Eric Huebsch’s Humorous Blinking Rock Sculpture

It’s amazing how a simple thing, like adding a pair of blinking eyes to an otherwise inanimate object, can really personify it. Then set the mood with a powerful love song, like Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” and this blinking rock sculpture by artist Eric Huebsch just can’t help but look a little bit sentimental.

I was so amused by Huebsch’s sculpture that I got in touch with him to ask exactly how he made it and how it worked. He kindly informed me that the “rocks” were made from foam that he covered in an epoxy paste before he painted them. The large rock is hollow and contains the Arduino-controlled eye mechanism, which is triggered by a motion detector.

While I was working on the placement of the eyes inside the rock that Cher song came through my iPod shuffle and I started cracking up as the rock was staring and blinking up at me.

There’s just something delightful about seeing a rock look so affected by listening to rock music.

[via Lustik]

The Light Blue Bean Goes Mobile

The iOS Bean Loader with the Light Blue Bean

The iOS Bean Loader with the Light Blue Bean

We’ve taken a couple of looks at Punch Through Design’s Light Blue Bean, including getting hands on back when the Bean started shipping to pre-order customers.

One of the features that really made the Bean stand out when it was announced was that it was going to have the ability to write, and then upload, code directly from your iPad (or iPhone) over Bluetooth LE.

But the first version of the Punch Through’s app didn’t support that, and the company took a lot of criticism—both for that, and the late arrival of cross-platform support for Windows and Android. However, they promised that the next release of their app would include support for compiling and loading sketches from iOS, with support for Android and Windows 8 following closely after that.

The iOS Bean Loader application

Today Punch Through announced the release of their new Bean Loader application which will let you write and upload code from a Bluetooth LE capable iOS device—with both iPad and iPhone supported—making it the first Arduino board to support a mobile platform and allowing you to write code without your laptop.

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The app has a syntax highlighting editor, and a modified keyboard allowing you easy access to the symbols you’ll commonly need when writing sketches. You can either store these sketches locally on your device, or link the app to your Dropbox and store the sketches there—which also gives you an easy way to synchronise code between desktop and mobile devices.

Uploading Code

Uploading a sketch to the Light Blue Bean using the iOS Bean Loader app.

I’m really pleased to say that, unlike the problems I had with the desktop Bean Loader software on OS X during the Bean’s pre-release, I didn’t have any problems with their new Bean Loader application on iOS—it worked out of the box.

That makes the Bean unique. Right now it’s the only Arduino-compatible board, that I know about, that has support for writing, compiling, and then uploading a sketch directly from any sort of mobile platform.

I’ve used the Bean in several of my own projects since getting hold of them back in June, and I’ve been generally impressed with the board—the hardware architecture is well thought out, and the Bean library for the Arduino is similarly impressive.

While I’m sure others are looking forward to the promised cross-platform support for Windows and Android, for me at least, the arrival of the Bean Loader for iOS has moved the Bean from being only promising, to being a stand out product.

To celebrate the launch of their Bean Loader app Punch Through is having a 10% sale, and not to miss out on a good thing, we’re doing the same. If you want to pick up a Bean use the promo code BEANBLE on checkout at the MakerShed to get 10% off until Wednesday 26th November.


Building a hackable robotic arm

BannerThis post is coming to you live from the Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire being held today at the London College of Communication.

The #meArm—a pocket sized robot arm.

The #meArm—a pocket sized robot arm.

The MeArm is a small hackable robot arm by Ben Gray and Jack Howard. The arm was designed from the ground up to be low cost and easy to put together—with only a small number of relatively cheap parts. Built with just four hobby servos and out of no more than an A4 piece of acrylic (just over the size of a sheet of US Letter).

The #meArm in action

I talked to Ben Gray about his robotic arm and why he brought it along to maker faire today.

An interview with Ben Gray

All of the instructionspart templates, and source code for the arm are available online if you want to build your own.

The Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire is being held at the London College of Communication from 10am till 6pm. Entry is free to children (under 16) and students, tickets are £5 otherwise and available on the door.

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.

3D Printed Paper Airplane Launching Gun

Nutty tinkerer and the inside of the A6 v.1.0.

Nutty tinkerer and the inside of the A6 v.1.0.


