Category Archives: Aggregated

T³: PixMob Mutaforma Teardown

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

In the first week of August my wife and I, along with a few friends of ours, decided to take a long trip up to Seattle. This vacation wasn’t to sight-see and it wasn’t to visit friends or family, no – it was to attend The International at Key Arena. The International is a tournament for the multiplayer, online battle arena (MOBA) video game Dota 2, where the best teams from around the world compete to claim a piece of the $20M prize pool (and mom always told us that playing video games wouldn’t amount to anything). It took us close to 20 hours to get there, but it was a great event. Lindsay Sterling opened the show, there were upsets, there were stunning victories, and it was fun!

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Here’s the game stage, to give you an idea of the scale of this event.

Though we didn’t compete, my group did have the pleasure of watching the week-long event. While at The International we received an unfathomable amount of swag. One item among the multitude intrigued me the most, and it was simply taped to the seat when we entered the arena. It was a small, white, crowd participation wristband that would light up when certain things happened during a game. The actions that set off the wristband included anything from the first blood (kill) of the match, a multi-kill, a special power being used or a team victory. We knew there were three LEDs inside and some sort of control circuit, but our biggest question was: How was it communicating? My group and I hypothesized simple and cheap wireless options, like the ESP8266, or some sort of geolocation system, but we couldn’t come to a consensus. All we knew was that if we left the stadium it would cease to function.

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The PixMob Mutaforma V5 Wristband

It wasn’t until we were safely back home that I was able to actually research this little piece of plastic and rubber. I came to find out that the wristband is the Mutaforma V5 by a Montréal-based company called PixMob. These wristbands have been used in multiple, large crowd events like music concerts, Super Bowl half-time shows, E3 press conferences, the Olympics and corporate occasions.

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Wristbands ON! Yes, the stage is a giant screen.

Working in a large, open-source community, I’ve grown accustomed to finding schematics and datasheets quickly and easily. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the Mutaforma V5. It is perfectly understandable that PixMob doesn’t want their wristbands imitated by a rival company because, let’s be honest, when you do shows for Taylor Swift, you want to hold onto your intellectual property. As for me, though, I needed to know what was inside.

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Listen… It was like this when I found it…

Like I said, it was hard to find any information on how to get into this little piece of techno-entertainment, so I had to go about opening it the old fashioned way, with screwdriver and hammer. Luckily, it didn’t take long.

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A bit busy on the top side

Now that we cracked open the outer shell, we can see three LEDs (one SMT, two through-hole), a microcontroller, an assortment of tiny ICs (some passives and what looks like a VREG), and a generic IR receiver.

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An MC81F4204 MCU and WS2811 LED

Let’s take a closer look. The main chip on the Mutaforma V5 is an ABOV MC81F4204, a CMOS 8-bit MCU that provides 4K bytes of FLASH-ROM and only 192 bytes of RAM. The MC81F4204 is a very small chip that can surprisingly support its own weight, and makes for a reasonably cheap option for hand-outs. To its right is a simple, non-addressable, WS2811 RGB LED. Between the three RGB LEDs provided on the board, we can assume that none of them are addressable, and to be fair it really isn’t necessary. It’s clear that this board has been designed from the ground up to be as simple and as cheap as possible.

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THIS is how the people behind the scenes were able to communicate with the Mutaforma.

The biggest question I had about this board has been answered, and simply. All communication to the Mutaforma was controlled wirelessly via this little receiver. After doing a bit of poking around on PixMob’s website, I learned the set-up they had in the arena was pretty simple. A technician manning the light board also controlled a wide array of IR emitters installed inside the seating area of Key Arena. Here’s a pretty neat diagram of their set-up. This explains why the wristbands stopped functioning when we left the game floor to use the bathroom or to go to concessions.

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Not as busy underneath.

Flipping the board over, we can see where the two through-hole LEDs and the IR receiver make their connections, the battery pad for two CR2032s, and what we initially thought was a crystal – a basic, motion-sensing tilt sensor. There are actually a couple of things to note on the underside of this board, both relating to the tilt sensor. First, when the events concluded at The International, one last command was given to each of the wristbands inside the arena that told them to permanently switch to motion-sensitive mode. Whenever you move the wristband after the event, the LEDs light up in a random assortment of colors. The second item on the back of this board that I found interesting is the small jumper located on the CR2032 battery pad. Once connected, the jumper forces the Mutaforma into motion-sensitive mode, which is great for people like me who didn’t receive that last command from the light board.

And that’s pretty much it! It’s a very simple solution to get the audience involved in the ongoing event. It certainly got my wife and I to pump our fists every time the wristband flashed red and gold to signify a “first blood”…social engineering at its finest.

