We’re not dead!

We’re not dead, I swear!

It’s the holiday season here in the US, with Haloween being followed by Thanksgiving being followed by Christmas in a few days and then New Years a week after. My day job is at a bakery in a grocery store, and everybody wants their food. That being said, I haven’t been slacking with development, just with updating people about developments. Oops.

Pendants

First up is the “Patreon” pendant. I’ve decided that, for now, we’re not going to do any Patreon exclusive things. Considering the lack of interest in a Patreon, we’ll be putting the entire thing on the back burner for a bit. This does NOT mean I’m not working on the pendant, though! Quite the opposite.

The first prototype of the pendant had a few issues. Primarily, it used the wrong footprint for the ATTiny85 microcontroller, so the one it was designed for didn’t fit. Secondly, I learned to check the sizes of the resistors and capacitors I was using. While I did learn that you can hand-solder even the tiniest of components, it’s not easy. There were a few of a size that, while still small, was fairly decent to work with. This led to me redesigning the pendant and the V2 Digibadge (More on that in a bit) with all of the tiny components being this size. I’ve received prototype 2 PCBs for both the pendant and the V2 badge, but it’ll be after Christmas before I get the chance to test them out.

I’ve also brainstormed a few ideas for other types of pendants, and while I haven’t had the chance to design the boards for them, I can tell you what they are:

  1. Mic-Based Pendant. The original design, using a small microphone to pick up sounds and adjust the LEDs accordingly.
  2. Photocell-Based Pendant. This would use one or more photocells to detect the brightness of light on the pendant and adjust the LEDs in response.
  3. Temperature-Based Pendant. A small thermometer would adjust the LEDs in response to local temperature.
  4. Light Color-Based Pendant. A sensor would detect the intensity of specific colors of light, and adjust the LEDs in some manner.
  5. Random-Based Pendant. A pendant with no sensor, that would change the LEDs in a random manner.
  6. Biometric-Based Pendant. There’s a contactless IR thermometer that would be mounted on the back, reading the temperature of the wearer. This would determine the LEDs.

In addition, I am looking into the possibility of adding support for a Pulse Sensor to the pendant, allowing it to react to the wearer’s heartbeat. This could be especially neat with the Biometric Pendant.

Reprogramming the pendants would require some external hardware – The ATTiny85 needs a different programmer than the standard ATMega chips I’ve used in the DigiBadges. They are, however, designed to be used with a “Universal Programming Board” – I’ll explain this more below, with the V2.

DigiBadge V2

I’ve been working at the Version 2 of the DigiBadge, and after finding a source for the screens that aren’t on a PCB, it’s smaller and sleeker than the Version 1. I’ve changed quite a few things from Version 1 as well.

The first change is fairly simple. Instead of using a power switch to turn the badge on and then a button to cycle through the badges, this version combines them into a four-position button. One position is off, and the other three correspond to individual badges. Selecting the badge you want is now super-simple.

My second change is aimed at cost. The Version 1 of the digibadge “Standard” kit cost Kickstarter backers $15 each, and that was barely scraping by on costs on my end. The (basic) Version 2’s targeted sale cost is $10, and that’s with a profit that we can utilize to fund our further developments. How did I do this? Well, it’s a combination of things:

  1. Surface mount components. A lot harder to solder, but quite a bit cheaper.
  2. Stripping out the voltage regulator. The badge can run on 2 AA batteries just fine, and this will actually extend the life a small amount by removing those inefficiencies.
  3. Stripping out extra components – The Basic V2 badge doesn’t need a crystal, nor an SD card, nor an FTDI connector. None of those are included standard.

You may note that this makes the Version 2 a bit unappealing to hackers. It doesn’t have a lot of the cool bells and whistles, and without an FTDI connector then how do you program it? Never fear, for I have planned for that as well. There are two add-ons that can be done for the Version 2. One adds a connector for LiPo rechargeable batteries, along with a recharging circuit and voltage regulator. While I won’t sell you the batteries (They’re a hassle to get and ship in quantities higher than 2), they’re easily acquired via Sparkfun, Adafruit, or your local gadget store. The charging circuit includes a USB Micro socket, so you can plug the badge into a wall and go.

The other add-on is a “Plus” pack. It adds back an 8MHz crystal and an SD card. Depending on what Microprocessor I go with, it may upgrade that as well. At the moment, I’m not sure which Microcontroller I’ll be using for the badge, and I may go with having all of them be the “Upgraded” one. We’ll see.

