Gesture Sensing With A Temperature Sensor

Good science fiction has sound scientific fact behind it and when Tony Stark first made his debut on the big screen with design tools that worked at the wave of a hand, makers and hackers were not far behind with DIY solutions. Over the years the ideas have become much more polished, as we can see with this Gesture Recognition with PIR sensors project.

The project uses the TPA81 8-pixel thermopile array which detects the change in heat levels from 8 adjacent points. An Arduino reads these temperature points over I2C and then a simple thresholding function is used to detect the movement of the fingers. These movements are then used to do a number of things including turn the volume up or down as shown in the image alongside.

The brilliant part is that the TPA81 8-Pixel sensor has been around for a number of years. It is a bit expensive though it has the ability to detect small thermal variations such as candle flames at up to 2 Meters. More recent parts such as the Panasonic AMG8834 that contain a grid of 8×8 such sensors are much more capable for your hacking/making pleasure, but come with an increased price tag.

This technique is not just limited to gestures, and can be used in Heat-Seeking Robots that can very well be trained to follow the cat around just to annoy it.

Heat-seeking firebot drowns out the flames

This robot can find and extinguish fires automatically. It is the culmination of an Embedded Design class project from last school year. [Dan] and his classmates developed a turret that holds both a spray nozzle and heat sensor which would be a fantastic building block for a real-life tower defense game.

The jewel of the sensor array is a TPA81 thermopile array. Note the use of the term ‘array’ in the name. This is more like eight temperature sensors aligned with each other. By monitoring them all, the direction from which the most heat is coming can be determined. Once it’s zeroed in on the fire getting water to the right place can be a difficult task. That’s where the other sensors come into play. An accelerometer allows the bot to determine the angle of the spray nozzle (a weed sprayer was used in this case). An ultrasonic range finder and few algorithms let the Arduino which drives it all make sure that the arc of the water lands on the hot spot. This is all shown quite clearly in the clip below the jump.

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