Tag Archives: LED

LED matrix flashes real-time commuter info

Don’t you hate rushing around like a lunatic just to find out that your train is running late? Well, the iStrategyLabs crew recently debuted a solution to that very problem: a slick LED matrix sign that displays data about the next four trains arriving at the nearest metro station.


Dubbed Transit, the sign also lists how many bikes are available at the closest bikeshare station, along with the current local temperature. The data is pulled from various APIs via an Electric Imp platform, while an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) is tasked with processing the information and powering the six LED matrices.

“The focal point for building this unit was displaying information. So, once the LEDs were sourced, everything was built around that,” explained Taylor Guidon, a creative technologist at iStrategyLabs.

Guidon also noted that he first prototyped all the components on a breadboard to ensure the code was being properly executed.

“The biggest issue was learning how to handle the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority API. They have a great API, but their trains do not run 24/7, so there needed to be logic in place to handle blank data being pushed over night,” he told Gizmag.

The final unit is mounted on the wall between the office’s two elevators, making it easy for people to see the information they need before they head out of the office. The sign refreshes every 30 seconds with data from each of the APIs.

Total time of assembly? One day. Total cost? Approximately $250.

Want to check out some of iStrategyLabs’ other innovative creations? We’d recommend the Atmel based selfie-taking mirror or its Uber-calling shoe clip — both of which can be found here.


Happy National Coffee Day!

While it may seem like every morning and the hours thereafter are coffee day, today is indeed National Coffee Day. Let’s face it, engineers, students and Makers alike all enjoy a good cup ‘o joe, or two, or three. Whether it’s a home brewed pot or a skinny frappa-thingy at a nearby coffee shop, the beverage has certainly become the unofficial technology behind engineers for years.


To commemorate the day, we’ve compiled ten of our favorite caffeine-inspired designs that will certainly perk you up…

1. An ATmega328 powered, fully-automated coffee bean roaster made from an ordinary popcorn machine.


2. Tweet-a-pot lets you make a pot of coffee from anywhere at anytime using Twitter and an ATmega168 based Arduino.


3. A PID-controlled home espresso machine that provides commercial quality temperature and pressure consistency using Arduino.


4. 3D printing a full-size coffee mug with an megaAVR based RepRap.


5. Over the past year, Starbucks has doubled the number of its Clover coffee-brewing machines, which connect to the cloud and track customer preferences, enable recipes to be digitally updated, assist baristas remotely monitor a coffee maker’s performance, and allow connected fridges to alert staff when a carton of milk has spoiled.


6. Light up your living room with this LED coffee table driven by an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280).


7. IoT… Internet of Tables? Developed at the MIT Media Lab, the Facebook Coffee Table listens to your conversations and displays photos from your Facebook page whenever they are appropriate to the conversation.


8. Nescafé recently debuted a 3D-printed Alarm Cap, which awakens caffeine enthusiasts with the sweet sounds of nature. In order to switch off the alarm, the user opens the lid and is greeted with the invigorating smell of Nescafé coffee. This eye-opening (literally) design was created with Shapeways 3D printing technology and [Atmel basedArduino electronics.


9. Back in 2013, our neighbors at Qualcomm introduced the world’s first-ever Wi-Fi connected coffee machine, which not only was controlled using a tablet but alerted users when their brew was ready.


10. Paulig Muki is using e-ink to put your mug on your coffee mug. The smart cup shows a new image — which can be uploaded via mobil app — each time you fill it with a hot liquid.


And of course, what would a morning be without your traditional, personal coffee maker? From a number of popular home brewers to other smart devices in and around the house, Atmel AVR and Atmel | SMART microcontrollers are powering them all with a variety of low-end, mid-range and high-end solutions.

So without further ado, we wish each and every one of you a happy National Coffee Day! After all, there is an ‘EE’ in coffee for a reason!


AmbiLED HD is a stick-on LED ambient light for your TV or PC

Does the back of your TV set look like a messy rat’s nest? With the cable box, Blu-Ray player and video game console plugged in, the last thing you would want to do is add another device to increase the clutter. That’s where INOVATEK Electronics‘ latest project comes in…


The AmbiLED HD — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is the first high-resolution ambient light conversion kit for computer monitors. The wireless ambient light strip affixes directly to the back of your TV, thus allowing for your field of view to be flooded with visual stimulation. “The human eye has a very limited area of approximately 6° where objects appear clear and sharp, but our visual field is 120° wide,” a company rep explains.


“When you are watching a movie or playing a game you can only clearly see the spot your eyes are focused on, but you can sense the whole 120° area, including frame and background.” Instead, the AmbiLED HD paints the background with the nearest color and has the ability to drastically improve a viewer’s visual experience.


