Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi 2

This machine plots the phantom Sandy Island

The New Velocity is an Arduino-based project that plots the phantom Sandy Island digitally. 

In 1876, the ship Velocity reported observing a series of sandy islands. As the practice of the day was to leave any potential navigational hazards on charts, these islands that are now officially “nonexistent” survived into the digital age and were not officially “undiscovered” until 2012. This seems like an interesting phenomenon in our age when it often seems that with satellites, and GPS information, we should at least know an accurate layout of the earth.


Luiz Zanotello of the University of the Arts Bremen created The New Velocity machine to explore this cartographic anomaly in the digital age. Black sand is poured onto a rotating platform, creating a miniature “island” on a table. A sensor is moved up and down in sinusoidal pattern, simulating the observation conditions of the original ship. This data on this false island is then recorded and put in a publicly-available dataset.


Per the project’s homepage, “Each set of datasets evidences the presence of an islet within the island’s range, and archives its survey readings on the islet’s coastline, water depth surroundings, topographical elevation and geotagged content.” Although the moral implications of digitally reviving a phantom island is an open question, as seen in the video below, the device is well-made and would look great as an art exhibit.


This project was brought to life using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) to handle motion and sensor data, working alongside a Raspberry Pi 2 for visual and mapping control.

[h/t Creative Applications]

Measure the air quality in your backyard

Zymbit is measuring the air quality underneath a flight path with a custom sensor board, Arduino Zero and Raspberry Pi. 

Our friends at Zymbit are located in Santa Barbara, not too far from the county’s municipal airport. Residents of their local community were a bit concerned over how flight patterns overhead affected their environment and overall health. And so, the team decided to develop a system to easily monitor the air quality in their backyards to determine once and for all if their well-being was, in fact, was impacted by airplane departures and arrivals.


For this project, Zymbit built and deployed five air quality stations, each tasked with measuring different air quality parameters using the combination of commercial grade sensors, Raspberry Pi and Arduino. These units were then connected through Zymbit’s proprietary software to generate real-time charts. The data is further integrated into environmental analysis software from Groundswell Technologies, too. This allows the Santa Barbara residents to essentially “see the air they breathe.”

The complete system is attached to a modified solar radiation shield crowned with an IP67 enclosure, while all the sensors are mounted to a custom motherboard. Sensor data is acquired using an Arduino Zero (Atmel | SMART SAM D21) located within the top tier of the radiation shield. From there, data is packaged and sent to a Raspberry Pi via a serial connection, which is external to its waterproof IP65 housing. As Zymbit notes, this way the heat is properly dissipated and does not affect sensor measurements.


Meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi acts as the connection gateway and publishes the packaged data to zymbit.com/console. For immediate purposes, data flow is unidirectional — meaning, the unit is not subscribing to any outside streams, though this could easily be integrated. Additionally, with room to spare in the Raspberry Pi enclosure, the Zymbit crew added a PoE (Power Over Ethernet) splitter for versatility. This makes installation simple and improves overall reliability since the unit only requires a single cable connection and POE can handle wide line voltage variations. The user can then choose either a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. Of course, a USB cable will also work to power the unit.

At the heart of the air quality station lies a custom designed sensor board that integrates multiple sensor types, such as particulate matter, carbon dioxide, relative humidity, temperature and barometric pressure.


“The particulate sensor was the primary driver for the board’s design; it uses a small convection heater to circulate air and this requires the module to be oriented vertically,” Zymbit’s Evan Fairchild explains. “The particulate matter sensor has two channels; one for ~ 2.5 micron particles and one for ~ 10 micron particles. Each channel produces pulses which are measured and accumulated over thirty second intervals. The other sensors are managed via I2c bus and are all averaged over 15 second intervals.”

Once data is published, it is stored in the Zymbit Cloud. There, it is easy to interact with using instant dashboards or the Zymbit API. For this application, the engineers at Groundswell Technologies — who also collaborated on this project — utilized the API to pull the raw data into their analysis and visualization software.

At the moment, five Zymbit air quality stations have been successfully deployed and are active in their area of interest. Impressively, each unit only required less than an hour to install and to begin receiving data.

