AgIC Will Make Your Conductive Ink Sketches Erasable

It’s extremely fun to draw circuits with conductive ink markers, but what happens when you accidentally draw a short circuit?

Rather than starting all over, AgIC aims to save your masterpiece with their latest product, the Erasable Circuit Marker. Their latest Kickstarter makes revising paper circuits as easy as correcting pencil sketches.

Eliminate short circuits with the AgIC marker!

Eliminate short circuits and make those cat ears glow!

Perhaps the most exciting hallmark of this eraser is that it will encourage Makers to draw their craziest circuits without fear of failure. Even the eraser’s origin began as a crazy accident– AgIC teammates were curious to see what happened when 12 Volts were applied to their conductive ink. As described on their Kickstarter:

“We tested how much high voltage we could put on a trace drawn by the Circuit Marker. However, when 12V was applied, a spark happened on conductive trace and that part of the trace was removed!”

(They suggest users NOT to do this.)

Figuring that a high voltage pen would probably be a bad idea, they eventually settled on a water-based solution.

(As a sign of their other awesome crazy ideas, AgIC created paper speakers by hooking up a conductive drawing to a power amp and some magnets; apparently, this is also available as a Kickstarter award!)

LittleBits Gives You AC Control With Its New Smart Home Kit

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 1.09.24 AM

This summer, littleBits promised a world of DIY connected devices when unveiling its access-from-anywhere CloudBit module. Today, they move closer to that promise with the release of their Smart Home Kit, which includes among its 14 components an IR-controllable AC electrical socket.

This AC accessory is the star of this kit. It interfaces with your littleBits circuit using a companion IR transmitter bit that can signal the socket to turn on or off. It has a range of about 10 meters, and works on five different channels, allowing you to have multiple IR components in the same room working independently. The socket can handle 15 amps, enough to handle coffee makers, AC units, lamps, and more. And by giving it a remote, wireless connection, it keeps the circuit maker clear from high-current electricity.


Early image of the IR-controlled AC socket, from the littleBits website.


The kit is designed around the CloudBit’s remote internet capabilities. LittleBits has created a variety of example projects that highlight this, including retrofitting a coffee maker to be powered over the internet, a smart fridge that tweets you when the temperature rises too high from an open door, and the “DIY Nest” smart AC unit that they posted with the CloudBit launch.

Also included in the kit are a few new bits that are focused on IoT connected home projects: a temperature sensor, a threshold bit, a new number bit with various counting functions, and an MP3 player.

The full Smart Home Kit will cost $249.


BITalino (r)evolution: Circuits for Quantified Self and More

We first met Hugo Silva last year when he introduced us to Bitalino, an Arduino-compatible electronics toolkit designed for exploring the various physiological signals that the human body gives off. The latest iteration of the platform, BITalino (r)evolution, is more affordable and capable than ever, but the team still needs backers to get off the ground. From their Kickstarter:

Body signals have hundreds of applications; assistive technologies for people with disabilities, biofeedback for stroke and muscle disorders rehabilitation, or self-management of psychological disorders (e.g. anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD) are just a few examples. Still, BITalino is an unique DiY toolkit, which can be used by virtually anyone interested in creating projects ranging from muscle activated air drones to heart-rate monitoring bicycle handlebars, smart / enchanted objects, interactive installations, or affordable medical devices and personal diagnostics apps. By supporting our Kickstarter campaign, you can potentially be contributing to revolutionise healthcare and biomedical engineering around the world. BITalino has grown to become the platform of choice for hundreds of people worldwide already, but it wasn’t designed with financial profits in mind, hence the reason we need your help now.

If exploring biosignals sounds interesting to you, there’s still an early-bird deal for your choice of application-specific sensor kits for $79 with a projected shipping date of May 2015. These application-specific kits come in variants for sensing heart rate, muscle activity, arousal, and motion. Of course, they also offer kits that include sensors for all of the above.

Engineer designs a cyberpunk themed VFD wristwatch

J. M. De Cristofaro’s CronodeVFD wristwatch features an IVL2-7/5 VFD display tube.

J. M. De Cristofaro’s CronodeVFD wristwatch features an IVL2-7/5 VFD display tube.


Smartwatches are the latest craze for those who want to interact with their smartphones and keep tabs on their fitness regimens, however sometimes all you need is something that tells the time, while looking incredible. That’s precisely what engineer J. M. De Cristafaro did when he designed his CronodeVFD cyberpunk themed wristwatch.

The IVL2-7/5 VFD display tube is actually Russian surplus, making them rather cheap to buy.

The IVL2-7/5 VFD display tube is actually Russian surplus, making them rather cheap to buy.