As far as reprogramming goes, I’ve been working on a “Universal Programming Board.” This is, ideally, a board that you plug into your computer, then plug in your gadget, and program away. Each of my designs have used the same connector with a specific pinout, and while currently the UPB is just a breakout for the connector, I would like to include a FTDI chip on it for ease of use for the DigiBadge and a currently-secret project that I have, plus any other future ATMega168/328 projects. I’m also looking into how to use that FTDI chip to program the ATTiny 85 chips on the Pendants, for even more ease of use.

Secret Project: Robo-Pony!

This is a project that I’ve been working on for some time now, both in throwing concepts around and, more recently, actually figuring out how the thing will work. There’s still a long way to go with it, but I feel confident enough that it will become a reality that I can now share it with you.

What is the Robo-Pony?

The Robo-Pony is a Raspberry Pi Zero powered robot. As far as robots go, it’s super simple – A program monitors a few sensors, and reacts accordingly. As with all Matchfire gadgets, the Robo-Pony is designed to be easy to modify, and as such it uses text-to-speech for all of its speaking. This does lead to the voice being a bit robotic, but it is called Robo-Pony. The pony itself will have typical pony design – Four legs and a head. The legs will be articulated, and the head will be able to look around. The pony has a few sensors, and will do things based on those sensors. It’ll complain if the temperature is too hot, thank you if you sit it upright after falling over, and greet you when you get close – Among other to-be-determined things. Size-wise, it’ll be about the size of a large plush, although I’m still working on the actual physical pony itself.

Additionally, if I can manage to make the pony walk stably, I might even make a remote control for it.

In Conclusion

We’re not dead. We’ve had a few projects – I’ll be putting up a “Work in Progress” page on the site so you can see what we’re working on, and will update when there’s more information.

Additionally, I’ll be putting in the application for vending at BronyCon. I’ll keep you posted – When I know something, It’ll be up here shortly afterwards.

As always, if you have any suggestions for things we could/should make, toss them in the comments below!

The Patreon Pendant!

Good Evening, everyone!

I have some stuff to show you all today. If you’ve looked at our Patreon page, you’ll have noticed our first project was a very ambiguous “LED Pendant.” That ambiguity ends right now.

pendant_smThis is the PCBWeb preview of our LED Pendant. What does the Pendant have? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The LED Pendant has seven Red/Green/Blue LEDs arrayed in an almost-circle around the perimeter of the 40mm diameter board (A tad over 1.5 inches), an FTDI header on the bottom, and an electret microphone just above the ATMega 168PB Microcontroller. The nature of the RGB LEDs allows each LED to make almost any color by combining the three color channels, and the microphone allows it to do some fancy shenanigans. Taking samples of the outside world, it can measure things such as volume and even the frequency of the sound. Just how we’re going to be utilizing this is still to be determined (I have far, FAR too many ideas for it), but out of the box it’ll have something neat and eye-catching. The board is powered by a coin cell battery on the back.

But that’s not all! The FTDI header will allow you to reprogram the device if you’re so inclined. While there are no pins broken out – They’re all used by the LEDs! – I’m sure there’s still plenty of ways you can think of to reprogram the device.

The LED Pendant will be sent to any $25+ Patreon Patrons.

If you have any questions or comments, leave some below or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook!

Patreon launching: Now!

Good day, ladies and gentlemen!

Daniel and I have an announcement to make! No, we’re not pregnant. Yes, we DO have something to show off to the world. Everyone, meet the Matchfire Patreon!

It’s something we’ve been working on for a bit and as Daniel has finished printing the Kickstarter rewards and is preparing to ship them to me, I feel we can finally reveal it to the world. Instead of the more common monthly manner, we’ve opted for a Project-based patreon. This allows us a bit more flexibility in timeframes and in what we can do – We can do small projects, and large projects, and all the projects inbetween – Without having to worry about monthly money or deadline pressure.

There are a few supporter tiers, which I’ll explain below. But first, a fun inforgraphic from Daniel!

Patreon Reward Chart

Membership Tiers

As you can see, we have five tiers of membership.

For the $1 tier, a supporter gets the occasional discount coupons for our shop, patreon-only updates, and access to commissions when they’re available.

The $3 tier is very similar to the $1 tier, except they get access to the Supporter Only chat in our Discord Chat. This lets you talk to us about some things we may not want to talk about in our general chat room, such as ideas for upcoming projects.

At the $10 tier, you gain a spot in the credits of our monthly videos. While we may not have one ready by the end of October, we’re working on it and will have something by the end of Novemeber!

Upgrading to the $25 tier gives you a little higher priority on commissions – This simply means that you get access to the slot earlier than the lower-tier patrons. I’ll explain more on commissions below. Additionally, the $25 tier will occasionally get rewards from small projects – Such as our inaugural LED Pendant project! This includes shipping for our US-based supporters – For our non-US supporters, shipping is an additional $5 USD. We’ll clearly mark who is getting what project when it starts, so you can adjust your support accordingly.

