In the center of the expo hall was the huge NI village, with multiple sections of demos. I started out in the Embedded systems section of the village.
In the embedded systems section there was a demo that consisted of a “helicopter” that was self balancing and could be controlled by a joystick. The helicopter consisted of a horizontal and vertical fan that turned on and off to change the position of the helicopter.
A video of the helicopter demo in action.
The purpose of this demo was to demonstrate a PID controller in LabVIEW FPGA. A PID controller is a loop that compares a desired value to an actual value, calculates the error, and corrects to try and achieve the desired value.
I thought this demo was particularly interesting because it demonstrated a PID loop in an application other than the usual motor application. Typically PID loops are used to help two motors drive in a straight line. This demo was also the first time I had ever seen LabVIEW FPGA in action. LabVIEW FPGA is a programming environment that allows users to program FPGAs graphically rather than the standard way of writing code.
As cool as this demo was, I wasn’t the only one wandering around the expo floor. Below are some more stories from other marketing employees.
I saw this awesome braille demo and heartbeat sensor at NI week. Using LabVIEW, a user would input a sentence and then the NI myRIO would write each letter in braille using six solenoids. Between each word, a buzzer would beep to notify the person reading.
This booth also had another demo that calculated your heart rate using a force transducer. The force transducer was fixed to your finger with a Velcro strap. When your blood moves through your finger, it exerts a small force on the transducer that can be measured. The demo then sent the voltage from the transducer to a conditioning circuit to amplify the signal and get rid of noise. The voltage waveform was then displayed on the LabVIEW front panel along with an indicator for your measured beats per minute value.
The LabVIEW powered smart home was one of my favorite demos shown during the Ni-week expo. There were several aspects of the demo that were pretty cool. First, they used the chipKIT WF32 in the coffee table and the tea stand to communicate with the central “hub”. I’m going to focus on those two, as well as the lighting demo.
The tea stand uses the WF32 and LabVIEW to give you almost real-time updates of what teas you have and how full the teapot is.
The coffee table was designed to communicate with your cell phone. Whenever your phone receives a text message, the WF32 would change the coffee table lights to green. If your phone received a call, it will turn red.
Another cool portion of the smart home was the mood lighting changer. With the Leap tool, you can change hue of lighting with just your fingers!
My favorite demo today was Baxter the robot. They use LabVIEW’s framework with the Robot Operating System (ROS). The demo operator explained that Baxter utilizes the Xbox Kinect motion sensor, so when you walk up to the demo any movement you make with your arms is mirrored by Baxter. They also had the Kuka Robot at the demo, but when I came back to get more info from them, Kuka was “resting”. I was able to watch earlier when Kuka was running. The operator would control Kuka to pick up socks and toys and drop them in a little basket.
NI Week is something else. I knew that I wasn’t on the top end of the knowledge spectrum (so to speak), but here at NI week there are an incredible amount of demonstrations and people there that have achieved things that I have never considered before.
One of the coolest demos that I was able to see was a myRIO controlling a guitar. Through the use of LabVIEW, users were able to choose a song and LabVIEW would read the corresponding music notes and send the information to another controller which controlled all of the pneumatic pumps that played the guitar. To me, this was a great way to showcase multiple systems interacting all with each other in a style that was easy to see.
If you ever you have an opportunity to go to NI Week, but aren’t sure if you will get anything out of it, you should go. It’s worth it.