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Making a toy train move

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Learning Through Play, Science is fun

Toy trains and modular train tracks are lots of fun, especially for kids. Connect different pieces of track and create your own railway circuit.

But one kid was wondering, is it possible to make the toy train move by itself? In this episode, we build a simple little train and let it have a run on the track!

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Non Electric, Magnetic Coin Sorter

  • Prototypes, Non Electric, Singapore

This week, when taking a break from work, we received some enquiries for the coin sorter that we built some time back. While most people are happy playing with it and enjoy the speed, there is an inherent limitation (apart from the cost of building them one by one =)).

Coin sorters often use size to separate the coins, such as the one that we built previously. But in Singapore, the old $1 coins are of a similar size to the new 50 cent coins. That is probably why some NTUC trolleys accept both old $1 and new 50 cent coins.

Similarly, the old 50cent coins are of a similar size to the new $1 coins.

How might we separate 3rd generation coins from 2nd generation coins in Singapore?

Is it possible for us to separate coins of the 2 separate generations? It turns out that it is actually possible!

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Liquid Tracking Experiment

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Liquid Tracking

How might we know when it is time to turn off the tap, or when it is time to refill our opaque containers with more water?

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A Voice Activated Old Fan Experiment

  • Prototypes, Voice Assistant, Electronics

After receiving a sturdy old fan from a friend who moved house this week, a question came to mind:
How might we help the elderly to stay independent and be able to do things like control the fan when it gets too hot?

We find it harder to operate remote controls and things with tiny buttons; and mobility may also be a greater challenge as we age.

In this experiment, we combine the power of a customized Google Assistant together with the power of Infrared (IR) Controllers. For other IR related experiments, you might be interested to check out A Motion Controlled TV Experiment

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Simple Little Coin Packer for Singapore Coins - Iteration 4

  • Prototypes, Useful Gifts

Sorting coins can be rather tedious, and boring. How might we make it quick and somewhat fun?

Almost 2 years ago, we built a prototype to test out the idea. Today, we see it refined into a neat little device that you can put on your own table at home.

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The writing on the wall begins

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Stepper Motors

Writing code can be rather tiring sometimes.

And sometimes you would want to take a break from all that writing.

How nice it would be to have someone else do the writing for you! Or perhaps to have it automated!

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A Simple Bag Watcher

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Accelerometer

More than a year ago, we explored how we might help Tom to protect his apple
Last week, we went a step further to explore how we might realistically watch over our bag.
Instead of using a light sensor, we experimented with an accelerometer that proved to be much more sensitive to movements. Even a light tap on the bag could be detected!

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Custom AIY Voice Kits

  • Artificial Intelligence, AIY, Laser Cut

If a non-human could understand what you said, what would you like him/her/it to understand?

Can we use technologies like these to help people with different needs around us?

Would you like to get an A-I-Y Kit? How would you like it to be customized?

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Four legged robot that walks

  • Electronics, Robotics

Robotic cars are cool. But in the movies, we often see robots that walk. How might we create robots that can "walk"?

Would you like to build one of your own? Even if you totally have no experience with robots or programming?

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uArm Swift Pro Robotic Arm helps to fill your cups

  • Robotic Arm, Electronics, Peristaltic Pump, Automation

It has been a long time since we last posted. There were many things to do as 2017 drew to a close. How was your year? I hope it has been great for you!

Meanwhile, this topic is still on my mind. How might we help overworked staff, and perhaps automate some repetitive tasks?

Is it possible for a robotic arm to automatically fill empty cups?

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Dreambo the imaginary RC robot comes alive!

  • Prototypes, Remote Controlled, Bluetooth, BLE, Dreams

When I was just a child, I dreamt of RC cars with all kinds of special abilities that could be triggered at the touch of a button.

When I grew older, I started taking apart RC cars and remote controllers - 27mhz, 49mhz and 40mhz.

