XMOS VocalFusion- Background Noise Not a Problem Anymore

The XMOS VocalFusion XVF3500 voice processor, to be shown at CES. Source: XMOS

 

XMOS is one of the many companies that has ventured in voice recognition technology. They created the VocalFusion XVF3500 device, the first voice processor to have true stereo-AEC support in a far-field linear microphone array solution. Voice recognition is a relatively new technology for consumers which we came to know with Siri, google home, Alexa etc. However, this technology has been developed since 1950s with a very limited understanding of numbers. Nowadays, voice recognition software can answer all kind of questions, perform activities (such as calls, notes and web searches), and even answer to sarcastic questions. Experts predict that 50 % of all web searches will be made using voice by 2020.

Voice recognition is not only about not using keyboards, but also about security and usability. Thanks to software such as Siri people can now make phone calls in the car without even looking at their phone, play music and send messages. The biggest problem is accuracy specially when dealing with accents which the voice software may not be able to comprehend.

Speech recognition works by analyzing the sound, filtering what you say and digitalizing it into a form that the computer can read, and then analyzing it for meaning. It has become increasingly complex to program this kind of software because of language, dialects, accents, and phrasing. Also, background noise can easily throw off the interpretation of your speech.

At CES 2018, XMOS plans to display their new XVF3500 voice processor alongside the VocalFusion 4-Mic Dev Kit, which was the first far-field linear array solution to achieve Amazon AVS (Alexa voice service) qualification, delivering easy integration of Amazon Alexa into commercial and industrial electronics. The kit is based on the VocalFusion XVF3000 device which provides acoustic echo cancellation and advanced noise suppression. This will allow developers to build Alexa enabled products which will accelerate it’s deployment in new systems and new devices giving customers the ability to access Alexa from more places.

The development kit includes the XVF3000 voice processor, I2S serial audio and I2C serial control interfaces, cables, xTAG debug adapter and much more. It enables across the room voice interface solutions which are then processed by cloud based recognition software even in places with complex acoustics and noisy environments. This could help solve the background noise issues allowing a more accurate interpretation and an improved user experience.

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70W soldering iron controller

smdprutser.nl build a soldering iron controller based on PIC16F1823:

In series thermocouple soldering iron have a thermocouple in series with their heating element and thus only have two connections (actually one more which is electrically connected to the tip for ESD purposes). When a voltage is applied to the two terminals the tip heats, when unpowered the thermocouple voltage can be read.

70W soldering iron controller – [Link]

60V input 5V @3A output DC-DC Converter for Industrial and Automotive

This is a 60 V 3A step down DC-DC converter. Sample applications are: 12 V, 24 V and 48 V Industrial, Automotive and Communications Power Systems. The TPS54360 is a 60 V, 3 A, step down regulator with an integrated high side MOSFET. The device survives load dump pulses up to 65V per ISO 7637. Current mode control provides simple external compensation and flexible component selection. A low ripple pulse skip mode reduces the no load supply current to 146 μA. Shutdown supply current is reduced to 2 μA when the enable pin is pulled low. Under voltage lockout is internally set at 4.3 V but can be increased using the enable pin. The output voltage start up ramp is internally controlled to provide a controlled start up and eliminate overshoot. A wide switching frequency range allows either efficiency or external component size to be optimized. Frequency fold back and thermal shutdown protects internal and external components during an overload condition.

60V input 5V @3A output DC-DC Converter for Industrial and Automotive – [Link]

MediaTek Sensio, is a 6-in-1 biosensor module for smartphones

Smartphones in recent times have contributed to the growth of the medical sensing industries with a major success in the usage of a smartphone camera and flash to detect heart rate. Specialized Apps installed on the phone can use the phone inbuilt camera and flash to read an individual heart rate with high accuracy but nothing else in the space of health monitoring. Sensio is a biosensor that will allow smartphones to track six different health metrics, a big game changer in the smartphone and medical industry.

