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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Monitoring a sick bird using the Raspberry Pi


[Jorge Rancé] was nursing a sick bird back to health. He found it on the street with a broken leg, which required a mini plaster cast for it to heal correctly. But felt bad when leaving the house for long periods. He grabbed some simple hardware and put his mind at easy by building an Internet connected bird monitoring system. It’s really just an excuse to play around with his Raspberry Pi, but who can blame him?

A webcam adds video monitoring using the Linux software called “motion” to stream the video. This is the same package we use with our cats when we travel; it provides a continuous live stream but can also save recordings whenever motion is detected. He added a USB temperature sensor and attached a water level sensor to the GPIO header. These are automatically harvested — along with a still image from the webcam — and tweeted once per hour using a bash script. He just needs to work out automatic food and water dispensing and he never needs to return home! Bird seed shouldn’t be any harder to dish out than fish food, right?

Kinetic Space: software for your Kinect projects

For all of you that  found yourselves wanting to use Kinect to control something but had no idea what to do with it, or how to get the data from it, you’re in luck. Kineticspace is a tool available for Linux/mac/windows that gives you the tools necessary to set up gesture controls quickly and easily. As you can see in the video below, it is fairly simple to set up. You do you action, set the amount of influence from each body part (basically telling it what to ignore), and save the gesture. This system has already been used for tons of projects and has now hit version 2.0.

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Motion Sensing Minecraft Creeper Will Scare the Pickaxe Offa’ya

[Chris] Writes in to tell us about his motion sensing, Arduino powered Creeper.  As if these buggers were not frightening enough in game, [Chris] had to go and make the closest (legal) real world facsimile.  The Creeper utilizes an Arduino Uno with a wave shield to playback creeper noises, PIR sensor to detect victims, and an RC car as a motorized cart. The creeper sits and waits for a signal from the PIR detector, when it sees motion the RC remote is triggered, Creeper noises played and (we assume) panic ensues.

We might have forgone the entire RC part of the toy car and found the H-bridge motor controller, but using the RC remote has potential. The whole triggering mechanism can be placed remotely allowing the Creeper to jump out from some kind of cover.

Not enough Minecraft? Check out some our other Minecraft projects if you are interested in more tree-punching goodness.

A video of the creeper in action is available after the jump!

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Motion tracking prop from Alien movie

[Erv Plecter] likes to recreate movie props that actually work. This time around he’s making the motion detector device from the original Alien movie. You’ll immediately remember this prop after seeing and hearing it in the video after the break. For our money, the most brilliant part of that movie was the use of rhythmic sounds to boost the intensity of the tension in the viewer. [Erv's] build captures that feeling, with the steady beat of sonar and the rising pitch of a ping as an object moves towards you. The device can easily track your own movement, as it contains both a GPS module and an electronic compass. He mentions that there is a motion sensor as well, but is a bit vague about how that part of the build works. Still, it’s a nice little piece which looks great despite not being quite finished yet.

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Today’s Arduino Minute

Sometimes projects are vast, complicated, and complex. Other times projects are a bit more on the simple. Today we thought we would share a couple projects with something in common that may be familiar sounding to the more experienced crowd, but may inspire a few readers new to the world of microcontrollers.

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German engineering produces an overcomplicated scarecrow

This electronic scarecrow keeps the birds away and makes your neighbors hate you at the same time. That’s because its way too loud, even if the next house is far away. The conrad.de folks that brought us the climbing bike storage device are at it again, putting together car audio and strings of lights as part of the bird-shoo-ing technology. In the video after the break you’ll see that they’re using a PIR motion sensor to switch power to an automotive amp and head unit. The speakers, strings of lights, and spinning doo-dads are all hidden under a black cape. When an unsuspecting bird tries to feast on the crops, the scarecrow unfolds its arm Dracula-style and raises a ruckus. We don’t expect to see this at a local farm, but maybe for next Halloween?

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