Bee Motion Combines ESP32 With PIR Sensor And USB-C

There’s no shortage of ESP32 development boards out there, with many of them offering some “killer app” feature which may or may not align with whatever it is you’re trying to do. But if you’ve got a project that could benefit from the pairing of a powerful WiFi-enabled microcontroller and a passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor, the Bee Motion created by [Paul Price] is certainly worth a close look.

This breadboard compatible package combines an ESP32-S2 module with a top-mounted PIR sensor, making it a turn key solution for all sorts of motion sensing projects. In addition to the expected onboard voltage regulation, there’s also a LiPo charge controller and status LEDs for mobile or battery-backed operation.

While there’s far too many variables involved for [Paul] to give a specific runtime for the Bee Motion, he’s run some numbers and found that a 1500 mAH cell could potentially keep the board running for over a year if you’re taking advantage of the MCU’s deep sleep capabilities. When it’s time to recharge, whenever that may be, the board’s USB-C connector means you won’t be searching around for the proper cable.

Schematics and CAD files are available in the Bee Motion GitHub repo, and [Paul] is also selling assembled boards on Tindie. All you need now is to get inspired by some of the slick PIR projects we’ve covered in the past.

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Laptop USB-C Charging Hack Lets You Leave The Brick At Home

At their best, laptops are a compromise design. Manufacturers go to great lengths to make the slimmest, lightest, whatever-est laptops possible, and the engineering that goes into doing so is truly amazing. But then they throw in the charger, which ends up being a huge brick with wire attached to it, and call it a day.

Does it have to be that way? Probably, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to slim down the overall footprint of laptops at least a little. That’s what [Joe Gaz] did when he hacked his laptop to allow for USB-C charging. Tired of the charger anchoring down his HP X360, [Joe] realized that he could harvest the PCB from a USB-C charger adapter dongle and embed it inside his laptop. We’ve seen similar modifications made to Thinkpads in the past, and it’s good to see the process isn’t that far removed with other brands.

After popping open the laptop, which is always an adventure in reverse mechanical engineering, he found that removing the OEM charger jack left just enough room for the USB-C charger. Mounting the board required a 3D printed bracket, while enlarging the original hole in the side of the laptop case took some cringe-inducing work with a file. It looked like it was going to be pretty sloppy at first, but he ended up doing a pretty neat job in the end. The whole modification process is in the video below.

The end result is pretty slick — [Joe] can now carry a much more compact USB wall-wart-style charger, or eschew the charger altogether and rely on public USB charging stations. Either way, it sure beats lugging a brick around. If you’re interested in laptop hacking, or even if you just want to harvest the goodies from a defunct machine, check out this guide to laptop anatomy by our own [Arsenijs Picugins].

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ElectronBot: A Sweet Mini Desktop Robot That Ticks All The Boxes

[Peng Zhihui] seems to have found some spare time and energy to crack out another sweet robot build, this time it’s a much smaller, and cuter emoji-bot (Original GitHub Link,) with the usual production-ready levels of attention to detail. With a lot of fine details in the 3D printed models, this is one for SLS printing in nylon, but that can be done for a reasonable outlay, in China at least. The electronics package consists of a few full custom, and tiny, PCBs designed with Altium Designer, with off-the-shelf modules for the circular LCD and camera. The main board hosts an STM32F405 and deals with the display and SD card, The reason for this choice of STM32 was due to the requirement for connecting to an external USB3300 high-speed USB PHY. There is a sensor PCB which handles the gesture sensor, a USB hub, MPU6050 9-axis sensor, and also the USB camera module. This board attaches to the USB-C connector in the base, via a FFC cable, allowing the robot to rotate on its base.

Cunning two-servo shoulder mechanism

[Peng] clearly has exacting standards as to how things should work, and we guess wanted to have the arms back-driveable in a way that enabled the host computer to track and record the motor positions for replaying later on. The connection back to the controller is via I2C, allowing all five servos to hang on the same bus, saving previous resources. Smart! Getting a processor and motor driver in such a tiny space was a bit of challenge, but a walk in the park for [Peng] as is demonstrates in the video embedded below (We believe English subtitles are pending!) The arm mechanism is particularly interesting, and rather elegantly executed, and he does seem rather proud of this part of the design, and so he should! Like with [Peng’s] other projects, there is a lot to see, and plenty of scope for feature explosion. It was nice to see the ‘bot being used as an input device, not only with gesture sensing via the dedicated sensor, but also using the camera with OpenCV to track user posture and act accordingly. This thing could act as genuinely useful AI device, as was a being darn cute at the same time!

We know you come to Hackaday for your cute robot fix, and we’re not going to disappoint. Here’s a cute robot lamp, an obligatory spot (a robot dog) type project, and if you’re more of a cat person, then we got that base covered as well.

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PlayStation 4 Controller Gets A USB-C Upgrade

Micro USB was once the connector of choice for applications where USB-A was too big, but now USB-C has come to dominate all. It’s becoming standard across the board for many peripherals, and [Ian] recently decided that he wanted to upgrade his PS4 controller to the newer standard. Hacking ensued.

The hack consists of a small breakout board that enables a USB-C connector to be fitted into the PS4 controller in place of the original micro USB port. [Ian] explains what needs to be done to complete the mod, which first involves disassembling the controller carefully to avoid damage. The original microUSB breakout board can then be removed, and fitted with one of a selection of replacement boards available on Github to suit various revisions of PS4 controller. A little filing is then required to allow the new connector to fit in the controller case, and [Ian] notes that using an 0.8mm thick PCB is key to enabling the new breakout board to fit inside the shell.