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The Taiwan-based mobile chipset maker MediaTek has recently introduced MediaTek Sensio, the Industry’s first 6-in-1 biosensor that will turn smartphones into a personal health companion. Sensio will come as an embedded module for smartphones which make it possible to easily check and monitor one’s physical wellness.

The MediaTek Sensio MT6381 will allow smartphones to track a user’s heart rate, blood-pressure, heart-rate variability, peripheral capillary oxygen saturation, ECG (Electrocardiography) and photoplethysmography (PPG). It works using an integration of hardware and software in order to measure all these health data in about 60 seconds, as claimed by MediaTek. The company will have an app that can track all of this data and have it accessible to the user and also stored in the cloud.

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The MediaTek Sensio module uses a combination of LEDs (light emitting diodes) and a light-sensitive sensor to measure the variations in red and infrared light from the user’s fingertips. The module is able to measure the ECG and PPG levels by creating a closed loop between the user’s heart and the biosensor which is made possible when the user touches the electrical sensors and electrodes on the device.

The following are the features of the MediaTek Sensio:

  • Heart Rate – Measures heart beats per minute.
  • Heart Rate Variability – Measures variation in the time between heartbeats.
  • Blood Pressure Trends – Measures blood pressure trends to help users see data over a period of time.
  • Peripheral Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) – Measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  • Electrocardiography (ECG) – Measures the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time and displays it in graph form.
  • Photoplethysmography (PPG) – Measures the change in volume of blood.

The MediaTek Sensio module includes the following:

  • Integrated R and IR LEDs for reflective PPG measurement + 1 -channel ECG analog front -end.
  • Compact 6.8 mm x 4.93 mm x 1.2 mm OLGA 22-pin package.
  • Total External BOM: 4caps + 2 electrodes
  • I2C / SPI digital interface.

“Giving people the power to access their health information with a smartphone is a major step in making the world a healthier place,” said Dr Yenchi Lee, Sr. Director of Product Marketing for MediaTek’s wireless business. The MediaTek Sensio is expected to be available beginning in early 2018.

Scientists Design A Two Stage Patch For Blood Glucose Testing Without Pricking The Skin

A team of researchers from Tsinghua University in cooperation with People’s Liberation Army Air Force General Hospital, China, has produced a two-stage patch to test the blood glucose levels. They published their research paper on the open access site Science Advances. In the paper, the group describes their patch system and how it succeeds in a small sample test with volunteer human patients.

Biosensor attached to the skin for measuring blood glucose level
Biosensor attached to the skin for measuring blood glucose level

In this new effort, the researchers of Tsinghua University sought to make life a little easier for people living with diabetes by developing an easier way to test their glucose levels. Now they can easily monitor their own blood glucose level and maintain their diet accordingly.

For most diabetics, the conventional method was to check their glucose levels by using a small device that pricks the skin just enough to draw a very tiny amount of blood, usually from a fingertip. A drop of blood is then squeezed onto a test strip inserted into a glucose monitoring device, which then shows a reading. This painful and prone to infection process often causes many diabetics to stop testing their blood glucose level, hence putting themselves at higher risk.

Schematic diagram of non-invasive blood glucose moniroring
Schematic diagram of non-invasive blood glucose monitoring

In this new procedure, the researchers introduced a two-stage, non-invasive method to accomplish the same result. The first stage consists of placing a small amount of Hyaluronic acid, a component frequently found in skincare products, on the skin and then pressing a paper battery on the same area. The battery pushes the acid to make its way into the skin. Then the acid induces a change in osmotic pressure in the subcutaneous fluid. That forces glucose back upwards toward the outer surface of the skin. After 20 minutes, the battery is removed and the second stage takes place. A 3μm thick, five-layer biosensor is attached to the same place of the skin. It looks like a Band-Aid with a square of gold foil on its center. The biosensor can be read by standard lab equipment.

