Tag Archives: SAM3X8E

These lights will let you control your smart devices through gestures


LiSense uses shadows created by the human body from blocked light and reconstructs 3D human skeleton postures in real-time.


As our homes become increasingly smarter, what if we could use the light around us for more than just illumination? In other words, imagine if the light in your room could sense you waving your hand as you enter, or was able to trigger your smart coffee machine, unlock the door and turn on your entertainment center. While it sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, it may soon all be possible thanks to a new project from researchers at Dartmouth University.

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The team is looking to transform ubiquitous light into a medium that integrates communication with human sensing. LiSense works by decoding information made from visible light to turn everyday lighting into sensors that can then recognize and respond to what we do. This is achieved through visible light communication (VLC), which encodes data into light intensity changes at a high frequency invisible to the human eye.

Not only does LiSense use light to sense people’s movements, but it also allows them to control devices in their environment with simple gestures, employing light to transmit the information. The hope is that you will be able to gesture and engage with objects in a room via nothing more than light, similar to how you’d use a Kinect or Wii gaming system to interact with your TV.

For LiSense to track a person’s movements, the researchers built a three-meter by three-meter light-sensing testbed with five off-the-shelf Cree LEDs in the ceiling and 324 photodiodes on the floor. A total of 29 microcontrollers, Arduino Due (SAM3X8E) and Uno (ATmega328), were embedded as well. The system uses the shadows created by a person standing on the testbed to reconstruct their 3D human skeletal posture in real-time (at 60 Hz).

To get their shadow-based human sensing to work, the researchers had to overcome two critical challenges. Since multiple ceiling lights lead to diminished and complex shadow patterns on the floor, they had to devise light beacons to separate light rays from individual LEDs and ambient light. Additionally, they came up with an algorithm capable of taking the collected limited resolution, 2D shadow maps from the photodiodes in the floor and reconstructing a person’s posture in 3D.

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By waving your hand, LiSense lets you freely control things, play games and track behavior without the need of cameras and on-body devices. One day, the team says it may even respond to your feelings. Compared to existing methods that use wireless radio signals such as Wi-Fi to track user gestures, VLC has several appealing properties and advantages. For starters, light-based sensing is secure, doesn’t penetrate walls, and isn’t limited to classifying a pre-defined set of gestures and activities. On top of that, it’s energy efficient, operates at a bandwidth 10,000 times greater than the radio frequency spectrum, and reuses existing lighting infrastructure.

“Light is everywhere and we are making light very smart,” says Xia Zhou, lead author and researcher on the project. “Imagine a future where light knows and responds to what we do. We can naturally interact with surrounding smart objects such as drones and smart appliances and play games, using purely the light around us. It can also enable a new, passive health and behavioral monitoring paradigm to foster healthy lifestyles or identify early symptoms of certain diseases. The possibilities are unlimited.”

Sounds intriguing, right? See it all in action below, and be sure to read the team’s entire paper here.

Conrod is a dev board for the automotive world


Conrod is the world’s first fully-programmable, connected app platform for your car.


Ideal for auto enthusiasts looking to personalize their ride, Conrod is a small device that plugs into the CAN bus of a VW brand car and lets users customize its features. More than just a data logger or diagnostic tool, the dev board provides developers with the ability to create their own apps and run them right in the vehicle. In other words, the days of having to write programs on a smartphone and then connect them via a dongle are over!

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Conrod interfaces with any VW car — including Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley — through its CAN bus, enabling a user to decode and manipulate messages to change the way that the vehicle operates. The fully-programmable unit can function as a standalone device, or can be paired with a 3G SIM to take advantage of its on-board cellular modem for Internet connectivity. For situations where 3G may not be an option, Conrod can sync to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth 4.0 as well.

The standard Conrod installation is designed to remain out of sight, with all of the configurations performed on a mobile device. To really let the platform shine, however, Conrod includes an add-on 3.2″ full color touchscreen for output vehicle information, which eliminates the need for a smartphone. This display comes in a self-contained case with GoPro mounting points, allowing a user to secure it in their car with any GoPro compatible mount.

