Tag Archives: steampunk

An Atmel cyberpunk jacket for your steampunk goggles

Recently, the AdaFruit crew designed a pair of Atmel-powered goggles dubbed “Kaleidoscope Eyes” for cyberpunks, steampunks and yes, even Daft Punks. Today we’re going to be taking a closer look at a Flora GPS Jacket that can be tastefully paired with the futuristic AdaFruit goggles for a full cyberpunk/steampunk fashion ensemble.

The GPS Jacket – designed by AdaFruit’s Becky Stern – is built around Flora, a wearable electronics platform powered by Atmel’s Atmega32u4 MCU.

“Make your coat react to your location with color-changing LEDs! The Flora GPS Jacket tracks your coordinates and then pulses the lights around the collar when you reach your destination,” Stern wrote in a recent post. “[You can] change the waypoints and range in the provided project code to make your garment light up near your favorite coffee shops or the perfect picnic spot.”

Key components for the GPS Jacket? A Flora GPS Starter Pack (includes a Flora main board, Flora GPS and 8 Flora pixels), battery holder (3xAAA w/JST recommended), USB cable (A to mini B), sewable battery holder coin-cell battery (optional for faster GPS fix), conductive thread, multimeter, alligator clips and snaps (optional).

The project begins by chaining 8 pixels together around the collar and attaching the GPS to 3.3v, TX, RX, and ground. A 3xAAA battery holder hides in a pocket and extends through a seam to plug into the JST port on the Flora.

Interested in learning more? Full instructions for designing AdaFruit’s GPS Jacket can be found on Becky Stern’s detailed tutorial.

Digitizing sculptures with MakerBot

In August, MakerBot began accepting pre-orders for its new Digitizer 3D scanner which is expected to ship in October. The Digitizer is currently priced at $1,400, plus an optional $150 for MakerCare, a comprehensive service and support program.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, MakerBot’s Digitizer allows users to quickly “transform” (scan) objects and items into 3D models that can be easily modified, shared and printed on 3D printers like the company’s Atmel-powered MakerBot Replicator 2.

Although Digitizer has yet to hit the streets, the MakerBot crew has already fashioned a number of new creations using the device, including figures based on famous sculptures, such as those found along the the Pont Neuf in Paris on a series of historic lampposts designed by Victor Baltard in 1854.

“Robert Steiner, our Chief Product Officer here at MakerBot, wanted to incorporate elements of these lampposts into a design for some furniture of his own. He sent pictures (above) off to a sculptor in the Philippines. A few months later these sculpts (below, left) arrived in the mail, but they were not great objects for casting into molds, as Robert had planned. He put them in a box and nearly forgot about them until we launched the Digitizer. Sensing an opportunity, he brought them into the office and the dolphin scanned beautifully,” MakerBot’s Bre Pettis wrote in a recent blog post.

“Plaster, due to its pale and textured surface, is a great material for scanning. The Digitizer software had no problem filling in the occlusion behind the lips. Plaster originals at left, Digitized and Replicated versions at right. Robert asked the sculptor to give Neptune an open mouth, in hopes of turning it into a fountain spout. The Neptune face didn’t scan well laying flat, so I attached some clay to the base to help it stand up straight. This gave his beard a trim, but now the printed version has a flat base to stand on.”

Meanwhile, MakerBot’s Kate Hannum noted that Thingiverse super user Dutch Mogul (aka Arian Croft) artfully remixed the company’s official MakerBot Gnome into a steampunk model dubbed Sir Occulum Tanberry.

“This little guy is ideal for gaming, as he retains his detail even at the 28mm gaming scale. You can easily print Sir Occulum Tanberry in halves or as one piece with supports. As is noted in the description, he looks especially at home next to the MakerBot Crystals,” said Hannum.

“3D scanning gives folks who aren’t expert 3D modelers an easy way to modify, improve, share, and 3D print. For people who are expert modelers like Arian, scanning provides a jumpstart to creating seriously awesome things. We can’t wait until Thingiverse is flush with exciting new remixes of scans from community members – beginners and experts alike!”

Indeed, the MakerBot Digitizer outputs standard 3D file formats, so Makers can improve, shape, mold, twist, animate and transform objects in a third-party 3D modeling program. There is no patching, stitching, or repairing required, so Makers are able to skip straight to the creative process. Adding one 3D model to another is easy, like putting a hat on top of a gnome. Plus, Makers can either scan a second object, or search for it on Thingiverse.com, scaling down and multiplying targeted objects to create charms or game pieces.

