Low-Power Orientation Tracker and an Optimized Math Library for the MSP430

MSP430 Orientation Tracker

Orientation trackers can be used for a ton of different applications: tracking mishandled packages, theft notification of valuables, and navigation are just a few examples! A recent blog post from Texas Instruments discusses how to build a low-cost and low-power orientation tracker with the MSP430.

Based on the MSP430 LaunchPad and CircuitCo’s Educational BoosterPack, the orientation tracker is very simple to put together. It can also be made wireless using any of the wireless BoosterPacks with a Fuel Tank BoosterPack, or by using the BLE Booster Pack with a built in Lithium Battery circuitry. TI provides all the necessary code and design files in their reference application for getting your orientation tracker up and running. Be sure to see the device in action after the break! This project not only involves building a low-power orientation tracker, but also showcases IQmathLib, a library of optimized fixed point math functions on the MSP430. One of the more challenging aspects of using small MCUs such as the MSP430 or Arduino is how inefficient built in math libraries are. Check out the IQmathLib, it greatly improves upon the built in math functions for the MSP430.

It would be interesting to see this project modified to be a DIY pedometer or be used on a self-balancing robot. It would also be interesting to see the IQmathLib ported to other micros, such as the Arduino. Take a look and see how you can use this reference design in your own projects!

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Step Into the Ring with Fight Coach



As MMA continues to grow in popularity, the competition is getting tougher. There’s always someone else out there who’s training harder and longer than you are. So how do you get the advantage over your competitors? More push-ups? Sit-ups? Eat more vegetables? What about installing custom 2 by 1 inch, 5 gram PCB’s armed with an ATmega32U4, a MPU-6050 6 axis accelerometer and an RN-41 Bluetooth module into each of your gloves? Now that’s what we’re talking about.

[Vincent] and [Jooyoung] of Cornell joined their classmates in turning out another cool piece of electrical engineering. Fight Coach records data from the fighter’s gloves so that it can not only be analyzed to improve performance, but also interact with the fighter in real-time.  Though not quite as immersive as some fighter training techniques we’ve seen, Fight Coach might just give a fighter a slight edge in the ring.

Fight Coach offers 3 modes of training: Defense mode, Damage mode and Free-Training mode. As usual with Cornell projects, all code, schematics and a wealth of information on the project is just a click away. And stick around after the break for a video demonstration of Fight Coach.

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Steering Sound with Phased Array


[Edward] and [Tom] managed to build an actual phased array speaker system capable of steering sound around a room. Powered by an Atmega 644, this impressive final project uses 12 independently controllable speakers that each have a variable delay. By adjusting the delay at precise intervals, the angle of maximum intensity of the output wave can be shifted, there by “steering” the sound.

Phased arrays are usually associated with EM applications, such as radar. But the same principles can be applied to sound waveforms. The math is a little scary, but we’ll walk you through only what you need to know in case you’re ever in need to steer sound with a speaker and a servo phased array sound system.

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Bare-metal Programming On The Teensy 3


The Teensy 3.x series of boards are amazing pieces of work, with a tiny, breadboard-friendly  footprint, an improbable amount of IO pins, and a powerful processor, all for under $20. [Karl Lunt] loves nearly all the features of the Teensy 3, except for one: the Arduino IDE. Yes, the most terrible, most popular IDE in existence. To fix this problem, [Karl] set up a bare-metal development environment, and lucky us, he’s chosen to share it with us.

[Karl] is using CodeBench Lite for the compiler, linker, assembler, and all that other gcc fun, but the CodeSourcery suite doesn’t have an IDE. Visual Studio 2008 Express is [Karl]‘s environment of choice, but just about every other IDE out there will do the same job. Of course a make utility will be needed, and grabbing the docs for the Freescale K20 microcontroller wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

The end result is [Karl] being able to develop for the Teensy 3.X with the IDE of his choice. He was able to quickly set up a ‘blink a LED’ program with the new toolchain, although uploading the files to the Teensy does require the Teensy Loader app.


Serial Monitor Without a PC


A serial monitor is an easy way to debug your projects. As we step through code, it’s nice to see a “Hey! I’m working, moving to next thing!” across the monitor, and not so nice to see nothing – the result of a bug that needs debugging. This has always meant needing a PC loaded with your favorite serial terminal program close at hand.

Most of the time this is not an issue, because the PC is used to compile the code and program the project at hand. But what if you’re in the field, with a mission of fixing a headless system, and in need a serial monitor? Why lug around your PC when you can make your own External Serial Monitor!

[ARPix] built this fully functional serial monitor based on an Atmega328 and a 102 x 64 LCD display. While it doesn’t have a keyboard port like this microcontroller based serial terminal, tact switches allow access to the user interface to start and stop the reading and set the baud rate. The Atmega328 has 2K of SRAM, which is needed for the project. Apparently, 1K was not enough to handle all the data. All code, schematics and a very well done parts layout are available, making this sure to be your next weekend project!




Gesture Recognition Using Ultrasound


You’d be hard pressed to find a public restroom that wasn’t packed full of hands free technology these days. From the toilets to the sinks and paper towel dispensers, hands free tech is everywhere in modern public restrooms.

The idea is to cut down on the spread of germs.  However, as we all know too well, this technology is not perfect. We’ve all gone from sink to sink in search of one that actually worked. Most of us have waved our hands wildly in the air to get a paper towel dispenser to dispense, creating new kung-fu moves in the process. IR simply has its limitations.

What if there was a better way? Check out [Ackerley] and [Lydia's] work on gesture recognition using ultrasound. Such technology is cheap and could easily be implemented in countless applications where hands free control of our world is desired. Indeed, the free market has already been developing this technology for use in smart phones and tablets.

Where a video camera will use upwards of 1 watt of power to record video, an ultrasound device will use only micro watts. IR can still be used to detect gestures, as in this gesture based security lock, but lacks the resolution that can be obtained by ultrasound.  So let us delve deep into the details of [Ackerley] and [Lydia's] ultrasound version of a gesture recognizer, so that we might understand just how it all works, and you too can implement your own ultrasound gesture recognition system.

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Vending Machine is Now Cyborg Friendly


Don’t you hate having to pull out your wallet or cellphone in order to pay for something? What if you could just wave your hand and transfer money that way? Well [David] did, so he decided to do something about it. He made the vending machine in his hackerspace, FamiLAB, cyborg friendly.

The problem was, the vending machine wasn’t technically his to play around with… so he had to do this hack without actually modifying the machine itself — which we admit, actually makes it quite a bit more interesting!

But first, why is [David] even doing this? Is he a cyborg or something? Well, not quite, but he’s quite enthusiastic about bio-tech (is that what we call it now?) — anyway, he has NFC implants in his hand, and magnets in his fingertips to give him a sixth “electro-sense”. Wanting to take the most advantage of these augmented abilities, he put together this clever NFC credit card emulator.

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