Tag Archives: Technology

How to Get Started With The Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable device that enables people of all ages to explore computing and learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s also capable of doing most things you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-documents as well as playing games. In this how-to, you will learn how to get the Raspberry Pi up and running!

The Raspberry Pi

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SOUNDCAM – The World First True Handheld Sound Camera for Everyone

Every day of our lives we get bombarded with different sounds around.  Loud music, radio, people talking on their phone, automobile, traffic, and those unknown late night quacking sounds. All of these sounds are what makes our day to day activities, and we have even gotten accustomed to most of them and rarely get disturbed by them. However, when an unwanted sound keeps popping into our life, altering our general state of mind and starts becoming a nuisance, we start looking for ways of finding the source of the sound in the hope of getting rid of it. The human ear does an excellent job of finding the source of sounds but can quickly get confused when their many sounds are popping around, or the sounds are slightly dense. Sound localization is a critical concept due to its numerous application and research has been poured into this. The team from CAE system are launching a first of its kind called SOUNDCAM that will allow one to visualize any sound source.

CAE Softwares and Systems, a Germany-based company, is launching SoundCam on KickstarterSOUNDCAM is the first camera that images sound and is affordable for everyone. The system is intuitive and as easy to use as a smartphone. SOUNDCAM locates sound sources in real time and immediately displays the results on the screen. SOUNDCAM visualizes complex acoustic information and creates a connection between hearing and seeing. Analyzing and understanding sound has never been easier! Not only does SoundCam does the job well, but it also comes cheap as compared to traditional acoustic cameras (could cost upwards of $100,000).

SoundCam Handheld Sound Camera

SOUNDCAM localizes every sound source. It is possible to analyze environmental noise, road traffic noise, aircraft noise, train noise, industrial noise, machinery noise, workplace noise, detect malfunctions or leakages, and evaluate vehicle emissions, home appliances, consumer electronics, and a million other noise sources!

The application of SOUNDCAM is endless. I remember sometimes ago; I notice a disturbing noise was coming from my car’s engine side when putting on reverse mode but goes off when on drive or other modes. This was always annoying, and when I took it to my mechanic, he wasn’t sure where the sounds were coming from. After guessing around and dismantling a few parts, still couldn’t find the source of the sound and he suggested to open up the whole engine to see if it was from inside the engine, well, of course, I wasn’t ready to allow anyone open up my whole engine without being sure of what he or she is looking for. I left the car like that until one day it either suddenly disappear or I got used to it that I didn’t observe it again. A perfect application of SOUNDCAM will have been in this scenario, SOUNDCAM will have possibly identified the location of the sound in a non-invasive mode saving hours of lost productivity, money, and precious time. SOUNDCAM can also find applications in buildings for detecting sound leakage in supposed sound-proof structures, in electronics, drones, noise analysis, factories, automobile testing and evaluation, military applications, and thousands of possibilities.

SOUNDCAM consists of 64 microphones, an optical camera, an integrated data acquisition and analysis system, as well as a display and control unit with touchscreen and hardware buttons. The system displays high-resolution results in real time on it’s screen. The algorithm running on SOUNDCAM analyze the time delays it takes for a sound propagated to travel from its source to the microphone array and calculates the accurate acoustic pictures and videos in real time. The optical camera is used to generate the needed optical information, and optical and acoustic pictures are overlayed. These overlayed results are then displayed on the screen.

The SOUNDCAM device is battery powered and waterproof IP54 rated which means there is a possibility it can even be used underwater (of course at your own risk). It is powered by quad-core ARM A53 running at 1.2GHz speed with 1GB of RAM. The display is touchscreen removing the need for keyboard or mouse, but those can still be added through its onboard USB board which is as well used for exporting data from the device. It runs Linux out of the box with an optional Windows support available. It provides support for interfacing with a computer unit through its ethernet port.

SOUNDCAM is launched on Kickstarter with the SOUNDCAM early bird starting at a discounted 3,999 EURO, a 50% from the expected retail price. Shipping is expected to commence in late 2018 to early 2019. SOUNDCAM will revolutionize a lot of work and will save hours of lost productivity in troubleshooting sound localization problems which will inevitably save cost.