What’s cooler than a paintball gun? How about a gun that fires the most lethal of all 21st Century weapons- paper airplanes. That’s right folks, feast your eyes on the paper airplane gun!

One tinkerer is very serious about his paper airplane game. So serious, in fact, that he developed a gun that actually takes standard 8.5 x 11 in computer paper and folks it into quality paper airplanes that soar through the air, neutralizing every enemy within two feet.

The gun itself is about the size of rocket launcher. It was built using a series of store-bought and 3D-printed parts. The inside of the gun features a number of rollers and grooves, which fold flat pieces of paper to make them strategically aerodynamic. The outside of the gun is possibly made from flat sheets of metal and marked “A6 v1.0,” for the airplane gun, version 1.0, of course.

The maker behind the project is keeping his lips sealed, but a video featuring the gun in action is currently available on YouTube. The gun can fold and fire paper airplanes in about two sections a pop, so watch out backyard gamers – these are dangerous patches of grass.

To see more of the nutty tinkerer’s work, head over to his papierfliegerei website but be forewarned, it’s entirely in German.


An Arduino-Based Computer


While most of us think of Arduino boards as something to be programmed by a computer, there’s really nothing that says you can’t use an Arduino-style microcontroller as one. It could be argued that the Arduino is already a computer, but in the case of the DemUino, a small display is embedded into an old PS/2 keyboard. It might not be what a person is used to, but someone not familiar with what a “microcontroller” is would more readily, on some level, recognize this as a computer.



The software configuration is quite involved, including the author, “DemeterArt,” writing his own BASIC language. This “only” took around 2200 lines of code. The wiring also looks quite involved from the diagram provided.

Wow, a lot of work. Check out the demonstration below.

As noted by the original source, “The project had to be a minimum-cost-endeavor given the abundance of junk lying around in my home lab and my financial situation.” This sounds like the introduction to many interesting projects. If one had enough money, he or she might just boringly buy another toy to play with.

Personally, if I had an extremely abundant amount of money, I’d be tempted to hire my own staff of engineers and technicians to build more of the ideas that I come up with than I’m able to make myself!

"Dottie" the Flip Dot Clock


Most of us have probably seen clocks or numerical displays that flip sequential boards to display the next number in a sequence. If you wanted to take that a step further, you could make a replica of “Dottie,” which flips small dots as pixels. As the great video below says, it makes a “pleasant mechanical flipping sound all day.” It also tells the date, chimes every 15 minutes, and gives an animation show once an hour.


If you wanted to make one of these devices, the technical details are on David Henshaw’s site. He includes an incredible number of pictures in the description, and includes the Arduino code here. If you have any illusions about this being an easy project, the wiring seen above should help you get a grasp on the scope of this project. There was also the mechanical challenge of fitting everything together nicely, programming, and getting the chimes to work. It took David months to get this assembly working.

It’s a very cool project, and despite the scope, makes me tempted to try something similar. Of course, like many “makers,” sometimes my eyes are bigger than my garage, so I’ve got a few other projects to complete before something like this should even be considered!

Bringing makers back to the Lab

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Scientists working in a lab are just folks. Like motor heads with cars, we have our favourite makes and models. Except with scientists, it’s all about the lab equipment, and the pros and cons of various models and brands are debated in the bar after work with as much heat and your average motor head when they’re talking about engines and transmissions.

The main problem with lab equipment is that it’s expensive. Often the next model up from what you can actually afford is the one that does what you need, and frustratingly the only difference is that the one you can afford and that one is that it has features disabled in software. Like everything sold to “big business” differential pricing comes into play with a vengeance when it comes to lab equipment.

But universities are only big businesses in abstract, the individual researchers—the people that actually buy the lab equipment—usually are trying to eke out the last remaining scraps of a grant when they actually buy the equipment

So there’s a grand tradition of making do with bailing wire, twine, and of course, gaffer tape. Almost inevitably then in recent years, the arrival of the maker movement has meant that the gaffer tape has been joined by Arduino boards.

It was only a matter of time before people started taking Arduinos and building the lab equipment they wanted.

Back in September at Maker Faire NY we talked to Charles Pax of Pax Instruments who successfully crowdfunded the first of what he promises is going to be a range of open source lab equipment, a four-channel thermocouple temperature datalogger.

