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3D Gesture-Controlled MGC3130 Hillstar Dev Kit - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 7
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 8
Demo Software was of good quality: 5
Product was easy to use: 5
Support materials were available: 8
The price to performance ratio was good: 8
TotalScore: 41 / 60
  • RoadTest: 3D Gesture-Controlled MGC3130 Hillstar Dev Kit
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered:
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: difficult to setup, SDK not working with latest version of microsoft visual studio.

  • Detailed Review:

    Nice kit, but difficult to setup.

    Below you will find my road test about the Hillstar 3D gesture kit.

    In conclusion it is a nice and versatile kit with lots of possibilities, but I found it a little bit difficult to setup.

    I think Microchip needs to improve on both the demo software, and the SDK.

    Read on for details about hard- and software.

     

    In addition I would like to blog about an application I'm currently working on.

    This application is controlling the Arcbotics Sparki robot with 3D gestures using the Hillstar kit.

    You can find the blog entries here:

    1. Hillstar MGC3130 3D Controlled Sparki Robot (1)
    2. Hillstar MGC3130 3D Controlled Sparki Robot (2)
    3. Hillstar MGC3130 3D Controlled Sparki Robot (3)

     

    I also made an Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/Build-a-Gesture-Controlled-Robot/

     

    Table of contents

     

    Hardware

    Whats in the box

    The kit arrived in a neat little black and red box. I the box are three boards, an usb cable, and a couple of foam blocks and copper foil to construct a self-assembly 'hand brick' calibration object.

    IMG_0918.JPGIMG_0917.JPG

    The three boards:

    1. The MGC3130 Module. this is the main Hillstar gesture control unit, it interfaces on one side to an electrode, and on the other side to power and a I2C interface.
    2. A four layer reference electrode with a 85x60mm sensitive area, on the bottom of this plate is a connector to connect the MGC3130 board.
    3. An I2C to USB bridge board. With this board the MGC3130 module can easily be connected to a PC with USB.

     

    IMG_0920.JPG

    The MGC3130 Hillstar module.

    IMG_0921.JPG

    Slot on the back of the reference electrode.

    IMG_0922.JPG

    Hillstar moduke in place.IMG_0923.JPG

    I2C-USB module connected to the MGC3130.

    IMG_0919.JPG

    Overview of the whole setup.

     

    Hardware rating

    The MGC3130 is a nice little module, which can be connected to an electrode on one side and I2C and power on the other side. The provided electrode has a slot for this board which gives a useful and firm connection. For experiments using a PC it is very useful that a I2C to USB converter is provided. But as can be seen in the images this module protrudes the electrode board, resulting in little bit weak construction. Also visually this is not very attractive. I think Microship should design a electrode board with slots for both the MGC3130 and the I2C-USB board. It looks like the kit is design in progression.

    Having that said, my overall impression is positive, since the kit is very modular, and it is easy to test it for instance with Arduino or Raspberry Pi using the I2C interface, when you get the software drivers.

     

     

    Software

     

    Aurea demo program

    After installing the software and connecting the device, I got stuck in the initialization phase.

    It looks like the usb-i2c bridge runs fine, but the MGC3130 Module doesn't.

    After installing all necessary software I started Aurea, but it locked up in the following screen.

    Windows_7__64_bit___Snapshot_1___Running_.png

     

    The I started it again and it reported that no firmware was available:

     

    Windows_7__64_bit___Snapshot_1___Running__1.png

    Then I tried to upload the firmware:

     

    Windows_7__64_bit___Snapshot_1___Running__2.png

     

    And finally I got a message that this is not a proper firmware file:

     

    Windows_7__64_bit___Snapshot_1___Running__3.png

     

    After some while, working on other projects and traveling abroad I gave it another try, and luckily I ended up with an working firmware.

    What I did is depicted below, from the setup menu I selected 'Firmware Selection' and 'Start Parameterization' this way I was able to flash the firmware file.

     

    flash.jpg

     

    After this, it looks like the board works, I could show some signals, but still not succeeded to get valuable data from it in first instance.

    Next step was to do a proper calibration (Setup tab). It took some time to find out which receiver belongs to which electrode, but finally I figured that out and after doing Autoparametrization I got good signals. Back in the first tab, the 'Colibri Suite' bar-graphs were showing up in the Signal Level window when moving my hand above the electrode board, and also several gestures were detected.

    Unfortunately the XY and XYZ window didn't show up, looks like a problem with the graphics library.

     

    SDK (Software Development Kit)

    There is also a software development kit available. This kit consists of a Visual Studio C++ project with two demo programs. The demo programs runs in a windows console window, and outputs results values from the sensor. The compiled demo worked fine, but I was not able to compile it myself. The reason is that the demo was written for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, where I had the latest version, VS2012 installed. This sounds a little bit weird, since the Hillstar kit is brand new,  it should be compatible with currently used VS version at least even not latest. Or else that should be compiled and tested on every version of VS. I spend some hours in figuring out that, I upgraded the solution, but got stuck in linker errors.

    Then I installed the VS2010 Express edition, but now I got stuck in a Microsoft problem while the standard header files were not installed properly. This is a known Microsoft problem (c++ - Header files are missing from installed location - Stack Overflow) with two solutions: 1) install a fresh copy of Windows and afresh copy of Visual Studio 2) copy VC folder from a friend who has a good version of Visual Studio installed. Since I don't like to install a new Windows version, and I also don't have a friend with a VS2010 installation I decided to throw in the towel and wait for VS2012 support for this kit.

    Furthermore the SDK also doesn't support other platforms, like Linux, Mac OS X or Raspberry Pi, to mention the most important ones.


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