Tag Archives: San Francisco

DIY Makers inspire Silicon Valley

Writing for Reuters, Noel Randewich notes that Silicon Valley was originally made famous by hard-scrabble hackers and modders building radios, microchips and other devices.

“Now, a proliferation of high-tech but affordable manufacturing tools and new sources of funding are empowering a [new] generation of handy entrepreneurs, [while] laying the foundation for a hardware renaissance,” he explains.

Designers work at computer stations at TechShop in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 24, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ROBERT GALBRAITH

“[The] Maker movement [is] sweeping northern California and, in a smaller way, Europe and other countries. Renewed interest in tinkering with objects – versus apps or software – is attracting more money from investors and fostering a growing number of workshops, where aspiring inventors can get their hands on computerized milling machines and other high-end tools.”

Ann Miura-Ko, a self-professed tinkerer and partner at Floodgate, tells Reuters she believes nostalgia for the Valley days of yore plays a key role in the Maker boom.

“Just the same way you have kids who have been coding for 10 years at the age of 16, you’re going to see kids who have been making stuff for 10 years at the age of 16. If you see that, you’ll know we’re ready for the Mark Zuckerberg of hardware.”

As Randewich points out, the growing wave of do-it-yourselfers may very well hold the key to manufacturing innovation.

“Hardware is catching up to the open-source revolution, with common standards and a culture that encourages the sharing of designs and building blocks that save inventors the time and expense of reinventing the wheel,” he writes.

“Take the palm-sized [Atmel-powered] Arduino, ubiquitous in the Maker Movement. The roughly $20 item was developed for students, offering low price and relatively easy programming. Arduino lets do-it-yourselfers snap together and program interchangeable components such as GPS chips and motor controllers to run everything from robots to cocktail mixers.”

Meanwhile, Christine Furstoss of General Electric says products of the do-it-yourself movement – improved 3D printing, laser cutters, water jets and other tools – will help the United States safeguard and extend its lead in advanced manufacturing.

“We’re proud of our manufacturing heritage, but we don’t invent everything… The spirit and tools of the Maker Movement are something we want to engage with,” she concludes.

The full text of “Do-it-yourselfers Inspire Hardware Renaissance in Silicon Valley” by Noel Randewich is available on Reuters here.

Atmel’s Tech on Tour heads to SF

After successfully wrapping up SXSW 2014 in Austin, Atmel’s Tech on Tour (ToT) trailer is back on the road to the Bay Area – with a long-awaited San Francisco SoMa stop scheduled for March 18, 2014.

We’ll be at China Basin, Lot C @ 185 Berry Street (between 3rd and 4th) from 10AM-6PM, showcasing a wide variety of tech across a number of spaces including touchsecuritymicrocontrollers (MCUs), wirelesslighting and automotive.

More specifically, you can check out:

Atmel’s ToT will also be hosting an industry panel on the rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT) at 4:00PM.

Join industry experts from Atmel, ARM, Humavox and August for an interactive discussion on how the IoT, the hottest topic in the technology sphere, is impacting today’s market across multiple segments.

Interested? You can register for the event here. See you in SoMa!!!

Video: Geoweaver is a walking 3D printer hexapod

The Geoweaver – powered by an Atmel-based Arduino Uno (ATmega328) – was designed by a team of students at the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco.

The walking, six-legged 3D printer is based on a 12-servo hexapod with an attached glue gun extruder.

 More specifically, the center mechanism uses two servos to control the pendulum-like extruder head, allowing it to cover a basic XY plane (curved to the surface of a sphere), along with one servo for the extrusion gear that forces the glue-sticks through the print head.

Aside from the Atmel-based Arduino Uno and servo shield, key electronic components include male headers, jumper wires, (or single core wire suitable for breadboards) and servo extension cables.

On the software side, Geoweaver is regulated and controlled via Rhino 5, with the help of Grasshopper and Firefly plug-ins.

According to the CCA team, the most difficult part of the project was determining how best to control Geoweaver while walking and printing. Quite a lot of time was spent on motion research and the platform is now capable of walking in straight and curved lines, as well as rotating, dancing and printing while walking.

Interested in learning more about the Geoweaver? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here.

Building a pressure sensitive floor with Atmel’s ATtiny84

Sean Voisen and his team at Adobe were recently asked to build “something new” for the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco. Several months later, a digital-physical environment for kids called “Sense It” was up and running.

“With a 14’x8′ touch-enabled LED wall and a 14’x12′ pressure-sensitive floor, Sense It is a place for kids to run, jump, play and create in a world of ‘extra large’ digital experiences,” Voisen explained in a recent blog post.

“As part this project, I was tasked with designing and building the pressure-sensitive electronic floor. I call it the ActiveFloor. At 168 square feet with one pressure sensor per square foot, it is by far the largest electronics project I have worked on to date.”

As the HackADay crew notes, a camera-based detection system couldn’t give Voisen’s team the required precision, so Sean decided to use pressure-sensitive resistors placed under MDF panels. Ultimately, the ActiveFloor comprised a total of twenty-one 2′x4′ tiles, each one including 8 pressure-sensitive resistors and an ATtiny84-based platform.

“I was already very familiar with Atmel microcontrollers, and it was cheap, readily available, and had just the right number of pins for the application,” Voisen continued.

“Though the ATtiny84 does have 8 single-ended ADC channels, most of these pins ended up being used for other applications. As a result, I used only 1 ADC and added a 74HC4051multiplexer for selecting sensor input.”

Interested in learning more? Additional information about the ActiveFloor can be found here on Sean’s official page.

The ARM-Atmel Churchill Club connection

Early this morning, journalists, analysts and industry watchers gathered at the Churchill Club in San Francisco to discuss cross-industry collaboration between ARM and its extensive network of partners.

Collaboration is often easier to talk about than achieve in Silicon Valley, yet ARM has been incredibly successful with its licensing model, generating an ecosystem that spans multiple industries and spaces – including the incredibly lucrative mobile market.


“ARM is in a fantastic state of health. Of course there are lots of challenges ahead, but we are confident our open partnership model is the way forward,” said incoming CEO Simon Segars.

“We have always thrived on a culture of collaboration from the very beginning, an attitude which has only increased with the rise of the Internet and social networking.”

Segars also noted that ARM had begun as a small start-up in a converted farmhouse with a limited budget.

“From the start, we knew we couldn’t do everything ourselves, and needed partners to make it work,” he said. “So we have always worked very closely with people from various industries.”

Clearly, ARM’s strategy has paid off over the years, as the Cambridge-based company has built up an impressive portfolio of collaborative IP projects with a number of industry heavyweights.

One example of close collaboration with ARM is the use of the company’s architecture in a number of Atmel microcontrollers, including the recently launched SAM4E and SAMA5D3.

As previously discussed on Bits and Pieces, the SAM4E is based on ARM’s high-performance 32-bit Cortex-M4 RISC processor with a floating point unit (FPU). It runs at a maximum speed of 120MHz and features up to 1024KB of Flash, 2KB of cache memory and up to 128KB of SRAM. Meanwhile, the SAMA5D3 is built around ARM’s Cortex-A5 processor, operating at up to 536MHz (850DMIPS) at under 200mW.

There are obviously many more examples of collaboration between Atmel and ARM which can be found here.