Tag Archives: arduino

Bringing Snake to your coffee table

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Snake is a classic game — more a genre of games — that dates all the way back to 1976 with the release of the Blockade arcade game. Many consoles and devices have received variations of Snake, putting it in the same league as Tetris and block breakers. Now Ty and Gig Builds have used an Arduino to construct a giant coffee table version of the game.

One of the reasons that so many variations of Snake exist is because it runs well on very low-resolution screens. That also made it perfect for this project, since an LED matrix makes for a great low-res display. Ty and Gig originally built that matrix for an interactive coffee table project and they were able to repurpose it for this game.

WS2811 individually-addressable RGB LEDs form that matrix. They shine through a holes drilled into a sheet of plywood mounted underneath the coffee table glass. An Arduino Mega controls those LEDs, but any Arduino board would work for the job. The only other hardware components are a 5V power supply and an analog joystick module.

The joystick is comprised of two potentiometers, so the Arduino simply checks those to determine which direction to move. Programming was a small challenge, because the 1D array of LEDs had to be translated to the 2D display. With that figured out, programming the game was straightforward. Players direct the LED snake to collect as many apples as possible without colliding with itself, like they have done for the past four decades.

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This Arduino-controlled ball launcher lets your pup play fetch for hours

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Many dog breeds require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to be healthy and happy, but not many of us want to spend our time endlessly throwing a tennis ball. That’s why Connor Benson used an Arduino Nano to build an automatic ball launcher that is capable of keeping his pup entertained all day long.

In this case, the Nano is being employed to sense when a ball has been dropped into the ball launcher, spin up the launcher’s motors, and then release the ball down into the spinning wheels. The board requires very little power, so this machine can run on a battery pack for a relatively long time.

The frame and mechanical components are 3D-printed in a nice bright blue color. An Adafruit proximity sensor is implemented to detect when a ball is in the machine and then releases the ball with a hobby servo motor. The 3D-printed wheels that grip the ball and fling it out are spun using powerful brushless DC motors. The Nano controls those via electronic speed controllers (ESCs).

Now Benson can play fetch with his dog for hours at a time without tiring out his arm and the dog certainly seems happy with the project.

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Building a better battery analyzer with Arduino

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Your favorite device has just run out of juice, so you quickly take off the cover and reach into that old stash of alkaline batteries you have lying around. After trying countless combinations, you still cannot be sure they’re working properly, as each one has been slightly used. If only there were a way to know.

In comes a maker named Moragor with his take on a battery analyzer. The one he built doesn’t just measure the voltage for a certain type of battery. Instead, users can select from three different types (alkaline, NiMh, or Li-on), along with the current from a sleek OLED display. Then, values get read, shown, and also logged to an SD card for more advanced analysis. The entire device is based on a custom PCB that acts as a shield for an Arduino Mega.

Moragor might have gone a bit overboard, however, as he eventually got around to testing 25 different types of alkaline batteries! After measuring four batteries from each brand with discharge rates of 100mA and then 500mA, he was able to create this neat little chart that shows the energy loss from high current consumption. As seen below, there were a couple of standouts that lost nearly 60% of their energy at 500mA vs 100mA. 

You can check out Moragor‘s write-up for more information on exactly what components were used and how it was made, plus all the detailed battery analysis one could hope for. 

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It’s easier than ever to add two-way communication to Arduino devices

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There’s a brand new device-to-device communication feature available now in the Arduino IoT Cloud. It’s something we’ve been working on for a long time. So we’re excited to see how it’ll add a whole new connected dimension to your Arduino projects.

Arduino IoT Cloud thing to thing communication

What is “Device-to-Device”? Communication?

Internally we’ve been looking at this feature as “device-to-device” communication. It will allow your Arduino devices to send wireless messages to each other, without writing a single line of code or spending time with radio modules and network protocols.

Using this feature you can link variables of the same data type between two or more cloud-enabled devices. For example, one button could set three smart bulbs to the same color. Or you could turn on a heater when temperature sensors in your room or outside in your weather station drop below a certain level. Being able to sync variables gives you an intelligent way to control multiple devices very easily.

Whether you use an Oplà IoT Kit, a MKR WiFi 1010, a Nano 33 IoT or an (upcoming!) Nano RP2040 Connect, you can configure everything from the web interface. After configuration, any changes you make to variables on one device will be reflected promptly on the other(s). This creates a seamless, powerful and secure two-way communication with almost no effort on your part, and no code required. The Arduino IoT Cloud handles authentication, security, network disruptions and any other tricky parts. 

