”


Makers can code their devices using a custom Ecosphere program, which was built around the Arduino IDE. Oldberg shares, “Any software libraries that are required for +One or WorkStation boards or features required for the ESP210 to do its job will be developed for the Arduino SDK. By using the Arduino IDE and its vast library of functionality you as a developer have endless possibilities when it comes to develop functionality for your systems.”

Sound like an IoT system you’d like to try? Head over to its Kickstarter page here. You can also find all of the drivers and related software for the Node.IT project on its GitHub page.

Building an IoT coffee maker with realtime capacity monitoring

Now you can see how much coffee is left in the pot without leaving your chair. 

You’ve all been in the situation before: You arrive at the office coffee maker in the morning only to find that it’s empty. If only you could curb that disappointment with realtime reporting on exactly how much coffee is left in the pot. Well fortunately for you, PubNub has harnessed the power of the ATmega328P MCU and the PubNub Data Stream Network to build the IoT Coffee Maker with realtime coffee capacity monitoring. The project works by collecting coffee volume levels and then streams the data in realtime to a live-updating UI.

In the video below, the coffee maker’s creator Kurt Clothier introduces his project, walks through some of the steps to build it, and shows it in action. If you want to get to creating one for yourself or your workplace, be sure to check out the entire IoT coffee pot tutorial and live demo on PubNub.

In a nutshell, the Atmel IoT coffee pot gathers volume data based on the weight of the coffee pot using a scale. The ATmega328P MCU is the brains behind the operation, while an ESP8266 is used for Internet connection. The volume data is then sent to a realtime web UI and visualized in realtime via PubNub Pub/Sub Messaging and the EON JavaScript framework.

atmel iot coffee maker diagram

The project requires the following:

Web UI updates the % of coffee left in realtime.

Web UI updates the % of coffee left in realtime.

Obviously, this tutorial can be expanded outside the kitchen to a broad number of powerful IoT use cases. With this same design, you can track readings from any number of sensors, and stream its data in realtime to any number of subscribers in realtime. Thinking big, you can implement similar technology in large scale industrial IoT settings, like agriculture, oil or medical.

You can even get rid of the scale altogether and use these concepts to collect data from anything with a segmented LCD screen. With that said, Clothier and the PubNub team would love to see what you come up with, so be sure to let them know about your awesome project! But for now, let’s enjoy the fact that we know exactly what percentage of the coffee pot is full.

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.

Piccolino is a Wi-Fi-enabled, Arduino-like board with an OLED display

Piccolino is like an Arduino on steroids.

For years, Alex Sardo has been on the prowl for a way to embed an OLED display into a project and to devise a remote-controlled appliance. She has found that such interfaces, while easy to embed, were either too expensive, not voltage compatible or too bulky. And so, the Maker sought out to create a low-cost alternative platform that would offer users a quick and simple way to deploy new designs. Recently launched on Kickstarter, the aptly-named Piccolino does just that.


It is an affordable yet powerful programmable controller equipped with an OLED display and Wi-Fi connectivity that allows Makers to program using existing tools such as the Arduino IDE and ESPlorer IDE. Based on an ATmega328P, the pint-sized platform (only 1.2″ x 1.2″ x 0.7”) adds a pair of individual capacitance touch inputs on the bezel, a bright 0.96″ OLED display, 32KB of SRAM, a microSD card and a powerful ESP8266 LUA Wi-Fi module, which takes care of the connectivity workload with just three lines of code. Furthermore, this module can be configured both as an Access Point or a Station, enabling users to develop mobile device-controlled appliances in a jiffy.

“Adding the ability for cloud-enabled devices, web alarms, event-driven email or text message notifications to phone or tablet, remote web-controlled appliances, Wi-Fi signal strength meters, monitors, loggers, network scanners has never been easier,” Sardo writes.


The so-called “Arduino on steroids” can be employed as a standalone device with an external battery, embedded into any range of custom designs or used for educational purposes. Beyond that, Makers can showcase their personality on their Piccolino through a custom 3D-printed shell.

As an open-source project, the Piccolino team will be releasing each of the necessary sample sketches, LUA scripts and optimized libraries in the coming weeks. Later this year, they will also be launching a Piccolino Gateway that will give Makers the ability to leverage their servers to conduct Internet functions with Piccolino using a easy-to-follow API.

Are you looking to add Wi-Fi connectivity and an OLED display to your next project? Head over to Piccolino’s official Kickstarter page, where the team has already surpassed its $5,000 goal.