“Data streams from each unit are now being integrated into Groundswell’s geospatial software,” its creators add.


Zymbit hardware is self-contained and designed to operate outdoors in a nominally shaded area. For the initial pilot, connection to the Internet is established via Wi-Fi or Ethernet to host building gateway/router. For subsequent projects, Zymbit has plans to provide options for solar power and cellular connection.

Interested? You can find all of the real-time data here, and learn all about the project on its official page.

1:1 interview with Hackaday Prize finalist Rory Aronson

Did you know that 80% of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel? With only days left until we learn which project will walk away with this year’s crown, we recently sat down with each of the potential winners to get to know them better. 

A finalist in this year’s Hackaday Prize, FarmBot is a prime example of how the DIY Movement can make a long and ever-lasting impact on our world. The brainchild of mechanical engineer and social entrepreneur Rory Aronson, the project is an open source CNC farming machine that hopes to one day make an open food future more accessible to everyone. Using a web-based application, users can graphically design their farm or garden to their desired specifications by dragging and dropping plants into a map, as if it were a game of FarmVille. Other features include storing and manipulating data maps, a decision support system to facilitate data driven design, access to an open plant data repository, and real-time control and logging.


We recently had the chance to sit down with Aronson to learn more about the project, his inspiration and what the future holds following the Hackaday Prize.

Atmel: What is FarmBot?

RA: FarmBot is an open source CNC farming machine and software package designed for small-scale precision food production. Similar to 3D printers and CNC milling machines, FarmBot hardware employs linear guides in the X, Y and Z directions. This allows for tooling such as seed injectors, watering nozzles, sensors and weed removal tools to be precisely positioned and used on the plants and soil.

FarmBot is controlled by an Arduino/RAMPS stack and an Internet-connected Raspberry Pi 2. The hardware is designed to be simple, scalable, hackable and easily produced.

Atmel: How did you come to the idea for FarmBot? Moreover, what inspired you to enter the contest with your project?

RA: The idea for FarmBot came to me while I was taking an agriculture class in college. One day, a guest lecturer and farmer spoke to us about his newest tractor — one that used a camera and computer vision system to detect and remove weeds. I thought it was pretty cool, but also viewed the system as a band-aid solution. Rather than building something new from the ground up, the agriculture hardware industry is tacking precision systems into historically imprecise tractors at an immense cost. What’s more, there is virtually no equipment available to empower small-scale food producers. This is where FarmBot comes in as a low-cost, small-scale, precision-first system.

In these early days, FarmBot needs a community to become early adopters and help build the open-source technology core. This is why we are on Hackaday — to rally a community that believes in our vision of an open food future, where the consumer is control of the food production process.


Atmel: In line with the Hackaday Prize’s theme, how are you hoping FarmBot changes the world? What’s the mission?

RA: The FarmBot Project vision is to create an open and accessible technology aiding everyone to grow food and to grow food for everyone. In order to achieve this vision, our mission is to establish a community that produces free and open source hardware plans, software, data and documentation enabling everyone to build and operate a farming machine.

Atmel: What’s your vision for FarmBot over the next five years? Where do you see it going? Who would you hope will pick up the project and use it?

RA: Over the next five years, I hope for FarmBot to take a similar path as the RepRap project, where there will be an explosion of innovation from thousands of individuals and entrepreneurs who hack FarmBot technology to work for them, engineer better hardware, write more software features and build more companies that cater FarmBot to the masses.

Atmel: As we know, the Maker Movement has opened the door for everyone from hobbyists to tech enthusiasts to hardcare engineers to tinker around. What’s your personal background?

RA: I grew up tinkering and building myself. I definitely identify as a Maker. As far as technical background goes, I studied mechanical engineering at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA.


Atmel: Why pick Atmel (and Arduino) chips?

RA: We chose to use an Arduino as FarmBot’s microcontroller primarily because of the community support — most Makers are familiar with Arduino from other projects. We chose the Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) specifically because it pairs nicely with the popular RAMPS shield from the 3D printing world, which includes all of the features that we needed in a driver board.