OpticSpy – A Tool For Decoding Optical Data Transmission

Optical data transmission offers a different way of sending data between objects without the drawbacks associated with radio-frequency and wired-communications methods. Visual data communication uses light beam as the medium of data exchange. Optical data communication has applications everywhere, to the fiber-optics that pushes your connectivity to the world and even that old-school TV remote uses optical data transmission.
OpticSpy
Aside from application in Fiber Optics, Optical Data Communication is also growing in a space called Li-Fi, a future potential alternative to Wi-Fi, where internet is transmitted through light beams. All these are generating more interest in this technology and makers are not left behind, thanks to a tool called OpticSpy. Ever want to be able to figure out what information a TV remote sends out to your TV? Or even what does those blinkenlights on your device, router or server is saying? OpticSpy might be the right tool to find out.
The OpticSpy modules provide a platform to explore, evaluate, and experiment with covert optical channels. They capture, amplify, and convert an optical signal or light signal into a digital form that can be analyzed or decoded with a computer. OpticSpy is excellent for exploring and experimenting with optical data transmission. OpticSpy is maker friendly, not only because it is open source hardware, but also it can connect directly to an Arduino, Logic Analyzer, and even a Raspberry Pi to process the raw data.
At the core of the OpticSpy design is the Maxim based Photodiode Receiver that can handle fiber-optic data rates up to 800kbps, a small potentiometer for fine-tuning a particular target signal, and an onboard USB-to-Serial interface for connection to a serial host device. OpticSpy is powered from the host computer’s USB port and uses an FTDI FT231X USB-to-Serial IC to provide the USB to Serial connectivity. When connected to a computer, OpticSpy will appear as a Virtual COM port and will have a COM port number automatically assigned to it. A terminal program like Putty or CoolTerm can be used to communicate to OpticSpy for reading of its decoded signal. It has been successfully tested with both visible and near-infrared light sources.
OpticSpy is going to give electronics hobbyists and hardware hackers ability to search for convert channels on existing modern devices, clone a device transmission, and even add optical data transfer functionality to a project. Some areas OpticSpy could find applications are:
The OpticSpy is currently in the crowdfunding stage on Crowd Supply, with a single unit costing $49. But, for $59 you can upgrade to the OpticSpy + Tomu Bundle, which allows you to experiment with transmitting and receiving data. The campaign ends March 31st, and orders are expected to ship at the beginning of May.

Intexar™ Heat – A Revolutionary Stretchable Ink And Film Technology To Make Flexible Heated Garments

DuPont Advanced Materials (DuPont) in association with Taiwanese company Formosa Taffeta, has developed a powered smart clothing technology named Intexar™ Heat, for on-body flexible heating garments.

The new fabric is thin, lightweight, and durable. The Intexar™ Heat is an ideal solution for outdoor clothing and it is designed to be easily integrated into garments. This innovative technology consists of a thin layer of carbon resistors, interconnected by an underlying layer of silver electrodes printed on a stretchable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) laminate. The silver electrodes supply currents throughout the resistor grid to radiate a right amount of heat within garments. By default, the active layer is sandwiched between a plain or customized outer protective layer. This protective layer shields the heating element from exposure and the fabric making up the garment.

Intexar Heat powers smart clothing technology for on-body heating
Intexar Heat powers smart clothing technology for on-body heating

Michael Burrows, the global business manager at DuPont Advanced Materials, described Intexar™ Heat as a revolutionary stretchable ink and film that when powered, creates a comfortable warmth. Formosa Taffeta Company will be the first textile manufacturer to apply Intexar™ Heat technology as part of its Permawarm® line. The new Permawarm® lineup will provide clothing with a complete garment heater system including the Intexar™ heater layer, connectors, and control software.

James Lee, president of FTC, said,

With Permawarm™, clothing brands can focus on garment design and brand engagement. We are taking the guesswork out of bringing their customers safe and comfortable heated garments.

Intexar™ materials can also be very useful in biometric monitoring in smart clothing. Pulse rate, respiratory rate, muscle activity and form awareness are all measurable using sensors and conductive pathways built from Intexar™ which makes it a complete smart garment solution.

