Tag Archives: Teensy++ 2.0

Young Maker creates a portable, 3D-printed game console


One 14-year-old Maker has built a portable, multi-purpose gaming console based on Raspberry Pi.


Evident by the recent success of Arduboy, not to mention a number of other projects, do-it-yourself gaming has surely risen in popularity over the years. Take for instance, 14-year-old Maker Rasmus Hauschild, who has developed a portable, multi-purpose Raspberry Pi console.

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The Maker created a vast majority of the homebrew system’s components, along with its four action buttons, in Autodesk 123D Design, and then 3D printed them out on an Ultimaker 2. In total, the print job required just shy of 210 hours and called for roughly 1,000 feet of filament.

The console itself is comprised of a 3.5” TFT screen with a resolution of 480 x 320, a 6000mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery, two MP3 speakers taken out of a broken Nintendo DS Lite, an analog volume slider from a pair of old headphones, as well as a built-in controller with tactile switches and an analog thumb stick.

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Users can expect anywhere from four to five hours of play time on a single charge, which is plenty for even the longest of car rides. When depleted, an Adafruit PowerBoost 1000C juices the battery up in about five to six hours. Additionally, since he used a cheap composite backup camera screen, the Maker does note that the console calls for 12V to operate out of the box, or can be configured to work with 5V.

In terms of hardware, the system is based on a Raspberry Pi running Retropie OS. This allows it to emulate games dating back to 1977 through 2003. It has both Raspbian and Kodi installed, too.

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For Rasmus, the controller proved to be the most challenging part of the project, namely the thumb stick. This led him to use a Teensy 2.0 (ATmega32U4) to convert the controls from the gamepad into digital format since the Raspberry Pi seemed to have a difficult time understanding analog right away.

“If I had been a master programmer I could probably have gotten away with buying an ADC (analog to digital converter) and then writing a driver for it myself. But that did not work for me. So I did some research on the Internet, and found that the Arduino could convert analog signals to digital, but since the Arduino was way too big to ever fit in my design I decided to go with an Arduino ‘clone’ called the Teensy, because of the much smaller footprint,” Rasmus writes.

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Aside from serving as a Game Boy alternative, the console can also be used as a media device, since Kodi and Raspbian are already loaded. Admittedly, Rasmus says that the screen is a bit too small for browsing the web, but when it comes to watching movies, it works just fine. Alternatively, it can be connected to a TV via HDMI.

Want to make one of your own? Check out his project on Thingiverse here.

ErgoDox EZ is a pre-assembled, open-source mechanical keyboard


Finally, everyone can have a beautiful split keyboard with mechanical keys.


Are you looking for the ultimate ergonomic keyboard without the hassle of building or customizing it yourself? You’re in luck. That’s because a trio of Rockville, Maryland-based keyboard enthusiasts have teamed up to launch what they’re calling the ErgoDox EZ project.

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The device — which recently made its Indiegogo debut — is based on the official ErgoDox design. However, instead of having to piece together 160 different components, these keyboards will ship as a mass-produced, pre-assembled product that anyone can buy. What’s more, it’ll also come with a factory warranty. For those unfamiliar with the office accessory, the ErgoDox is an ergonomic keyboard that is divided into two halves with a columnar layout. This style of keypad has risen in popularity over the last couple of months, particularly throughout the online gaming scene.

Based on a Teensy 2.0 microcontroller (ATmega32U4), ErgoDox is 100% open-source, meaning users can customize it to their liking. Massdrop, the innovative startup behind the original ErgoDox kits, has an online graphical configuration utility that enables users to easily create their own layout and share with the DIY community. Crafted with portability in mind, the device comes with both a standard cable and a USB jack, too.

“Right now, you can choose between two main kinds of assembled mechanical keyboards: You have the compact “retro” ones like the Happy Hacking keyboard, or the large ergonomic ones like the Kinesis Advantage. The ErgoDox is a mechanical keyboard design that is both compact and ergonomic,” its creators explain.

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Undoubtedly, one of the most important aspects of any mechanical keyboard is the key switches. While the ErgoDox EZ is equipped with Cherry MX Brown switches by default, users can choose between six different types, each with varying noise levels, type experiences and actuation forces.

