What is Arduino? Projects using Arduino

What is Arduino?

Arduino is a form of electronics platform which is based on user-friendly hardware and software.  Arduino boards are capable of reading inputs and converting them into output. One can instruct one’s board about what to do by sending out instructions to the microcontroller present on the board.

Over the past couple of years, Arduino has been the base of several projects ranging from day-to-day objects to complicated scientific equipment. A global community of creators including artists, students, programmers, hobbyists, and professionals have developed the Arduino and have increased the amount of knowledge accessible to creators alike.

Arduino was invented at the Ivrea Interaction Design Institute as an easy-to-use tool for quick prototyping. It was designed for students with no prior background in programming languages and electronics. Upon reaching a broader segment of society, the Arduino board started adapting according to modern needs and problems. It diversified its offers from basic 8-bit boards to products for wearable and 3-D printing. All Arduino boards are sourced openly hence users have the liberty to design them independently and tailor them according to their specific needs. 

Impressive examples of Arduino projects

The introduction of Arduino is revolutionary and has proved to be an amazing opportunity for creators to initiate their projects according to their needs. Some impressive examples of Arduino projects have been discussed below.

Arduino based Alcohol Sense Engine Lock & GPS

Drunk driving results in damaging road accidents globally. In most road accidents drivers are found to have excess alcohol concentration in their blood. Arduino is used to designing an alcohol sense system combined with GSM and GPS for transmission of location. This alcohol detection system also comprises an Arduino Uno board and an Mq-3 alcohol sensor for detection.

The system enables automatic detection of the concentration of alcohol present in the breath. Furthermore, a GPS along with GSM is used to send an SMS with the location of the driver to the concerned person in a scenario of alcohol detection higher than permissible limits. Simultaneously, the Arduino controller automatically halts the vehicle’s motor to prevent an accident.

Solar Powered Water Trash Collector

Although water is an indispensable resource, water pollution is one of the most damaging environmental threats that we experience today. Reverting the impact of water pollution is extremely difficult and can cost years to remove hazardous substances from the water bodies.

The solar-powered water trash collector is an innovative system that offers an automated way to deal with the issue of water pollution. It eliminates the requirement of manual labor hence making the process more time and cost-efficient. This floating trash collector removes the waste that gets accumulated on the water surface hence reducing water pollution. This is an Arduino-based project which is operated using an RC remote that can be maneuvered accordingly. Furthermore, DC pumps are used to provide direct control and arrange the motor for the steering. The boat is made self-sustainable by using two Solar panels to charge the battery. Garbage is collected by a net made up of a wire gauge.

The technology astronauts used to land on the Moon

The technology behind the moon landing

The moon landing was pretty much the most important feat of the last century. After years into the Space Race, the technological war that marked the Cold War and brought us some nice tech such as the internet and the GPS, the US managed to land the lunar module on the moon and allow two humans to step on it for the first time in our history, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, as part of the Apollo 11 mission.

That feat was peak rocket science, and so it was pretty complicated even for today’s standards. That doesn’t mean, though, that all the tech they used aged well. Indeed, we have progressed way beyond it in such a short time, and now even private companies have got their hands on it – something that would seem unthinkable at the time.

Let’s take a look into how things were.

Engineering

The Apollo program itself was a collection of amazing engineering feats. Being able to exit the atmosphere and follow the exact trajectory to reach the moon, land on it and come back to Earth, all in the 60s, when computers and supercomputers weren’t nearly as powerful as they are today, is simply incredible.

Even more if you consider the such extreme conditions they were subject to: extremely powerful and hot ascension engines (just remember the Challenger incident), the vacuum of space, the velocities they had to get to reach the moon and return from it, and the temperatures and speed they got during reentry.

And, well, let’s just say engineering isn’t a totally exact science: materials and machine parts can have imperfections and sometimes things can just go unpredictably wrong. The technical aspects had a good bit of help from just plain old luck. You may also know: Crime Syndicates

Computing

Surprisingly, the average smartphone today has much more processing power than the Apollo Guidance Computer. More surprisingly yet, the CPU used by the Apollo 11 wasn’t even the most powerful one of the time, considering comparable CPUs were used for the Apple II and Commodore PET a few years afterwards, although it was the first one made of silicon integrated circuit. And it had only about 80 kilobytes of memory, most of it read-only.

Of course, as the AGC didn’t have to keep the Facebook app running in the background, it didn’t have too much problem with processing power. 

Moreover, the threat of cosmic rays impacting the Apollo’s navigation programs was very real. Even though the computer’s memory was heavily shielded from them, radiation in space is still much greater than on Earth, so they had to take every possible precaution. Because of that, many parts of the code consisted of redundant subroutines and error-checking processes to ensure things went smoothly.

Still, do not be surprised if you hear about obsolete processors being used in modern military technology: for critical missions, mistakes are unacceptable, so you need to ensure that you know everything about the technology you are using – especially the hardware bugs.

Navigation

Even though the programming and processing power did their best to make sure everything went smoothly, it wasn’t enough. Nearing the moon, it reached its limits, and could not help them land on the moon properly anymore. So they turned off autopilot, and Neil Armstrong took the helm.