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Conrod ships with several pre-installed apps for both Android and iOS gadgets, including a GPS data logger that keeps tabs on a vehicle’s location, a fuel economy tracker that monitors and records gas consumption, smart speed alerts that trigger emails and push notifications, as well as IFTTT-like logic blocks that can be defined to fit the needs and preferences of its user. For example, drivers can set it to roll up all the windows whenever the doors lock or sound the horn in the event of a sudden stop. Aside from displaying things such as oil and transmission temperatures, users can devise their own apps to view weather forecasts, tweets and just about anything else that comes to mind, all pulled down via Conrod’s cellular data connection.

In terms of hardware, the board boasts an Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E Cortex-M3 MCU, 8MB of memory, GPS, a SIM socket, Bluetooth 4.0 radio, an accelerometer and gyroscope, three temperature sensors, five CAN network transceivers, OBD-II diagnostic circuitry, and an external serial expansion jack. What’s more, Conrod is completely Arduino compatible.

While a number of startups have recently launched innovative products that can turn any older set of wheels into a smart car, Conrod taps into the CAN instead of the OBD-II port.

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“Unlike OBD2, which is an open standard that anyone can read about, the CAN protocols used by specific vehicle manufacturers is not public information, and each manufacturer uses a different CAN language. We’ve spent thousands of hours decoding the CAN protocols in recent VW Group vehicles to enable Conrod to communicate with the CAN networks as if it was installed by the factory itself,” its creators add.

So, are you ready to pimp your ride? Then hurry over to its Kickstarter page, where the Conrod team is currently seeking $77,786. Delivery is expected to begin in December 2015.

Plug ’N’ IoT lets you create a smart device in just four clicks


Just plug any sensor into the board, download the necessary libraries and you have yourself an IoT device.


Created by Dutch startup Avionics Control Systems, Plug ‘N’ IoT is an extremely easy way for Makers of all levels to design connected gizmos and gadgets. Whether it’s a securing a home with motion sensors or tracking a cat through GPS, anything is possible with four clicks of the mouse on a PC.

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Plug ’N’ IoT comes in two versions: basic and premium. Both models are comprised of an Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E processor, a GSM module and connectors, with the latter also including a shield. The Cortex-M3-based MCU boasts 512 KB of memory, operates at 84Mhz and features a maximum of 103 I/O pins. What’s more, the unit is compatible with just about every sensor and Arduino shield available today.

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How it works is pretty straightforward: A user plugs a sensor into the unit, drags and drops the suitable libraries, and uploads the code to the board. That’s it. What’s nice is that Plug ’N’ IoT is designed for everyone — no programing experience required. However, well-seasoned Makers have the option of devising and adding their own sketches. This opens the door to a countless applications, which range from monitoring air quality inside a home to keeping tabs on the temperature of an aquarium, maintaining optimal soil moisture or protecting an entryway. In any case, the sensor can detect a change in the environment and send a real-time reminder by way of text message to its user.

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Have an idea for an IoT project that you’d like to bring to life? Head over to Plug ’N’ IoT’s official Kickstarter page, where the Avionics Control Systems crew is currently seeking $39,733. Delivery is set for March 2016.

Oval is the world’s first digital handpan


Oval is a new electronic instrument that allows you to play, learn and perform music using any sound you can imagine.


The brainchild of one Barcelona startup, Oval is a Bluetooth-enabled and MIDI-compliant USB device with multi-sensing pads and LEDs that helps users learn, play and create music. The electronic device, which doubles as an open source music controller, pairs to a smartphone, tablet and computer to allow musicians of any level to develop new sounds and share their compositions using its accompanying app.

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Inspired by the handpan family of acoustic instruments (which resembles the classic steel drums of Trinidad and Tobago), Oval offers total freedom to make various notes and piece them together to perform an entire tune. This is accomplished through its Android and OS-friendly mobile app, as well as any MIDI-compatible software. Like a mini four track sequencer, the app lets users upload their own sounds and play them in different scales, add effects, adjust the sensitivity of its touchpads, download other songs, and pretty much anything else a percussionist would ever require.

“There are other ways to enjoy music besides listening. You are never too old or too young to experience the awesome feeling of playing an instrument and creating music. We believe that learning music should be fun and instruments have to be made to be ready to play right away. The Oval speeds up your music learning curve by leveraging the power of technology, gaming and sharing with others,” the team writes.