His watch is centered around an IVL2-7/5 VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display) display tube, which has a rather flat tube rather than cylindrical making it an easy choice for a wristwatch. The CronodeVFD is powered by an ATMega 88 AVR and tells the time using a DS3231 I2C real time clock. One AAA or one AA battery powers the watch but only for 2 to 4 hours respectively, however since the watch is actually a costume piece it’s only worn occasionally.

A simple leather band holds the watch in place and a brass ‘roll cage’ gives it protection.

A simple leather band holds the watch in place and a brass ‘roll cage’ gives it protection.


It’s interesting to note that the CronodeVFD circuit board is also outfitted with a host of sensors, including a barometer, accelerometer and light sensor, making it a candidate for use as a smartwatch, however De Cristofaro left them inactive for now. It’s unknown if he will expand on his design in the future but those looking to build their own can if they feel the need. To see his complete build process and the materials needed, head over to his website located here. Personally, I would hide the PCB and let the 7-segment display be the focus…

Spark Introduces the Photon, A Wi-fi Microcontroller for $19


Spark has improved and expanded their product line with the Photon wi-fi development board and a pair of new wireless modules for custom circuit boards. The Photon improves on the popular Spark Core microcontroller by adding 802.11n wi-fi connectivity, SoftAP for provisioning, more memory, and a faster ARM Cortex M3 processor. Like the Core, it sits right into a standard breadboard for easy prototyping. And best of all, it can be had for $19.

“We believe that innovation happens when everybody has access to powerful new technology,” said Zach Supalla, founder and CEO of Spark. “If we can give engineers, students, artists, and designers more affordable and easier to use tools, they can focus on what matters, the experience that they’re trying to create.”

Spark expects to start shipping the Photon in March 2015.


When you’re ready to make your own product from your breadboarded project, the new P0 and P1 are components that can be purchased in low volumes or in reels of 500 for manufacturing. Both contain the same core components of the Photon and include free access to Spark’s cloud platform. The P0 will be $10 and the P1 will be $12, both in quantities of 10. The P1 is larger and adds a u.FL connector and an antenna on the board.

“We want to make the path from prototype to production quicker and smoother,” said Supalla. “What started as a simple hacker toolkit is turning into an enterprise-grade solution that’s used by engineers at multinational companies to develop their new connected products. We’re happy to be supporting some of the top innovators in the world.”

Spark’s technology can be found in products like the Nomiku connected sous vide coooker.

Gizmo Gets an Update

gizmo The folks at Gizmosphere have launched the latest version of their open source, x86-based single board computer, the Gizmo 2. Priced at $199, the Gizmo 2 is aimed at professional embedded developers and advanced makers who need more compute power for their projects. The new board improves on the first Gizmo with 60% more processing power, less power consumption, and more interfaces for input and output. It runs a 1 GHz dual-core AMD G-Series system-on-chip and 1 gigabyte of RAM, which is a lot of power for a 4-inch by 4-inch computer. Its list of I/O interfaces and features is impressive: HDMI, Ethernet, HD audio, USB 3.0, microSD, PCIe, SATA, GPIO, SPI, I2C, UART, a digital-to-analog converter, an analog-to-digital converter and a real-time clock.

“The second-generation development board brings open source embedded development back to superior x86 processing,” said Scott Hoot, president and CEO of Sage Electronic Engineering, LLC and president of GizmoSphere. “Creative embedded developers everywhere will enjoy the simplicity of communications in this SoC, while exploring Gizmo 2’s sophisticated capabilities and support for multiple operating systems.”

Every Gizmo 2 includes a microSD card preloaded with TimeSys Embedded Linux, but it also supports other Linux distributions and a variety of other operating systems including Minoca, RTOS, Windows Embedded, and Qt.

The Gizmo 2 is available for pre-order now and they expect to start shipping by the end of the year. In the meantime, you can take a closer look at this powerful board below:

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Javascript by the Pico

The original Espruino board (left) and the new Espruino Pico board (right)

The original Espruino board (left) and the new Espruino Pico board (right)

Last time we looked at the Espruino board it had just started shipping to Kickstarter backers. It, along with the Tessel, are the first in a new generation of boards using Javascript—which runs right on the board itself—that are bringing the web developer community to hardware.

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s always been a history of hardware hacking inside the Node.js and Javascript communities. But with the arrival of these boards they can now hack hardware in their native language, and unlike the communities that have built up around the Arduino, and the Raspberry Pi, the thing that holds this one together is the language, not the board.

Interestingly then, I think this third community might well not settle on a single board—there’s room here for more than one player, and possibly more than one way to do Javascript.

The new Espruino Pico board, now crowdfunding on Kickstarter

I talked to Gordon Williams—the creator of the Espruino—about the board, the conclusion of his last Kickstarter campaign, and the start of his current campaign for the new Espruino Pico,

Talking to Gordon WIlliams about the Espruino Pico

The Espruino Pico board looks something like the DigiSpark. However, unlike the DigiSpark which has an ATTiny85—which smaller, and a less powerful than your standard Arduino—the Espruino Pico has a STM32F401 ARM Cortex M4. So this tiny board is just as powerful than its larger sibling which uses a STM32F103.