To cope with the coming era of functional thermal insulation this is a huge step forward for heat-insulation fabrics. It is a new high-tech lightweight material ideal for thermal insulation in the winter.

Alexa On Every Device with the Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit

Amazon’s Alexa is an intelligent voice-controlled personal assistant launched in 2014 and has been on an increasing demand ever since. First integrated into the Echo, the Alexa platform has been an exponential growth in the consumer industry.

Amazon’s Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development kit is a kit released by Amazon that will allow manufacturers to add high-quality Alexa voice experiences into their products, allowing Amazon to integrate Alexa into hundreds to thousands of products without necessarily building the products themselves.

This kit provides support for 360o tabletop far-field voice activation applications, as well ass applications that require voice-activation from one direction. It incorporates Amazon’s proprietary software and algorithm technology for “Alexa” wake word recognition, beam forming, noise reduction, and acoustic echo cancellation, and accurate far-field voice recognition in noisy environments and from long distances.

The development kit includes:

  • Two microphone array boards
  • A digital signal processor board
  • A Raspberry Pi 3 with the Amazon Voice Service (AVS) Device SDK
The 8-microphone board (left) and 7-microphone board (right)

The microphone board comprises of a 7 and 8 microphone arrays optimized for premium far-field audio performance, and the Raspberry PI 3 board can be replaced by any Linux embedded platform for production ready.

The Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development kit is primed for applications that include smart speakers, smart home, IoT devices, router and gateway devices, sound bars, and set-top boxes.

Major Device Technical Specifications:

  • Microphone Array Configurations –
    • 7 mic circular, 72.76mm diameter
    • 8 mic rectangular, 67.50mm x 22.50mm
  • Digital Signal Processor –
    • Intel’s dual DSP with inference engine
  • System Processor Support –
    • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
    • Compatible with processors capable of running the AVS Device SDK
  • Power Supply –
    • 15 DC Volt Input
  • OS Support –
    • Raspbian Stretch
    • AVS Device SDK and supports most embedded Linux platforms

With the introduction of the kit, Amazon is lowering the barrier for any company to add Alexa to their products and hopes to make Alexa work everywhere and make it the most important and intimate computer in your life.

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:

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.

Osram Develops LED Beam Array Smart Headlamps That Can Analyze Road And Traffic

After over three years of research and field demos, a prototype of Osram’s EVIYOS smart, controllable, high resolution LED automotive headlamp was introduced at the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting earlier this year in Darmstadt, Germany. This smart LED headlamp is able to control its 1,024 LED “pixels” individually. The basic component of the EVIYOS combines an LED chip with electronics to provide on/off and dimming control for each pixel within the LED module.

Smart Beam Array LED Headlamp By Osram
Smart beam array LED headlamp by Osram

The only 4×4 mm module is capable of delivering about 3,000 lumens when fully activated. The brightness is much greater than the 1,400 lumens of the typical LED automotive headlamp modules. The required circuits to control this module is already connected to the headlamp and it includes an interface for connecting directly to the vehicle electronics. The truly “smart” aspect of this invention is, the system can continuously analyze factors such as the car velocity, road curvature, and distance from other vehicles on the road, including oncoming traffic. Then it makes adjustments to the light emitted from the vehicle’s headlamps accordingly.

For instance, a wider beam would be provided for high crowding areas to illuminate the road ahead and also the sidewalks. Having individual pixel control capability, the headlamp can adjust the light output very precisely. Hence, it can provide better visibility for other drivers sharing the road by dimming the specific pixels that would otherwise be causing glare, while still illuminating the road nicely.

As it is scheduled to launch in 2020, Osram is looking forward to offering a separate family of modules targeting lighting applications for which individual control of light pixels would be useful. When asked about potential future markets for EVIYOS technology, Osram responded,

with the increasing need for adaptive forward lighting and glare-free headlamps, a dynamically controlled matrix light source provides additional benefit for forwarding lighting and certain interior lighting applications in a vehicle.

So, with the formal launch over two years away, only time will tell if this new technology by Osram can cure the nightmare of night driving.

Chirp Microsystem Made The Smallest And Most Accurate Ultrasonic Time-of-Flight Sensors

Recently Californian startup Chirp Microsystems officially announced two discrete ultrasonic Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors, the CH-101 and CH-201, with maximum sensing ranges of 1m and 5m, respectively. Both chips have a 3.5×3.5mm package and they are powered by same ASIC or application-specific integrated circuit for signal processing. To achieve different sensing ranges, the Piezoelectric Micro-machined Ultrasonic Transducers (PMUT), the MEMS parts of the sensors are tuned and built differently.

Chirp Microsystem designed smallest and most accurate ultrasonic Time-of-Flight sensors

Chirp Microsystems was founded in 2013 and the CH-101 is their 2nd generation design while the CH-201 is an upgraded third generation design. Their 4th generation design of chips is under development and prototypes are being tested recently. Chirp Microsystems declares that with each design so far, they’ve improved their transmitter and receiver performance by 4 times. David Horsley, Chirp Microsystems’ CTO, told,

In fact, we have been sampling the CH101 for two years now and we realized we had never made a product announcement for it.

According to Chirp Microsystems, the chips are the first commercially available MEMS-based ultrasonic ToF sensors and can beat all other ToF solutions on the small size and low power consumption. The “Sonars on a chip” draw 100 times less power and are a thousand times smaller than the conventional ultrasonic rangefinders used in today’s industrial automotive applications. Unlike infrared based ToF sensors, these new MEMS sensors do not rely on optical path clearance. So, it’s now easier for engineers to design bezel-free smartphones with precise gesture recognition.

The CH-101 and CH-201 include an interrupt pin and a GIO pin. That pin is used in hardware trigger mode to connect several transducers on the same I2C bus so they can operate in a synchronous fashion. For Virtual Reality applications, data from multiple chips are mixed to detect the position of user’s hand in 3D space.

Previously the California based startup also made monolithic linear arrays that had ten transducers in a row. Using that design, one can perform beamforming and identify both range and position of an object. Though they stayed away from commercializing it. “We didn’t want to bite too much at a time” – said the CTO of the startup. Rather they decided to focus on solving various manufacturing and packaging issues first. Horsley, the CTO of the Chirp Microsystems, also added,

We are pioneers in this area, and we are not close to the optimum yet, we still have a lot of design space to improve the specs.

Brand New BiCMOS Flexible Transistor

 

The transistor revolutionized the field of electronics, and paved the way for smaller and cheaper radios, calculators, and computers, among other things since its very first practically implemented device as a point-contact-transistor invented in 1947 and getting the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956.

Now, engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) have built the most flexible, fully-functional transistor in the world!  The BiCMOS  (Bipolar Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) thin-film transistor has all current transistor’s characteristics: speed, carrying large current and low dissipation – but it is extremely flexible.

This is an interesting advance that could open the door to an increasingly interconnected world, enabling manufacturers to add smart wireless capabilities to any number of large or small products that curve, bend, stretch and move.

Making traditional BiCMOS flexible electronics was difficult, in part because the process takes several months and requires a multitude of delicate, high-temperature steps. Even a minor variation in temperature at any point could ruin all of the previous steps. This fabrication process is not currently as commercially viable for most of applications.

However, the engineers fabricated their flexible electronics on a single-crystal silicon nanomembrane on a single bendable piece of plastic. The secret to their success is their unique process, which eliminates many steps and slashes both the time and cost of fabricating the transistors.

This new electronic has the potential to change the electronic’s industry in a new way. Everything touched by electronics (computers, microcontrollers, sensors…) could be completely flexible due the easily of this new technology to scale up to commercial levels.

The vast majority of transistors are now produced in integrated circuits. A logic gate consists of up to about twenty transistors whereas an advanced microprocessor, as of 2009 and with a cost of just a couple of usd, can use as many as 3 billion transistors. This is the best transistor’s advantage: mass-production with a extremely low cost.

For that reason, the transistor is the key active component in practically all modern electronics. The transistor is on the list of IEEE milestones and many consider it to be one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century.

This new flexible transistor could be in future electronic boards for a flexible electronics development and applications never even seen before. Definitely, the future is now.