Additional information about MakerBot’s 3D printer lineup and Digitizer is available here.

Atmel goes cyberpunk with Adafruit

Cyberpunk novels and films are typically set in post-industrial dystopias characterized by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original creators. As William Gibson aptly noted in Burning Chrome, “the street finds its own uses for things.”

Recently, the AdaFruit crew designed a pair of goggles for cyberpunks, steampunks and yes, Daft Punks. Officially dubbed “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” key components for the headware include NeoPixel rings, an Atmel-powered (ATtiny85Trinket (or Atmel-powered Gemma) and a battery (lithium-polymer or 3x AA battery case). Heat-shrink tubing is recommended for insulating the wire connections, as is diffuser lenses for the goggles which help soften the light from LEDs. The latter can simply be cut from paper or fashioned with white acrylic.

“This is a soldering project, albeit a small one. You will need the common soldering paraphernalia of a soldering iron, solder, wire (20 to 26 gauge, either stranded or solid) and tools for cutting and stripping wire,” AdaFruit’s Phillip Burgess explained in a detailed tutorial on the subject.

“You’ll need some method of securing the electronics inside the goggles. Hot-melt glue (with a glue gun) works well for this. Watch your fingers! Tape could be used for a quick and temporary setup. Some steps require perseverance. You will need to provide your own; we do not sell patience in the shop.”

Burgess also confirmed that Makers can swap an Atmel-powered Gemma for the Atmel-powered Trinket.

“You won’t need the extra JST cable for the LiPo battery — Gemma has that plug built-in,” he said. “[Remember], the board is a bit wider and might be more challenging to fit, but one option is to show it off rather than conceal it, mounting the board on the outside of the goggles near one temple. Geek pride!”

Interested in learning more about building “Kaleidoscope Eyes” with Adafruit and Atmel? You can check out Adafruit’s detailed tutorial here, although Burgess warns the project is quite challenging.

“Small parts are used in confined spaces, and special tools and techniques are used. While not overtly dangerous, there’s still some potential for damage or injury,” he added. [So be sure to] read through everything first to decide if you really want to tackle this. Young makers should read through with a parent to help decide – [and] we [certainly do] have other wearable electronics projects that are less daunting.”

Kicking it up a notch with Pro Arduino

Over the past few weeks, Bits & Pieces has featured a number of technical books about Atmel-powered Arduinos, including “Arduino Workshop: A Hands-On Introduction with 65 Projects,” “Practical AVR Microcontrollers,” “Exploring Arduino: Tools and Techniques for Engineering Wizardry” and “Arduino in Action.”


And today we’re going to take a closer look at “Pro Arduino,” written by Rick Anderson and Dan Cervo.

“With Pro Arduino, you’ll learn about new tools, techniques and frameworks to make even more ground-breaking, eye-popping projects,” the duo wrote in an official Amazon description. “[For example], you’ll discover how to make Arduino-based gadgets and robots interact with your mobile phone.”

Additional featured projects include creating output with openFrameworks, simulating sensors for testing/debugging, designing games with Gameduino and configuring advanced XBee networks. According to Anderson and Cervo, the book is targeted at Arduino fans, technogeeks and electronic artists who want to take their skills to the next level.

It should be noted that Anderson, who designed the original Arduino Test Suite and is co-designer of the ChipKit Fubarino, is also working on Morse’s Secret Technology, a series of steampunk robotics and Arduino projects.

“Pro Arduino,” written by Rick Anderson and Dan Cervo, is currently available on Amazon for $17.27 [Kindle Edition].

Silicon Valley Maker Faire 2013 wrap up

After telling you about all the cool things at Maker Faire that were powered by Atmel chips, I thought I would balance things out showing some Maker things that don’t have chips at all.


A Steampunk styled land-based submarine at the 2013 Maker Faire.

It does not take long hanging around Maker to see that there is this whole Steampunk esthetic. In fact I would describe Maker as a science fair crossed with Burning Man. Out in the parking lot, there were big motorized cupcakes, just big enough to hold a driver, that were scooting around to the delight of the kids. Also a huge Rube Goldberg style installation where a bowling ball rolled through all kinds of obstructions to trigger a huge weight that would fall on a car, crushing it a little further towards flat each demonstration. There was a stylized dragon that sped around, avoiding the cupcakes, and propane spewing art sculpture the size of a tree. There were also Maker projects and food booths outside. The outside part of Maker Faire is why you should bring a hat and some sunscreen.