Armstrong is an experienced naval aviator – meaning he flew planes for the US Navy. He fought in the Korean war and flew in and out of an aircraft carrier. Carriers are one of the hardest things to land on, as their runways are much smaller than usual land runways, and you have to land just right to catch the landing cable that will prevent you from rolling straight to the other side of the runway and into the water.

So he had a lot of experience with difficult landings.

And in the end, it was experience and skill that allowed Armstrong to correct the landing trajectory and safely land the lunar module on the lunar soil. Sometimes those are the best technologies that one can have on their side.

Wearable Technology – from smartwatches to exoskeletons

The future of wearable technology

As technology becomes smaller and more efficient, it becomes easier and easier to take it with us anywhere we go. That is why many of the biggest technological companies of our time are working on developing technology that we can wear: we can take it anywhere, and we don’t even have to hold it in our hand or keep it in our pockets.

Smartwatches were probably the first of the wearables to take the spotlight. Featuring a processor, RAM memory, storage and a touchscreen, they are basically miniature smartphones that you can strap to your wrist. You can even answer calls! Although they are marketed as a “watch”, they are currently best known for their innate ability to monitor vital signs, being a must have for hardcore marathon runners.

But, of course, it didn’t stop there. Virtual and mixed reality glasses have emerged in the meantime and have taken the spotlight in the gaming scene, while many other wearable technologies are bound to emerge in the near and far future. Let’s talk a bit about what the future holds.

Smartwatches

From smartwatches we can, of course, expect that they will become faster and get some fancy new features. The focus on health and exercising, which you can see in the Apple Watch for example, is bound to continue, but both Apple and other manufacturers may branch out a bit in order to widen their user base.

We may expect them to follow the evolution of smartphones in their own way. I mean, some smartwatches already have cameras and some apps and games made for phones already have support for them. We may also see some smartwatches with larger screens and, of course, some heavy use of AMOLED in the near future, not only as a high-quality energy-saving screen but also as a flexible touchscreen.

Smartglasses

Despite Google Glass’s fiasco, the race to develop glasses that double as computers has never stopped. Although most technological companies today are focusing on developing technology for virtual reality hardware and software, Microsoft has been investing heavily in mixed reality, that is, technology that merges real life and virtual reality in many different ways.

And, of course, mixed and virtual reality have many common points and learn a lot from each other, so they aren’t mutually exclusive. We talked a bit about how it works in a previous post.

While the HoloLens 2 is already pretty impressive, we can of course expect it to become much better in the near future. That means: increasing field of view, increasing sensitivity of the holograms, and also making it cheaper.

We can expect it to integrate itself into our networks and connect to our devices seamlessly, becoming one with the Internet of Things and supplying us information about our surroundings while we use it, science fiction style. Information will not be at our fingertips anymore, but right in front of our eyes. Seriously, keyboards and mice may soon become a thing of the past.

Exoskeletons

Yes, exoskeletons will soon be a thing, although heavy-weight super-powered suits like Iron Man’s will remain in the far future for now.

Exoskeletons have been researched by scientists for some decades now, but their aim has been more on suits that help more than they destroy. Specifically, we are talking about suits to rehabilitate people or to help workers handle heavy equipment. That is not to say that there isn’t research on military power armor or similar stuff, but those are farther away from our reality than their medical and industrial counterparts.

In the near future, we can expect to see partial exoskeletons become a part of physiotherapy to help people regain the movement of their legs and arms, and maybe even of their fingers, and also see some kind of exoskeleton be applied in industrial settings, especially in bigger companies, and even become a part of their Internet of Things network.

Complete, high-tech suits will take some time to arrive, as the main problem is finding materials that are both resistant and light, as well as light enough batteries that are able to give the suit a large degree of autonomy. But meanwhile, research goes on.

Microsoft’s own take on Virtual Reality – Mixed Reality

Microsoft’s quiet revolution

Virtual reality has been all the rage lately. Since the birth of the Oculus Rift, many of the biggest technology and gaming companies, such as Facebook, HTC and Valve, have made huge investments in order to keep up with this new technology and reap all of the benefits it brings.

But there is one big player that is keeping out of the spotlight: Microsoft. And it isn’t because they wouldn’t have anything to get out of this.

They are one of the leading video game console developers in the world, thanks to the success of Xbox, have also been investing on the distribution of computer games, with the Xbox Game Pass, as well as their own games, with the Halo and Age of Empires franchises, and have already delved into innovative gaming technology, with the Kinect. So, why aren’t they heavily investing in VR?

Because they have their very own product: mixed reality.

Mixed reality is the name given to technologies that mix virtual reality with real reality in any proportion. Augmented reality is a type of mixed reality, where there is more real reality than the virtual one. But mixed reality itself is much more broad and open, and its possibilities are endless.

Let’s talk a bit about how Microsoft is handling it.