A clinical trial of their device on a woman with diabetes and two other non-diabetic patients at the hospital showed that results were nearly as good as standard lab equipment without causing any discomfort to the volunteers. In the following video, the researchers explain how it works:

Isolated USB to UART Converter for Arduino Pro Mini

Simple, tiny USB to UART converter with digital isolator working between 2.5V and 5V up to 3Mbaud, with the Arduino Pro mini connector.

It’s a USB to UART converter with a digital isolator at the UART side. It has a micro USB for connecting to the PC and a 6 pin header with the same pin-out of the Arduino Pro mini board.

The chip FT231XQ is used as interface between the USB and the UART protocol, while the Si8642 is used for isolate the board from the PC. This converter is very useful if you are working on some projects and worrying about short circuit with the main power supply. Because the isolator isolates the two sides therefore there is no electrically connection.

Specifications

  • Original FT231XQ: Compatible with almost all the operating systems and capable of variety baud rates from 300 baud up to 3 Mbaud
  • Original Si8642BB-B-IS1: Low-Power Quad-Channel Digital Isolators with isolation rating up to 2.5kV
  • Size of 40 x 17 mm
  • 4.1 mm isolation between the two sides guarantee an electrical isolation up to 1kV
  • Working between 2.5V to 5V.
  • TX and RX LEDs indicators.
  • Micro USB connector.
  • Standard 2.54mm 6 pins female header.
  • Protected by a transparent heat shrink sleeve.

The board is live on kickstarter available for funding and has 24 days to go.

Arduino (Atmega328p) on a Breadboard

Hi guys, for today’s tutorial, we will be building an Arduino on a breadboard. The Arduino on breadboard is basically a bare bones arduino, featuring only the micro-controller as the major component, without all the other parts that makes up the Arduino, like the usb port, the on-board serial to usb converter, voltage regulators, etc, most of which are sometimes not needed in a project after programming has been done.

Arduino (Atmega328p) on a Breadboard – [Link]

The ezPixel is an Upcoming FPGA based WS2812B Controller Board

FPGAs are field programmable gate arrays which basically means they are reconfigurable hardware chips. FPGAs have found applications in different industries and engineering fields from the defence, telecommunications to automotive and several others but little application in the maker’s world. Mostly, as a result of being largely difficult and high cost as compared to the likes of Arduino, but the introduction of the ezPixel and other similar FPGA boards is making this a possibility.

Prototype modules.

The ezPixel board, by Thomas Burke of MakerLogic, is a small size FPGA based circuit board that can be used to drive up to 32 strings of WS2812Bs, for up to 9,216 LEDs in total, a very first of its kind. These WS2812B programmable color LEDs have been a phenomenon in the maker’s world, being used in various Led Lights and creating of various Light Artworks. These popular LEDs comes in strings that can be cut to any length, and only require a single wire serial data connection to control all the lights in the string individually, and multiple strings can be stacked together to create large two-dimensional displays.

ezPixel description.

Most WS2812B controller boards can be used to control up to hundreds of these LEDs, but not thousands of them. The ezPixel board is a perfect fit for applications that use thousands of these LEDs. The ezPixel board is powered by the Intel MAX FPGA, a single chip small form factor programmable logic device with full-featured FPGA capabilities, and it’s designed to interface with other Micro-controllers or any SPI/UART host device. The ezPixel board serves as bridge between microcontrollers and long WS2812B strings. A user sets the length of each string using simple commands that are sent via the SPI or USB/UART communication link.

The following below are the features of the ezPixel:

  • WS2812B Smart Pixel Controller.
  • Up to 32 Strings can be controlled independently.
  • Up to 9216 LEDs can be controlled.
  • Communication:
    • USB/UART Interface.
    • SPI Interface.
  • Read/Write Pixel Memory.
  • FPGA – Intel MAX10M08 FPGA.
  • Dimension:
    • 1” x 3” (25mm x 76mm).
  • SPI Flash.

