Video of the Arduino FPGA Board Demo at Maker Faire

This week, Arduino announced a lot of new hardware including an exceptionally interesting FPGA development board aimed at anyone wanting to dip their toes into the seas of VHDL and developing with programmable logic. We think it’s the most interesting bit of hardware Arduino has released since their original dev board, and everyone is wondering what the hardware actually is, and what it can do.

This weekend at Maker Faire Bay Area, Arduino was out giving demos for all their wares, and yes, the Arduino MKR Vidor 4000 was on hand, being shown off in a working demo. We have a release date and a price. It’ll be out next month (June 2018) for about $60 USD.

But what about the hardware, and what can it do? From the original press releases, we couldn’t even tell how many LUTs this FPGA had. There were a lot of questions about the Mini PCIe connectors, and we didn’t know how this FPGA would be useful for high-performance computation like decoding video streams. Now we have the answers.

The FPGA on board the Arduino Vidor is an Altera Cyclone 10CL016. This chip has 16k logic elements, and 504 kB memory block. This is on the low end of Altera’s FPGA lineup, but it’s still no slouch. In the demo video below, it’s shown decoding video and identifying QR codes in real time. That’s pretty good for what is effectively a My First FPGA™ board.

Also on board the Vidor is a SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ microcontroller and a uBlox module housing an ESP-32 WiFi and Bluetooth module. This is a really great set of chips, and if you’re looking to get into FPGA development, this might just be the board for you. We haven’t yet seen the graphic editor that will be used to work with IP for the FPGA (for those who don’t care to write their own VHDL or Verilog), but we’re looking forward to the unveiling of that new software.

It’s Not Morning Until Green o’clock

[JohnathonT] has a two-year-old who can’t reliably tell time just yet. Every morning, he gets up before the rooster crows and barges into his parents’ room, ready to face the day.

In an effort to catch a few more Zs, [JohnathonT] built a simple but sanity-saving clock that tells time in a visual, kid-friendly way. Sure, this is a simple build. But if a toddler is part of your reality, who has time to make one from logic gates? The hardware is what you’d expect to see: Arduino Nano, a DS1307 RTC, plus the LEDs and resistors. We think an RGB LED would be a nice way to mix up the standard stoplight hues a bit.

At a glance, little Mr. Rise and Shine can see if it’s time to spread cheer, or if he has to stay in his room and play a bit longer. At 6:00AM, the light powers on and glows red. At 6:50, it turns yellow for 10 minutes. At the first reasonable hour of the day, 7:00AM, it finally turns green. In reading the code, we noticed that it also goes red at 8:00PM for 45 minutes, which tells us it also functions as a go-to-sleep indicator.

When his son is a little older, maybe [JohnathonT] could build him  a clock that associates colors with activities.

Arduino Just Introduced an FPGA Board, Announces Debugging and Better Software

Today ahead of the Bay Area Maker Faire, Arduino has announced a bevy of new boards that bring modern features and modern chips to the Arduino ecosystem.

Most ambitious of these new offerings is a board that combines a fast ARM microcontroller, WiFi, Bluetooth, and an FPGA. All this is wrapped in a package that provides Mini HDMI out and pins for a PCIe-Express slot. They’re calling it the Arduino MKR Vidor 4000.

Bringing an FPGA to the Arduino ecosystem is on the list of the most interesting advances in DIY electronics in recent memory, and there’s a lot to unpack here. FPGA development boards aren’t new. You can find crates of them hidden in the storage closet of any University’s electronics lab. If you want to buy an FPGA dev board, the Terasic DE10 is a good starter bundle, the iCEstick has an Open Source toolchain, and this one has pink soldermask. With the release of the MKR Vidor, the goal for Arduino isn’t just to release a board with an FPGA; the goal is to release a tool that allows anyone to use an FPGA.

The key to democratizing FPGA development is Arduino’s work with the Arduino Create ecosystem. Arduino Create is the company’s online IDE that gives everyone the ability to share projects and upload code with Over-the-Air updates. The MKR Vidor will launch with integration to the Arduino Create ecosystem that includes a visual editor to work with the pre-compiled IP for the FPGA. That’s not to say you can’t just plug your own VHDL into this board and get it working; that’s still possible. But Arduino would like to create a system where anyone can move blocks of IP around with a tool that’s easy for beginners.

A Facelift for the Uno WiFi

First up is the brand new Arduino Uno WiFi. While there have been other boards bearing the name ‘Arduino Uno WiFi’ over the years, a lot has changed in the world of tiny radio modules and 8-bit microcontrollers over the past few years. The new Arduino Uno WiFi is powered by a new 8-bit AVR, the ATMega4809. The ATMega4809 is a new part announced just a few months ago, and is just about what you would expect from the next-generation 8-bit Arduino; it runs at 20MHz, has 48 kB of Flash, 6 kB of SRAM, and it comes in a 48-pin package. The ATMega4809 is taking a few lattices of silicon out of Microchip’s playbook and adds Custom Configurable Logic. The CCL in the new ATMega is a peripheral that is kinda, sorta like a CPLD on chip. If you’ve ever had something that could be more easily done with logic gates than software, the CCL is the tool for the job.