Microsoft HoloLens

Also known by its codename Project Baraboo, the Microsoft HoloLens is Microsoft’s take on mixed reality glasses. Yes, glasses. And mixed reality. You know how in sci-fi movies there are those fancy helmets with interactive HUDs, targeting systems and some incredible eye candy? Yeah, the HoloLens can do that. And more.

The “Holo” in “HoloLens” comes from the word “hologram”, and holograms are the selling point of the technology, at least for Microsoft. They aren’t hologram in the sense popularized by science-fiction, of moving images projected onto the air in three dimensions, like you can see in Star Wars, but animated and interactive 3D models which can be displayed in the HoloLens’s screens. Which, let’s be honest, is the next best thing.

Windows Mixed Reality

Windows Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s version of Windows 10 for mixed and virtual reality headsets, following Microsoft’s policy of adapting Windows 10 to the many different kinds of digital platforms we have today, such as phones and tablets, along with its PC version.

The system works by creating an interface adapted for the headset, such as by creating hologram versions of the interface which the user interact with using their hands, when using the HoloLens, or creating a entire virtual world along with the interface, which can then be interacted with using controllers, in the case of VR headsets.

The HoloLens already comes with a built-in version of Windows 10 for autonomous use, but connecting to a computer allows it to take advantage of PC hardware and run software designed for it, such as VR games.

The Windows Mixed Reality also shows what are Microsoft’s intentions with the HoloLens: to complement, not to compete with, VR. They are different technologies with different purposes, and Microsoft is bound to reap the benefits of both. Read more articles: Cybersecurity 

What to expect

With the release of the HoloLens 2, Microsoft is now aiming at the business market. And it makes sense: the equipment costs 3500 dollars. The HoloLens can easily replace other informational equipment such as laptops and tablets, especially if they already used augmented reality, by making information checking and inspection of real life equipment something much more intuitive and quick. So for something with such a cost, businesses would probably be the ones who would get the most benefit.

Just the same, the HoloLens 2 can also be bought with a development license to enable developers to integrate it into the necessary systems and develop applications, although you need a separate monthly subscription.

That doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t willing to insert the HoloLens into the consumer market in the future, but they know that right now it won’t find much space, as it is very expensive and the consumers are already more focused on virtual reality, which also has a lot more software adapted and designed to it.

Still, developments into the HoloLens and similar hardware are going to lead us closer and closer into the sci-fi world we’ve always wanted.

3D Printing Used in Medicine

3D Printing in Medicine: The Need to Know

No, 3D printing is not a fad. It has come to stay. And it is only getting better.

While for consumers it is mostly used to make decorative objects or to replace parts when needed, many companies have already integrated it into their design process, creating useful prototypes in a matter of days.

But where 3D printing really shines is in medicine. This is not something from the “far future”, this is the state of the art.

Prosthetics

Ever watched the famous Anime movie Ghost in the Shell? That about The Avengers : Age of Ultron – MCU? Where a conscious mind can be added to a body made of various metals assembled at a molecular level. We are getting there.

With 3D printing, you have a great balance between customization, cost, and production time. Although most of the materials available to consumers aren’t very strong, medical companies have access to many materials and technologies that when combined in unique ways create the platform that opens creative solutions to the challenges currently being faced, this includes 3D printers that use titanium.

Prosthetics are now becoming both more functional and more artistic, it is fast becoming easier, more cost effective and efficient to create and manufacture a unique one from the ground-up.

Bones

If instead of replacing a body part currently one needs to replace either a part of or an entire bone, 3D printing can help with bone replacement. As previously mentioned, there are 3D printers that can print titanium. Titanium is a bio-compatible material, meaning that human tissue can connect with it, instead of considering it a foreign body and rejecting it.

Traditional manufacturing methods tend to waste a lot of energy and are extremely inefficient, This is due to the process where the metal first needs to be melted at high heat in order to give it a shape using molds, which are too challenging and very expensive to create. Thereafter cutting and diamond polishing until the final form is achieved. Metal 3D printing just melts the metal powder directly into the desired shape, requiring only little polishing afterwards, so it is much cheaper.

This means that objects that require a lot of titanium, like bones, will be both cheaper and quicker to manufacture in the near future, even considering that titanium is one of the toughest and expensive metals we have access to.

Physical medical models

Surgeries is a rather difficult task. It becomes even more challenging considering that it is mostly a task where one does not know what to expect. Humans have a roughly consistent anatomy, but there is always an anomaly, a variation, especially when illnesses are involved. When attempting surgery that is critical for the life of the patient involved, there is no greater privilege, responsibility, and risk management. It makes one wonder why all medical professions are called a ‘practice’.

What if surgeons could practice the surgery on a customized model of the patient’s anatomy? That would surely make things easier, wouldn’t it?

With 3D printing, a CT scan of a body part can be transformed into reality. High-end 3D printers come in many different sizes and can use a multitude of materials and material colors, the ideal result will be as close to reality as possible. And it will keep getting better.

3D printing is here to stay and thankfully so. It is bound to make everything much faster and cheaper to create, the rate of technology acceleration is growing exponentially. It will not take long for it to reach that point and who knows, perhaps faster than expected.