Tag Archives: megaAVR

Introducing the next-generation of 8-bit megaAVR MCUs

Since its initial launch in 2002, megaAVR microcontrollers (MCUs) have become the go-to choice of Makers everywhere. Ranging from the uber-popular ATmega328 to ATmega32U4, the chips can be found at the heart of millions of gadgets and gizmos, including an entire lineup of Arduino boards, 3D printers like RepRap and MakerBot, and innovative DIY platforms such as littleBits, Bare Conductive and MaKey MaKey. Heck, they’ve even captured the hearts of celebrity creator Sir Mix-A-Lot!

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Designed for engineers of all levels from the professional developers to the Maker community, the 8-bit megaAVR MCUs are ideal for applications in a variety of markets — automotive, industrial, consumer and white goods.

Today, we are excited to announce the next generation of this incredibly-popular family, with the debut of new 8-bit megaAVR MCUs. Spanning from 4KB to 16KB Flash memory, the new devices provide next-generation enhancements including additional analog functionality and features for the latest low-power consumer, industrial, white goods and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

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This expansion of megaAVR family will deliver all the benefits of previous generations including a simple, easy-to-use interface for a seamless upgrade and binary compatibility with existing 8-bit megaAVR MCUs.

“With over 20 years of MCU experience, we are proud to launch our third generation of 8-bit megaAVR MCUs to the market today—a family that has been highly recognized by a variety of communities from the professional designers using our Atmel Studio ecosystem to the hobbyist and Maker in the AVR Freaks and Arduino communities,” explained Oyvind Strom, Atmel Senior Marketing Director. “As the leader in the 8-bit MCU market, Atmel continues to add easy-to-use, innovative products to our broad portfolio of MCUs.”

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Key features of megaAVR MCUs include:

  • Simple, easy-to-use
  • Low power
  • Wide selection of development tools including free Atmel Studio IDE
  • Extensive set of peripherals, including ADC, Analog Comparator, SPI, I2C and USART
  • Single-cycle instructions running 1MIPS per MHz
  • Designed for high-level languages with minimal code space
  • Real-time performance with single cycle I/O access

Among a number of other new attributes:

  • Unique ID for every device enabling a more secure device for IoT applications and wireless networks
  • Improved accuracy of internal oscillators for UART serial communications
  • Enhanced accuracy of internal voltage reference for better analog-to-digital conversion results

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Makers seeking to accelerate their design are encouraged to check out our ultra-low cost Xplained Mini development platform, which is currently available for only $8.88 USD (see what we did there?) in the Atmel Store and fully compatible with 8-bit megaAVR MCUs. The new boards can easily be connected to any Arduino board making it ideal for a variety of projects and prototypes using an Arduino board.

The megaAVR 8-bit MCUs are fully supported by Atmel’s development eco-system including Atmel Studio 6.2, the integrated development environment (IDE) for developing and debugging Atmel | SMART Cortex-M and Atmel AVR MCU-based applications. Atmel Studio 6.2 gives designers a seamless and easy-to-use environment to write, build, simulate, program and debug their applications to write, build, simulate, program and debug your applications written in C/C++ or assembly code using the integrated GCC compiler and AVR assembler. With Atmel’s broad portfolio of AVR products and easy-to-use development software, designers can quickly bring their 8-bit MCU to market. Additionally, designers have access to the company’s embedded software including the Atmel Software Framework and application notes, and the Atmel Gallery app store.

Currently on display at Electronica 2014, the Atmel mega168PB, mega88PB and mega48PB are now available in 32-pin QFN and QFP packages with additional devices slated for later this year. All devices are sampling now. Production quantities for the mega168PB devices are available now while the mega88PB and ATmega48PB devices will be available in February 2015.

Want to explore the AVR microcontrollers a bit further? Head on over to the official page. Those wishing to learn more about the backstory and inspiration of the Maker Movement’s favorite 8-bit MCU can do so from the co-inventor himself here.

Electronica 2014 may be the ‘smartest’ show yet!