Speaking of kids, one of the greatest things about Maker is that it is a family-friendly event.


A cadre of young Makers gets intoxicated on LEGO® blocks.

There is a Bay Area LEGO Users’ Group for the adults doing giant projects.


Some budding Makers getting ready to craft a stuffed octopus that doubles as a glove, a Glovetopus.


Here a whole gaggle of Maker Fair attendees has a blast expressing their artistic side.

I think one thing fundamentally different about Maker compared to a science fair is that Maker promotes and encourages the artistic side of technologists.


This locomotive not only looks good, it also burns real coal.


The amazing thing about this model locomotive is that is hand-built, not made from a kit.

There seems to be a linkage between the Maker community and model train enthusiasts. There was a great outdoor display at Maker, with some fantastic model trains.


Maker Faire had a whole hall dedicated to robot wars.


There was some intense work going on the pit next to the robot war pen.

Robot wars. There are a lot of fun things at Maker, but sparring robots has to top my list. Designing  complex electro-mechanical systems is great instruction for these young technologists. They are the innovators and competitors that will keep America’s and the world’s economy humming along.


“Dave X” shows off a home-made firework that you can build. No, that is not real powder in the thing.

Explosives. What could be more fun? The Western Pyrotechnic Association had a booth at Maker Faire 2013. They can make sure you are following all state and federal laws as you make home-made fireworks. For that giant unit in the picture, you have to drive out of California to set it off. The trip to Nevada or Arizona just adds to the anticipation. The Association organizes events where everyone gets together to try out their handiwork. I guess you can think of them as single-use model rockets. Too late for the 2013 Winter Blast, but there is always 2014 to look forward to.


The Drone Dudes came up from Hollywood to Maker 2013.

Drone Dudes had an awesome octo-copter at the Faire. They hang an HD camera on the bottom of the drone and do filming for the movie industry. Now there may be Atmel chips inside it, I just forgot to ask I was so blown away by the hardware. Over the next few years you will start to see directors and cinematographers take advantage of this new technology, like when they saw how Google Earth zooms can make a great establishing shot, or how Bullet cams for the Matrix movie can do slow motion with perspective changes. I don’t think this gorgeous South Dakota night sky video uses bullet cams—but it is interesting to speculate how he did the dolly shots while time-lapsing. I suspect a really smooth robotic setup.


The Epilog laser can cut and engrave objects as well as cut them out of thin stock.

The Epilog Laser people were at the Maker Shed. The unit they showed won’t cut a razor blade yet, but that is some crazy power you probably would not want in your garage anyway.


The G&M Honey folks had a nice display at Maker.

G&M Honey is all about local production of food. So they can set you up to keep honey bees, and I think they can even sell the honey to local restaurants. They will even come get that bee hive out of the trunk of your car or the wall in your house.


This camera booth can feed images to Autodesk’s 123D photo-to-3D model software.

Autodesk had this camera booth that provides images to their 123D 3-D model creation software. My ME pal Dave Ruigh tried the software a few months ago and could not get good results. He said it would be easier to just build the thing in Solidworks. I suspect he did not feed the software the kind of images it needed. This booth would be the perfect test bed to see how well the software performs. Next time I will bring a Sportster engine case and see how it does with that.


Here were some weird 3D shapes at Maker Faire 2013.

I don’t know if this strange shape was made from a model or is just some type of Styrofoam bubbles. The wooden models are interesting too. I did not have time to get the story; it was a drive-by snap, so there you have it.


Jeri Ellsworth was at the Faire with her new company Technical Illusions.

Occasional eFlea attendee Jeri Ellsworth was at the Maker Faire this year with a demo of her new company Technical Illusions. They project a 3-D game image out of a headset, but get this– the headset also has a camera so the 3-D is projected properly on to tables, walls and other surfaces. Too cool, no wonder Jeri has not been down to the eFlea breakfast for a while.

Maker Faire is really getting some traction all over the world. It looks like people have a real hunger to get their hands on technology and warp and weave it into whatever strikes their fancy. If you have never been to a Maker Faire, you should give it a try. The 120,000 people who came to San Mateo all had a great time. There is another big Faire in New York Sept 21&22, as well as franchised Faires in Detroit July 27&28 and Kansas City June 29&30. There is even a Faire coming to Rome Oct 3-6.