According to the team behind the adhesive LED strip, common commercial and DIY ambient light systems use 3-30 LEDs around the display; therefore, every individual RGB LED requires 3 pins to control the colors. This leads to a number of cables and connectors between LEDs and controller. Fortunately, the AmbiLED HD requires no cabling or construction and can be easily attached to the back of the display. As demonstrated by the video below, installation is relatively easy while the adhesive strip is durable enough to allow for the transfer of the device between monitors.

The open-source, Arduino-based design can control up to 512 LEDs with just a 3-pin connection — which amounts to nearly 30 feet! The Atmel powered circuit makes it simple enough to deactivate any LEDs that are not in use so that no cutting of the strip is required. According to its creators, AmbiLED HD began as open-source project, but their prototype generated so much interest that they decided to offer it as a commercial product. Now, the team behind the adhesive LED strip is currently testing the product and hopes to begin shipping their creation in November of this year.

With weeks still left in their crowdfunding campaign, the team has already garnered over £34,000, officially surpassing its original £33,000 goal. For more information on the AmbiLED HD or if interested in backing its yourself, head on over to their Kickstarter page here.

Nike’s LED basketball court may be the future of training

From robots scoring goals on humans to tablets replacing NFL coaches’ playbooks, we’ve seen some serious tech-based advancements throughout the sporting world in recent months. And, while wearable technology has become a popular choice among athletes to monitor and enhance their training progress, Nike’s recent RISE campaign has truly upped the playing field… or shall we say, court?


The House of Mamba, a state-of-the-art basketball facility in Shanghai, has developed the first-ever full-sized court complete with in-floor LEDs that interact with the players as they move across the surface. Designed by the sportswear giant, the mesmerizing basketball court appears more like a video game than real-life.

The company brought in Lakers star Kobe Bryant to help coach 30 young Chinese players. “My first experience on the LED floor, it’s pretty uhhh … I didn’t even know that was possible. It’s amazing what can be done nowadays. I think the potential and possibilities for the floor are endless,” the NBA star told Lakers Nation.

Visualized with colored X’s, circles, and boundary zones, the court has the ability to guide players along moves and plays curated by Bryant himself.


As Dezeen Magazine reportsthe court tracks players on its surface with built-in motion sensors. It is also capable of setting out training programs and drills for players to follow, responding to players’ mistakes and displaying their performance stats.

Sewn open: Arduino and soft electronics

As several other recent threads on SemiWiki have pointed out, the term “wearables” is a bit amorphous right now. The most recognizable wearable endeavors so far are Google Glass, the smartwatch, and the fitness band, but these are far from the only categories of interest.

There is another area of wearable wonder beginning to get attention: clothing, which has drawn the interest of researchers, makers, and moms alike. The endgame as many see it is smart clothing: the weaving of electronics, sensors, and conventional fabrics into something called e-textiles. However, while athletes, soldiers, and other niches may get sensor-impregnated jerseys sooner, affordable clothing based on exotic advanced fabrics for most consumers may still be 20 or 30 years away by some estimates.

Right now, we have these anything-but-soft computing structures – chips, circuit boards, displays, switches – adaptable for some clothing applications. Still missing are some key elements, most notably power in the form of energy harvesting or smaller and denser batteries. The influence of water-based washing machines and their adverse effect on most electronics also looms large.

How do we cross this gap? It’s not all about advanced R&D; these types of challenges are well suited for experimentation and the imagination of makers. Several Arduino-compatible maker modules – all based on Atmel microcontrollers – have jumped in to the fray, showing how “soft electronics” can help create solutions.

LilyPad embroidery
Maybe I’ve built one or two too many harness assemblies using expensive, mil-spec circular connectors, but the fascinating thing to me is what makes all these boards wearable. Small size is nice, but anybody knows a project needs wiring, right? You’ll notice the large plated holes on the first several offerings: these are eyelets for conductive thread, literally intended to sew these boards to other components like fabric pushbuttons. Many projects also use snaps, similar to 9V battery connections, to disconnect boards for conventional washing of the garment.


The other side of this is the software. One of the attractive features of Arduino is the IDE, real live C-style programming simplified for the masses, with functions designed to perform I/O on the Atmel MCU. Code is edited on a PC or Mac, and compiled into a sketch and uploaded to the board. There are so many examples of code for Arduino maker modules out there available in open source, it makes it easy to find and integrate functions quickly.

If that all sounds crazy, consider the pioneer for this is Leah Buechley of the MIT Media Lab, one of the thought leaders of the maker movement and an expert on e-textiles. She is the brain behind the LilyPad, the original 2” diameter Arduino wearable circa 2007 commercialized through SparkFun, with the most recent version featuring the ATmega32u4 and native USB.

Adafruit took the next steps with two wearable boards.FLORA is slightly smaller than the LilyPad and retains the same familiar circular profile and ATmega32u4 MCU.GEMMA goes even smaller, 1.1” in diameter, packing an ATtiny85 on board with a USB connection for easy development.

