There’s a new addition to the Adafruit family, and it’s not a microcontroller board as you’d expect – however, we will still find plenty to learn from. On the Adafruit blog, [Phillip Torrone] shares a set of high-contrast images with us; the idea for such images is that they’re more appealing for a child during the first few months of its life, and not just that – they can support a kid’s development, too. The idea behind high-contrast images is twofold. During the first few months of life, a baby’s visual systems are only taking shape, and are nowhere near being advanced – so, sources of easily discernible and varied visual input can help it develop, as well as, perhaps, aid in holding attention.
The second part is – they look nice in their own way, and one would hope that a baby can appreciate them in the same way parents do. The images are quite varied, with some being somewhat electronics-themed (including an Adafruit logo, of course) and many being fairly neutral, which has to be an upside for us hackers when it comes to the spouse acceptance factor. For any of us interested, there are downloadable PDFs and
In a way, these are just like AprilTags – aiming to be helpful in development of visual algorithms. With such a family, we can’t wait to see what comes next – computer engineering books? Baby monitors with machine learning? Sleep-data-driven knit blankets? No matter what’s in store for us, we hope that for the Adafruit family, this journey will be smooth sailing.
Consumer electronics aimed at young children tend to be quite janky and cheap-looking, and they often have to be to survive the extreme stress-testing normal use in this situation. You could buy a higher quality item intended for normal use, but this carries the risk of burning a hole in the pockets of the parents. To thread the needle on this dilemma for a child’s audiobook player, [Turi] built the Grimmboy for a relative of his.
Taking its name from the Brothers Grimm, the player is able of playing a number of children’s stories and fables in multiple languages, with each physically represented by a small cassette tape likeness with an RFID tag hidden in each one. A tape can be selected and placed in the player, and the Arduino at the center of it will recognize the tag and play the corresponding MP3 file stored locally on an SD card. There are simple controls and all the circuitry to support its lithium battery as well. All of the source code that [Turi] used to build this is available on the project’s GitHub page.
This was also featured at the Arudino blog as well, and we actually featured a similar project a while ago with a slightly different spin. Both are based on ideas from Tonuino, an open source project aimed at turning Arduinos into MP3 players. If you’re looking to build something with a few more features, though, take a look at this custom build based on the RP2040 microcontroller instead.
We’ve seen a lot of custom clocks here at Hackaday, many of which have pushed the traditional definition of the timepiece to its absolute limit. But for all their wild designs, most of them do have something in common: they assume you can actually read a clock and understand the concept of time. But what if you’re developing a clock for a toddler who’s only just coming to terms with such heady ideas?
The answer, at least for [Riley Parish] is a set of 3D printed eyes that are illuminated with either yellow or green LEDs depending on whether or not it’s time to get out of bed. More than just the color of the light, the eye design (which is embedded into the rear of the front panel) switches between wide-open and tightly shut depending on the time of day.
Internally the device is very simple, with the 5 mm LEDs and their associated resistors connected directly to the digital out pins on an ESP32 development board. While the dual-core microcontroller is admittedly pretty overkill for flipping some LEDs every 12 hours or so, the firmware does at least pull the current time from NTP — plus the powerful MCU offers plenty of room to grow. A web front-end to configure the device or check its current status would only be a few more lines of code.
As it so happens, this isn’t the first toddler timepiece to grace these pages. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those previous examples also used changing color to help indicate the passage of time.
While an engineering mindset is a valuable tool most of the time, there are some situations where it just seems to be a bad fit. Solving problems within the family unit would seem to be one such area, but then again, this self-rocking mechatronic crib seems to be just the cure for sleepytime woes.
From the look of [Peter]’s creation, this has less of a rocking motion and more of a gentle back-and-forth swaying. Its purpose is plainly evident to anyone who has ever had to rock a child to sleep: putting a little gentle motion into the mix can help settle down a restless infant pretty quickly. Keeping the right rhythm can be a problem, though, as can endurance when a particularly truculent toddler is fighting the urge to sleep. [Peter]’s solution is a frame of aluminum extrusion with some nice linear bearings oriented across the short axis of the crib, which sits atop the whole thing.
A recirculating ball lead screw — nothing but the best for [Junior] — and a stepper drive the crib back and forth. [Peter] took care to mechanically isolate the drivetrain from the bed, and with the selection of the drive electronics and power supply, to make sure that noise would be minimal. Although thinking about it, we’ve been lulled to sleep by the whining steppers of our 3D printer more than once. Or perhaps it was the fumes.
Hats off to [Peter] for a setup that’s sure to win back a little of the new parent’s most precious and elusive commodity: sleep.
For his niece’s second birthday, [Stefan] wondered what a toddler would enjoy the most? As it turns out, a box packed with lights, dials and other gadgets to engage and entertain.
For little Alma’s enjoyment, three potentionmeters control a central LED, a row of buttons toggle a paired row of more lights, a rotary encoder to scroll the light pattern of said row left and right, and some sockets to plug a cable into for further lighting effects. Quite a lot to handle, so [Stefan] whipped up a prototype using an Arduino — although he went with an ATmega 328 for the final project — building each part of the project on separate boards and connected with ribbon cables to make any future modifications easier.
[Stefan] attempted to integrate a battery — keeping the Lichtspiel untethered for ease of use — and including a standby feature to preserve battery life. A power bank seemed like a good option to meet the LED’s needed 5V, but whenever the Lichtspiel switched to standby, the power bank would shut off entirely — necessitating the removal of the front plate to disconnect and reconnect the battery every time. The simpler solution was to scrap the idea entirely and use the charging port as a power port instead — much to the delight of his niece who apparently loves plugging it in.
Continue reading “The Lichtspiel: Not A Simple Child’s Toy.” →
Exoskeletons are demonstrably awesome, allowing humans to accomplish feats of strength beyond their normal capacity. The future is bright for the technology — not just for industrial and military applications, but especially in therapy and rehabilitation. Normally, one thinks of adults who have lost function in their limbs, but in the case of this exoskeleton, developed by The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), children with spinal muscular atrophy are given a chance to lead an active life.
Designing prosthetics for children can be difficult since they are constantly growing, and CSIC’s is designed to be telescopic to accommodate patients between the ages 3-14. Five motors in each leg adapt to the individual symptoms of the patient through sensors which detect the child’s intent to move and simulates what would be their natural walking gait.
Continue reading “Exoskeleton Designed For Children” →