Make the World takes on Crowdsourcing Prosthetics


Tonight marks the launch of a new program from Adafruit focused on improving the availability of prosthetic designs. The program will be highlighted in four Google+ Hangouts over the coming month. Mark your calendars for 8pm Eastern Time to join in on the one-hour launch.

We’ve seen a fair number of prosthetic hacks over the years, and every time one is featured we try to drive home the importance of sharing information in order to build upon the advances of others. The power of this is clear, shown in a $150 3D printed hand for a child, hackers that are replacing their own limbs or digits, and the sharing of diy fabrication techniques to help bring prostheses to the developing world. So get excited, get involved, and get hacking!

A really, really tiny microcontroller board

Here’s something very cool from the wonderful world of Adafruit: The Trinket, an Arduino compatible microcontroller platform that’s not only small enough to fit in your pocket, it’s small enough to lose in your pocket.

Like the similarly specced Digispark, the Trinket features an ATTiny85 microcontroller with 5 IO pins. Unlike the Digispark, the Trinket is a bit more substantial, featuring 3.3 and 5 Volt regulators along with a real USB port and mounting holes. As this is based on the ‘tiny85, it’s possible to connect this up to I2C and SPI sensors and peripherals

One thing to note about the Trinket is the fact that it’s so cheap. Either version of the Trinket goes for about $8, inexpensive enough to simply leave in a project when you’re done with it. Given the cool stuff we’ve already seen created with the Digispark, including a homebrew stepper motor and an Internet meme and lame pun assessment tool, we can’t wait to see what’s made with the Trinket,

[Limor] from Adafruit to hang out with President [Obama]


In a positive twist on the usual publicity events that our administration has experimented with over the years, President [Obama] will be hosting a google+ hangout with some lucky people to discuss, well, whatever matters. It is nice to see the people running the country finally getting to grips with some technology. It is still scary to hear how many people making the laws about data still don’t even use a computer.

[Limor] from Adafruit was selected as one of the few that would get to ask the President some questions. She will be focusing on manufacturing and small businesses.  We think she’s a great candidate to do so. We’ve watched her go from someone who just did some really well documented hacks to someone who runs a successful business focusing on open information and education (and gadgets of course). You can also submit your own questions, and if they get enough votes, the president will answer them.

NASA inspired circadian rhythm lights


After reading about an initiative between NASA and Boeing to develop lights for the International Space Station [Rasathus] decided to give it a go at building his own. The project uses RGB pixels to build a circadian rhythm light installation. Without the normal rise and fall of the sun the sleep wake schedule for the astronauts can be pretty rough. This uses color and intensity of light in a well-defined schedule to help alleviate that. [Rasathus] is trying to bring his project in well under the $11.1 million mark which was established for the ISS.

The light modules he’s using are from a strand of LEDs from Adafruit. Each is driven by a WS2801 controller, a common driver used for easy and complicated projects like this huge ball of light which our own [Jesse Congdon] tackled. The board above is the start of an adapter board for interfacing with the Raspberry Pi GPIO header. [Rasathus] wanted to make certain he didn’t fry the control electronics so he built some protection into this adapter. The control software is covered in the second portion of  the write up. We’ve embedded the video from that post after the break.

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Adafruit’s got a new board, an official Arduino

There’s a new Arduino in town, this time designed in conjunction with Adafruit. It’s the Arduino Micro, a very neat little board designed for breadboard use.

Ostensibly an upgrade of the long in the tooth Arduino Nano, the new Micro takes all the best features of the new Arduino Leonardo and shrinks them down to a convenient stick of gum-sized package. It’s powered by the ATmega32u4 microcontroller, and with a MicroUSB port is able to emulate keyboards, mice and other USB input devices.

Of course with any microcontroller dev board, comparisons must be drawn between the Arduino Micro and the very popular Teensy USB dev board. Like the Teensy boards (and the new Arduino Leonardo), the Micro is able to function as a USB keyboard or mouse. The Teensys, though, is loaded with LUFA making it able to emulate just about anything from mice, USB audio devices, and MIDI synths.

Web IDE for the Raspi

For this month’s release of Adafruit’s Raspberry Pi Linux distribution, [Limor], et al. decided to build a web-based IDE for the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi WebIDE is a web server that runs on the Raspi. By connecting to your raspi in a web browser, you’re able to create your own Python programs that are able to interact with the GPIO pins. All the code is stored in the cloud with the help of bitbucket.

The WebIDE is in its early Alpha stage right now; there are a few bugs and minor issues, but in the video after the break, [Limor] shows us it’s possible to push code to a Raspi through the Internet and view the result in a web-based serial terminal.

For fear of editorializing, we have to point out that Adafruit’s web IDE – along with other Arduino web IDEs such as Codebender and the Wifino – work on the cloud. If you’re planning a long-term project that relies on a web-based IDE, you might be in for a world of hurt if only because you can’t host a cloud on a personal server. We’d love to see a package that allows us to have the same functionality as bitbucket on a personal server. If you can find a project that does something similar, or have written your own, send it in and we’ll spread the word.

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[Limor Fried] (Adafruit) up for Entrepreneur of 2012 award

[Limor Fried], the brains behind Adafruit is one of the five finalists for the Entrepreneur of 2012 award in Entrepreneur magazine. We’ve always been big fans of how she chooses to run her business. Adafruit supplies open source hardware and compiles tons of great tutorials on the pieces. Not only that but they have pushed very hard to build a community that shares information and encourages others to build things, with their “ask an educator” series and the community “show and tell” that we hope to emulate at some point.

You’ll notice she’s the only engineer in the list. Not only would your vote go toward getting an engineer to win, it would also be shedding light on the open source hardware movement.

Unfortunately, the voting is being done through facebook. We know many of you will opt not to participate due to this fact. It is unfortunate that this is becoming so common. I’ll be voting though. We could use more companies like Adafruit.