The layout of the new Espruino Pico board.

The layout of the new Espruino Pico board.

The specifications of the new board are:

  • 1.26 x 0.6 inch (32mm x 15mm)
  • 22 GPIO pins : 9 Analogs inputs, 21 PWM, 2 Serial, 3 SPI, 3 I2C
  • All GPIO is 5 volt tolerant
  • 2 rows of 8 pins, with 12 pins on double-sided end connector
  • On-board USB Type A connector
  • STM32F401 CPU – ARM Cortex M4, 384kb flash, 96kb RAM
  • On-board 3.3v 150mA voltage regulator, accepts voltages from 3.5v to 20v
  • Current draw in sleep: <0.05mA – over 2.5 years on a 2500mAh battery
  • On-board FET can be used to drive high-current outputs

The Kickstarter campaign for the Espruino Pico is already funded, and still has just over a week to go if you’re interested in picking up one of these boards.

Electro Noise Ensemble Designs, And Rocks, Their Own Theremins

Photo: Aleš Rosa

Photo: Aleš Rosa

On Monday nights — most of them — the nine members of the Ljubljana, Slovenia, based Theremidi Orchestra get together to practice. Rehearsal, loosely defined, can mean practicing for an upcoming gig, building new instruments, or working on production. “It’s a cat-like ensemble and it’s a known fact that you can’t herd cats as one does sheep,” explains Dare Pejić, one of the founding members.

The “electro noise ensemble,” founded in 2011, plays Theremins and similar electromagnetic instruments for audiences at workshops, galleries, festivals, and even in theaters. Practice is held at Ljudmila, the Ljubljana Digital Media Lab, a hack lab, build space, and art center that has been in Slovenia’s capitol for around 20 years.

Not only did the members teach themselves to play, they designed and built the instruments. (Several members were on hand at World Maker Faire New York to demonstrate instruments, and even teach fairegoers how to build their own.)

Photo: Theremidi Orchestra

Photo: Theremidi Orchestra

A standby in sci-fi theme songs, Theremins use interference from a player’s hand, placed near the instrument’s antennae, to create sound. The Theremidi Orchestra offers instructions and a kit for one of their simpler designs, and two others: TouchTone (a feedback amplifier system) and Micronoise (a two-channel light sensitive oscillator).

But the group builds other instruments as well, experimenting with DIY electric instruments based on electromagnetics, light, and touch. “It’s a continuous process of learning, exploring, and co-working,” says Pejić. “I don’t think we’re there yet, there is so many things we’d like to try in future.”

Theremidi Orchestra – “Sound Happens!” from Lukasz Antkiewicz on Vimeo.

Photos: Aleš Rosa

New Kickstarter Promises "World's Most Conductive Filament"



For a few years now, many of us in the 3D Printing community have been eagerly awaiting a highly-conductive filament that would allow us to print circuits as part of our 3D printed projects. Now a new kickstarter is promising a filament that is “1,000 times more electrically conductive” than previous filaments that have come to market. Using a dual extrusion machine and their new filament, the team at Functionalize has already created demos of a 3D printed flashlight and a magnetic levitation device.


3D Printed Levitator Prototype

There are a range of rewards available to backers including 3D printed circuits, spools of filament, and maker kits that include not only filament, but also example circuits. Functionalize is hoping that these rewards – and the promise of being able to print highly functional items – will help them make their requested $100,000 in the next 30 days.

One of the first examples of conductive filaments and their potential came in 2012 as a research paper that released experiments using PCL plastic (Shapelock) mixed with carbon powder. The research included examples of 3D printed flashlights along with printable sensors. Unfortunately, the research from this paper never really brought a conductive material to market, and those who have been interested in testing the possibilities of this technology have been left to wait for something else. Hopefully this kickstarter will be the solution we have been waiting for.


Make: Wearables Projects on the Runway


Eighteen designers descended on the Javits Center in Manhattan for Make: Wearables Projects on the Runway at Engadget Expand. The high tech and fashionable pieces they showed incorporated light, kinetics, 3D printing, data logging, data visualization, and a lot of incredible skill. With the expert guidance of OCAD’s Kate Hartman and Adafruit’s Becky Stern, Expand attendees got a small glimpse of what’s on the cutting edge of both fashion and technology. The work from these eighteen designers pushes the boundaries beyond what consumers think of when they hear the phrase “wearable technology”

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After the show, I spoke to Roopa Vasudevan about the work she showed, Hate Couture:

I also spoke to Elizabeth Tolson about the ballet dresses she designed, which will debut at the Fall Gala for Arch Contemporary Ballet: