Academic Zigduino projects

A couple of interesting Zigduino projects in academic settings have recently been published. The first is from Frank Zhao, the author of the ZigduinoRadio package. He and his seminar group at the University of Waterloo created ARUCI: Augmented Reality Universal Controller and Identifier.

The second is a paper presented at IMECS 2013 about using Zigduinos andContiki to build loosely coupled wireless sensor networks. They are working with a middleware layer for building sensor networks called LooCI and evaluating how the Zigduino behaves with it.

Introducing the Zigduino r2

Along with the New Year comes a new version of the Zigduino! It's based on a number of comments and feature requests we've gotten from users. We've made the Zigduino significantly more useful for many of the applications they're talking to us about. We endeavoured to retain full backward compatibility for most applications. Here's the most significant changes:

I/O

  • FTDI FT231X USB to serial interface
  • D0/D1 connected to UART1; UART0 remains connected to the USB interface
  • All extra I/O brought out to a 2mm pitch auxiliary header
  • Arduino Uno R3 header pattern

Power

  • Added LiPo battery connector
  • Added LiPo battery charging circuit
  • Added battery monitoring circuit
  • The USB interface powered by USB bus; unpowered when USB is not connected

Layout

  • Arduino Uno R3 board layout
  • Reset switch relocated to the side of the board, between the power jack and the power header

Antenna

  • The external antenna replaced with an on-board antenna
  • Added a footprint for an MMCX connector, allowing installation of an external antenna for greater range.

Miscellaneous

  • Added footprint for clock crystal & loading capacitors

Taken together, these changes make the Zigduino a more capable platform for remote sensor nodes, remote controls, and similar applications. We look forward to seeing a host of new Zigduino applications that use these new features to their fullest.

All of the boards and connectors are now in hand -- right now, we're working on getting them all packed and programmed so we can offer them for sale by the end of January. In the meantime, we are now out of the r1 version and we do not anticipate making any more. There are still a few with our distributors, including SeeedStudio and Snootlabs.

Der Blinken Lights (Part II -- Framebuffer)

Looking at the hardware from part I of this series, you may have realized that the addressing scheme of the individual pixels is likely to be a bit hinky, which is true. It's also necessary to rapidly scan through the columns in order to produce the illusion of a continuous image. The canonical way to do this is to store the image data in a frame buffer structured in such a way as to streamline writing the data out. Interface routines abstract the wiring and addressing shenanigans.

Der Blinken Lights (Part I -- hardware)

We'll have a table at this year's MakerFaire Bay Area and at the Seattle Mini Maker Faire. In order to give our table a little more visual interest, I've been putting together a couple of demonstrations. My goal is to draw people in to look at as many of our products working together as possible. So naturally I went straight to the blinky lights.

Zigroller project, software

As I promised the hardware section, I've now written up the software side of the Zigroller. This is mostly going to be a big block of text with some code snippets thrown in for flavor. I'm going to avoid going too deeply into the math, but I can't completely avoid it. The code is a bit of a mess right now, and there are a number of things that are in there because of the somewhat meandering route I took to this point and because it remains a work in progress.

Zigduino production

We just took delivery on the third production run of Zigduinos, and we're working on flashing and testing them all. This is not only far and away the largest run so far, it is the first run to be assembled in the United States. 

This means that all of our assembly is now done in the US. We've found an excellent local assembly house to do our higher volume work, Printed Circuits Assembly Corporation. The quality is great, the prices are good, and the level of service, communication, and professionalism is phenomenal. It was more than worth the cost increment over what OurPCB, our former Chinese assembler, was costing us.

I delivered the parts and PCBs in person in order to speed the process by a day and get a look at PCA's operation. They own a large building in Bellevue, where they've been since 2000. The owner of PCA, Sim Taing, showed me around. I failed to take any pictures, which I regret, but I loved the opportunity to see their operation. The place was a hive of activity, and Mr Taing showed me a variety of boards much more complex than a Zigduino that they were building for other clients. They have more than two dozen large and extremely fast pick and place machines, most of which were in use at the time I was there. 

What impressed me the most was Mr. Taing's clear enthusiasm and pride in his business. That gave me a very good feeling about giving them the work. The fact that they delivered excellent work ahead of schedule confirms it. I'll be using them for my future runs.

Zigroller project, hardware

Since my Zigduino-based balance bot project, the Zigroller, got mentioned in the Make blog last week, I've written it up in a bit more detail here. I'm going to cover hardware first and then I'll cover the control software later. I took a class on digital controls up at UW this summer, and the class included a project option. I'd wanted to build a balance bot for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity. Around the time I needed to pick my project, the Arduroller project turned up on Make and various other places around the web. Since the class was in control theory, it was perfectly acceptable for me to duplicate the mechanical and electrical part of the Arduroller design. I deliberately refrained from reading the code. Since the Zigduino needs more demo projects, I decided to make it remote control as well for a little additional flash.

Zigduino and 16ch Driver availability, redux

We have Zigduinos in stock again! We sent a big package of them off to SeeedStudio yesterday, so they should have them in stock again soon as well. We don't have very many, so they'll probably be gone again, quickly. Luckily, we're only about two and a half weeks out from the availability of the third spin of Zigduinos. The third spin of board will be assembled in the US -- faster, more reliable, better quality, and not all that much more expensive. 

The story with 16ch driver shields is not as good -- Digikey just informed us that the availability is pushed back to the end of September. This has been the story since the end of July -- no stock, and no prospect of when IRF is going to make some more stock available. 

Open 7400 Logic Competition

We're sponsoring Dangerous Prototypes' Open 7400 Logic Competition. The prizes will include two Zigduinos and two 16ch Driver Shields.

The goal is simple: create the coolest thing you can think of out of discrete logic components, by the 21st of October. They will be judged as follows:

Originality. A smart new design that inspires

Documentation. Schematics, theory, pictures and/or video

(Mis)use of 7400 logic. Show us what 7400 logic was (never) meant to do

Technical prowess

Build quality

Imagination and creativity

I hope to see some truly awesome things come out of this, and I'm also looking forward to seeing what the lucky winners can do with our hardware later.