Recently, while doing some R&D at Simple Little Developments for another BLE project, I thought of using Bluetooth to power my dream RC car! This would allow me to easily add more custom abilities to my RC car, and also be able to use a normal mobile phone as the controller!

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Send an SMS to lock your Android device

  • Android App, Privacy

Have you ever had that feeling when you were happily using your phone, and suddenly a "friend" came from behind and took away with your phone in glee while you struggle to get it back?
At that moment, did you wish that you could immediately lock your phone remotely?

In partnership with the folks who created Order Kopi, this week we attempted to create a no-frills app to save the day!

Download SMS to Lock from the Google Play Store

The next time you encounter that scenario, you could simply send a special SMS to lock your phone!

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Get your own USB fan with personalized LED messages

  • Personalized Gifts

Do you remember ever looking at those fans with LED messages?
Or wished that you had one with your own personalized messages?

I used to think that these fans could only be "personalized" in bulk and thought that it would be very costly to get just a few pieces for personalized gifts.

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Getting uArm Swift Pro Robotic Arm to play Tic Tac Toe

  • Robotic Arm, Computer Vision, Offline Games

Do you remember playing this game of Tic Tac Toe before all the video games came along?

Relieve your childhood memories and allow your eyes to take a break from the computer screen!

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Simple Quadcopter Launchpad

  • Prototypes, Electronics

How noisy is your quadcopter during takeoff? This simple quadcopter launch pad lights up when the takeoff area gets noisy.

What would you like to analyze about your quadcopter? Perhaps tracking the flight path or grading the smoothness of landing?

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Find your freedom - musical box prototype

  • Prototypes, Gifts

Many people are searching for happiness, for freedom, for peace and joy and love.

Here's a little prototype musical box to send Birthday Greetings, with the hope that everyone finds true freedom in life!

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An Encouraging Hanger and a Purposeful Pen Holder

  • Prototypes, Gifts

In recent months, we have been prototyping with lots of electronics, from smart sensors, to wireless transmitters, to RFID scanners, to CV guided robotic arms, to voice controlled devices, some of which you may have seen on our YouTube channel.

Today, we took a break away from all the electronics!

We took a break and designed an Encouraging Hanger and a Purposeful Pen Holder. And yes, these 2 buddies have no electronics embedded! (At least not for today :))

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An Intelligent Robotic Arm that Picks and Sorts Singapore Coins

  • Robotic Arm, Computer Vision

While coins may be phased out in favour of electronic payment one fine day, today Ah Lim still finds his pocket filled with coins after visiting the hawker centre in Singapore. He emptied his coins onto the table, and we got a neat little uArm Swift Pro to help to sort those coins!

When we think of robotic arms, we usually think of helping SMEs and small businesses in Singapore with light automation or mini production lines. This week, we did an experiment to explore how an intelligent robotic arm may help out at home!

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An Anti-Snooze Alarm Experiment

  • Prototypes, Electronics

Do you have a habit of turning off the alarm and going back to sleep in the morning? Especially when you need to wake up at 5.30am in the morning to go to school or to work?

Do you ever find yourself waking up much later and ending up late for your appointment?

In this experiment, the alarm will only turn off after you tap it many, many times. By then, hopefully you are awake!

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A Cup that hardly spills

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Assistive Devices

Sometimes, trainees may accidentally tilt the tray.
How might we create a smart cup that helps to minimize spillages?

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A Voice Controlled Robotic Arm

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Assistive Devices, AI, Google API

Speech Recognition and Artificial Intelligence has rapidly advanced over the years.

This week, we ran an experiment to convert our robotic arm into a voice activated one. We were pleasantly surprised by the voice recognition accuracy and the voice quality of the online "Google Assistant". (The offline version sounded more robotic)

Making use of the Google AIY kit and a Raspberry PI, we also had some fun testing the intelligence and wit of the Google Assistant!

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A Motion Controlled Television Experiment

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Assistive Devices

If we put down the TV Remote control, can we still operate the Television?

In this experiment, we make use of a motion sensor. Can you think of more ways that we could enable people with different abilities to control everyday appliances more easily?

