A fast and easy-to-use vision sensor

At Hackaday we don’t often feature kickstarter campaigns, but this one is worth noticing in our opinion. It is called Pixy, a small camera board about half the size of a business card that can detect objects that you “train” it to detect.

Training is accomplished by holding the object in front of Pixy’s lens and pressing a button. Pixy then finds objects with similar color signatures using a dedicated dual-core processor that can process images at 50 frames per second. Pixy can report its findings, which include the sizes and locations of all detected objects, through one of several interfaces: UART serial, SPI, I2C, digital or analog I/O.

The platform is open hardware, its firmware is open source and GPL licensed, making the project very interesting. It is based on a 204MHz dual core ARM cortex M4 & M0, uses a 1280×800 image sensor and can stream the processed camera output to your computer. You can get one Pixy in the kickstarter campaign for $59, which is not that expensive for what it is.

Send an Arduino to the moon for $300

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We’ve seen Kickstarter campaigns to put a single satellite into space and one to launch your own personalized postage-stamp sized satellite into low Earth orbit. This time, though, you can break the bonds of Earth and send your own Arduino compatible satellite on a collision course with the moon. The project is called Pocket Spacecraft, and exactly as its name implies, it allows you to send a small, flat, 8 cm diameter spacecraft to the surface of the moon.

The pocket spacecraft are made of metallized kapton, a very thin membrane stretched inside a loop of wire. On board this paper-thin spacecraft are a pair of solar cells and a bare die MSP430 microcontroller connected to a suite of sensors. Before launch, you can program your tiny space probe with commands to relay data back to Earth, either useful scientific data or a simple tweet.

These pocket spacecraft will be launched from a cubesat – a highly successful line of amateur spacecraft that are usually launched by hitching a ride with larger commercial satellites. To get from low Earth orbit to the moon is much harder than just hitchhiking, so the cubesat mothership comes equipped with either a solar sail or its own engine that electrolysed water into hydrogen and oxygen, the perfect rocket fuel.

Pocket Spacecraft is an amazingly impressive feat; there are literally dozens of amateur-built spacecraft orbiting above our heads right now, but so far none have ventured more than a few hundred miles away from their home planet. Getting to the moon with an amateur spacecraft is an amazing accomplishment, and definitely worthy of the $300 price tag.

Interview: Another Kickstarter round for the B9Creator

The Dawn of the 3D Printing Age - Art by Dennis HarrounNearly a year ago, the 3D printing scene saw a few new printers based on a technology other than squirting plastic out of a nozzle. These printers used DLP projectors underneath a vat of UV curing resin to build objects one layer at a time with incredible resolution.

Probably the most successful of these printers is the B9Creator from [Michael Joyce]. His original Kickstarter took in half a million dollars – 10 times his original goal – and still managed to deliver all the kits to backers within 2 weeks of the promised date. Now, [Michael] is running another Kickstarter before taking his printers to select distributors. We played some email tag with [Michael] for an interview discussing the perils of a hugely successful Kickstarter, and the future of the B9Creator ecosystem.

Check out our interview after the break.

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3Doodler, a 3D drawing pen

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Here’s something that’s making its way to the top of our, “why didn’t we think of that” list. It’s called 3Doodler, a device based on the plastic extrusion technology found in 3D printers stuffed into a pen that fits in the palm of your hand.

If you’re familiar with 3D printers, the design of the 3Doodler should come as second nature to you. Inside this electronic plastic-melting pen is a small motor that forces 3mm ABS or PLA filament through a heated nozzle. With the 3Doodler, you can draw in three dimensions by simply lifting the tip of the 3Doodler into the air.

While 3Doodler is obviously aimed at creating plastic objects by hand, we’re wondering if this device could be successfully adapted to work with 3D printers. The 3Doodler team put a very, very small and inexpensive extruder and hot end inside the 3Doodler, and they’ve got something on their hands we’d love to tear apart just to see how it ticks.

You can see the 3Doodler introduction video after the break.

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bladeRF, your next software defined radio

By now you might have a bit weary of your small and inexpensive TV tuner dongle software defined radio. Yes, using a USB TV dongle is a great introduction to SDR, but it has limited bandwidth, limited frequency range, and can’t transmit. Enter the bladeRF, the SDR that makes up for all the shortcomings of a USB dongle, and also serves as a great wireless development platform.

The bladeRF is able to receive and transmit on any frequency between 300 MHz and 3.8 GHz. This, along with a powerful FPGA, ARM CPU, and very good ADCs and DACs makes it possible to build your own software defined WiFi adapter, Bluetooth module, ZigBee radio, GPS receiver, or GSM and 4G LTE modem.

It’s an impressive bit of kit, but it doesn’t exactly come cheap; the bladeRF is available on the Kickstarter for $400. The folks behind the bladeRF seem to be doing things right, though, and are using their Kickstarter windfall for all the right things like a USB vendor ID.

There’s a video of two bladeRFs being used as a full duplex modem. You can check that out after the break.

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Tindie gets Fundraisers for kickstarting and group buys

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The etsy of electronics project, Tindie, has a brand new feature: It’s a Kickstarter-esque endeavor called a Fundraiser that allows you to sell your projects to other electron enthusiasts.

Of course the new Tindie Fundraisers may soon be just another Kickstarter clone for “exciting,” “new,” and “innovative” Arduino dev boards, something we’ve lamented before. We’re really interested in seeing Tindie used as a platform for group buys; a solution to a maker’s special hell where buying one component costs $100, but ten cost $200.

Already there are a few really cool projects up on the Tindie Fundraisers including a breadboardable Parallax Propeller dev board. Yes, someone finally made one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

In addition to the new Fundraisers, [emile] also closed on $500k of seed funding for Tindie. It’s wonderful news for something that is sorely needed by the maker community. Tindie is also hiring, so if you’re a Django/Python wizard go drop everyone’s second favorite robotic dog a line.

A thermal imaging camera for your phone

When last we heard of a cheap thermal imaging camera accessory for any smart phone, we were blown away at how easily a very expensive electronic device could be replicated with an Arduino and enough know how. Now, that thermal imaging camera is a kickstarter project and provides a cheap way to put a thermal imaging camera in the tool chest of makers the world over.

It’s called the IR-Blue, and simply by connecting your phone to the IR-Blue with Bluetooth, you can overlay the output of a thermal imaging camera on the output of your camera’s phone.

The thermal imaging sensor is basically a low-resolution camera (16 x 4 pixels) for infrared radiation. This sensor is factory calibrated to detect heat in a range between -20 and 300 ˚C. This range allows anyone to easily see where drafts in a house are coming from, where heat in a computer is being generated, or figuring out how to cook a steak.

It’s an awesome and well designed product, so we’ve got to hand it to [Andy] and the IR-Blue team for putting very expensive tools in everyone’s hands.