As we prepare to head off to Munich, Germany for perhaps one of the ’smartest’ shows of the year, Electronica 2014 attendees are in for a treat! Over the next couple of days, we will be unveiling a number of new solutions to further enable smart, connected and secure devices for the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT) — ranging from consumer and industrial to automotive and Maker applications.

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During the week of November 11-14, head over to Messe München where you will find a plethora of IoT solutions in the Atmel booth — located in Hall A5, Booth 542 — including:

Low-power embedded processing

  • Industry’s lowest power ARM Cortex-M0+ MCU for the Internet of Things
  • A new QTouch safety platform for home appliance user interfaces
  • Next-generation 8-bit AVR MCUs accelerating development of low-power applications

Secure connectivity

Easy-to-use software and tool

  • IAR Systems supports Atmel’s complete microcontroller portfolio, expanding Atmel’s IoT software and tools ecosystem
  • An ultra-low cost Xplained mini development platform available for only $8.88 USD that is compatible with any Atmel 8-bit megaAVR MCUs
  • Xplained Ultra evaluation kit for fast prototyping and evaluation of Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 Cortex-A5 based MPUs
  • A security module compatible with all Xplained boards that supports SHA256, AES128 and ECC256 hardware authentication for IoT nodes

Our broad portfolio of next-gen tech powering the Internet of Things will be showcased at Electronica in various pods, such as the smart home, industrial, automotive, and of course, Maker areas.

Atmel’s SMART HOME ZONE brings more intelligent, connected devices together.

  • Showcasing hardware security with wireless connectivity to a variety of edge nodes applications, the well-received Atmel WINC1500 will demonstrate a video camera, temperature sensor and LED control highlighting ease-of-use connectivity to mobile handsets and cloud architecture. Strong key protection is provided by the ATEC108 Elliptic Curve security chip.
  • For the intelligent home, this demonstration highlights Atmel’s popular AVR architecture using a mega168PB, AT86RF212, XMEGA128A1U and MXT143. The demo showcases an AVR with a wireless connection running on a battery with a graphical display.
  • The QTouch safety robustness demonstration showcases Atmel’s SAM D20 with the company’s new QTouch safety library, displaying the superior capacitive touch performance of the peripheral touch controller while achieving best-in-class noise immunity and moisture tolerance required in home appliances. Attendees can enter to win one of the QTouch safety evaluation kits by viewing the demonstration.
  • Demonstrating security for the connected world, this three-light switch demo communicates via ZigBee to a remote panel with 3 LEDs. The switches and LEDs include an Atmel ATSHA204 device with stored crypto keys. When the switch is flipped, only the LEDs with the corresponding key will light—demonstrating symmetric authentication.
  • Showcasing the latest lighting solutions, the Philips Hue LED colormix bulb, the Philips Lux dimmable bulb and the Philips Tap switch highlights how users can create their own personal wireless lighting environment with the tap of a switch or through an app on the users’ mobile device.

Atmel’s INDUSTRIAL ZONE enables smart, machine-to-machine connections.

  • Demonstrating a smart fridge, this home automation demonstration powered by Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 includes a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen that includes a 720p video playback showcasing the processors performance and data processing in a secure environment.
  • Powered by Atmel’s maXTouch mXT1666T2 and maXStylus, this rugged Inari10 tablet demonstrates support of a glove, moisture rejection and support for maXStylus.
  • Through a Sigfox base station, this demo utilizes Atmel’s ATA8520 and ATA8510 to demonstrate the company’s IoT connectivity solution.
  • Highlighting Atmel’s support of capacitive touch buttons, sliders and wheels using the company’s QTouch technologies, Atmel will showcase two QTouch demos. The first is powered by the Atmel | SMART SAM D21 MCU on an Xplained Pro board demonstrating mutual capacitance and the intelligent peripheral touch controller—all enabled by Atmel QTouch. The second demo, powered by the Atmel | SMART SAM D11 MCU, is supported by the QTouch Library enabling capacitive touch button sliders and wheels on smaller, lower cost Atmel MCUs using the Peripheral Touch Controller.