Atmel: What advice would you offer other Makers when getting into hardware and embarking on a new project?

RA: Do a lot of research on the different hardware available. Everything has tradeoffs, especially when it comes to compatibility with other components. Strongly consider how large and active the community is behind the hardware you choose. I often find that a more popular hardware product is a better choice than the ‘better’ hardware product.

Hardware development is often stifled by the time it takes to ship physical goods like screws, raw materials, tools, and electronics. If you have the budget available, go on a shopping spree! Buy more than you think you need, and get a variety of components that you can play with, even if you don’t think you need them. Simply holding the materials in your hands will lead to new ideas that you would not have had staring at a CAD model or product photos.


Atmel: As you know, we love to help entrepreneurs take their ideas from the MakerSpace to MarketPlace, so we’re wondering… any plans to launch a startup and perhaps even take FarmBot to Kickstarter?

RA: Yes! In addition to creating community resources for the FarmBot Project community, I have started a company, FarmBot.io. We are planning on launching the first ever FarmBot kits on Kickstarter in 2016. FarmBot Genesis is 1.5m wide and 3m in length, perfect for getting started in a small space. Meanwhile, Genesis XL is 3m and 6m in length and capable of growing four times the food of its small sibling.

Atmel: And, we’ve got to ask. If you win, are you heading to space or taking the cash?!

RA: Cash! As fun as space would be, I’m pretty certain I’ll be going in the future when the price comes down. In the meantime, the cash prize will help me bring FarmBot to the masses more quickly.

Don’t miss our other interviews with fellow HaD Prize finalists Chris LowOpenBionicsEric WilliamEyedrivomaticRadu Motisan and Reiner van der Lee!

The Prankophone is a synth for making prank calls

Prankophone is a synthesiser and telephone system hybrid that plays melodies to call recipients generated by their phone numbers.

Russian artist Dmitry Morozov, who we better know as ::vtol::, never ceases to amaze us with his innovative, out-of-the-box projects. Most recently, the Maker has spliced a synthesizer with a telephone and a logic module to create what may be the world’s most annoying machine. (But in the best way possible, of course.)


Who could forget as a kid (or an adult) making prank phone calls using soundboards from sites like eBaum’s World? Well, ::vtol:: has just taken those antics to a whole new level. The aptly named Prankophone is an apparatus which not only calls an unsuspecting person, but plays them an algorithmic melody based on their phone number. The speakers on the device transmit both the synthesized tunes along with the sound from the individual at the other end, but the recipient can only hear noise from the synth.

“Nowadays it’s averting to hear in the phone receiver any sound other than human voice – music means that we have to wait for the answer of the operator, strange electronic noises imply some mistake in decoding,” ::vtol:: explains. “Thus, the sound from Prankophone would be perceived as some kind of mistake, though in reality it is an individual and anonymous sound message, a micro-noise piece which is unique for each number it managed to reach.”


The artist says that was inspired by two historic pieces of technologies crucial to electronic music: the telephone and telegraph. The Prankophone can be set to one of four different modes to call any random number or intended recipients. In manual mode, a user must dial the number of a selected individual the old-fashioned way. Whereas in autonomous mode, the machine will generate the numbers and proceed to dial and emit the sounds all by itself. As its name would suggest, keyboard mode transforms the dialing of a number into a one-octave keyboard with each of the 10 digits correlating to a different musical key. Live mode, however, is a bit different. The number is defined by any of the previous methods, but the sounds aren’t reproduced automatically but from the keyboard, thereby enabling the user to “communicate” through sound with the person who answered on the other line.

“The system of automatic generation of numbers may be calibrated depending on the region, or there is also the international mode which takes into account the phone codes, length of numbers and other parameters,” ::vtol:: adds.


The Prankophone consists of an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and a Raspberry Pi at its core, along with a Nokia phone, a two-channel sound system, a GE telephone for its buttons and a one-octave keyboard. In terms of software, the apparatus runs various Python scripts and uses the Pure Data visual programming language. Intrigued? See and hear the gadget in action below, before heading over to the artist’s official page here.