Adafruit GEMMA

Not to be outdone by circles, squares and rectangles are still in the mix.SquareWear 2.0 comes in two versions, the 1.7” square variant with a coin cell socket onboard, both including the ATmega328 MCU with simulated USB, high current MOSFET ports, a light sensor, and a temperature sensor. Seeed grabbed the ATmega32u4 and designed it into the Xadow, a tiny 1” x 0.8” expandable unit with integrated flat cable connectors for daisy chaining.

SquareWear 2.0

These aren’t just toys for creating flashing LEDs; there is no shortage of sensors and connectivity, including displays, GPS, Bluetooth, and more compatible with these wearable maker modules. Their popularity is growing: Becky Stern of Adafruit claims there are over 10,000 units of FLORA shipped so far, and they are the darlings of maker faire fashion shows and hackathons.

Besides the upside for makers, maybe this sewing angle will finally allow us to explain electronics to our moms, after all. Until we get to the fulfilled flexible future of e-textiles and more advanced technology, the conductive thread of soft electronics will stitch together creative ideas using somewhat familiar tiny modules with today’s microcontrollers.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Don Dingee is a featured blogger. It first appeared there on May 21, 2014.

Report: Smart lighting market gets even brighter

A new report from analysis firm NanoMarkets details that the market surrounding smart lighting – LEDs, MCUs, and sensors – is set to surge in the near future. With the IoT ready to become a mainstream application, smart lighting technology cannot be far behind.


The report titled, “The Markets for Smart Lighting Drivers, Controllers and Sensor Chips – 2014,” includes an extensive 8-year outlook for the smart lighting industry and promises certain growth for all manufacturers and organizations involved. With lighting developers focusing on IoT opportunities, the analysts believe the surrounding industry will burgeon in the next decade with a growing demand for ‘mood’ lighting, wireless components and intelligent LED drivers.

According to NanoMarkets, the market for MCU-powered LED lighting sensors is projected to reach $525 million by the year 2019. Analysts also project that the customizable ‘mood’ lighting and wireless sensor markets will exceed $220 million in that same timeframe. The report concludes with a sweeping list of companies that could benefit from this market swell, including Atmel, Philips and Siemens.


The NanoMarkets report is not the only good news on the horizon for the smart lighting industry. Another report from research firm ON World provides data that supports the fact that 50% of Americans are interested in wireless LED lighting. The report also goes into detail noting that smart home adopters would be willing to pay slightly more for customizable and efficient lighting options.

Interested in exploring the market a bit further? You can view the entire NanoMarkets report here. For a complete breakdown of the ON World findings, that can be found here.

cPulse: An Android case to light up your life

CODLIGHT has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the cPulse, the world’s first smart LED lighting case for Android phones. Powered by the Atmel SAM3X MCU, the unit offers a new spin on LED interaction.


As its Kickstarter page notes, the cPulse consists of an edge-to-edge case and a 128 LED panel equipped with an ambilight sensor, providing users with a high intensity and colorful lighting experience. The case and its accompanying app allow you to create, share, and play your own lighting tracks just as you do with digital music. Users can also opt to create their own lighting tracks from scratch.


Compatible with any Android 4.4 KitKat smartphone, the cPulse aims to make LED lighting creative, social and of course, mobile. Its panel of LEDs can be used to display notifications and to create unique lighting ambiances.

The sleek design and external micro-USB slot assure that daily activity on your smartphone will not be hindered. CODLIGHT has even taken indispensable battery power into account stating that “One hour of colorful LED lighting accounts for merely 7% of your smartphone’s total battery capacity.”


The LED lighting experience can be used to set the mood in a room, gently wake you up, or display a flashy notification when you receive a text message.

CODLIGHT is also embracing the growing 3D printing movement by providing their case files to the Maker community. The company will then ship the required electronic elements to a Maker’s home and allow for home construction of the cPulse case.


As TechCrunch reported, CODLIGHT isn’t necessarily a phone case company, instead the French company says it wants to “’re-invent’ the way people interact with lighting. The cPulse is certainly a bold and innovative way to begin that task.

If you want to learn more about the cPulse or how you can support the development of this product, head on over to their Kickstarter page.


Backtracker watches your back when you can’t

Backtracker — a Dragon Innovation crowdfunded project — is a two-part device designed by the Ikubu team that offers cyclists a sixth sense when out on the open road.


Truth be told, cycling along the road comes with several associated risks. Being hit from behind is an increasing danger for bikers on today’s crowded roadways; in fact, 726 casualties occurred in 2013, up 6.5 percent from the previous year.

“Backtracker’s journey began back in 2010, when we asked ourselves how we could create the best and safest cycling experience possible. As bikers ourselves, we knew firsthand that the thrill of taking on the road with two wheels was too often compromised by the fear of an unaware motorist,” a company rep explains.