“Each key on a mechanical keyboard hides an actual physical switch under it, rather than a squishy rubber membrane like on most keyboards. Typing on a mechanical keyboard is a very different experience from typing on a regular one. The keys have more travel, and everything is more tactile. Mechanical keyboards have their own unique sound, and you don’t have to press the keys all the way down to get a reaction, which makes typing easier on the fingers.”

Prior to the EZ, those seeking an ErgoDox would have to obtain a kit and then hand-solder its components together before having a fully-functional keyboard. Fortunately, those wishing to forgo the daunting task, or those simply looking for a much more expedited experience, can now purchase one out-of-the-box ready. ErgoDox EZ is currently live on Indiegogo, where its team is seeking $50,000. If all goes well, shipment is expected to begin December 2015 — just in time for the holidays!

Maker 3D prints a fully-functioning, Planck-inspired mechanical keyboard


Why go to Staples for a keyboard when you can print your own?


The Planck is a compact (40%) Ortholinear keyboard designed with ergomnomic thumb placement. For those unfamiliar the kits, the plate layouts are relatively the same as a traditional keyboard with the exception that the keys are all the same size. Recently, Maker Adam Forland 3D-printed and assembled a fully-functioning Planck-inspired mechanical keyboard.

“I just got into mechanical KBs a month ago but I was immediately drawn to the idea of a [DIY] keyboard. The plate, feet and key caps are all 3D-printed on my desktop printer,” Forland writes.

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As you will notice, upon first glance, the keyboard may appear to be just like the ones you use regularly. However, this gadget omits an elongated space bar, and instead, uses a series of five yellow keys along the bottom to serve as navigation arrows and a function button.

To bring this idea to life, Forland employed his Lulzbot Mini 3D printer. The Maker notes that he needed to divide the main case of the device into two sections in order to accommodate its size, which measures approximately 9cm x 25cm x 3cm. Using a 0.5mm nozzle, he printed the board at a 0.3mm layer height and the actual keys at a 0.18mm layer height using ABS thermoplastic.

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The keyboard itself is powered by a Teensy 2.0 USB dev board (ATmega32U4) and programmed with a few different custom layouts. Beyond that, the project is equipped with some 20-gauge copper wire, 1N4148 doides and 48 Cherry MX green switches.

Interested in a 3D-printed mechanical keyboard of your own? You can download all of its design files on Thingiverse here.

This Pac-Man eats time instead of pac-dots


It’s time for some nostalgia with this Pac-Man alarm clock. 


First released in 1980, Pac-Man was an arcade game developed by Namco that became a pop culture icon. In the game, the player controlled Pac-Man through a maze, eating pellets along the way. When all the pac-dots were eaten, Pac-Man advanced to the next stage. Well, one Maker has taken his love for the classic to a new level with a themed clock that will surely spark up some nostalgia.

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And, while it may not be the most practical timekeeping device, it will surely look great on the shelf of any bedroom, man cave or game room. Created by “Making Things,” the alarm clock features Pac-Man who periodically opens and closes his mouth at random intervals, while a pair of ghosts remain stationary along its side.

Based on a Teensy 2.0 (ATmega32U4), the clock itself is packed with a simple RTC module, a servo and a serial LED board for its display. The gears and servo are mounted to a 3D-printed bracket. Meanwhile, the frame is outlined with blue EL wire, giving that classic Pac-Man look a nice little touch.

The alarm clock itself was comprised mostly of 1/8” plywood, with the Pac-Man and the pair of ghosts all cut on a scroll saw. Though, the Maker does note that he would’ve 3D printed them if his printer was large enough.

“I like the Teensy boards because they can emulate other devices and are compatible with the Arduino IDE,” the Maker writes. “I used this [LED board] because it reduces the number of wires required to drive the display, plus it’s all I had on hand. There are no other parts other than a couple of pull up resistors on the RTC and a couple of filter caps.”

Time for some retro geekiness? Head over to the project’s official page here.