Atmel’s AUTOMOTIVE ZONE brings IoT to the connected car with simple, touch-enabled human-machine interface.

  • Showcasing a smart, connected car, Atmel will be highlighting the well-received AvantCar demo, a next-generation automotive center console concept with curved touchscreens highlighting Atmel’s XSense, maXTouch, QTouch, and 8-bit AVR MCU technologies.
  • Highlighting car access, this demo will enable passive entry and passive start for automobiles through capacitive touch and proximity detection technology controlled by a tablet PC using Atmel’s maXTouch technologies. This demo is powered by Atmel’s automotive devices including the ATA5791, ATA5831, ATA5702, ATA5790N, ATA5833 and Atmel | SMART SAM D21.
  • Several other automotive demos are also featured in this zone, including a door handle powered by Atmel’s fourth generation LIN device that includes a curved touch-enabled glass display, providing excellent multi-touch performance for future automotive applications, and utilizing Atmel’s XSense and the maXTouch 2952T.

Atmel’s MAKER ZONE showcases IoT inventions, enabling unlimited possibilities.

  • Being at the core of the Maker Movement, Atmel will be showcasing a number of Maker demonstrations including a remote-controlled Maker Robot powered by the Atmel | SMART SAM D21. “Mr. Abot” will be controlled through an Andriod app and the communications will be driven through Atmel’s recently announced new WINC1500 Wi-Fi solution.
  • Atmel will also be showcasing a Skittles sorting machine for the candy lover. This Atmel | SMART powered sorter uses the SAM D21 device and will sort the Skittles into individual containers by color using an RGB light sensor.

Wait, there’s more!

In the wake of recent incidents, it is becoming increasingly clear that embedded system insecurity affects everyone and every company. On a personal level, these vulnerabilities can lead to a breach in unprivileged financial and medical data. For a company, the impact can be quite profound. Products can be cloned, software copied, systems tampered with and spied on, and many other things that can lead to revenue loss, increased liability, and diminished brand equity.

Atmel’s resident security expert Kerry Maletsky will be address these growing concerns in his session, “IoT Security Should Be Hard, By Definition.” Join Maletsky on Thursday, November 13 at 2:00pm CET in Hall A6 / A6.353 at the Embedded Forum as he explores the basics of hardened security in every designer’s IoT device.

LeoFi is a Wi-Fi-enabled, Leonardo-compatible board

Developed by the Sweet Pea team, LeoFi is an Arduino-compatible board with an integrated Wi-Fi module.

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Based on the Arduino Leonardo design, the board is built around an ATmega32u4 MCU and boasts a sturdy USB connector, enhanced PCB layout, as well as a blue LED that can be used to indicate the link status. The LeoFi features the popular CC3000 module along with a new 3.3V voltage regulator that feeds the onboard Wi-Fi chip.

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Sweet Pea has developed an extensive library that will handle all aspects of communication with the Wi-Fi module, allowing Makers to focus their attention more so on the project. This library also contains examples on how to create a web server, a web client, how to send a mail, among several others that can be found over on Github. Furthermore, LeoFi offers direct support for data collection services such as Xively and Sen.se, paving the way for countless applications including temperature collection, furnace alarms, and even robot controllers.

Makers can use this board to interface any Wi-Fi-enabled devices to their PC, as a mouse or keyboard using the built-in module and USB interface. As its creators note, the board includes a chip antenna which makes it out-of-the-box ready, meaning no external cables or antennas are necessary.

The team recently began shipping the latest rendition of its device dubbed “Revision B.” This board is equipped with three new connectors to easily allow for it to connect to external sensors and/or expansions. These connectors include: a 4-pin I2C connector with SCL, SDA, +5V and GND; a 4-pin serial connector with RxD, TxD, +5V and GND; and a one-wire connector with +5V, GND and a GPIO pin with 10K pullup.

Interested in learning more about this megaAVR powered board? Head over to its Wiki page here.

