Tag Archives: Maker Faire Rome 2013

Geppetto-style toymaking with Atmel and Arduino

The London-based MakieLab wants to take its customers back to a time when real toy making was a creative, hands-on “Geppetto” experience.

Indeed, the MakieLab platform allows DIY Makers to design a doll from scratch, which is ultimately uploaded and 3D printed at MakieLab headquarters. Subsequently, they are painted, with eyelashes and other features carefully affixed by hand.

“Avatars are very popular, but virtual goods have been phenomenal – we wanted to see if virtual could turn to real. We also wanted to help, introduce the magic of 3D printing to games and toys,” MakieLab founder Alice Taylor told Wired’s Liat Clark on the sidelines of Maker Faire Rome 2013.

“[So] we put out a working demo immediately, you would never normally do that. Dolls usually take four years from concept to shelf, between testing, building and feedback. We tried it the software way. We put it live and iterated with feedback.”

According to Taylor, MakieLab soon found that Makers wanted even more mods made, so they put clothing design online for people to hack, while also fitting the Atmel-powered (ATmega168V/ATmega328V) LilyPad Arduino inside the dolls’ heads.

“One lady called Cat wanted [‘smart’] ears,” said Taylor. “Whenever she walks into a room and claps her hand, the doll’s ears move toward the sound.”

Taylor confirmed that MakieLab would continue to offer additional personalization, which will be supplemented by an upcoming game in which children can build stories around their characters.

“One day, kids may create it all, right down to drawing fabric we can print with laser printers,” she added. “When we show kids how it’s done, you can see their eyes changing in front of you. They’ll grow up believing they can build things in ways we can’t imagine.”

Getting started with the Atmel-powered Arduino Robot

The recently launched Arduino Robot – the first official Arduino on wheels – boasts two processors, one on each board. The Motor Board controls the motors, while the Control Board interacts with the sensors and decides how to operate. Both Arduino microcontroller boards are powered by Atmel’s ATmega32u4 and can be programmed using the Arduino IDE.

The Robot has many of its pins mapped to on-board sensors and actuators, so programming the ‘bot is similar to the process with the Arduino Leonardo. Both processors are equipped with integrated USB communication, eliminating the need for a secondary processor. This allows the Robot to appear to a connected computer as a virtual (CDC) serial / COM port.

In honor of Maker Faire Rome 2013, RS Components has posted an exclusive video tutorial (the first in a series of five) featuring Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi introducing the Robot and exploring various characteristics of the new open-source hardware platform on wheels.

“These videos from the makers of Arduino give a simple, step-by-step guide to using and developing projects with the Robot,” Glenn Jarrett, Global Head of Product Marketing, RS Components, told EDN. “The informative yet light-hearted content will appeal equally to existing Arduino enthusiasts and to anyone dipping their toes into the world of computer programming for the first time.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, every element of the Robot platform – hardware, software and documentation – is freely available and open-source. Meaning, users can learn exactly how the device is put together, while exploiting its design as a starting point to create and mod various configurations.

Additional key specs? The ATmega32u4 has 32 KB (with 4 KB used for the bootloader), along with 2.5 KB of SRAM and 1 KB of EEPROM (which can be read and written with the EEPROM library). Meanwhile, the Control Board is fitted with an extra 512 Kbit EEPROM that can be accessed via I2C. There is also an external SD card reader attached to the GTFT screen accessible by the Control Board’s processor for additional storage.

The Robot can be powered via a USB connection or with 4 AA batteries and features an on-board battery charger that requires 9V external power generated by an AC-to-DC adapter (wall-wart). The adapter can be connected by plugging a 2.1mm center-positive plug into the Motor Board’s power jack, although the charger will not operate if powered by USB (the Control Board is powered by the power supply on the Motor Board).

As noted above, the Robot can be programmed with Arduino software, while the ATmega32U4 processors on the Arduino Robot arrive pre-burned with a bootloader that allows users to upload new code without an external hardware programmer via the AVR109 protocol. Of course, users can also bypass the bootloader and program the microcontroller through the ICSP (In-Circuit Serial Programming) header.

Interested? Additional details can be found on Arduino’s official Robot page.