We all need someone to talk to sometimes, and the pandemic has only made matters worse when it comes to the number of people living with anxiety and depression. Exchanging the simplest of pleasantries can make you feel whole again, but the masks make it hard to engage with strangers and judge their emotions, so your big trip to the grocery store can make you feel lonely in a crowd.
So you go back home, still feeling lonely, and maybe you turn on the TV. Watching people interact is probably the next best thing to actual interaction, and it might even make you laugh. But have you ever wished you could talk to the people on TV? With [aniketdhole]’s EMOJO chatbot, you’ll feel as though you’re among friends. And technically you are — all the dialogue is from the TV show Friends.
In Castaway, Tom Hanks didn’t give that volleyball a frowny face, now did he? Nor does he have a dopey grin. Instead, he wears a wry smile that suggests depth of character and a grasp of the dire situation at hand. But now we have emoji, and they do a pretty good job of conveying and evoking emotion. EMOJO is a visual chatbot that uses voice and emoji to make easy, two-way conversation to help chase the loneliness away. It uses a Raspberry Pi and a TFT display to take voice input from a Bluetooth headset, convert it to text, and then respond in kind with both voice and text. It was a finalist in the rethink displays round of the Hackaday Prize, and we can’t wait to see how its character develops. Be sure to check out the demo after the break.
Ever tried to find the data on a mysterious LCD controller that’s kicking around in your parts bin? Well check out this list of various LCD controllers that [Achim] has put together. He summarizes the basic specifications for each controller and includes data sheet links if available (note — the website is in German, although most of the data itself is in English). All in all, he has collected 72 controllers from five different manufacturers, and 46 of them have data sheets. For each controller, he tabulates maximum resolution, color depth, type of interface, and the targeted display technology. For example, here is the entry for the Ilitech ILI9341 TFT controller commonly found in embedded projects:
Furthermore, many of the controllers also have a short video clip showing them in operation posted over on [Achim]’s YouTube channel, where he also has a bunch of quick (less than one minute) videos of all sorts of embedded goodies. We do find this table of controllers to be a little dated — for example, another popular controller used on small color OLED displays, the Solomon Systech SDS1351, is not included. But it is certainly a good resource to bookmark.
We suspect that [Achim] made this table as a result of developing µGUI, a small (only three files) C-language graphics library (see the GitHub repository) he released back in 2015. Do you have any good resources for tracking down unknown LCD controllers? If so, share in the comments below. And thanks to [Dmitry] for sending in this tip.
Learning a new language is hard work, but they say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. [Angeliki Beyko] is learning Greek, and what better way to teach than to build a vocabulary flash-card game from Arduinos, color screens, 1602 text screens, and arcade buttons? After the break, we have a video from the creator talking about how to play, the hardware she chose, and what to expect in the next version.
Pegboard holds most of the hardware except the color screens, which are finicky when it comes to their power source. The project is like someone raided our collective junk drawers and picked out the coolest bits to make a game. Around the perimeter are over one hundred NeoPixels to display the game progress and draw people like a midway game. Once invested, you select a category on the four colored arcade buttons by looking at the adjacent LCD screens’ titles. An onboard MP3 shield reads a pseudo-random Greek word and displays it on the top-right 1602 screen in English phonetics. After that, it is multiple choice with your options displaying in full-color on four TFT monitors. A correct choice awards you a point and moves to the next word, but any excuse to mash on arcade buttons is good enough for us.
[Angeliki] does something we see more often than before, she’s covering what she learned, struggled with, would do differently, and how she wants to improve. We think this is a vital sign that the hacker community is showcasing what we already knew; hackers love to share their knowledge and improve themselves.
Economy of scale is a wonderful thing, take the switch-mode power supply as an example. Before the rise of the PC, a decent multi-voltage, high current power supply would be pretty expensive. But PCs have meant cheap supplies and sometimes even free as you gut old PCs found in the dumpster. [OneMarcFifty] decided to make a pretty setup for a PC supply that includes a very nice color display with bargraphs and other niceties. You can see the power supply in action in the video below.
