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.
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:
- Mic-Based Pendant. The original design, using a small microphone to pick up sounds and adjust the LEDs accordingly.
- 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.
- Temperature-Based Pendant. A small thermometer would adjust the LEDs in response to local temperature.
- Light Color-Based Pendant. A sensor would detect the intensity of specific colors of light, and adjust the LEDs in some manner.
- Random-Based Pendant. A pendant with no sensor, that would change the LEDs in a random manner.
- 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.
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:
- Surface mount components. A lot harder to solder, but quite a bit cheaper.
- 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.
- 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.
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!