Welcome to installment number twenty four of the Design Challenge Project Summary series here at Element14. For those of you who are new to my content, in this series I will pick a single Design Challenge project from the current challenge, and write a short summary of the project to date. Over the course of each challenge, I try to revisit each project that I cover at least once, and I am sure that some project summaries will get more than one update if they themselves are updated frequently. Unfortunately, projects that stall out, or get abandoned, will not receive any updates. Some project creators like to keep their own project summary going, and this series is not meant to overshadow those post, but designed to highlight each project from an outsider's perspective.

 

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The subject of this installment is project The Perfect Reading Place by Enrico Miglino (balearicdynamics), and in its introductory post, Enrico details his plans to create the perfect architectural IoT private reading space for public libraries. By developing this project, he hopes to improve a library user’s all around experience when making use of a private reading space. To ensure that he stays on task, enrico has laid out several key features that he would like to see in his final design, including things like, automated user recognition, environmental control, and and page scanning capabilities. “These will be facets of the project I will try to explore and expand implementing following a high structured and modular approach,” he said. “The first implementation - hopefully in a public library - will become a modularised IoT application easily applicable to other similar environments without too architectural modifications.”

 

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In the project’s second post, Enrico posed a slideshow of several library spaces that are to be used to visualize the type of environment that a smart reading space might be located. The photos depict everything from a music / audio book section, to rows of shelves full of books just waiting to be read by those seeking entertainment or knowledge. This was a short post, but is very helpful with visualizing what a modern library might look like.

 

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Update number three is filled with more images of where Enrico’s perfect reading place will be installed and tested. Thanks to an agreement with Muzieum, a museum and an interactive installation that “seeks to  provide an exceptional and unique experience, increase knowledge and understanding for people with visual impairments. In addition, the muZIEum wants to increase the participation and empowerment of people with visual impairment in society.” In this post, Enrico also listed out the project's main components including, a PoV camera, Infrared camera, audio input and output, ultrasonic sensors, RFID, IoT Gateway, and a touch screen UI.

 

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In update number four, Enrico announced that he would be featuring some updates as live editions via Instagram and Periscope, a first for the Design Challenge series! You can view the first live stream here (Recorded). Additionally, this update contained information on a few different approaches that will shape the smart environment Enrico hopes to create.

 

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In update number five, we got a clearer picture of how this project will layout in the physical environment, and how it will connect to the different elements needed for a successful completion. “As the project will be hosted inside a museum it should integrate with the already existing structure. The main goal if this organisation is to create a user experience for the visitor aiming to explain how visually-impaired people can interact with the world around themselves,” he said. “The perfect reading place, following this vision is a technology-empowered environment that can adapt the way it can interface with the users.” Using a couple of flowcharts, Enrico detailed how the main interaction point will work with two physical installations, and how everything will connect together to provide a more rich user experience.

 

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As mentioned above, the project will feature two physical installations, and in update number six, he begins building Art-A-Tronic, the first of this pair of sub projects. This installation is based on an original opera of the digital artist Lorenzo P. Merlo, and Enrico has further processed the opera to make it animated. The installation will feature a 3D printed face that is broken up into various animated components. The final goal is to empower the image components of a visual-art image making it a series of solid parts linked together that can be touched as well as viewed. Enrico detailed the process he used to isolate a monotone variation of the image he wanted to 3D print, then further simplified the image before printing the components on his 3D Printer.

 

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In update number seven, Enrico continues work on Art-A-Tronic, the animated 3D opera installation he is creating for his perfect reading space installation at MuZIEum. The update began by detailing the hardware that will be used to automate components of the face that were 3D printed in the last update. Before he could begin making things move, several more parts needed to be 3D printed, and Enrico spent the rest of this post walking us through the steps he used to create these parts.

 

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Updates eight and nine continued to focus on the Art-A-Tronic portion of the project, with the main work being completed on the moving parts of this interactive display. Enrico spent a great deal of time developing custom motor to shaft couplers that allowed the motors, shafts, and movable part to connect properly even if they were not 100% inline with each other. The mechanical motion was provided by several stepper motors which were grouped together into four groups, then indexed by three controller boards. In the video above you can see one of these four groups in more detail.

 

 

The Raspberry Pi Sense HatThe Raspberry Pi Sense Hat was the sole focus of update number ten, with Enrico walking us through installing the latest updated version of the sense hat library (the “up to date” version that comes with Raspbian Jessie is outdated), and then how to install the now required evdev package to the Raspberry Pi. “The evdev package bind the kernel user-space character devices usually listed in /dev/input exposing them to Python; this allows the Python programs to read and write input events in the Linux environment,” he said. Enrico finished out the post with some example code that demos the joysticks functionality.

