Artifacts inspire people

Yesterday afternoon I was at Generator again. I had a not-really-useful breadboarded toy with me:

My first Arduino, stuck down on a ding&dent Sparkfun protoboard holder, with an Adafruit quad alphanumeric backpack wired in by I2C.


Those wires with the little P-Touch labels that wind around the back lead to the cool part. That’s a miniature laser rangefinder (lidar) from the folks at Pulsed Light with an accuracy of about an inch over a distance up to 200 feet (that’s a couple centimeters up to 60 meters for the rest of the world). And a bunch of modes for measuring speed, tracking multiple targets and so forth that I haven’t even started on…

I just snarfed the demo code from github, ripped out the part that reports distances every few milliseconds by serial monitor, and spliced in the Adafruit demo code that writes characters to the alphanumeric LEDs. (And even though the lidar and the LEDs use two completely different I2C libraries, they play perfectly well together.)

It’s not like this breadboard is useful as a real rangefinder. You can’t really aim it, it has a USB power cable hanging off the side (to a clearance Radio Shack 1500mAh power pack). The lidar is held on by one screw, and I printed a completely bogus little cover to keep the optics from getting mashed when I put the thing in my pack. But it has blinky red lights, and you can point it toward random things and see how far away they are, and everyone who saw it took a deep breath. And their eyes lit up with ideas.

Oh, by the way, the space Generator is in is apparently just short of 30 meters long.

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1 Response to Artifacts inspire people

  1. Pingback: And this is why you make really sure which USB port you’re writing to | proof of concept

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