 

 

Atmel and IHR driving innovation in automotive electronics

Atmel has just announced a collaboration with IHR, a worldwide partner in the automotive industry, to further support the innovation of Local Interconnect Network (LIN) systems. This collaboration leverages IHR’s LIN configuration tools with Atmel’s industry-leading embedded solutions to improve application integration, time-to-market and to minimize licensing costs.

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Atmel’s collaboration with IHR enables Atmel to provide manufacturers with a LIN-compliant evaluation environment to further streamline development, bringing the best of automotive engineering faster to market. IHR’s solutions support several Atmel technologies including the megaAVRtinyAVR and XMega AVR families.

For those interested, a free demo version of the LIN drivers is now available for download via the IHR website and can be used for evaluation purposes. Upcoming new product series will be supported by IHR solutions as well.

“With nearly 30 years of experience working with the automotive industry, Atmel has spurred the pervasive growth of electronic features in cars,” explained Giovanni Fontana, Atmel Automotive Applications Director. “Our collaboration with IHR will help our customers continue to build innovative electronic products in a cost-effective manner with improved integration and intuitive configuration capabilities.”

Atmel combines a unique blend of IVN products and embedded MCUs. AVR MCUs deliver the power, performance and flexibility to support a wide range of automotive applications. These small, yet powerful, advanced 8- and 32-bit AVR MCUs deliver the technical features, advanced architecture and dependable design ideal for an array of applications.

In what has become the industry’s largest, the Atmel LIN product portfolio includes stand-alone transceivers, system basis chips (SBC) which integrate a transceiver, a voltage regulator and often other functions as well as AVR MCU-based system-in-package (SiP) and application-specific (ASSP) devices.

“IHR is recognized for our proven LIN tools used by designers to create applications that automotive manufactures rely on as competitive differentiators,” said Rüdiger Kewitz, COO at IHR GmbH. “Together with Atmel, we offer a very compelling proposition for manufacturers to not only design next-generation embedded systems, but also to bring high-end applications to market through an amplitude of makes and models.”

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s LIN solutions? Additional information is available here. You can also browse through the Bits & Pieces archive on the topic.

Attachment is a modern-day message in a bottle

Balloon messages could perhaps be likened to a new form of the classic message in a bottle. Created by ECAL graduate David Colombini, Attachment is an ATmega1280 powered, poetic machine that enables you to send text, images or videos into the air using a biodegradable balloon with the intention of “rediscovering expectation, the random, and the unexpected,” uncommonly found in current means of communication.

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Upon entering your name and e-mail, the site allows you to send a message and attach a picture, sound, or video. Once your content is validated, the machine prints the message and a code on an A6 sheet of paper, slips it into a biopolymer cylinder attached to a balloon, which is released into the air. The balloon then travels haphazardly to a potential recipient.

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At some point, someone somewhere will find it. When they do, that individual can connect to the website and enter the secret password on the message to discover the text, the image or video in its entirety.

As Colombini notes, the [megaAVR based] project originally began as a stand against today’s “smart” technologies. “I have always been attracted by what is in the air and remember having won a balloon release contest when I was about ten years old. My balloon flew from Switzerland to Austria, this definitely left an impression on me and perhaps influenced the idea of this project.”

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The poetic machine is driven by an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280), a PRismino (a mini shield specially developed for the machine to control the IR sensors), four 12V motors, a 450w power supply, a number of IR captors and a specifically-built Veroboard for the machine to control the electronics.

Colombini also selected a mini A4 printer (Canon PIXMA iP100), which he hacked for A6 files, along with several clips to close the ballon, a bunch of 90 cm diameter biodegradable balloons, a series of tubes and covers, and a Mac Mini to run the processing script.

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In addition, Creative Applications reveals the modern-day message in a bottle includes five pneumatic valves to control the five pneumatic cylinders, an air compressor, a 5L helium bottle, digital air and helium pressure sensors, two valves to control the in/out of the air or helium, one Manometer, and a DHEB.

As the machine will be installed outside, Colombini is looking to work with the Association for the Development of Renewable Energies in Lausanne to power the machine with solar energy.

So, be sure to keep an eye out because a secret message may be on its way! If interested in learning more or sending a poetic passage of your own, you can fly on over to Attachment’s official page here.