Interview: Jean-Noël talks Ootsidebox

Jean-Noël says projected capacity is the primary principle behind his Atmel-powered Ootsidebox, with an electric field projected in front of the existing touch surface affected by movements of the hand. Simply put, it is possible to calculate 3D coordinates and recognize certain gestures by measuring the perturbations of an oscillator caused by the movement of the user’s fingers (or an object) at several centimeters from the control surface.

Recently, Atmel’s Tom Vu had the opportunity to discuss the Ootsidebox with product inventor Jean Noel Lefebvre. 

Tom Vu:

What is the basic history of Ootsidebox?

Jean Noel: I kicked off this project 6 years ago and have worked on it full time since March 2013. Most of the parts used to construct  Ootsidebox are actually off-the-shelf electronics.

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More specifically, I used the Atmel AT90USB1286 microcontroller (MCU) to power the device. Currently, I am exploring the possibility of meshing the popular Unity 3D gaming Engine with Ootsidebox. Combining a well known gaming engine will help us tease out more latent, long-term potential for the project, while simultaneously expanding the boundaries of game play with touchless or hybrid touch/touchless technology.

TV: How does Ootsidebox differ from other touchless and gesture sensor solutions?

JN: First of all, there is nothing at the center. For the microchip solution, you need a center electrode with two layers integrated within the body. In contrast, Ootsidebox is designed to be platform and device agnostic. In fact, the incasing can be modeled to fit around existing technologies and devices. Take, for example, example, the Android or iPad. The idea that you can simply wrap this touchless interface around existing devices and products opens new possibilities while enhancing use-cases for existing devices.

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With this external fitting, much like an accessory, one can quickly enable their devices to be touchless, with gestures executed from within 10cm (set to double very soon) at maximum in front of a small screen. The device can be used in many different scenarios. For example, say you are in the kitchen cooking with greasy hands filled with sauce. The Ootsidebox can be set to seamlessly interact with various kitchen appliances – without the user ever having to touch knobs, buttons, glass, dials or sliders. Instead, activating/adjusting appliances can be performed via simple gestures (left to right or circular motions). Of course, there are many additional applications that can benefit from a touchless interface, ranging from home consumer device, gaming, health or even industrial uses.

TV:  Can you tell me more about the product design?  Is there any particular reason you chose Atmel AVR?

JN: The design is very simple, using only well known “stock components” found on any distributor or reseller site. The more complex part may be found in the 14bits DAC in SPI. Most of the components are “old school” logical chips such as 4000 family (my best friends for a long time in electronics). As for the microcontroller, I didn’t need high performance uC, so 8 bits were enough. The idea is to prepare Ootsidebox for mainstream adoption via a strategy of simplicity, a philosophy which fits well with Makers and the open source community. In terms of selecting the appropriate uC, I was careful to precisely balance price and performance. I also took into consideration various factors such as the large AVR community, availability of open source libs and the quality of the support and tools from the chip manufacturer. The mindset, reputation and philosophy of the brand (Atmel and Arduino) helped steer my uC choice. In fact, startups today are very closely tied to Maker Movement, reflecting Arduino and Atmel. That’s why I’m very confident when choosing Atmel, because Atmel and the Arduino community really support the Maker Movement today.

TV: How does Ootsidebox differ from other platforms on the market?

JN: It’s really a control device that computes touchless gestures versus touching and manipulating. Most of us are quite familiar with the ongoing touch revolution, as we use the very same interface interacting with smartphones and tablets on a daily basis. In addition, there are already commercially viable products such as Android devices equipped with sensor hubs that are designed to process gestural movement of the hand.

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Ootsidebox differs on many levels, as the device is meant to be an add-on or fitting to an already existing device. Easy modification will encourage HMI enhancements for existing products or emerging devices. Remember, a consumer/user does not have to be married to just one product line from a major manufacturer. With Ootsidebox, you can control the devices without touching; move up, down, side-to-side, rotational, and even emulating the click of a button. Perhaps most importantly, the touchless interface will undoubtedly inspire future design roadmaps. For example, the touchless form factor is perfect for industrial and medical use. Just imagine a dentist needing to activate or handle various devices during treatment when messy hands are not necessarily ideal.