Perhaps we could also make use of similar technologies to encourage better habits, such as sitting further from the TV screen. (So if someone comes too near to the TV, it will switch itself off) Or perhaps to enforce a TV free week!

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A Simple Robotic Arm

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Robotic Arm

While commercial robotic arms used to cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, today we put together and test out an affordable robotic arm that could be used for simple tasks like pick and place.

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A Simple Training POS for fun financial literacy

  • Prototypes, Web Applications, Education

Do you want to be a cashier at some cafe or retail store? Or do you just want to get your hands on a simplified Point of Sales system and imagine being a cashier for a day?

Or do you want to help to educate children on how to count money?

We'll be launching a Simple Training POS soon (The timeline will be affected by the demand or number of likes that this generates :))

Anyway, here's glimpse of how it looks!

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Cardbo has new robot friends - little robots that listen together

  • Prototypes, Electronics, 3D Modelling

Some weeks ago, we saw the birth of Cardbo the upcycled robot that listens. Last week, he received a new body.

Today, Cardbo has new robot friends - little robots that listen together!

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Cardbo gets a new body

  • Prototypes, Electronics, 3D Modelling

Some weeks ago, we saw the birth of Cardbo the upcycled robot that listens.

Today, Cardbo gets a new body!

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Identifying Singapore Coins automatically with Computer Vision

  • Prototypes, Smart Vision

In recent times, I have been asked this question quite a bit. "What is Computer Vision?"
Can the Computer see? What is the use of computer vision?
In simple terms, computer vision grants computers the ability to see, or to monitor things that may otherwise require human eyes to visualize and comprehend.

It could be used to digitise analog signals, or be used in automated systems, such as triggering an SMS to the owner when a CCTV "recognises" an unfamiliar face in the camera.

This week, let us take a look at how Computer Vision can enable the computer to "see". In this very simple example, let us explore whether the computer can help us to identify the type of Singapore coins that are thrown onto the table.

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Cardbo, an Upcycled Robot that Listens

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Recycling, Upcycling

This week, we thought we could also do our part to promote recycling and upcycling!
It is nice to give recycled materials a new lease of life. And so, we would like to introduce you to Cardbo!

Cardbo is an upcycled little robot. He listens! And responds to you when you clap or make a loud noise.

He is our new Robot made from Upcycled Cardboard. He LISTENS! And he actually responds to you when you CLAP or make a loud noise.

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Smart Rotating Display

  • Prototypes, Electronics

We have seen rotating displays around, displaying various items of interest. Can we make these rotating displays more interactive?

Perhaps a rotating display that responds or reacts when a customer comes near?

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A Customized Gift - Musical Box

  • Gifts, Prototypes

This week, we take a short break away from electronics to enjoy some simple tunes instead!

Want a customised musical box with a Happy Birthday tune and your special message engraved in wood? What will it take for us to get it custom made for us in Singapore?

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A Simple Visitor or Intrusion Counter

  • Prototypes, Electronics

Some weeks back, we saw how we could help to alert Tom when someone took away his apple from the table.

This week, we take a step further. Can we alert Tom before someone even gets close to the table?

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Smart Serving Tray for Training

  • Prototypes, Electronics, 3D Modelling

At the end of 2016, we explored a Smart Training Cup, used to address simple challenge faced during rehabilitation.

This week, we iterated and took a step further. This resulted in a Smart Serving Tray that supports training. When the trainee tilts the tray too much, the tray will BEEP.

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Simple Smart Weighing Scale for Training

  • Prototypes, Electronics

Weighing Ingredients is a very common task in a bakery. But if you have tried weighing out 20 grams of sugar, or 4 grams of baking powder, you may agree that weighing a precise weight can be a little challenging.

How can we help trainees to level up and weigh ingredients accurately? Can the weighing scales help us know when we have measured out the correct weight of ingredients?

This Simple Smart Weighing Scale Prototype will help you to do just that.

