You won’t need to pack a full set of dice for your next game with this DIY Multifunctional Eink Gadget. [Sasa Karanović] brings us a fun device that combines a few essential aspects of tabletop gaming, D6, D12, and D20 dice rolling and a hero dashboard. While they have grand plans for a BLE networked future application, we admire the restraint to complete a V1 project before allowing scope-creep to run amok. Well played!
For this project, [Sasa] realized it needed to be battery powered and just choosing the right display for a battery powered application can be daunting. Even if you aren’t building this project, the video after the break includes a nice intro to electronic ink and low power microcontrollers for the uninitiated. We even see a graph of the completed board’s power draw from the button wake up, display refresh, and low power sleep. The project has some neat tips for building interaction into case design with the use of the display and a flexible bezel as integrated buttons. Continue reading “What’s Black, White, And Red On 20 Sides?”→
If you’re looking for a reminder of how powerful the tiny microcontrollers that run our everyday gadgets have become, check out the work impressive work [Audun Wilhelmsen] has done to get DOOM running on the Nordic Semiconductor nRF5340. This is the sort of Bluetooth SoC you’d expect to find in a headset or wireless keyboard, and yet it’s packing a 128 MHz processor that can go head to head with the Intel 486 that the iconic first person shooter recommended you have in your old beige box PC.
That said, porting the open source shooter over to the nRF5340 wasn’t exactly easy. The challenge was getting the game, which recommended your PC have 8 MB back in 1993, to run on a microcontroller with a paltry 512 KB of memory. Luckily, a lot of the data the game loads into RAM is static. While that might have been necessary when the game was running from a pokey IDE hard drive, the nearly instantaneous access times of solid state storage and the nRF5340’s execute in place (XIP) capability meant [Audun] could move all of that over to an SPI-connected 8 MB flash chip with some tweaks to the code.
In general, [Audun] explains that many of the design decisions made for the original DOOM engine were made with the assumption that the limiting factor would be CPU power rather than RAM. So that lead to things often getting pre-calculated and stored in memory for instant access. But with the extra horsepower of the nRF5340, it was often helpful to flip this dynamic over and reverse the optimizations made by the original developers.
On the hardware side, things are relatively straightforward. The 4.3″ 800×480 LCD display is connected over SPI, and an I2S DAC handles the sound. Bluetooth would have been the logical choice for the controls, but to keep things simple, [Audun] ended up using a BBC micro:bit that could communicate with the nRF5340 via Nordic’s own proprietary protocol. Though he does note that Bluetooth mouse and keyboard support is something he’d like to implement eventually.
[Aaron Christophel] has been busy, he picked up a P8 smartwatch of the type that many of you will no doubt have seen. They cost almost nothing and do almost… nothing. In all fairness, they do connect to your phone using Bluetooth LE courtesy of a chip from Nordic (the NRF52832), and they can do several simple tasks. But they don’t run applications in the way an Android or Apple watch does. [Aaron] wants to run his own applications, so his YouTube channel has a lot of information about hacking the P8 and other watches with similar chips. In one video you can watch below, he demonstrates how he’s written support for Arduino programming to the devices. What we were really excited about was the second video below where he shows his Android app that can flash the devices via Bluetooth. That means you can potentially hack these devices without opening them up.
The app that normally runs these watches is called Da Fit, so [Aaron] called his utility DaFlasher. This is all early stuff so we expect some coaxing to get everything working, but it has great promise.
Sometimes it seems like Arduino is everywhere. However, with a new glut of IoT processors, it must be quite a task to keep the Arduino core on all of them. Writing on the Arduino blog, [Martino Facchin], Arduino’s chief of firmware development, talks about the problem they faced supporting two new boards from Nordic.
The boards, the Nano 33 BLE and Nano 33 BLE Sense are based on an ARM Cortex M4 CPU from Nordic. The obvious answer, of course, is to port the Arduino core over from scratch. However, the team didn’t want to spend the time for just a couple of boards. They considered using the Nordic libraries to interact with the hardware, but since that is closed source, it didn’t really fit with Arduino’s sensitivities. However, in the end, they took a third approach which could be a very interesting development: they ported the Arduino core to the Mbed OS. There’s even an example of loading a sketch on top of Mbed available from [Jan Jongboom].
When [rbaron] started a new job, he got a goodie bag. The contents included a cheap fitness tracker bracelet that used Bluetooth LE. Since this is Hackaday, you can probably guess what happened next: hacking ensued.
For something cheap enough to give away, [rbaron] claims it cost $10, the device has quite a bit in it. In the very tiny package, there is an OLED display, a battery, a vibration motor, and a Nordic 32-bit ARM with BLE. The FCC ID was key to identifying the device. Opening the case, which was glued down, was pretty difficult, but doable with a hair dryer and a knife.
[Mikhail] sent us a teaser video for a hack he’d done (embedded below). He takes a Bluetooth LE fitness tracker dongle and reflashes it spit out the raw accelerometer data and trigger events. He then wrote a phone app that receives the data and uses the device as an alarm, an on/off switch, a data-logging device, and more.
We thought it was cool enough that we asked [Mikhail] for more detail, and he delivered in spades! Inside the device is a Nordic NRF51822, their ARM Cortex + Bluetooth chip, an accelerometer, and a bunch of LEDs. [Mikhail] mapped out the programming headers, erased the old flash, and re-filled it with his own code. He even added over-the-air DFU re-flashing capability so that he wouldn’t have to open up the case again.
I caught up with Federico Musto, President and CEO of Arduino SRL, at the 2016 Bay Area Maker Faire. Their company is showing off several new boards being prepared for release as early as next month. In partnership with Nordic Semi and ST Microelectronics they have put together some very powerful offerings which we discuss in the video below.
The new boards are called Arduino Primo, Arduino Core, Arduino Alicepad, and Arduino Otto.
The first up is the Primo, a board built to adhere to the UNO form factor. This one is packing an interesting punch. The main micro is not an Atmel chip, but a Nordic nRF52832 ARM Cortex-M4F chip. Besides being a significantly fast CPU with floating-point support, the Nordic IC also has built-in Bluetooth LE and NFC capabilities, and the board has a PCB antenna built in.
On an UNO this is where the silicon would end. But on the Primo you get two more controllers: an ESP8266 and an STM32F103. The former is obvious, it brings WiFi to the party (including over-the-air programming). The STM32 chip is there to provide peripheral control and debugging. Debugging is an interesting development and is hard to come by in the Arduino-sphere. This will use the OpenOCD standard, with platformio.org as the recommended GUI.