FarmBot is the world’s first open source CNC farming machine

FarmBot is an open source CNC farming machine and software package designed for small-scale precision food production.

A finalist in this year’s Hackaday Prize, FarmBot is a perfect example of how the DIY Movement can make a long and ever-lasting impact on our world. The brainchild of Rory Aronson, the project is an open source CNC farming machine that hopes to make an open food future more accessible to everyone.


Essentially, FarmBot is like a giant 3D printer that, but instead of extruding plastic, uses seeds and water to grow crops. Similar to 3D printers and CNC mills, FarmBot hardware employs linear guides in the X, Y, and Z directions, which allows for tooling such as seed injectors, watering nozzles, sensors, and weed removal equipment to be precisely positioned.

Not unlike many RepRap printers available today, FarmBot is controlled by the Arduino Mega (ATmega2560)/RAMPS stack, along with an Internet-connected Raspberry Pi 2, NEMA 17 motors and rotary encoders. The open source device can cultivate a variety of crops all in same area at the same time, and can impressively care for each one in an optimized, automated manner.

According to Aronson, the outdoor XYZ unit can be constructed to fit each owner’s individual needs. It can scale from a garden as small as one square meter to as large as a farm that’s 20 square meters. In terms of cost, the Maker estimates a FarmBot to run anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the size of the installation. And since it’s comprised of corrosion-resistant aluminum, stainlees steel and 3D-printed plastic components, it’ll withstand Mother Nature for years.


Using the web-based app, a user can graphically design their farm or garden to their desired specifications and then synchronize the numerical control code with its embedded hardware. With its sequence builder and scheduler, FarmBot combines the most basic operations in custom sequences for seeding and watering, and even enables you to build complete regimens for the plant throughout its lifetime.

What’s more, a drag-and-drop interface lets users graphically design the plant layout in a game-like environment similar to FarmVille. Aside from that, additional features of its software include storing and manipulating data maps, accessing an open plant data repository, and real-time control and logging. Moreover, an integrated decision support system can automatically adjust water, fertilizer and pesticide regimens, as well as handle seed spacing and timing based on soil and weather conditions, sensor data, location and the time of year.


Looking ahead, the team is experimenting with sensors, drills and a camera tool, and more importantly, hopes to expand its community of hackers and DIY food enthusiasts interested in developing the platform. FarmBot will come in two different kits, Genesis and Genesis XL, 1.5 meters by 3 meters and 3 meters by 6 meters, respectively. The latter will be capable of growing four times the amount of food as its smaller sibling. Both models can be used outdoors, inside a greenhouse or even on a rooftop.

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s page on Hackaday here, or watch its overview video below!

This cyberpunk wearable projects video graffiti onto walls

VIDEOBLΛST_R is a wearable projection device used for mapping eight prepared audiovisual pieces.

Spray-painted graffiti is so 2014. Just ask media artist R▲, who has developed a wearable projection device that enables users to map eight prepared audiovisual pieces in dynamic outdoor conditions. And the best part, it doesn’t leave a mess nor any trace of vandalism whatsoever.


Dubbed VIDEOBLΛST_R, the entire system is mounted onto a rollerblade wrist guard which goes around the forearm to make for quite the cyberpunk fashion statement. The wearable is comprised of eight vector graphics animated with Processing, which are accompanied by sound samples from a Cwejman S1 modular synthesizer. According to R▲, some of the visuals involved 3D animation, analog signal degradation and data bending techniques.


This GIF-like artwork is triggered by pressing buttons on a Nintendo Wii Nunchuk controller, connected to an Arduino Uno (ATmega328). The button mappings are all processed with the ArduinoNunchuk library and transferred via USB Serial to a Raspberry Pi 2 running the Processing environment. From there, video and audio signal output is sent to a Optoma PK-320 projector via an HDMI cord and voilà! The images can then be displayed on a variety of objects and surfaces, ranging from the walls of buildings to the bottom of fire escapes. The entire gadget is powered by 5V DC battery housed inside an iPhone band worn on the upper arm.

Intrigued? Head over to the R▲’s official page here, and be sure to see it in action below!