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The Oval takes the design, ergonomics and musical qualities of handpans to create an electronic instrument that can be as simple for a beginner to start exploring music as a means of expression, and as complex as a professional musician needs it to be for layering samples and real-time looping. Its durable yet lightweight case is comprised of all natural materials like bauxite, marble and quartz, and comes in three colors: white, red and grey.

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Designed with portability in mind, the unit itself only measures about 16” x 16″ x 5” in size and weighs roughly seven pounds. Oval is equipped with pressure-sensitive pads which illuminate to provide visual cues for tutorials, metronome mode and music-driven games. Meanwhile, housed inside its shell lies an Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E Cortex-M3 MCU for its brains, a Bluetooth Low Energy module for connectivity, and a lithium battery for recharging via USB. What’s more, the instrument comes with a jack that can be used to input pedals or an external controllers.

Whether you’re a pro musician looking for a new tool or just someone who misses the steel drum sounds of the Caribbean, head over to Oval’s Kickstarter page today. The team is currently seeking $109,492 and hopes to begin shipping units out by spring of next year.

RepRapPro launches a $300 Delta 3D printer


The Fisher Delta 3D printer is an easy-to-assemble and even easier-to-afford machine for Makers of any level.


Safe to say that the adoption of 3D printing will rely heavily upon both affordability and accessibility to Makers. And one of the companies continuing to lead the way is RepRapPro, who has debuted yet another open source machine for the DIY community. Recently unveiled during 3D Printshow London, Fisher is an easy-to-assemble, Delta style 3D printer that is expected to cost around $300 — quite the wallet-friendly price compared to many other devices on the market today.

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“In order to achieve the low price, a Delta configuration was chosen, utilizing mainly parts and processes which can be found in our other RepRap kits,” its team revels. “Although in this configuration the machine lacks a heated bed, many great features are included, such as an automatic bed probing and new compact all metal hot-end, which all combine to give the same great print quality as all our other RepRap 3D printer designs.”

One of its other notable features is RepRapPro’s Arduino-compatible, 32-bit controller. Based on an Atmel | SMART SAM3X8E Cortex-M3 MCU, the Duet board is equipped with four stepper motor controllers, an SD card slot, as well as USB and Ethernet ports. Makers can drive the platform with a conventional RepRap app like Pronterface or command the platform via a standard web server. What’s more, an expansion board offers an additional four stepper motor controllers, allowing for a total of five extruders and up to eight axis controls.

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Key specs of the Fisher:

  • Build volume: 150mm diameter, 180mm height
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
  • Resolution: 12.5um in all axes
  • Print bed: Removable
  • Extruder: Direct drive extruder with an all-metal stainless steel nozzle
  • Connectivity: Ethernet and USB interface
  • Storage: On-board microSD
  • Software: Prints G-code files provided by Slic3r and other open-source slicing programs

At the moment, the design is in its beta stage, as the team gathers feedback from end users throughout the open source community. Meanwhile, upgrades are already in the works which include a heated bed and color touchscreen kits. Interested? Head over to its official page here.

DrumPants will turn you into a walking one-man band


This open-source, Arduino-compatible wearable controller lets you make music and play games from your body.


Admit it, you’re the best darn drummer that your morning carpool has ever seen. The only problem is that, as you thump your thigh to the beat of your favorite song, the world can’t enjoy the awesomeness that resonates from your leg. Well, thanks to the latest Indiegogo campaign from Bay Area-based startup Tappur, now they can.

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DrumPants 2.0 is exactly what you think it is: a wearable musical kit that magically turns your clothing into a full band with over 100 built-in sounds. If this seems familiar, that’s because you may have come across the team back in 2013 when they successfully introduced their first prototype on Kickstarter. Initially conceived by Tappur co-founder Tyler Freeman as a prank to play on his drummer friends, the concept eventually transcended well beyond a simple stunt and into a master’s project, an educational tool used to teach teenagers about programming and music production, and finally what it has become today: an industrial, production-ready wearable music kit.

DrumPants is comprised of two wearable sensor strips and a control box, that when attached to any item of clothing, enable a wearer to play a beat by simply tapping their body. The pair of sensors can easily be removed as well, making it the ultimate portable instrument. Its control box — which is based on an Atmel | SMART ARM Cortex-M3 MCU — is equipped with an ultra-low latency Bluetooth 4.0 chip, an embedded sound engine for a 1/8″ headphone jack, 128 instrument sample banks and a micro-USB for connecting to a laptop or PC. Meanwhile, its sensors can be placed anywhere on the body, whether that’s a snare drum on an upper thigh or a cymbal on a knee. Want a kick drum or a looping pedal, too? Wearers can bring that functionality right inside their shoe through a set of footpads.

