NI Week: The Main Conference Day 1

Welcome to the second installment of our Live from NI Week coverage! Today we will be covering the first day of the Main Conference, and what everyone thought about what they saw on the floor!


Etch-a-Sketch Smile
Robot drawing an Etch-a-Sketch Smile.

While on the Expo floor I was amazed to see all of the different ways others’ used LabVIEW. So many projects were amazingly creative, like this robotic Etch-a-Sketch arm that was programmed to illustrate a design using LabVIEW.

Powered by LabVIEW!

It was fantastic to see how many companies were able to incorporate LabVIEW into both creative and industrial uses, drawing in observers like myself, and I am always particularly susceptible to any project involving robotics (especially if the robot is programmed to have a personality).


To support LabVIEW MakerHub, Digilent opened a store in the exhibition hall. Inside was stocked the all three of the Physical Computing Kit options (WF32Raspberry Pi and Beagle Bone Black, the LabVIEW Interaction Parts Kit and the Analog Discovery 2). All of these kits have corresponding LabVIEW example VI’s, tutorials and projects that can be found on the LabVIEW MakerHub!

The LabVIEW MakerHub is supported with LINX 3.0, which allows use of the BeagleBone, Raspberry Pi and WF32 as LabVIEW targets. Using the BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi, the Battling Sumo Bots project used LINX to create deployable mini-sumo robots found in the LabVIEW Zone. The LabVIEW Interaction Parts Kit was also available as a great kit for getting started with LabVIEW. This kit includes all of the necessary materials users might find helpful when creating their own devices that connect to LabVIEW, and is supported with a fantastic online tutorial available on Instructables.

Finally check out the Analog Discovery 2, a pocket lab station with both analog and digital tools. Using the LabVIEW driver and VI, you can now create custom user interfaces, harnessing the power of LabVIEW.

A Snapshot of the Digilent Expo Hall Store.
A Snapshot of the Digilent Expo Hall Store.

I personally really appreciated the fact that Digilent already occupies a very valuable design space: parallel processing. All of the Digilent FPGAs inherently perform parallel calculations and two of the booths in the Expo Hall relied on that capability to successfully perform their demos.Multiple motors controlling an IC part picker (1)

Opal-RT was using a PXI based solution to simultaneously measure multiple inputs to a system and then report multiple outputs or desired data in real time. One of the embedded systems demo from NI was using the FPGA present in CompactRIO to simultaneously control 9 motors that picked up tiny ICs from one disk and relocated them to a specified location to a second disk, much like how Kaitlyn’s Claw Game used the FPGA inside of the Basys 3 to control the sets of motors representing the bane of her childhood.


Day two of NI Week was another exciting day. The day kicked off with another keynote speech that included an intro by Dr. T, followed by some more technical sessions, but the thing that drew my attention the most early in the day were the demos that were being presented at booths across the Expo floor. IMG_20160802_174219I have attended conventions of various kinds in the past, as well as exhibits for things such as research projects at schools, but the variety of things that were being presented at a professional technology convention like NI Week was what I found most impressive.


Today was the first day we got to show off the SumoBots, and many kids flocked to our booth to try them out. Often I split my time between explaining our project to their parents and repairing the bots after the particularly intense crashes. The kids didn’t understand the differences between the BeagleBone Black and the Raspberry Pi, nor did they care to find out, but they loved what they could do with them.  I saw many kids light up when I told them they could create their own bots at home. Every kid reacted differently to the experience but the end result was the same, they wanted to create their own. Many of the parents that had taken their children to NI week to get them interested in electronics were thrilled by this revelation and immediately grabbed our demo card promising to make their dream of building a SumoBot a reality.



This was the first big day of the Expo hall. We set up our SumoBot demo in the LabVIEW pavilion in the center of the floor and after some troubleshooting we managed to get things up and running fairly smoothly. 13898448_10208595507597992_2052850442_oWhen the Expo opened, it was flooded with people. We had countless people visit the SumoBots demo to either look or drive the bots. One thing that I didn’t expect was how popular our demo was with all the kids that were there. Seeing their pure curiosity for technology and engineering was so much fun, and we were swarmed with kids and parents for the entire day.
One thing I remembered from last year was the wide array of impressive and polished LabVIEW powered demos in the center of the Expo hall. So as soon as I had a chance to get away from the booth I headed over to check out this years selection. In the Academic section of the floor, I found something familiar, the Analog Discovery 2. It was mounted on top of a car, which is an unusual scenario, so I found out more. 20160802_112854
This particular demo used LabVIEW and the BeagleBone Black to control a car. The user could select the path the car would drive with the LabVIEW interface. 20160802_113020 Then the path would run and the AD2 would display the signals sent to the motors.
Stay tuned for even more updates and make sure you are following Digilent on social media for additional real-time NI Week news!
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