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Docker comes to Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

If you’re not already familiar with Docker, it’s a method of packaging software to include not only your code, but also other components such as a full file system, system tools, services, and libraries. You can then run the software on multiple machines without a lot of setup. Docker calls these packages containers.

Mayview Maersk by Flickr user Kees Torn

Mayview Maersk by Flickr user Kees Torn

Think of it like a shipping container and you’ve got some idea of how it works. Shipping containers are a standard size so that they can be moved around at ports, and shipped via sea or land. They can also contain almost anything. Docker containers can hold your software’s code and its dependencies, so that it can easily run on many different machines. Developers often use them to create a web application server that runs on their own machine for development, and is then pushed to the cloud for the public to use.

While we’ve noticed people using Docker on Raspberry Pi for a while now, the latest release officially includes Raspbian Jessie installation support. You can now install the Docker client on your Raspberry Pi with just one terminal command:

curl -sSL | sh

From there, you can create your own container or download pre-made starter containers for your projects. The documentation is thorough and easy to follow.

Docker Swarm

One way you can use Raspberry Pi and Docker together is for Swarm. Used together, they can create a computer cluster. With Swarm containers on a bunch of networked Raspberry Pis, you can build a powerful machine and explore how a Docker Swarm works. Alex Ellis shows you how in this video:

Docker Swarm mode Deep Dive on Raspberry Pi (scaled)

Get all the details @

You can follow along with Alex’s written tutorial as well. He has even taken it further by using Pi Zero’s USB gadget capabilities to create a tiny Docker Swarm:

Alex Ellis on Twitter

Look ma, no Ethernet! 8 core @Docker 1.12 swarm boom USB OTG @Raspberry_Pi

The Raspberry Pi already makes many computing tasks easier; why not add deploying remote applications to that list with Docker?

The post Docker comes to Raspberry Pi appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Your Arduino can tell you which countries you AREN’T in

via Arduino Blog

A few months ago, Connor Nishijima demonstrated a neat project highlighting the Arduino Uno’s “built-in motion sensor.” Now, he’s using the Arduino Mega’s “built-in anti-GPS” to guess which countries you’re NOT in.  How, you ask? By reading the frequency of the alternating current (AC) cycles in his house using an open analog pin.

You’ll need an Arduino Mega to fit the array of Strings below, Uno doesn’t cut it even with use of PROGMEM. The Sketch is also written to use the Seeed Studio TFT Shield, but if you remove all “TFT” lines from the sketch you can just see the output in the Serial Monitor. An antenna (just a breadboard jumper) on A7 might be necessary.

Since various locations have varying power systems, Nishijima was able to program the board with a list of all those that cycle the AC at 60Hz and 50Hz AC. By knowing which one you have, the Arduino can then reckon which countries you’re not in and display its findings on the TFT shield.

Perhaps the best part of Nishijima’s hilarious video, though, is what happens when you don’t have enough AC in your home. When this occurs, you’ll receive the following error message: “NO ******* CLUE WHERE YOU ARE. SORRY NOT SORRY PAY YOUR ELECTRIC BILL.”

Admittedly, he notes that this trick is “pretty useless, but fun, nonetheless.” You can find more about the anti-GPS project on GitHub.

The AVC Digital Program

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

By now you have heard a lot about AVC this year (you can still register your team for PRS and Combat Bots!). We’ve talked about Power Wheels, watermelons, fighting robots, prize money and weight limits, but today we have another big surprise.

Click here to download the AVC 2016 digital program!

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In addition to all four of our competitions, AVC will also include opportunities to learn more about electronics and robotics, get hands-on with kits and materials, take a tour of our headquarters and meet local makers.

Buy tickets to AVC here!

September 17

9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

SparkFun Headquarters Niwot, CO

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Buy your kit and sign up for a workshop to learn how to make a circuit, use conductive thread, or solder a new badge!

Otto the Rolling Robot Pin


Use conductive copper tape to complete a circuit and make a little robot light up with an LED and a coin-cell battery. When you’re done, pin the robot to your shirt to show your support for robotics!

Otto Light-Up Badge


For those who want to try their hand at sewing, assemble a light-up badge using a needle, conductive thread, an LED and a coin-cell battery.

Top-Secret Soldering


Programming and soldering come together with our BadgerHacks! Solder together your BadgerStick and LED board, and then learn to program your creation to spell out words and secret messages.

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Classroom Sessions

10 a.m.: Introduction to Robotics with Shawn Hymel

Learn robotics basics with SparkFun’s own Shawn Hymel. Consider this a primer on getting started in an exciting field!

10:30 a.m.: FIRST Robotics

Learn about the competitive high school robotics club and see a few robots in action! You’ll find out how the competition works and how you can get involved.