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After the successful completion of its crowdfunding campaign, the latest iteration of DrumPants features dramatically improved software and firmware upgrades, along with support of Apple’s Bluetooth over MIDI protocol. What’s more, the team says it will be unveiling their hardware designs to the open-source community, as well as Arduino libraries and sketches for making high-performance wireless instruments.

“We will also release the firmwares needed to run the hardware: an Arduino Due library+sketch for converting sensor data into individual hits and MIDI messages, the UI (LED control and knob/buttons), and EEPROM memory/storage management. It will also include a patch to the Arduino project source code for a class-compliant USB MIDI implementation on the Arduino Due ARM processor (SAM3X8E),” the team writes.

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Every musician — whether recreationally jamming out in the car or professionally putting together some tunes in the studio — can use DrumPants’ wearable controllers to play 150-plus sounds, and record, loop and edit their melodies with more than 300 music apps in the Apple store, not to mention any MIDI/OSC apps. This lets users rock out with all four limbs and create music in ways not possible with an MPC or tabletop MIDI controller. There’s also a built-in metronome for those looking to hone that rock steady tempo while on the go — whether that’s on the bus, on a coffee break, or at home waiting for a YouTube video to buffer.

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Users can either play the DrumPants with headphones, or an external speaker for those confident enough to share with others. Though DrumPants were originally designed with the music industry in mind, the sensors actually provide a number of additional uses. As billions upon billions of connected objects emerge, this system will prove to be a prime example of a creative, alternative way to control those smart devices. In fact, the kit can be programmed to perform additional actions with a tap, whether that’s silencing a phone, browsing a website, switching slides during a PowerPoint presentation, interacting with virtual reality games, or assisting those with disabilities to command in-home appliances. No buttons or new gestures required.

“It’s 2015. Wireless instruments are the future of performance and electronic musicianship. A completely portable one will help you make music easily. Now, you can invent a beat or melody, and tap it out on your body—just like you already do,” its creators add. “We hope it will provide an educational base for many Bluetooth musical instruments to come: as a solid codebase to make your own DIY instruments, and as a reference for other musical instrument manufacturers to implement MIDI over Bluetooth LE.”

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Geared towards the Maker crowd, DrumPants is Arduino-compatible and allows tinkerers to devise their own sensors and upload their sketches for maximum hackability. This opens up a plethora of possibilities, ranging from using it as the brain for a piezo drum trigger or plugging in any kind of resistive sensor to send MIDI CC data with bend sensors, photoresistive light detectors and ribbon sliders.

Want a set of DrumPants of your own? Head over to its Indiegogo page, where Tappur is currently seeking $35,000. Shipment is expected to begin in September 2015.

Not just for the music crowd, here’s a look at some other cool things these wearable sensors can do.

Creating a DIY Kerbal Space Program controller with Arduino


If you’re looking for another way to control your spacecraft other than with WASD keys, you’ll love this. 


Kerbal Space Program is a space flight simulation game that lets players design spacecrafts for a fictional race of green humanoids (called Kerbals), who have constructed a fully-furnished and functional spaceport (known as the Kerbal Space Center) on their homeworld Kerbin.

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Those looking for another way to control their spacecraft other than with their WASD keys may want to check out Kegan Holtzhausen’s latest project. The Maker has designed a KSP control console equipped with a joystick, multiple displays, and various buttons and switches that will meet any player’s possible command needs. The device, which he calls the Psimax CS40 Telemetric Joystick, was built with modularity in mind, allowing for control to be swapped in and out as necessary.

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Under the hood lie three Arduino boards: One Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) runs HoodLoader2 to provide joystick data over HID, another enables the buttons and switches to communicate with the game over KSP Serial IO, while an Arduino Due (SAM3X8E) is tasked with driving three LCDs. Furthermore, the Maker is currently working on OLED meters as well. When all was said and done, Holtzhausen housed the controller’s modules inside a Retex Abox enclosure and 3D-printed a number of the DIY console’s parts.

Intrigued? Then you’ll want to check out the Maker’s detailed build log here.