TV: What is the future of Ootsidebox? Do you plan on making it open source?

JN: Yes, there are plans to launch a campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo to attract more involvement in the development and use of this touchless sensor solution. The platform and innovative slope for additional development is limitless. We plan on releasing Ootsidebox as open source / open hardware, complete with specs for mechanical design. Crowdsourcing will help spur additional innovation, while allowing the platform to accommodate a wider degree of functionality. 

TV: How do Hackerspaces influence your work?

JN: A few years ago, disruptive products and ideas were conceived in garages. Today, the very same process takes place in Hackerspaces, where creativity thrives and technical skills abound. By designing projects in Hackerspaces, Makers and engineers are fully connected with a worldwide network of creative people boasting different backgrounds. This synergy significantly accelerates the innovation process.

TV:  What is your personal experience with AVR microcontrollers (MCUs) and Arduino boards?

JN: I was using other brands before I discovered the benefits of AVR uC during my discussions about Ootsidebox with my friends at Elektor Labs.

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Also during my stay at Noisebridge Hackerspace, Mitch Altman was using AVR Arduino to teach electronics for newbies (I really love what’s happening there). My first experience with the Arduino environment was with Teensy++ 2.0, based on the AT90USB1286 MCU. This Atmel AVR microcontroller is the one I used for my last prototype of the Ootsidebox tablet accessory, which will be launched soon on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. We are also working on a smaller project with Elektor Labs. Essentially, it’s a “3D Pad” built in the form of a shield for Arduino.

TV: Are touchless gestures the future of user interfaces?

JN: Touchless gestures are a part of the natural evolution of the more traditional user interface. It’s a way to provide a more natural and intuitive user experience, which is somewhat of a growing requirement due to the proliferation of complex equipment in our everyday life. Of course, touchless gesture interaction is also more natural. In the future, with the help of Ootsidebox technology, product designers and Makers will not create electronic platforms to “manipulate” or “interact” with devices, but rather, for individuals to directly “communicate” with them instead.

Really, people expect them to be as smart as living entities. I learned that during various discussions with scientists about the project. In the brain, “communicating” vs. “manipulating” simply does not invoke the same connections pathways. Clearly, touchless and gesture UI are paving the way to a very fascinating evolution of consumer electronics in the near future. That being said, I see touchless user interfaces complimenting, rather than replacing, multi-touch, much the same way the mouse didn’t replace a keyboard.

Clearly, this kind of technology can help save lives, while reducing nosocomial risk in healthcare environments. It may also allows drivers to stay more attentive to the road when navigating with gesture-based infotainment. Personally, I’m dreaming of disruptive aesthetic designs in the field of high-tech consumer electronics. I can’t wait to see what a guy like Philippe Starck will be able to create. As I noted earlier, this project is 100% open and we invite everyone to participate on Twitter. Just post your questions and suggestions here: @OOTSIDEBOX, while including the hashtag #AtmelBlog. I’ll answer you personally. You can also check us out here on Facebook

More RAM with the Teensy++ 2.0

So, you’ve decided to use the Atmel-powered Teensy++ 2.0 (AT90USB1286) in your latest Maker project.

Want to know how you can access more memory? 

Well, you’re in luck, because xxxajk recently came up with a library that allows the use of significant RAM expansion with the Teensy++ 2.0.

As HackADay’s Brian Benchoff notes, xxxajk’s latest library is actually a port of XMEM2, an earlier project that added RAM expansion and multitasking to the Arduino Mega (ATmega1280). 

As expected, XMEM2 works with Rugged Circuits QuadRAM and MegaRAM expansions for the Arduino Mega as well as Andy Brown‘s 512 SRAM expansion.

“Up to 255 banks of memory are available and with the supported hardware, the Teensy can address up to 512kB of RAM,” Benchoff explained. 

”XMEM2 also features a preemptive multitasking with up to 16 tasks, the ability to pipe messages between tasks and all the fun of malloc().”

Interested in learning more? You can check out xxxajk/xmem2 on Github here, QuadRAM here, MegaRAM here and the 512 SRAM expansion here.