The ezPixel can run as a standalone display controller as a result of its serial flash memory chip, and this board is slated for a crowdfunding campaign in early 2018.

Easy LED Strip Lightning Made possible by ChromaTab

LED strips provide users with multi-color and flexible illumination which can be fit into tight spacing. Also, they are customizable, durable, and easy to install which is why LED strips have gained popularity in design and personal projects. However, installing them can result in a lot of wire, power transistors (to control the LEDs), a microcontroller, a voltage regulator, and a lot of soldering. When danjhamer, a user from Hackaday, faced this problem while doing a small project with his daughter he came up with ChromaTab.

ChromaTab is a small control board for WS2812B RGB LED strips that can be soldered directly into the end of the strip. The device has 14 digital pins, 6 analog pins, and Arduino compatibility which allows the users to update and upload new sketches using the Arduino IDE. The sketches are to be uploaded though a USB to serial converter and as the firmware is based on Adafruit Neopixel library, effects and animations can be easily created.

It has an input voltage of 5-7 v, a current of 90 mA, clock speed of 16 MHz, SRAM of 2 KB and flash memory of 32 KB. It’s based-on Arduino Pro mini and Atmega 328P microcontroller. It is 43 mm wide, 10 mm High and 4 mm deep this size makes it easy to fit in small places. The only soldering needed is the 3 castellated pads to solder directly into the LED strip making your project more simple, organized, and easier to program. The complete specifications can be found on its official Hackaday website.

The ChromaTab could be perfect for kids learning about electronics or designers who want to use LED strips but don´t know much about electronics. Its already on sale in this website for € 18,00. Soon there will be add-on boards on sale to provide extra functions such as USB to serial converter. The device is cheap and offers to facilitate an otherwise boring task, but some improvements could be made such as making it water resistant (for Waterproof LED strips) or making it adaptable to other LED strip references. ChromaTab opens the door to a lot of projects and possibilities which is why it needs to keep improving to adapt to user’s project needs.

Researchers Develop New Technique To Print Flexible Self-healing Circuits For Wearable Devices

The researchers of North Carolina State University in the US, lead by Jingyan Dong, have developed a new technique for directly printing flexible, stretchable metal circuits. The innovative technique can be used with multiple metals and alloys. It is also compatible with existing manufacturing systems which can integrate this new printing technology effortlessly.

Flexible PCB designed by the researchers
Flexible PCB designed by the researchers

The technique uses the well known electrohydrodynamic printing technology. This popular technology is already used in many manufacturing processes that use functional inks. But instead of using conventional functional ink, Jingyan Dong’s team uses molten alloys having melting point as low as 60 degrees Celsius. This new technique was demonstrated using three different alloys, printing on different substrates such as glass, paper, and two types of stretchable polymers. Jingyan Dong added,

Our approach should reduce cost and offer an efficient means of producing circuits with high resolution, making them viable for integrating into commercial devices.

The researchers tested the flexibility of the circuits on a polymer substrate and found that the circuit’s conductivity was uninterrupted even after being flexed 1,000 times. The circuits were still electrically firm even when stretched to 70 percent of tensile strain. The above figures are surprising enough, especially when printing flexible wearables is the main target.

Even more interesting, the circuits can heal themselves if they are broken by being bent or stretched beyond their limitations. On the other hand, because of the low melting point, one can simply heat the affected area up to around 70 degrees Celsius and make the metal flow back together, repairing the related damage with ease.

The researchers demonstrated the functionality of the printing technique by creating a high-density touch sensor, packing a 400-pixel assemblage into one square centimeter. The researchers have demonstrated the flexibility and functionality of their approach. Now, they are planning to work with the industry sector to implement the technique in manufacturing wearable sensors or other electronic devices.

The days of truly flexible, self-healing wearable smart gadgets are not so far because of the hard work of these researchers.