The $50 tier gains first priority on commissions and also upgrades the video credit to a personal shout-out. Additionally, ALL small projects will be sent to you. As with the $25 tier, shipping is included for our US-based supporters and for non-US supporters it is an additional $5.

Projects: Large and Small

Our projects are divided into two categories: Large and Small. The primary difference is cost and how many of an item we are going to make.

Small Projects: Small projects are ones that are, individually, pretty cheap to do. Things like the original DigiBadge from our kickstarter would be a “Small” project. Our initial LED Pendant is a small project, and will go to all $25 and up backers!

Large Projects: Large projects are time consuming, expensive, and usually one-off devices. While I have a few ideas for large projects, I’m going to keep them under wraps for now. Some Large projects will be available to Patreon backers for purchase, but this will follow a manner similar to the commissions. We’ll offer it at a price, first to first priority backers, then if none purchase it, to second priority backers. If it still remains unpurchased, third priority backers can then purchase the project. If third priority backers pass on purchasing the project, then it will be added to the store where it can be purchased by all.

Commissions

Commissions are, simply put, us designing and building a device just for you. Commissions take a long time to do, and can involve a lot of work, so they won’t always be available. If we have a large project on our plate and perhaps another commission, we likely won’t be able to take one. We won’t put a hard number on commissions – Some will take more effort than others!

When we feel we can take on a commission, we’ll let the first priority ($50) supporters know first. They’ll have a chance to offer their commission ideas up, and if we receive any we’ll review them. If we still have a commission spot open, we’ll then offer it to second priority ($25) supporters. If all of the second priority supporters pass, or we still have commissions open, then we will offer them to third priority supporters. After some amount of time, if we still have commission spots available, they’ll be open to the general public.

When you contact us about a commission, you’ll tell us what you want, what you really, really want. We’ll go over it and see if it’s possible and within our talents to create it. If it isn’t, we’ll let you know what about it that we can’t do – Sometimes it’s something small, sometimes it’s the entire thing. We can work out some ideas for how to get around any issues, and then we’ll either accept the proposal or deny it. If your proposal is denied, you’ll be able to propose another commission.

Once we have accepted a proposal, we’ll then take the time to figure out pricing. Every project will vary in price, and if there’s a way to cut down on costs we’ll let you know. Once we have the pricing, you’ll have the chance to accept or reject that pricing. If you reject the pricing, then you’ll have the opportunity to propose another commission.

If your proposals are rejected by either party an no further proposals are made, then the commission continues down the line until it is either filled by a supporter or becomes available to the public.

Further information

You can find more information about our Patreon on our Patreon page, of course, or you can contact us. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Discord, and can be e-mailed at contact@matchfire.net

Some updates for ya!

Hey guys! So, I’ve been working on a few things.

First, is trying to mail out the rewards I have to Jason. I have everything I need except a place to drop off the package. I’ll be returning home for the weekend next week, so that’s the latest it’ll get sent out. Hopefully people will respond to my emails and tell me what I need to know, so I can get it done sooner!

 

The second thing, involves all of you. Well… Five of you.

I’ve been looking around for a chat method we could use, and I think I found it! Discord has a really cool program that we’re going to try out, and we want a few of you guys / gals to come make sure I’ve set it all up properly! The best thing about it is that you don’t need to download anything if you don’t want to! All you need is a Discord account and a server to join! This is a link to our server. It’s good for five uses, so the first five people who click on it, get in!

Don’t worry! If you don’t get in now, we’ll probably be opening it up to everyone in the next two or three weeks. We’re doing things this way, because while Discord has some really nifty features that we want to be able to use, it’s not built for what we’re using it for. If things don’t work too well, chances are we’ll be switching to HipChat or something similar!

 

If there are any questions or concerns, please shoot me an email at alabaster@matchfire.net!

Some new items in the store!

Hey guys, Daniel here!

I guess I’m officially a part of the team here at Matchfire. It’s super awesome that I have this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to the projects we’re planning.

Some of them are really cool!

 

Anyway, this is an update about the store, specifically the new item I had Jason put up a few hours ago. I’d been meaning to make my own carabiner design for a while now, and I finally did it! The basic one you guys can get has “MATCHFIRE” embossed into the side, in any color of plastic I stock. Furthermore, if you want your own wording on it, I can do that too! It’s currently $3.00 for the Matchfire carabiner, and $8.00 for a custom design, with any additional carabiners using that design being $3.00 each. If you have a question about keychain customization, shoot me an email to the address below, I’ll try and get back to you within a few hours!