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Vegard Wollan talks AVR chips and tools

While some of my earlier segments with Vegard explored the history of AVR, this video with its co-inventor addresses its product line and the tools one would use to write the firmware for the 8-bit chips.

Vegard touches on the availability of AVR chips in DIP (dual in-line) packages. These larger packages are loved by Makers and hobbyists since they are easy to prototype with. You can solder to the pins without a microscope and it is easy to make changes. They are also well-suited to installing in sockets, so you can replace them, or yank them out and program them in a separate programmer board.

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Atmel still makes parts in the older DIP package, loved by hobbyists and Makers alike.

In the interview, Vegard refers to the ball grid array, commonly referred to as BGA by us acronym-loving tech people. BGAs are extremely small, just a little bigger than the silicon die itself. They also tend to transfer heat out of the die effectively, but that is rarely a factor in AVR chips since they are so low power. The headache with BGA chips is that you need an IR reflow oven to solder them on a board. Now, my buddy Wayne Yamaguchi has figured out a toaster oven will get the job done, just don’t toast any bread in it after you put a lead-soldered board into it.

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Atmel parts in BGA packages are very small, but take special inspection and rework equipment.

The real headaches with BGA packages are rework and inspection. To replace the chip, you would need a camera mounted hot-air rework station from Metal/OKI; in order to make sure it is soldered correctly would require an X-ray machine (no, I am not kidding) to see that all the balls have sweated onto the pads under the chip. It helps to use gold-immersion finished circuit boards since they tend to be flatter than HASL (hot air solder-leveled) boards. However, if you are making some leading-edge tiny consumer product, all these prototyping and QC hassles are well worth it to get the smallest size possible.

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To remove and resolder a BGA on your circuit board, you need to use a high-dollar camera equipped hot-air station like the Metcal Scorpion from Oki.

Vegard confirmed that Atmel uses the AVR 32-bit UC3 core in our touch controllers and mouse controller products. As you will see in the video above, we then went on to discuss Atmel’s legacy of providing really inexpensive demo boards and development tools.

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Vegard Wollan smiles with pride as I show him an old demo board I used in 1999.

I also dragged out the actual AVR ICE 200 in-circuit emulator (ICE) I used in 1998, to design a point-of-sale terminal (note I misspeak in the video, calling it an STK200). The remarkable thing was this system would emulate an AVR chip in-circuit, and it only cost 200 dollars, back in an era when Intel Blue-Box 8051 systems were 50 grand.

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Vegard Wollan really beams as I describe the 200-dollar Atmel AVR ICE 200, that got my startup off to a fast start in 2001.

To conclude the segment, Vegard Wollan shares how the Atmel Studio 6 integrated development environment is a high-quality software tool to develop your application, and works with AVR 8- and 32-bit parts as well as Atmel ARM-core microcontroller chips. When you add Atmel Gallery, Atmel Spaces, and the Atmel Software Framework (ASF), Atmel Studio becomes an integrated development platform (IDP). And, don’t forget you can get Atmel demo hardware through our distributors or the Atmel Store.

 

Extinguish a flame with your brain

Developed by Alessio Chierico, Trāṭaka is an interactive installation controlled by a brain-computer interface and an Atmel based Arduino.

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Derived from the Sanskrit term meaning “to look” or “to gaze,” Trāṭaka is a meditation technique which consists of staring at an external object, generally a black dot or flame. This fixed gazing stimulates the ājňā chakra, a point located in correspondence of the brain. According to the Hindu tradition, this chakra is one of the six main centers of vital energy, and it is considered as the eye of intuition and intellect.

According to the Maker, the installation is composed of a brain-computer interface capable of detecting a user’s brain waves and defining parameters, i.e. the level of attention. While wearing the BCI device, the user is encouraged to concentrate on a flame that is placed before them, with the goal of putting out the fire with incredible focus. In order to conquer this feat, the system detects the wearer’s level of meditation which simultaneously controls an air flow located under the flame — the higher the level, the greater the air flow. The flame will be magically extinguished once the utmost attention is achieved.