11 a.m.: Introduction to Hacking (Autonomous) Vehicles with Josh Datko

Learn about hacking embedded systems, your car and autonomous vehicles! Get briefed on embedded device security, the threat model for autonomous vehicles, the latest research in car hacking from this year’s major security conferences – HOPE, BlackHat and DEF CON – and ongoing open source projects.

Noon: Poison Arrow from BattleBots with Caustic Creations

Meet the team behind ABC Network’s “BattleBots” competitor Poison Arrow, see the robot and learn what it’s like behind the scenes of the hit ABC TV show. The bot makers will share stories about building Poison Arrow and offer tips on taking your combat bot to the next level.

1 p.m.: Meet AVC Mexico Champion Jorge Cordero

Want to win AVC? Come learn from someone who has! Jorge will be flying in from Mexico to compete in SparkFun’s AVC challenges and talk about his experience, the international autonomous vehicle scene and what it takes to be one of the best!

2 p.m.: Quality Control at SparkFun

How do we ensure our products work? What is the magic behind our our quality? QC manager Pete Lewis will detail our cool test jigs and methods used to ensure quality fun!

3 p.m.: IoT Myths and Realities

Join SparkFun’s director of Software Development and IT (SWIT), Timm McShane, to learn about the history of computing and how IoT isn’t just another fad but the true next step in computing. Timm will debunk myths left and right as he uncovers what’s real and where the field is heading.

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Maker Alley

Autonomous Robotics & Perception Group (ARPG) CU

An important goal in mobile robotics is the development of perception algorithms that allow for persistent, long-term autonomous operation in unknown situations (over weeks or more). Learn how ARPG CU uses real-time, embodied robot systems equipped with a variety of sensors.

BHS Robotics

Join the Boulder High School robotics team and check out some of the cool projects the group has been working on. This includes THING, a giant robotic hand controlled by Beanie Babies, a remote-controlled shopping cart and the competition bot from last year’s FRC.

Catalyze CU

An 8-week summer startup accelerator designed for CU students and faculty, Catalyze CU combines world-class mentorship and equity-free grants with the university’s most promising ideas and technologies.

Caustic Creations with Poison Arrow

If you’re a fan of ABC Network’s “BattleBots” show, you’ll want to visit Caustic Creations, one of the show’s top teams. They’re at AVC to talk about their experience filming and building one of these fierce fighting robots!

Colorado Maker Hub

If you’ve ever been to a Denver Mini Maker Faire, then you’re probably familiar with the Colorado Maker Hub. Stop by their tent to hear about all the different events and educational programs happening in the state.

FIRST Robotics

Our local high school FIRST Robotics teams have come out for the day to show off their competition-ready robots. Check out these cool machines and find out ways to support robotics and electronics in our schools.

Maker Boulder

Boulder’s vibrant maker coalition hosts the Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest every spring! Come say hello and learn about ways to get involved.


Based in Boulder, RoadNarrows is developing a diverse set of robotics research platforms for universities and other research groups, including Hekateros robotic manipulators, Laelaps mobile research robots and Eudoxus 3D Vision.


ROBAUTO is a local robotics startup with one mission: to provide low-cost, intelligent social robots to students and makers. Robots for the people!


Learn how you can implement an embedded-vision system on Digilent’s ZYBO, a low-cost Zynq-7000 All-Programmable SoC development board. Xilinx will demonstrate the distinct advantages of FPGA technology for implementing realtime, high-performance image processing for autonomous vehicles.

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This year at AVC we’re dedicating a space specifically for shop talk. Come meet engineers from our team, ask them your burning questions about our products and resources, or share your projects and ideas.

Shawn Hymel, Creative Technologist

Mary West, Engineer

Nick Poole, Creative Technologist

Office Hours:*

1 – 2 p.m.: Nathan Seidle, SparkFun Founder

10 – 11 a.m.: Richard Parker, SparkFun CFO

2 – 3 p.m.: Glenn Samala, SparkFun CEO

*Office hours are subject to change. Keep an eye out for these folks wandering around!

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We encourage all of our friends and special guests to join us on September 17! Bring your toughest questions for our engineers, your brilliant project ideas, and spend the day with us celebrating robotics and electronics!

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Make a cat feeder with Arduino, a servo and two cans

via Arduino Blog

YouTuber “Mom Will Be Proud” and his family have a cat. And like all pets, their feline friend requires fresh food every morning. But rather than disrupt your sleep or daily routine, why not build an automated feeder using some spare parts? This is exactly what the Maker did using an Arduino, a servo, a simple button, a power supply, and two cans–one for housing the electronics, the other for the food.

Mom Will Be Proud cut little openings into each container, and connected them to a servo that rotates one on top of the other without ever getting stuck. A broken IKEA timer and a piece of plastic are used for the button, which when pressed, turn the cans until its holes match up and the food is dispensed into a bowl.

You can see how it works below!