In hopes of providing a safer cycling experience, Backtracker has the ability to provide the speed and distance of rear-approaching vehicles from up to 150 yards away.

The device consists of two modules — one which is mounted on the seat post, and contains a 24-GHz radar antenna, an ARM processor and a 40-lumen tail light, while the other sits on the handlebars and communicates via BLE. As you could see from the video above, the taillight will switch from its regular slow blinking mode to one that’s a bit more rapid, in order to catch the attention of nearing motorist. The contraption’s front-mounted traffic indicator uses a series of LEDs to notify the rider of nearby vehicles. When not alerting the rider of incoming vehicles, the product houses an intelligent backlight system which utilizes an LED to caution cars of your presence.


Backtracker has been in the development since 2010, and the design team will be looking to manufacture more test units as well as further commercialize their product in the near future. If you’re interested in learning more about Backtracker, you can head to the project’s Dragon Innovation page here.

Top this Lady Gaga! A NeoPixel dress made with FLORA

A Maker by the name of Nikko Mamallo recently introduced a NeoPixel dress that will surely stand out at your next social gathering.

Though the dress may have shined in its original form, the Maker thought he’d add a bit more pizazz by including 46 NeoPixels and an ATmega32u4-based FLORA. What’s a party without some tunes? That’s exactly why he decided to incorporate a mic as well, giving the outfit the ability to react to music. The outfit can do 12 different light sequences, with some using random colors to move to sound.


In order to complete the wearable project, the Maker turned to Adafruit’s NeoPixel library, which used some code from their Ampli-tie project. To top it off, what would proper party attire be without some glittery shoes and a disco-ball purse to match? Both powered by Gemma (ATtiny85), the 20 LED sequins embedded into both accessories have the ability to blink and fade. In case you were counting, that’s 66 LEDs in total of fierce!

Nikko described his creation as a “definite show stopper and crowd pleaser,” when it made its public debut at a friend’s 21st birthday party. Thinking you may want to light up your next social function? Learn more about Nikko’s design by checking it out at over at Adafruit.

The robotic troika of Atmel summer interns in Trondheim

Troika: A Russian word for a group of three, and also a pretty good Norwegian chocolate bar.

It’s a safe assumption that most of us have had some sort of experience with summer jobs throughout our years as students. It’s also quite likely that some of us remember these jobs as full of sweat and manual work at a construction site, on a farm or in some kind of warehouse; however, not all summer jobs have to be this way. Today, I received a piece of mail from some of the summer interns at Atmel Trondheim, and from the sounds of it, they have some pretty cool things going on!

The Line Follower

A line follower is a machine equipped with some sort of light-sensitive sensors that follows a line — either a black line on a white surface or vica versa.


“This project utilizes two Light Dependent Resistors (LDRs) to detect the amount of reflected light from two Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The chassis is made of cardboard and the whole robot is made without any soldering. The idea behind this robot was to introduce some intelligence to a robot in an easy and inexpensive way,” explains Magne Normann, one of the summer interns at Atmel.

The Avoidance Robot

This is an obstacle avoidance-type robot based around the Atmel Abot. All that’s required to build this kind of robot is a platform, two motors/servos, some wires and a distance sensor. However, this particular project has got an additional servo. The ultrasonic sensor is mounted on a servo in front of the robot, and as the servo rotates, the sensor measures the distances in its envorionment and uses this information to choose a path between any obstacles.


The Atmel Tank

Have you ever seen one of those USB rocket launchers and wondered if they’re hackable? Well, they are.

“We got our hands on a USB missile launcher, disassembled it, did a reversed engineering and modified it. Then we added Bluetooth connectivity, put it on an Atmel Abot and made an app for it. The app does have both one and two-player modes; one player controls both the vehicle and the turret, and two-player mode where one player controls the car, while another controls the turret,” Magne shares.  


“Up until now the only way to interface with an USB rocket launcher had been through the complicated USB protocol. Unfortunately not many microcontrollers support this feature. We therefore decided to hack the rocket launcher down to the old school way, so we could control it with simple GPIOs. We opened the launcher up and discovered the unused footprint for a microcontroller. Apparently, initial design was based on using a microcontroller, but somewhere along the way someone decided to go with a die instead. This left the microcontroller pads unused and available for us to use. All we had to do was probe the signals for each command, disconnect the die from the circuit paths and solder our own wires to the microcontroller pads. This way we could use the existing H-bridges and switches without any additional hardware required.”

Magne notes that the tank is currently bringing havoc to the Atmel department located at Tiller, Norway. Interested in seeing it for yourself? The tank will be on display, along with several other Atmel-based projects, at Maker Faire Trondheim scheduled for August 29-30th. Maker Faire attendees will also have the opportunity to compete for the title of Maker Faire’s “Best Tank Commander.”