Atmega 328 hackaday gas national average 2013

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Going from idea to one-off widget is one thing; engineering the widget into a marketable product is quite another. So sometimes it’s instructive to take an in-depth look at a project that was designed from the get-go to be a consumer product, like this power indicating wall outlet cover plate. The fact that it’s a pretty cool project helps too.

Although [Vitaliy] has been working on this project for a while, he only recently tipped us off to it, and we’re glad he did because there’s a lot to learn here. His goal was to build a replacement cover for a standard North American power outlet that indicates how much power is being used by whatever is plugged into it. He set constraints that included having everything fit into the familiar outlet cover form factor, as well as to not require any modification to the existing outlet or rewiring, so that a consumer can just remove the old cover and put on the new one. Given the extremely limited space inside an outlet cover, these were significant challenges, but [Vitaliy] found a way. Current is sensed with two inductors positioned to sense magnetic flux within the outlet, amplified by a differential amp, and power use is calculated by an ATmega328 for display on 10 LEDs. Power for the electronics is tapped right from the outlet wiring terminals by spring clips, and everything fits neatly inside the cover.

It’s a great design, but not without issues. We look forward to seeing [Vitaliy] tackle those problems and bring this to market. For more on what it takes to turn a project into a product, check out our own [Lewin Day]’s story of bringing a guitar effects pedal to market.

Reddit user [InThePartsBin] found some VFDs (Vacuum Fluorescent Displays) on an old PCB on eBay. The Russian boards date from 1987 and have a bunch of through-hole resistors, transistors and a some mystery ICs, plastic wraps around the legs and the top of the tube is held steady by a rubber grommet (the tip itself goes through a hole in a board mounted perpendicular to the main board.) Being the curious kind of person we like, and seeing the boards weren’t too expensive, he bought some in order to play around with to see if he could bring them back to life.

After getting the VFDs lighting up and figuring out the circuitry on the back, [InThePartsBin] decided that a clock was the best thing to build out of it. It was decided that a specialized VFD driver chip was the easiest way to make the thing work, so a MAX6934 was ordered. To give the clock some brains, an ATmega328 was recruited and to keep time, [InThePartsBin] had some DS3231 real-time clock modules left over from a previous project, so they were recruited as well. A daughterboard was designed to sit on the back of the vintage board and hold the ‘328 and the VFD driver chip.

Once [InThePartsBin] soldered on the components it was time to fire it up and send 1’s to the driver to turn on all the segments on all the tubes. Success! The only thing that [InThePartsBin] has left to do is write the code for the clock, but all the segments and tubes are controllable now, so the hardware part is done. There are other VFD clock projects on the site: Check out this one, or this one, and bask in the beautiful steel-blue glow.

If you stuff a computer into a rack with a bunch of other machines, you’d better make it a tough machine. Server-grade means something, so using server parts in a project, like this high-wattage power supply using server voltage regulators, can take it to the next level of robustness.

But before [Andy Brown] could build this power supply, he had to reverse-engineer the modules. Based on what he learned, and armed with a data sheet for the modules, he designed a controller to take advantage of all the capabilities of them and ended up with a full-featured power supply. The modules are rated for 66 watts total dissipation at 3.3 volts and have a secondary 5-volt output. Using an ATmega328, [Andy] was able to control the module, provide a display for voltage and current, temperature sensing and fan control, and even a UART to allow data logging to a serial port. His design features mainly through-hole components to make the build accessible to everyone. A suitable case is yet to come, and we’re looking forward to seeing the finished product.

If you’ve been killing time texting or chatting with your pals via smart phone, odds are pretty good that you’re not giving much thought to the two senses that make it happen: your sight and your hearing. Those who are deafblind, however, cannot participate in these activities; and for many, the remote communication that most of us enjoy with our phones simply isn’t possible. Enter Berlin University of the Arts Design Research Lab. Here, they’ve developed the Mobile Lorm Glove, a haptics device that enables two-way remote communication via smart phone.

For the deafblind, Lorm is the tactile technique for communication. Lorm is a series of hand-tracing gestures that map to characters of the alphabet. To communicate with others, the gloved user can trace Lorm directly onto the pressure-sensitive inputs on the palm of the hand. To receive messages, small vibration motors on the back of the hand vibrate to indicate the message encoded in Lorm.

Originally, to communicate with the deafblind, we must first learn Lorm. With the Mobile Lorm Glove, however, we need only know how to send text messages, and the Lorm-decoding is handled with a look-up table running on our classic Atmega328 microcontroller. For the sharp-eyed, the back-side of the glove seems limited in its capability to transcribe continuous finger traces into discrete motor vibrations. However, with four shift-registers and 32 levels of motor-intensities, the designers address each motor with a technique called “funneling illusion” where continuous movement is simulated by gradually changing the intensity from motor to motor. For more tricks and details, take a look at their conference paper.

By wearing the glove, everyday communication can be made far easier with anyone with a smart phone. We’re jazzed that just a Bluetooth module, an Atmega328, and a collection of pressure sensors and motors can enable any cell phone user to circumvent the learning curve and open up a new conversation.