I’m planning to make more stuff like this, and if you guys have any suggestions on what I can change, what I should make, want to yell at me, or just want to chat, I can now be reached at alabaster@matchfire.net!

 

Links: Matchfire Accessories Store Page

My oh my. Web presence!

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!

I’ve been working with Daniel (Who has made the cases for the DigiBadge) today to set up a bunch of social media stuff for Matchfire Electronics.

Wait, what’s Matchfire Electronics? I’m glad you asked! It’s the name we’ve chosen to put out all of the gadgets and gizmos and whatnot we’ll be making. The DigiBadge brought us together, so that could be considered our “Launch Product.” But we’ve got a few things in store for the future (Version 2 of the DigiBadge, along with a few other things that are little more than ideas at this point).

Going forward, everything – Kickstarters, products, Patreon, etc – will be listed under the Matchfire Electronics name. Currently, we have done some framework setup for our Twitter (@MatchfireTech) and our Facebook Page. There’s a few things we’re working on (A YouTube channel and a Patreon account, and a few other things), but those aren’t set up and ready to go yet. Stay tuned, and we’ll let you know when!

Until then, have fun!

It’s been a while…

I should really update this thing more often. That’s something to add to my list.

The Kickstarter was a great success. $1185 pledged to meet the $750 goal – 158%! Fantastic! I’m still in the process of sending out backer rewards but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been looking ahead to other things.

First up: The store! http://shop.matchfire.net is now live. It currently only offers the “Light” version and the “Hacker” version, at fairly limited quantities. You may note that the “Standard” version is being discontinued as soon as it runs out of stock, so if you want one, now’s the time to get it! Additionally, you can get a case printed for you for your new badge as well! I still have yet to assemble the stock of badges so if you order in the next few days it may be delayed.

Second: Version Two of the DigiBadge. I was working within a fairly limited timeframe and budget with the DigiBadge, and didn’t have the chance to find a few things that I would have liked. With the succes of the DigiBadge Version One, I’ve had the chance to evaluate what I’ve liked and what I haven’t liked about the board, and address those issues. Currently, it’s just mostly concepts and a few experimental designs in PCBWeb (An excellent program if you want to explore designing PCBs), but I hope to be able to get the Version Two boards prototyped eventually. If you have any suggestions for things to add to or change on the board, I’d love to hear them – Send me an e-mail at admin@matchfire.net.

I’m also working on some other things – Commissions for custom made stuff being one, and a Patreon being another. I’m not going to go into much detail about those because I don’t have a lot of detail about them.

Until next time!

-Andon

Andon’s Digital Communications Badge

At BronyCon last year, they had these wonderful color communication badges, letting people know what sort of socialization mood you were in. I thought the idea was cool, but then I didn’t think much about it.

Until a few months later, when I started playing around with an Arduino I picked up. And then what seems like half a dozen other Arduino boards I picked up as well. After running through some ideas for gadgets, I thought “Why not make a digital color communication badge like they had at BronyCon?”

Initially, the thing was an Arduino Pro Mini soldered onto a prototyping PCB with a header for plugging in a 1.8″ TFT screen I had acquired. Plenty of wires were involved, and more than one burnt finger from my soldering iron. But it worked! It wasn’t exactly cheap, though. The Pro Mini runs at $10 on Sparkfun, and the screen was a SainSmart one that cost $15. Add in various wires and the prototype board, plus the fact that the screen had annoyingly-placed headers, and it was expensive and fragile.

A few months later, I find this wonderful program called PCBWeb – And I was hooked on designing circuit boards. A weird thing to enjoy, but oh well! It’s fun. Then I looked around and found the same TFT screen, with a screen dimmer option, for significantly less. A quick look at components and I thought “Hey, I can do this for under $20!”

It turned out that the microcontroller I had tried out, the ATTiny85, was just a wee bit too underpowered for what I wanted. Not being a very good programmer, I couldn’t get the one way of working the screen I found to, well, work. So I turned to my desk and saw the Arduino Uno sitting there, with its wonderful little ATMega328 processor. The 328 is a little expensive, but its little brother, the 168, was a little more affordable. And the components to get it to work were fairly cheap as well.

After a few nights of plotting traces on the circuit board, finding an even cheaper version of the screen, and some experimentation with a boatload of wires later, I had a “final” product. The ATMega168 powered the screen just fine, taking a button to change the badge and another button to change the brightness.

Along the way I had shared my experiences and prototypes on Twitter, and the response was fairly positive. When I realized the board could be sold for $15, I decided I’d run a kickstarter. I just launched that about half an hour ago, and considering the way my twitter promptly exploded with notifications, I think it’ll do just fine.

If you haven’t come here from said kickstarter, you can find that here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/matchfire/digibadge-a-digital-color-communications-badge