In this example, when 20 grams of sugar has been correctly weighed out, a blue light will turn on. If you have too much or too little, nothing will light up.

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Simple Teaching Assistant Helps You To Mark Students Homework

  • Prototypes, Smart Vision

We fondly remember the Optical Mark Sheets that we used for examinations when we were students. It must have saved the examiners much effort in marking the thousands of papers.

But what about the lots of homework that our good teachers had to mark daily? Why didn't they use the Optical Mark Sheets too? Perhaps the Optical Mark Sheets were controlled items and more costly than normal A4 paper. Or perhaps the machines needed rather specialized skills to operate and were not sufficient everyone to use?

We recently started work on a Simple Teaching Assistant that could mark papers printed on normal A4 paper. You could use it with a camera or with any document scanner. First, you set up your answer key by uploading an excel file or by scanning in your model answers. Then it will start grading other pieces of homework that you scan in!

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Complement Precision Robotics with Computer Vision

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Smart Vision

Some weeks back, our Smart Gantry Experiment demonstrated how Computer Vision can work hand in hand with motors and actuators.

This week, we take a step further to explore how it can be put it to use for light industrial automation.

Can we help to make automation tools more user-friendly and accessible for SMEs and small businesses in Singapore?
What if such equipment were easy to set up and available at a price of just a few thousand dollars?
Wait... That means it could even be cheaper than a Point of Sales Machine!

For a start, can we use computer vision to guide industrial robotic arms to pick and place items such as Nuts, Chilli, and more? Hopefully, we can provide some assistance to overworked employees and business owners.

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Protect your valuable apple without chains

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Workshops

This week, we will share with you a short story.

Tom shared a hostel room with 12 other people. On his way back from school after lunch, Tom went to the NTUC Supermarket near his hostel to buy an apple for his tea break. He placed it next to his laptop and went to take an afternoon nap. His laptop was locked to the table in his room but his apple was not. He did not have anything to lock it with.

He looked forward to munching the apple after he woke up!

When he woke up 2 hours later, he found that his apple has disappeared! He wondered whether any of the other 12 other people in his room had taken his apple, but he was too afraid to ask them.

Tom thought to himself, "someone or something (maybe a cat?) must have taken my apple, if only I had woken up to stop him/her/it."

How might we create an alarm for Tom that will alert him when his apple is being moved while he is having his afternoon nap?

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Smart Gantry powered by Computer Vision

  • Prototypes, Electronics, Smart Vision

In our previous experiment, we saw how computer vision can be used to identify the colour of cloths being used for cleaning the table.

This week, we explore how to use computer vision to identify red cars, and automatically activate a Smart Gantry to open whenever a red car comes along.

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Cloth Training Assistant with Smart Vision

  • Prototypes, Smart Vision

Cleaning is not as simple as it looks. There are actually standards such as different colours of cloths for different types of cleaning tasks.

Do you want to ensure that the correct cloths are used for the correct tasks? Have a Smart little training assistant to help you watch the cloths as they are being used to clean the table.

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A Rain Sensor and a Smart Window

  • (updated 2 Jun, 2017)
  • Electronics, Prototypes

When it rains, we need to close the windows to ensure that our room does not get flooded. We usually do not think much of such things that we do without much thought.
However, for the disabled, getting to the windows and closing them can be a great ordeal.
It would be nice if the windows can close themselves at the press of a button.

How about going one step further? What if we did not even need to press the button?

When it rains, automatically close the windows. When it is dry, automatically open the windows again!

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A toy piano made of paper that generates music!

  • Prototypes, Computer Vision

For the past few weeks, we have been exploring little electronic prototypes powered by little microprocessors.
Today, we will be sharing something different!

It is just a piece of paper, and it is also a toy that generates musical tunes!

When kids play, we try to avoid wires and cables, and electronic devices that emit wireless radiation. The question is whether it is possible to make something interactive without exposing the kids to the electronics? Could we allow kids to draw a piano on a piece of paper, and then start playing REAL tunes on it?

