Tag Archives: LED

Maker creates a 3D-printed LED watch with ATmega328P

Hey, do you know what Tinys.it? 

The first digital watch, a Pulsar prototype, was developed jointly by Hamilton Watch Company and Electro-Data back in 1970. Finally launched in the spring of 1972, the device was comprised of 18-carat gold and featured a red light-emitting diode (LED) display. Watches with LED displays would remain popular for a few years until being superseded by LCDs, which consumed less battery power and boasted an always-visible display that didn’t require any button-pushing to reveal the time.


Inspired by these retro watches, Alessandro Matera recently created his own 3D-printed LED device based on an ATmega328P and powered by a 3V CR2032 battery. The Maker initially wanted to use the versatile ATtiny85 MCU from his Tinys board as the brains of the operation, but was unable to do so given the limited number of I/O and LEDs that it could drive. Instead, he decided to go with an ATmega328P in TQFP package with 32 pins.

The wearable unit sports 32 LEDs to display the time in both hours and minutes. Since he was unable to use two differently colored lights, a solid light denotes hours while a blinking represents minutes.

“But even if the microcontroller has 32 pins, they aren’t all I/O: only 25 pins can be used for the 32 LEDs and the button. To drive a larger number of LEDs with few pins, I’ve used the Charlieplexing Matrix. This way, I can drive 6 LEDs with only 3 pins.”


In an effort to reduce battery drain, the watch always remains in sleep mode. Just like vintage LED watches, a user must press a button to show the time. To ensure accuracy, Matera used a 32.768 KHz crystal connected to the XTAL pin of the ATmega328P running in asynchronous timing mode. This enabled him to use the MCU’s internal 8Mhz oscillator and the Timer2 overflow (used for the external crystal) as interrupt to increase the seconds. The Maker reveals that dealing with the crystal to get precise time and also multiplexing the LEDs were certainly among the trickiest aspects of the design process.

“After setting up the Timer2 overflow interrupt and the button change-pin interrupt, the microcontroller goes to sleep. Every time the Timer2 goes overflow (one overflow/second), the microcontroller wakes up and increases the seconds,” he writes.


Upon seeing this marvelous DIY timepiece, our friends at Adafruit caught up with Matera. Turns out, he loved their ATmega328P based Solder Time II watch that he used that as the benchmark for his design. However, he was looking for something a bit different and could only find segment LED styles. So just as any Maker would do, he devised his own. While he may have a fully-functioning prototype at the moment, moving ahead he may look to shifting the programming to FTDI and changing the button to a touch sensor.

Time to make your own? Head over to its official project page here, as well as download its sketch and schematics on Github.

This ‘ICONIC’ coffee table book is powered by AVR

Just in time for the holiday season, Jonathan Zufi’s coffee table book entitled “ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation” recounts the past 30 years of Apple design, exploring some of the most visually appealing and significant products ever created by the Cupertino-based company. The book — which features a number of new photos paying special attention to original prototypes — dons an updated look and comes in a few special editions.


Most notably, the Ultimate Edition includes a special white clamshell case along with a custom PCB designed to pulse embedded LEDs like that of a sleeping older generation Apple notebook when moved.

According to its description, “The circuit is powered by the high-performance, low-power Atmel 8-bit AVR RISC-based microcontroller which combines 1KB ISP flash memory, 32B SRAM, 4 general purpose I/O lines, 16 general purpose working registers, a 16-bit timer/counter with two PWM channels, internal and external interrupts, programmable watchdog timer with internal oscillator, an internal calibrated oscillator, and 4 software selectable power saving modes.”


“The board and clamshell were designed to make removal of the board easy for the purpose of enabling and replacing the battery. The battery is a standard watch cell CR2032. Based on our calculations, the LED should pulse approximately 9,000 times during the life of an average CR2032. Since the LED pulses three times on each movement cycle, that means that it unless you plan on picking up the book more than 3000 times, the battery should last a long time. But because it’s so cool, we think that you might actually reach that number — so we made it very easy to swap out the battery.”

An ideal gift for any Apple buff, those interested in learning more or buying the AVR powered book for a loved one can do so here.

The smartest toy for your feline friend hits Kickstarter

Did you know nearly 6 in 10 domestic cats are overweight? Led by University of Illinois PhD student Dave Cohen, a group of Illinois-based cat lovers Makers have created a purrrr-fect way to combat the growing feline epidemic by designing a robotic “pet for your cat.”


The startup, aptly named Petronics, has been working on various iterations of Mousr. Capable of tracking the movements of your cat and reacting the way a real mouse would, the end result is the recommended 20 minutes per day of exercise for your feline friend.

The latest iteration of Petronics’ Mousr — which has now made its Kickstarter debut — is equipped with an infrared LED light along with a sensor which measures the overall level of ambient IR light surrounding the device. The team notes that if Mousr is near an object, the LED light is reflected back and detected by the ambient light sensor, activating the device. Directional motion sensors then allow Mousr to interact with and respond to a cat, and are “sophisticated enough to know the difference between running, stalking and pouncing.”

“This has the potential to autonomously keep cats active for the recommended time in instances where the owners can’t take time out of their schedule,” Cohen explained.


The most recent version of Mousr even features multi-color eyes, a hidden speaker and interchangeable tails.

“We really wanted Mousr to be as small and fast as possible, but we also wanted him to have personality. We have been working with several designers and engineers with a lot of experience in order to ensure Mousr’s industrial design will be able to handle all our physical and technological requirements while remaining sleek and cute,” a company rep writes.

Prior to the inception of the prototype, Cohen had been working on a proof-of-concept sensor management system to keep the power consumption levels of camera-embedded devices low, achieved by only running and activating the cameras when necessary. Therefore, he decided to use the same technology — which is akin to those used in wildlife monitoring — to create a device “that could intelligently utilize coarse, low-power motion sensor data in order to dictate when to collect more informative, power-hungry camera data.”


“I decided to explore other motion sensor ideas in the pet space and eventually came up with Mousr. I discovered that there is nothing else like it in the marketplace.”

Cohen had decided to share the idea with a Fetch! Pet Care, a company providing house care for owners away on vacation, who immediately agreed there was a void in the market for such a creation.

While the proof-of-concept had been successful, the next phase in the process was creating a prototype that resembled a real product, all while able to be produced at a reasonable cost. Cohen applied for funding through the Cozad Innovation Prize and was fortunate enough to have HAXLR8R as mentors, a program based in China that helps startup hardware companies move forward.

“Many investors tend to shy away from hardware companies in favor of software-based startups because of the complexities involved in the logistics of the supply chain, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. But with advancements in [Atmel powered] 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and emerging programs like HAXLR8R, the barriers to entry for hardware startups are rapidly diminishing,” Cohen concludes.

After first tweeting about this innovation, the Petronics team posed a very interesting question: If you could hack our robot mouse, what’s the first thing you would make it do? 

Well, Makers… what would you make it do?

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.