Whether it’s controlling robots, navigating a wheelchair or putting out a flame with your mind, this surely won’t be the last megaAVR powered BCI project we come across.

ATmega328P inside the Nexus Q

Talking to one of my Google buddies at the eFlea, he mentioned that there is an ATmega328P inside the Google Nexus Q media streaming device. I asked what it did and he explained there is a row of LEDs around the device and Google wanted those LEDs to light and flash in sequence the second you applied power. A perfect application for a Flash microcontroller that boots in microseconds.

I was concerned that this was a Google secret until a quick check on the Internet showed a post over at the great folks from iFixit. It verifies that there is an ATmega328P inside the Nexus Q, and you can even see the Atmel logo in the picture.

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The Atmel ATmega328P is used to flash the LEDs around the periphery of the Google Nexus Q. It’s the bigger chip at the top right (courtesy iFixit).

The fantastic MegaCube hits Kickstarter

The Maker community has grown up, and respectively, requires a development platform to match. As many of you may already know, the Arduino has been the development platform of choice for many Makers throughout the world. The brains and heavy-lifting behind it is an Atmel AVR microprocessor. As a result, MEGADOM Electronics Inc. and DomCo Electronics, Inc. have teamed up and brought you just that: The grown-up Arduino, the MegaCube.

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At a first glance, the MegaCube looks a lot like a desktop PC processor; in fact, it is an ATmega2560 with all ancillary components onboard including a 5V LDO. At 1.8” x 2.1” in size, it’s the smallest Arduino-compatible development board, with an ATmega2560. Looking to get it going? All you need is a USB to serial TTL bridge such as an FTDI cable or In Circuit Serial Programmer (ICSP), such as the Atmel AVRISP mkII.

What sets the MegaCube apart from the original Arduino Mega and its clones is not only it’s minute size, but also that each of the one hundred pins of the 2560 are broken out for use. This includes the clock pins and additional general purpose I/O pins. It also works as a great stepping-stone for developers wanting to take the leap from Arduino to Atmel Studio. The MegaCube can act as either an Arduino or a full-featured Atmel development kit.

As opposed to the traditional Arduino platform which uses an asymmetrical pin lay-out, the MegaCube has a symmetrical layout. All pins are on a 0.1” grid and can be easily used with proto or vector board. This 0.1” grid also serves the dual purpose of making this dev kit socketable and thus embeddable permanently or temporarily.

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Too many times, I have whipped up a quick proof of concept, which I would have liked to have kept intact without permanently tying up my Arduino; something in which MEGADOM Electronics has thought of as well. They created a “shield” system not all that dissimilar to the Arduino platform. They have two of them out now, with more in the works — one is the eBOSS (Embedded Break-Out Shield System) and the other is the BOSS (Break-Out Shield System). The eBOSS is at the core of this concept. You can easily solder the eBOSS into your proof of concept and then just socket the MegaCube into it.  This way, when you need your MegaCube for a different project, you don’t have to destroy your current project to use it. Rather, you can simply unplug the MegaCube board from the eBOSS and plug it into another eBOSS attached to a different project. I can envision the eBOSS also being used in finished products, where the product comes with an eBOSS and is offered as a complete solution with a MegaCube or without one offered at a lower price point, with the purchaser using his or her own MegaCube.

MEGADOM’s chief engineer, Mike Dombrowski, also has a demo in the works for putting multiple programs on the MegaCube. For instance, if you are using the ATmega328-based Arduino Uno platform, you could put up to eight full Uno programs on the MegaCube. By using a unique ID chip attached to each eBOSS, the MegaCube would be able to determine which program to run, making it a snap to switch between projects. Dombrowski’s demo switches between a robotic arm and a Bluetooth Remote controlled tank without reprogramming the firmware.The robotic arm using the eBoss and the MegaCube is on MEGADOM’s Kickstarter project video. Rumor has it MEGADOM is going to be selling the robotic arm as a kit as well!