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How can we quickly measure out string for cutting?

  • Electronics, Prototypes, 3D Modelling

This week, we needed to help to quickly cut out more than a hundred pieces of string for packaging. How might we quickly measure out the string for cutting, ensuring a consistent length for the pieces of string AND get the job done efficiently?

Our first attempt was to semi-automate the process using a DIY linear actuator. However, it was too bulky to bring down to site. Our second iteration was a more portable version, and it was put to good use earlier this afternoon!

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Comfortably do training or rehab without spilling water from this Dry Training Cup

  • Electronics, Prototypes

This week, we explored a simple challenge faced during rehabilitation, also faced by some during training. When participants are learning to carry a cup steadily, sometimes the water spills out. Or sometimes, they drop a glass cup and it shatters.

While this is a realistic outcome to be expected in the real world, perhaps there can be an intermediate training environment that is more accepting, that does not result in a slippery wet floor or shattered glass. Perhaps a smart little cup that makes a gentle noise when you "spill", so that you can feel more comfortable training.

And when participants are really comfortable and have passed the test of the Dry Training Cup, they can progress on to the real cup.

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How quickly can you count Singapore coins?

  • Electronics, Prototypes, 3D Designs

Some weeks back, we explored a way to conveniently sort and pack Singapore coins. That next iteration of that idea was a little more user friendly, allowed the use of generic containers instead of needing to use a specific type of coin case.

But it was missing something.

After sorting the coins, how could we quickly count them?
How much earnings have we made for the day? Or how many coins have we saved in the piggy bank?

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Smart Stick alerts you when it falls down

  • Electronics, Prototypes, 3D Designs

Imagine that Ah Gong accidentally dropped his walking stick one day. His stick protested by BEEPING loudly, alerting people nearby to turn around. Hopefully, someone catches Ah Gong before he falls. But if he has already fallen, then hopefully someone helps him to get up.

If no one helps him to get up and his stick continues to lie on the ground for the next few minutes, a notification is escalated to his caregivers.

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Sort and pack Singapore coins more conveniently!

  • (updated 17 Dec, 2016)
  • Prototypes, 3D Designs

This week, we approached a simple but common problem in Singapore. (At least for the time being before everything goes cashless)

How do you sort and pack loose change conveniently?

So we got down to sketching a 3D model, before making the actual prototype.

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Turning old appliances into connected Smart Devices.

  • Prototyping, Electronic Gadgets

Internet of Things (IOT) has been the hype over the past few years. Connected homes, connected devices, wearables and more.

A few days ago, a friend asked whether we could help to connect up his household devices without the need to buy new smart devices. He wanted to control the lights, radio, and fan from his mobile phone.

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Moving from the Arduino Board to smaller circuits

  • Prototyping, Experiments

Recently, someone asked whether we could help to make a smaller, more presentable electronic prototype without needing to use the larger Arduino Board. We said yes, certainly, and today we would like to also share one of our experiments with you.

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Participating in the SGdefence Exhibition

  • (updated 15 Nov, 2016)
  • Prototyping, Electronic Gadgets

Recently, as part of collaborations with folks from SAFAC for a MINDEF hackathon, we had fun creating prototypes together with some friends. Also came up with a smart camera prototype for counting of 5.56mm rounds. The project won 3rd place in the hackathon and is currently being showcased at the SGdefence exhibition from 4-8 November 2016 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre (open to public).

Thankful for the opportunity to collaborate and to be part of the quest to explore possible solutions to real world challenges.

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It looks the same, but what has changed is on the inside.

  • Prototyping, Electronic Gadgets, Experiments, Fridge Door Sensor

After surviving for around 35 days on the fridge, the LED light of the fridge door sensor that we created seemed to be getting a little dim, and the alarm was getting softer. The battery seemed to be getting weaker.

This posed the question: Could we get the device to last at least a year before the battery needed to be replaced? Before we could get there, we first needed to understand how much power was being consumed.

And so we wired up the multi-meter to do the tests...

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