The display is a nice TFT driven by an Arduino Nano. The project uses ACS712 current sensor modules, which are nice Hall effect devices that produce a linear output for current and have over 2 KV of voltage isolation.
Over the last few years, the price of a good digital picture frame has dropped to the point that we don’t often see DIY versions anymore. As much as we might hate to admit it, it’s hard to justify building something yourself when the economies of scale have made it so you can buy the final product for less than the cost of the parts themselves. But of course, there are always fringe cases where building it might be the only way to get what you need.
Granted we’re not sure that [Tony Liu] actually needs a 1.8-inch digital picture frame, but we’re sure somebody out there does. The ST7735R display used in this project is a real TFT, so the color and refresh rate is pretty good; but with a resolution of just 128×160, we’d recommend keeping your expectations low in regards to visual fidelity.
What’s really interesting about this project is how low the part count is. All you need is the ST7735R display and the ESP8266 itself (or the development board of your choice, naturally). Even the 3D printed frame is technically optional. The display is driven by SPI, so with the power added in, that’s only eight wires that need to be soldered between the two devices. If you’re looking for an easy way to add a photo slideshow to a small device, say a conference badge, this is about as easy as it gets.
But where are the images coming from? You might think SPIFFS, but in this case [Tony] has converted the images to bitmaps and is loading them into the Arduino Sketch as a header file with PROGMEM. Helpfully, he provides the link for the tool he uses to convert the images into an array the graphics library can understand. This makes adding new images slightly time consuming, but we imagine if you have the need for something like this, it’s probably only showing a pretty specific set of images anyway.
Hackers have a multitude of skills, many are well-versed in the ways of all things that blink and flash. These abilities have often be applied to the field of jewelry and human adornment, and many LEDs have been employed in this work. [Deshipu] has been attempting something a touch different however, by constructing a tiny TFT pendant.
The basic idea is not dissimilar from those USB photo keychains of recent history. A SAMD21 Cortex M0+ serves as the brains of the operation, with the tiny microcontroller being soldered to a custom PCB that makes up the body of the pendant. A ST7735S TFT LCD screen is then attached to act as the display. Charging and delivery of images is done over USB, which can be handled natively by the SAMD21.
Currently, the pendant is capable of displaying 16-color BMPs, with the intention to create a converter for animated GIFs in the pipeline. Potential upgrades also involve creating a larger battery pack to sit behind the wearer’s neck, as currently the device has just 8 mAh to work with.
This is likely not to come as much of a shock to you, but the ESP8266 is pretty popular. At this point, we’re more surprised when a project that hits the tip line doesn’t utilize this incredibly cheap WiFi-enabled microcontroller. If you’re making a gadget that needs to connect to the Internet, there’s a good chance some member of the ESP family is going to be a good choice. But is it a one-trick MCU?
Well, judging by software frameworks like the “Little Game Engine” created by [Igor], it looks like the ESP is expanding its reach into offline projects as well. While it might not turn the ESP8266 into a next-gen gaming powerhouse, we’ve got to admit that the demos shown off so far are pretty impressive. When paired with a couple of buttons and a TFT display such as the ILI9341, the ESP could make for a particularly pocket-friendly game system.
The game engine that [Igor] has developed provides the programmer with a virtual screen resolution of 128×128, a background layer, and 32 sprites which offer built-in tricks like collision detection and rotation. All while running at a respectable 20 frames per second. This environment is ideal for the sort of 2D scrolling games that dominated the 8 and 16-bit era of gaming, and as seen in the video after the break, it can even pull off a fairly decent clone of “Flappy Bird”.
In addition, [Igor] created an online emulator and compiler which allows you to develop games using his engine right in your web browser. You can load up a selection of example programs and execute them to see what the engine is capable of, then try your hand at developing your own game before ever having to put the hardware together. Incidentally, the performance of this online development environment is fantastic; with even the fairly complex “Flappy Bird” example code compiling and starting in the emulator nearly instantaneously.