The eBOSS

The other shield system MEGADOM created is the BOSS. The BOSS was created to allow those new to Arduino to use a MegaCube as if it were an original Arduino Mega, because the BOSS is the same size and footprint as the original Arduino Mega (ATmega1280, an AVR based high-performance, low-power Atmel 8-bit AVR RISC-based microcontroller combines 128KB ISP flash memory, 8KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM, 86 general purpose I/O lines, 32 general purpose working registers) and gives you access to only the same pins as the Mega. The creator tells me the BOSS will have an R3 footprint in final release versions. This allows the MegaCube to dock with the BOSS giving you the standard Arduino footprint and use standard Arduino shields with the MegaCube. Once again, it’s a great launching platform for engineer or Makers that want to prototype and prove in their design before embedding it into a project full-time or in a more pertinent fashion.

The eBOSS, with a MegaCube takin' a ride

The MegaCube and its shields were created to bring the Atmel ATmega 2560 [Atmel AVR based Microcontrollers] to the forefront of the budding Maker Movement. It unleashes more flexibility in a platform that is smaller and can be socketed and embedded into projects. As you can see, the MegaCube has a promising future with the Arduino Community and it’s already spawning similar designs on the Arduino Forums. To find out more about the MegaCube go to the MegaCube’s Kickstarter campaign or the MEGADOM homepage.

1:1 Interview with Marcus Schappi of MicroView

The Atmel-powered MicroView – which made its first official Kickstarter appearance last week – has already raised nearly $547,925 from over 6,666 enthusiastic backers.

Essentially, the MicroView is a chip-sized platform with a built-in OLED (64×48) display that allows Makers to see what the Atmel-based board is “thinking” without having to link with a PC.

 The device, designed by the Geek Ammo crew, is built around Atmel’s versatile ATmega328P microcontroller (MCU).

Recently, Atmel’s Tom Vu sat down with MicroView creator Marcus Schappi to discuss the project’s Kickstarter success.

Tom Vu: What are the origins of Project MicroView? How did it all start? Given your success with Ninja Blocks, what motivated you to do this project?

Marcus Shappi: This is the first time you can see what your Arduino is thinking! We’ve always tried to make learning electronics easier. We started by creating an Arduino with LEDs on each output pin so you know when the pins are being turned on. We next built Ninja Blocks, an Internet of Things (IoT) system that removes the impediments of needing to know electronics, networking and programming. To cap things off, we asked ourselves how can we make this even easier, and [then] came the MicroView.  We’ve put an incredible amount of time into the MicroView Arduino Library, with only a couple of lines of code makers can dispay images, text, widgets, graphs and gauges. MicroView embeds the power of an Arduino or dev board, onto the size of a chip.

TV: What is Geek Ammo core philosophy and mission?

MS: At Geek Ammo we want to make awesome open source gear (hardware) for Makers and Geeks.

Marcus Shappi and Geek Ammo - Kickstarter Funded Project

TV: Obviously, this compliments the Arduino environment. Why does achieving the smallest form factor matter during the phases of development and engineering process?

MS: When Makers are building projects, often size is a consideration (the MicroView is a tiny 26mm x 26mm x 16mm); this is especially so with wearable and airborne projects where size and weight are a constraint. When holding a MicroView in your hand you’ll instantly notice that it has standard spacing (bread board compatible), but not only that it’s also DIP compatible, making it easy to include in projects with just a couple of headers. Meanwhile, users can also appreciate the smooth ergonomic surfaces on the underside which make it easy to remove the MicroView from a prototyping breadboard.

TV: What can you do with a packaged OLED on microcontroller? Can you provide some use-cases where the display is useful during the Maker Build or Prototype process toward achieving MVP?

MicroView with OLED making ease of use on a nicely fitted Breadboard-AVR

MS: The OLED on the microcontroller really makes it easy to quickly understand what’s going on inside the Arduino. As part of our Arduino library we’ve included code to easily render text, widgets, sprites, graphs and gauges. This is great for displaying information on what your project is doing. Every project has some level of debugging and the MicroView makes this so easy. This could be in a wearables project or even robotics.

