Automated turret gives you the upper hand in office warfare

TI-office-turret

When your co-workers get on your nerves, the mature recourse is to be the bigger person and simply ignore the obnoxious individual. A team of engineers from TI show us a slightly alternative means of dealing with office mates which is not quite as mature, though far more entertaining.

The office toy cum mechanized weapons system relies on a TI MSP430 LaunchPad, coupled with a custom Turret430 breakout board. The former is the brains of the operation, while the latter houses motor drivers for the motorized turret. The system can be steered throughout its 300 degree range of rotation using an attached joystick, but in the interest of catching their target by surprise, they added an automated mode as well. The automated targeting system uses an attached webcam to pick out victims by the color of their clothing, which seems to work pretty well.

To see the system in action, check out the video embedded below.

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Energia brings Arduino IDE to the TI Launchpad

The Arduino IDE is an abstraction layer for the AVR chip which the board is based around. So it’s no surprise that it is now possible to use the Arduino IDE with the TI Launchpad board. This makes it dead simple for beginners to play around with the inexpensive and low-power MSP430 platform. This is all thanks to a lot of hard work on part of the Energia developers.

The project branches from Arduino so the look, feel, and function are all about the same. Most notably, the color scheme has migrated to red to match the board color of the Launchpad. You can configure the hardware the same way by selecting a COM port and target board. Almost everything is already working, but you should check the known issues page so that you don’t try to use a function that hasn’t been ported. Right now the list includes the random and random seed functions, as well as tone, notone, and micros. There is also an issue with analogWrite; it will only produce half the requested frequency and duty cycle can only be set from 0-50%. Still this is a great development if you’re most comfortable working from this IDE.

TI Chronos watch monitor your sleeping infant

[Bill] wants a little piece of mind when his infant is sleeping in the other room. For him, the audio-only baby monitor could use some improvement. His proof-of-concept is that blue patch Velcroed on the swaddled infant. It monitors movement, orientation, and temperature and alerts you when something’s amiss.

Inside the pouch you’ll find a TI Chronos eZ430 wristwatch with the band removed. It’s a nice hardware choice because it includes an accelerometer, temperature sensor, and RF link to a USB dongle. [Bill's] code sends a data packet to the PC about once a second. The PC watches to make sure there’s slight motion, indicating the baby is breathing. This part doesn’t work all that well as the accelerometer doesn’t pick up tiny movements all too well, but it does have potential. In the video after the break you can see the functions which make sure the baby doesn’t roll onto its belly, and that she’s not too cold do work extremely well.

We wonder if the accelerometer would pick up more motion if the watch was hung from a string inside of a small enclosure. This way it would swing back and forth with small movements. But perhaps that would make the whole thing too bulky?

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Fifa looks at electronic augmentation

The [Fédération Internationale de Football Association] is joining the growing list of professional sports that is adopting technological means in an attempt to help the human referees. After a botched call in 2010 the organization called for a system that would work day or night, with 100% accuracy and the ability to report to the Refs in less than 1 second. The applicants have been weeded out and it comes down to two systems, both of which use a piece of personal hardware we’re quite familiar with. [Fe80], who sent in the tip, recognized the TI Chronos eZ430 watch in the image above.

The two systems both use the watch as an interface, but work very differently. The first, called GoalRef, uses a sensor suspended inside the ball. This detects a magnetic field made up by the goal posts. We’d guess it’s an inductance sensor that is triggered when it passes a coil in the goal posts (we didn’t find much in the way of technical info so please do your own speculation in the comments). The second system is very familiar. It’s the Hawkeye camera system used by the APT (Tennis) in all the major tournaments.

Ti Chronos watch controls Raspberry Pi

[Mike Field] was working on interfacing his TI Chronos eZ430 watch with the Raspberry Pi. As things were going pretty well, he took a side-trip from his intended hack and implemented watch-based control for an RPi audio player.

It really comes as no surprise that this is possible, and even easy. After all, the RPi board has native USB capability for hosting the watch‘s RF dongle, and it’s running Linux which we know already works well with the Chronos platform. But we still love the thought of having automation controls strapped to our wrist!

mpg321 is the audio playback program used for this hack. It plays MP3 files using ALSA for sound, which does have a few hiccups on the RPi. [Mike] found workarounds and included them in the C program he uses to gather everything into one nice code package. Control depends on keypresses sent from the watch (meant for use with PowerPoint) which are translated by his code and pushed to the audio/mp3 programs.

Using Spy-Bi-Wire with the MSP430 Launchpad

[Suraj] has been working with some larger MSP430 chips with won’t fit on the Launchpad board. But that’s okay because he built a shield and wrote a guide about using the Spy-Bi-Wire protocol for programming the chips.

SBW is a four-wire interface. In the past we’ve used all of the board’s programming connections for in circuit programming, but the chips that support SBW only need a connection to the SBW and TEST pins (of course the other two connections are for voltage and ground). This shield brings the four pins together into one male pin header. In the image above [Suraj] is using the technique to program an MSP430F4152. His guide is Windows-based, but looking back, [Sprite_TM] shows how to use SBW when debugging in Eclipse.

TI Launchpad as AVR ISP programmer

[Minifloat] is using his TI Launchpad development board as an In-System Programmer for AVR chips (translated). There are a ton of homebrew AVR programmers out there, and using an Arduino for ISP is quite popular. But recently we searched for a way to use the Launchpad as a programmer and didn’t find one. We’d venture to say this is the first.

There is one hardware modification that must be made. An external clock crystal (32.768 kHz) must be populated on the board. But since it was designed with the feature in mind that’s a pretty quick process. [Minifloat] followed Atmel’s ISP app note, and extended some of the code written for a different programmer to get things up and running. At first the device wouldn’t communicate with AVRdude, but that turns out to be a problem with the initialization conversation. AVRdude polls the connected programmer to see if it supports block mode, and the firmware on the MSP430G2211 wasn’t expecting this query. The problem was fixed and it now works.

It sounds like there are a couple of bugs left in the system. The first time AVRdude accesses the programmer after it has been plugged into the USB port it will fail. Subsequent attempts will succeed until the MSP430 chip is reset, or the USB connection is replugged. But if you’re just getting into the AVR line, this will let you figure out if you want to invest in a proper programmer.

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