But a new 8-bit microcontroller doesn’t make a WiFi-enabled Arduino. The wireless power behind the new Arduino comes from a custom ESP-32 based module from u-blox. There’s also a tiny crypto chip (Microchip’s ATECC508A) so the Uno WiFi will work with AWS. The Arduino Uno WiFi will be available this June.

But this isn’t the only announcement from the Arduino org today. They’ve been hard at work on some killer features for a while now, and now they’re finally ready for release. What’s the big news? Debuggers. Real debuggers for the Arduino that are easy to use. There are also new boards aimed at Arduino’s IoT strategy.

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Reflowduino: Put That Toaster Oven To Good Use

There are few scenes in life more moving than the moment the solder paste melts as the component slides smoothly into place. We’re willing to bet the only reason you don’t have a reflow oven is the cost. Why wouldn’t you want one? Fortunately, the vastly cheaper DIY route has become a whole lot easier since the birth of the Reflowduino – an open source controller for reflow ovens.

This Hackaday Prize entry by [Timothy Woo] provides a super quick way to create your own reflow setup, using any cheap means of heating you have lying around. [Tim] uses a toaster oven he paid $21 for, but anything with a suitable thermal mass will do. The hardware of the Reflowduino is all open source and has been very well documented – both on the main page and over on the project’s GitHub.

The board itself is built around the ATMega32u4 and sports an integrated MAX31855 thermocouple interface (for the all-important PID control), LiPo battery charging, a buzzer for alerting you when input is needed, and Bluetooth. Why Bluetooth? An Android app has been developed for easy control of the Reflowduino, and will even graph the temperature profile.

When it comes to controlling the toaster oven/miscellaneous heat source, a “sidekick” board is available, with a solid state relay hooked up to a mains plug. This makes it a breeze to setup any mains appliance for Arduino control.

We actually covered the Reflowduino last year, but since then [Tim] has also created the Reflowduino32 – a backpack for the DOIT ESP32 dev board. There’s also an Indiegogo campaign now, and some new software as well.

If a toaster oven still doesn’t feel hacky enough for you, we’ve got reflowing with hair straighteners, and even car headlights.

Held Captive by Arduino and Multiple RFID Readers

If you’re the kind of person who has friends, and/or leaves the confines of the basement from time to time, we hear that these “Escape Rooms” are all the rage. Basically you get locked into a room with a couple other people and have to solve various problems and puzzles until you’ve finally made enough progress that they let you out. Which actually sounds a lot like the working conditions here at Hackaday HQ, except they occasionally slip some pizza rolls under the door for us which is nice.

Whichever side you find yourself on in one of these lighthearted hostage situations, knowledge of this multi-tag RFID lock created by [Annaane] may come in handy. By connecting multiple MFRC522 RFID readers to an Arduino Uno, she’s come up with a method of triggering a device (like an electronic door lock) only when the appropriate combination of RFID tags have been arranged. With a little imagination, this allows for some very complex puzzle scenarios which are sure to keep your prisoners enthralled until you can lower the lotion down to them.

Her code allows you to configure the type and number of RFID cards required to trigger one of the Arduino’s digital pins, which usually would be connected to a relay to fire off whatever device you want. The Arduino sketch is also setup to give “hints” to the player by way of a status LED: fast blinking let’s you know the tag scanned is wrong, and slow blinking means you don’t have enough scanned in yet.

The video after the break shows some highlights of the build, as well as a quick demonstration of how both the RFID “combination” and manual override can be used to trigger the attached relay.

Hackers do love RFID. Using them for physical access control is a fairly common project around these parts, and we’ve even seen similar setups for the digital realm.

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A Two-Range OLED Capacitance Meter

If you are just starting out in electronics, you need tools. But it is hard to build all your tools. Even though we see a lot of soldering station builds, you really ought to have a soldering iron to build the station. It is hard to troubleshoot a multimeter you just built if you don’t have a multimeter. However, a capacitance meter is a handy piece of gear, relatively simple to build, and you should be able to get it working without an existing capacitance meter. [gavinlyonsrepo] presents a simple design using an Arduino, an OLED display, and a few components.

The principle of operation is classic. On one range, the Arduino charges the capacitor through one resistor and discharges it through another while timing the operation. The amount of time taken corresponds to the capacitance.

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Stepper Motor And Key Fob Controlled Strandbeest

We never tire of watching Strandbeests with their multitude of legs walking around, and especially enjoy the RC ones. [Jeremy Cook], prolific Strandbeest maker, just made one by motorizing and adding remote control to a small, plastic wind-powered kit.

We’ve seen a Strandbeest kit conversion like this before, such as this DC motor one but it’s always interesting to see how it can be done differently. In [Jeremy’s], he’s gone with two inexpensive $2.00 stepper motors. The RC is done using a keyfob transmitter with a receiver board wired into an Arduino Nano’s analog pins. He tried driving it directly off the LiPo batteries but had issues which he solved by adding a 5-volt regulator. Check out his build and the modified Strandbeest walking around in the video below.

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