TV: Tell us about why education is important in getting newbie younger and Maker-aspiring audience more involved? How are you helping facilitate this early start?

MS: Yes, naturally education is important for the next generation of Makers, and the MicroView helps to make electronics more accessible. By virtue of having the built in OLED display we’re able to show tutorials on how to use the hardware, and that’s cool, but what is really special is the ability to interact with a project and get live feedback on the OLED display. MicroView can help teach you electronics and Arduino. The MicroView comes preflashed with built-in tutorials that are displayed on its OLED screen.

TV: What versions of development platforms can be used with MicroView?

MS: The MicroView support Arduino today.MicroView from Kickstarter Funded Project  Demonstrating Agile Development with OLED Interface

TV: Can MicroView be used inside some connected items? IoT? Wearables? Drones? Robots? Please describe some imaginative projects?

MS: Yup, it sure can. Anywhere where you can use an Arduino you can use a MicroView. We’ve used it to display weather and [other] information. We’ve [also] used it as the brains of a robot, showing the motor status and even a wearable project that displays a heart beat.

TV: What does can MicroView do better for an inspiring engineer or ideate builder looking to help sculpt the world of IoT?

MS: The MicroView make it easier to get started, you can very quickly see what’s happening. This is especially important for IoT projects where you traditionally don’t have one.

MicroView and Sample Applications demonstrating use on Robot

TV: Why doesn’t your project consider multiple rewards or tiers for crowd funding patrons? What you are getting if basic funding goals are met? Stretch goals?

MS: Reward tiers for direct multiples are not possible due to Kickstarter’s terms and conditions. We have a number of tiers starting from $45, with the most popular Tier being the “Learning Kit Tier” which includes parts to create 11 different circuits. We’ve decided to not do stretch goals as they tend to add risk to a project. We want to ship the MicroView on time!

TV: Why is SparkFun your choice in distribution and build?

MS: SparkFun are the experts at manufacturing products like the MicroView. Previously, they’ve manufactured and shipped a Kickstarter project called Makey Makey. We know they can do this, and do it well! Beyond Kickstarter, SparkFun has, by far, the best distribution in the industry.

MicroView makes it easier to get started

TV: Does this statement embody “I am a software company or hardware company” matter in the age of IoT where innovation lies beyond the core?

MS: Didn’t the venture capitalist, Brad Feld say “hardware is just software wrapped in plastic?” So yeah, in 2014 hardware is software and vice versa.

TV: How do you see and why you chose the AVR (MegaAVR)?

MS: We primarily chose AVR for it’s compatibility with Arduino. We’ve seen other projects try to port Arduino to other chipsets, and whilst on the whole they’ve done a good job, there always seems to be some bugs. We don’t want any bugs!

TV: What do you especially like about AVR MCU in your projects?

MS: When you’re designing projects, it’s critical that you have: parts availability, a part that has been field tested (tried and true), and for the type of projects we’re doing power consumption is also a big priority.

TV: What is the differentiator of the Library? Tell me about the enhanced frames per second (FPS) performance in the OLED? Why? What could be a potential use or engineering feat of this speed?

MS: The Arduino library our amazing EE JP Liew has created makes it super easy to do things that would normally be difficult on a microcontroller, like showing on the display, images, text, graphs and gauges. With JP’s library, creating a widget is only a line of code, and updating it another line. When we first started the project we used a 3rd party library, but we found that the performance was sluggish. JP rewrote the library and was able to get 200FPS (more than needed for the human eye). However, this is important on an AVR because you’re doing all your work in a single thread, so if the uC gets bogged down trying to render the screen, it can’t do other things like data-acquisition from a sensor like an accelerometer.

TV: What is the advantage of a combined small form factor OLED display for creative building and prototyping?

MS: You no longer need to connect your Arduino to a computer to see what it’s thinking. No more cryptic LED blink sequences to working what part of the code your Arduino is running.

TV: In the spirit of open source, when can I access the 3D CAD design files, PCB source files, and project’s open source code?

MS:  We’ll make the source public as soon as the Kickstarter funding period is over.