Talking to Charles Pax at Maker Faire NY in September.

Of course Charles isn’t alone, also at Maker Faire were Carbon Origins and their Apollo board. Built by a group of college students who moved to the Mojave Desert, bought a house, painted it white, and turned it into a makeshift lab—and then they went out to launch rockets.

But they ran into problems, when they launched their latest rocket,

“Our rocket exploded, and we didn’t know why, we needed a data logger …”

So they built their own.

Talking to Amogha Srirangarajan from Carbon Origins.

Until recently there wasn’t much discussion in the maker community about calibration. Most of the sensors you can buy off the shelf from places like Adafruit or Sparkfun aren’t calibrated, or at least not calibrated with the requirements of scientists in mind—this is especially true of things like gas sensors that would require calibration test chambers with known amounts of the various gases.

There seems to be a number of different data loggers turning up right now, and time will tell whether these are going to be as useful to professional—and amateur—scientists as they could be. However it’s interesting to see discussions around calibration, and absolute rather than relative measurement, starting to happen in the maker community.

MOMA Adds Arduino, Makey Makey, And More

Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers

Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers to the MoMA.

I’ve always said that one day I’d wake up and the Arduino would be in a museum. However, I’d sort of expected it to take a bit longer.

Back in 2004 the MoMA did something fairly radical, they held a show called Humble Masterpieces. In it they displayed elements of the museum’s permanent design collection—from Post-it notes, to paper clips, to Bic pens—that normally would, perhaps, be somewhat overshadowed by the Picassos or the Pollocks also held by the museum.

The design collection at the museum was begun in 1934, with the purchase of more than a hundred simple industrial objects—such as springs and calipers—that had been shown in the exhibition called Machine Art earlier that year. Over the years the collection has been expanded and the MoMA now houses over 3,800 design objects in its collection, ranging from a helicopter to a microchip.

In 2011 the MoMA acquired Botanicalls and Little Bits for the permanent collection. This fall they’re adding not just the Arduino, but also the Ototo, the Makey Makey, the Colour Chaser and the DIY Gamer Kit.

As design curators, we have an instinctive response to designs we find compelling, and when that feeling survives the passing of time, we know we’re on to something worthwhile. We believe our new acquisitions will withstand that test. All promise to make a difference…

Like Botanicalls and Little Bits before them, the five new arrivals are well known, and well celebrated in the maker community—the Arduino especially is seen by many as one of the building blocks of the next industrial revolution.

The first Arduino board ever made

Humble beginnings—the first Arduino board ever made

The Arduino started off as a project to give artists access to embedded micro-processors for interaction design projects, but it has grown far beyond its humble beginnings. It allows rapid, cheap, prototyping for embedded systems. It turns what used to be fairly tough hardware problems into simpler software problems.

We all know what it feels like to master a skill previously thought completely outside our abilities, or to unlock new possibilities of experience and thought. It’s exhilarating, life-changing, and (healthily) addictive, the same reason people keep coming back to see MoMA’s Pollocks and Picassos…

I think some things—like the maker movement they represent—can be levers that can help you move the world, and it looks like the MoMA agrees with me.

E-Traces: Ballet Slippers That Make Drawings From The Dancer’s Movements


If you’re like me, then you may have been accused of dispensing some questionable moves in the vicinity of the dance floor. I’ve always maintained that my critics simply couldn’t grasp the subtlety of my particular style of physical expression, and now I just may have a means of illustrating my point with an ingenious piece of wearable electronics by designer Lesia Trubat González called E-Traces.


The concept of Electronic Traces is based on capturing dance movements and transforming them into visual sensations through the use of new technologies. To do this we focused on the ballet shoes themselves, which through the contact with the ground, and thanks to Lilypad Arduino technology, record the pressure and movement of the dancer’s feet and send a signal to an electronic device. A special application will then allow us to show this data graphically and even customize it to suit each user, through the different functions of this app.

As you can see in the video, E-Traces is a new way of creating stunningly elegant marks, which are almost reminiscent of calligraphy. So, who knows, maybe you could be the Rembrandt of freestyle dancing, all you need are a pair of Arduino-enhanced slippers!

If you want to give something like this a try, you can find the Lilypad Arduino in the Maker Shed!

[via Prothetic Knowledge]