It’s a neat hack that makes charging PS4 controllers way easier in the modern environment without having to keep legacy micro USB cables around. We’ve actually seen similar hacks done to iPhones, too, among other hardware. Video after the break.

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On the left, four through-hole USB-C connectors laid out on a purple cutting mat. On the right, a teardown picture shows that there's neither resistors nor CC connections inside such a connector, resulting in consequences described in the article.

The USB-C Connectors You Never Knew You Wanted To Avoid

On Tech Twitter, some people are known for Their Thing – for example, [A13 (@sad_electronics)], (when they’re not busy designing electronics), searches the net to find outstanding parts to marvel at. A good portion of the parts that they find are outstanding for all the wrong reasons. Today, that’s a through-hole two-pin USB Type-C socket. Observing the cheap tech we get from China (or the UK!), you might conclude that two 5.1K pulldown resistors are very hard to add to a product – this socket makes it literally impossible.

We’ve seen two-pin THT MicroUSB sockets before, sometimes used for hobbyist kits. This one, however, goes against the main requirement of Type-C connectors – sink (Type-C-powered) devices having pulldowns on CC pins, and source devices (PSUs and host ports) having pull up resistors to VBUS. As disassembly shows, this connector has neither of these nor the capability for you to add anything, as the CC pins are physically not present. If you use this port to make a USB-C-powered device, a Type-C-compliant PSU will not give it power. If you try to make a Type-C PSU with it, a compliant device shall (rightfully!) refuse to charge from it. The only thing this port is good for is when a device using it is bundled with a USB-A to USB-C cable – actively setting back whatever progress Type-C connectors managed to make.

As much as USB Type-C basics are straightforward, manufacturers get it wrong on the regular – back in 2016, a wrong cable could kill your $1.5k MacBook. Nowadays, we might only need to mod a device with a pair of 5.1K resistors every now and then. We can only hope that the new EU laws will force devices to get it right and stop ruining the convenience for everyone, so we can finally enjoy what was promised to us. Hackers have been making more and more devices with USB-C ports, and even retrofitting iPhones here and there. If you wanted to get into mischief territory and abuse the extended capabilities of new tech, you could even make a device that enumerates in different ways if you flip the cable, or make a “BGA on an FPC” dongle that is fully hidden inside a Type-C cable end!

This ESP32 Pico Wristwatch Has Plenty Of Potential

First hand-built prototype. Nurse! isopropyl alcohol, stat!

Prolific hacker [Sulfuroid] is a medical doctor by day, and an electronics hobbyist by night, and quite how he finds the time, we have no idea.

The project we want to highlight is an ESP32 based LED smart watch, which we’ll sure you’ll agree, looks pretty nicely developed so far, and [Sulfuroid] has bigger plans, as you may find, when you dig into the GitHub repo. This analog-style design uses four groups of 0603-sized LEDs, arranged circularly to indicate the passage of time, or anything else you fancy. Since there are four control buttons, a pancake vibration motor, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the possibilities are endless.

In order to stand a hope of driving those 192 LEDs from a single ESP32-Pico-D4, it was necessary to use a multiplexed LED driver, courtesy of the Lumissil IS31FL3733 device, which can handle arrays up to 12 x 16 devices. This chip is one to remember, since it has some really nice features, such as global current control to reduce CPU overhead, automatic breathing loops for those fancy fade effects, and even includes a handy open/short detection function, so it can report back assembly problems, assisting in reworking your dodgy soldering!

Routing circular arrays is such a pain.

Power and interfacing are taken care of via USB-C, with a TP4054 single Li-Ion cell charger chip handling the battery. This is a Taiwanese clone of the popular LTC4054, but that chip may be a bit hard to get at the moment. There is the common-as-muck CP2104 USB chip dealing with the emulated serial port side of things, since for some reason, the ESP32 still does not support USB. The Pico-D4 does have RTC support, but [Sulfuroid] decided to use a DS3231M RTC chip instead. We noticed the touch functionality wasn’t broken out – that could be added easily in the next revision!

We’ve covered watches a lot, because who doesn’t want custom geek-wear! Here’s a slick one, a fun one with the brains on display, and finally one using charlieplexing to get the component count down.

 

Genius Or Cursed, This USB-C Connector Is Flexible

USB connectors have lent themselves to creative interpretations of their mechanical specifications ever since the first experimenter made a PCB fit into a USB-A socket. The USB-C standard with its smaller connector has so far mostly escaped this trend, though this might be about to change thanks to the work of [Sam Ettinger]. His own description of his USB-C connector using a flexible PCB and a BGA-packaged ATTiny84A microcontroller is “cursed”, but we can’t decide whether or not it should also be called “genius”.

Key to this inspired piece of connector fabrication is the realization that the thickness of BGA and flex PCB together comes to the required 0.7 mm. The BGA provides the necessary stiffness, and though it’s a one-sided connector it fits the space perfectly. There are several demo boards as proofs-of-concept, and the whole lot can be found in a GitHub repository.

We can see this technique finding a use in all kinds of diminutive USB-C projects, however cursed or genius it may be. We like to see projects that push the edges of what can be done with the medium, with a nod to a previous cursed USB-C device.

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