What Does This Mean For Your Projects and Devices?

It means there are lots of options with thing-to-thing communication (also known as variable synchronization):

  • Collect sensor readings from remote devices.
  • Actuate devices remotely. For instance, pressing a button on one Arduino turns on an LED or motor on another.
  • Create a distributed algorithm where multiple devices collaborate with each other.

Are you thinking about home automation? Interactive installations? Monitoring and controlling machines from a wireless panel? This powerful new feature makes all those things easy to achieve for makers of all abilities.

Arduino Cloud thing to thing dashboard.

Combined with IoT Cloud’s dashboards this delivers a powerful new way to build incredible automations with minimal (if any) changes. Furthermore, it gives you smartphone control of your connected boards via the existing Arduino IoT Remote iOS and Android apps.

If you want to be one of the first to try it out, grab an Arduino IoT Cloud subscription. After that, just make sure you’re signed up to the Arduino newsletter to hear about other new features.

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Customizable artificial intelligence and gesture recognition

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In many respects we think of artificial intelligence as being all encompassing. One AI will do any task we ask of it. But in reality, even when AI reaches the advanced levels we envision, it won’t automatically be able to do everything. The Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems has been giving this a lot of thought.

AI gesture training

Okay, so you’ve got an AI. Now you need it to learn the tasks you want it to perform. Even today this isn’t an uncommon exercise. But the challenge that Fraunhofer IMS set itself was training an AI without any additional computers.

As a test case, an Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense was employed to build a demonstration device. Using only the onboard 9-axis motion sensor, the team built an untethered gesture recognition controller. When a button is pressed, the user draws a number in the air, and corresponding commands are wirelessly sent to peripherals. In this case, a robotic arm.

Embedded intelligence

At first glance this might not seem overly advanced. But consider that it’s running entirely from the device, with just a small amount of memory and an Arduino Nano. Fraunhofer IMS calls this “embedded intelligence,” as it’s not the robot arms that’s clever, but the controller itself.

This is achieved when training the device using a “feature extraction” algorithm. When the gesture is executed, the artificial neural network (ANN) is able to pick out only the relevant information. This allows for impressive data reduction and a very efficient, compact AI.

Fraunhofer IMS Arduino Nano with Gesture Recognition

Obviously this is just an example use case. It’s easy to see the massive potential that this kind of compact, learning AI could have. Whether it’s in edge control, industrial applications, wearables or maker projects. If you can train a device to do the job you want, it can offer amazing embedded intelligence with very few resources.

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A splendid steampunk tea maker

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Steampunk Tea Timer Arduino Project

Prolific project maker and Arduino lover Alain Mauer has made a rather splendid tea maker project with a steampunk twist. Despite Mauer being based in Luxemburg, we’d have to say this feels like a very British Arduino application.

Crumpets or Battenburg, anyone?

Putting the “Tea” in “Steampunk”

The Tea Timer is a classic Arduino project. A simple idea with a simple execution, beautifully presented.

Mauer’s put together a timer that submerges a teabag for a preset period. We all have our preferences for the strength of tea, and everyone knows an entire day can be ruined if the teabag’s left in for too long (right?). So a five-stage timer lets you determine just how strong your tea will be.

Arduino Nano and servo in steampunk tea maker project

Once the timer’s run down, an Arduino Nano fires up the servo, which turns the gears and lifts the bag out so you don’t forget. Adjusted correctly, this also means you can consistently make the perfect cup of brown joy.

And just like the perfect cuppa, presentation is everything. Mauer didn’t need to add the gears, wooden housing or the brass finish. But the steampunk aesthetic really completes the project, and makes it into a work of art as well as an essential kitchen appliance. Now we just need to hook it up to a home automation system.

Mauer has provided all the CAD parts on his GitHub along with the Arduino code, so it’s easy to replicate.

Tea is a subject of great significance to the British. It can cause arguments, hysteria and family feuds that last for generations. All in a very civilized manner, of course. No Brit would be uncouth enough to have cross words in public about the proper way to drink tea. But we do reserve the right to tut and roll our eyes behind closed doors afterwards, should someone get it wrong.

Check out the steampunk Tea Timer and automatic teabag remover on Mauer’s blog. And let’s leave the last word on the vital importance of a cup o’ brown joy to the immortal Professor Elemental.

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