 

 

Update number eleven showcased some media coverage that this project has earned, and Enrico included a full translation of the article for everyone to enjoy. Work resumed on the project in its twelfth update, with progress being made on a custom, 3D printed enclosure for the Raspberry PI and Sense Hat combo. As of this posting, Enrico has not released the design files, but I am sure he will before the project completes.

 

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In update number thirteen, Enrico shared a beautiful video simulation of how the Art-A-Tronic’s mechanical parts will assemble together. The base plate that was designed and 3D printed was simply amazing, and even though I have been a major player in the 3D Printing / RepRap scene since its original inception, I am still amazed at how these printers have allowed makers and engineers to build such complex mechanical assemblies.  I included a screenshot from the video and posted it above this paragraph. Note that the music that was included with the video has some harsh language, so if you are at work, or if small children are around, watch with the volume turned down.

 

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In update number fourteen, Enrico began the assembly of the Art-A-Tronic interactive display. It appears that socket-cap screws were used to hold everything together, and from the looks of the images that were posted, everything fits together nicely. “Finally this part of the PiIoT project is almost complete,” Enrico said. “All the 3D printed elements are ready to be assembled but not all can be done yet. With the top and bottom - the two biggest layers - complete, before adding the moving parts the motors will be setup correctly and the firmware completed.”

 

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Update number fifteen covered the testing process for the stepper motors that will be used to animate the Art-A-Tronic interactive display. “The moving parts of the Art-a-tronic opera (created from an original digital-art of Lorenzo P. Merlo) and the Dynamic surface (coming soon) uses a 28BYJ-48 geared stepper motor and a L298 motor controller,” he said.” Head over to the full post to see the Arduino code that Enrico wrote to test the motors.

 

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In update number sixteen, Enrico wrote a very thorough tutorial on how to Setup the Raspberry PI cross-compiler for EnOcean. "One of the roles covered by the Raspberry PI SBC in this project is the IoT gateway controlling the EnOcean sensors network. As the IoT sensors are based on the enOcean technology adopting of the enOceanPI gateway on the Raspberry PI some C++ programs are needed to get the control of the IoT architecture running on a headless environment; the web based approach e.g. with Fhem is a problem and the better solution requires working directly with the EnOcean libraries and APIs," Enrico said. I want to wager that this just might be the most comprehensive single update tutorial I have ever read in a design challenge project, and I could not even begin to do it justice in a summary paragraph in this article, so head over to the full post at the link above to read the whole thing.

 

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Updates number seventeen, and eighteen continued development work on the EnOcean side of things, with Enrico writing tutorials on how to compile the EnOcean Link library for the Raspberry PI, and how to utilize the EnOcean Link Library, and then how to run test to ensure that things are working properly. These last three post have been the most comprehensive work with EnOcean that I have seen out of any of the thousands of projects here at Element14, and that is why I love the Design Challenges so much. I can not express how much appreciation I have for Enrico for his work on documenting this part of the project. I definitely learned a lot from these three post, and hope to put that knowledge to use one day myself.

 

 

Update number nineteen introduced us to the next phase of this project, a dynamic surface installation that mimics the sense hat’s LED matrix, but in physical form. “Dynamic surface is another moving subproject part of the PiIot design. It represents an independent moving platform: as well as the PiSense HAT includes an 8x8 RGB LED matrix the Dynamic surface is a physical 8x8 matrix built with big moving pixels,” he said. As you can see in the video above, Enrico basically built a physical LED Matrix that raises and lowers its pixels rather than illuminating them. This is a very innovative concept that will allow visually impaired persons to interact with a digital matrix system. Very cool Enrico!

 

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In update number twenty, work began on building the m-Pix prototype, and if you are a fan of 3D printing, then this update is for you! Enrique used his 3D printer to print out virtually all of the moving and fixed parts for this animatronic except for the motor. I know that may seem like a given with how mainstream 3D printing has become, but when I started working on the RepRap project with everyone back in the day, we dreamed of enabling the creations of complex projects like this. I have to admit that I get a little nostalgic every time I see someone use a 3D printer in their projects here.

 

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Enrico filled us in on the project on August 31 by posting its twenty first update, and inside he detailed his plans for the future of the project. Even though he was unable to finish by the project’s deadline, it has grown into so much more than just a project for him to post here at Element14, it has become something that thousands of people will enjoy in the months to come. “The new timeline necessarily changed the project approach. This perfect reading place, become focused on the Internet of Things technologies supporting visually-impaired users: it will be a really reading, chatting, discussing and interacting area place to be installed in the MuZIEum site. Many new aspects to take care made things more complex but also more interesting. The design idea becomes a use case adding one more complexity level: usage, color choices, networking, usability, and more,” he said.

 

That is where I am going to wrap up this project summary. Enrico will continue to update the project until it is finished, and I encourage everyone to continue to visit the project’s main blog page to see how it finishes up. Tune in next week for another Design Challenge Project Summary here at Element14. Until then, Hack The World, and Make Awesome!