Project image
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$7,916
pledged of $12,000pledged of $12,000 goal
125
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Thu, August 8 2013 6:21 AM UTC +00:00
$7,916
pledged of $12,000pledged of $12,000 goal
125
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Thu, August 8 2013 6:21 AM UTC +00:00

About

Thalamus is a small board containing a USB-capable 32-bit 72MHz ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis magnetometer and barometer.

Thalamus started out life as a flight controller for the R10 Quadrotor systems, providing stabilization at 400Hz. However, packing a fast microcontroller with native USB capabilities, and with two SPI ports for communications, Thalamus is a perfect low-cost IMU board for robotics projects, as well as PC-connected applications.

Two Thalamus boards, and limited edition tin, with keyboard for scale
Two Thalamus boards, and limited edition tin, with keyboard for scale

Who/What is it for?

Thalamus can be used in several ways, and by people with varying levels of experience in electronics and programming.

- As a computer-connected IMU/motion sensor: For those programmers and code monkeys out there who just want to write awesome software.  Thalamus can simply be plugged into a USB port and the sensor/orientation data read off it (either using it as a USB serial port or a USB HID device) and used in your program, no knowledge of electronics or embedded programming necessary.  Perfect if you need to allow your program to sense motion, acceleration, rotation or magnetic fields; whether it's a simple datalogging application, or a complex application that senses motion in the real world.

Thalamus can appear to a computer as a USB Serial port or USD HID device (or both)
Thalamus can appear to a computer as a USB Serial port or USD HID device (or both)

- As a computer peripheral: Thalamus has native USB capabilities, allowing it to enumerate as a variety of different devices, including a mice, keyboard, and gamepads.  Thalamus' digital IO and analog inputs allow you to easily hook up buttons, potentiometers and other sensors.

Ever wanted to build your own custom motion-sensing peripheral? Now's your chance.  Whether it is a 3D air-mouse, a custom motion-controlled gamepad, or simply a widget that sends a shutdown command when rotated in a certain way; Thalamus gets you quickly started.

- For academia/education: as Enginnering graduates ourselves, we wouldn't ignore the needs or our fellow enginners-to-be.  Thalamus connects to MATLAB!  Whether it's simply datalogging or a model that uses real-time physical inputs, Thalamus allows you to rapidly set up experiments and projects that interface with MATLAB in realtime.  No special toolboxes are required.  We provide a simple example script that can be easily adapted to your requirements.

You can have MATLAB use Thalamus's digital and analog inputs to interface other sensors such as proximity, temperature or current, and you can even have MATLAB output to Thalumus' digital outputs to control LEDs, actuators, motors, relays, etc. providing the possibility of creating MATLAB models that interact with the real world in complex ways.

The following video demonstrates MATLAB being used to collect and display (in real-time) data from Thalamus.  The graphs from top to bottom are: 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis magnetometer.  The ring in the second half of the video is a neodymium magnet; while the magnetometer on Thalamus is normally used to measure the earth's magnetic field as a digital compass, it can equally be used to detect the magnets.

- For electronics/robotics projects: traditionally, building an IMU into a project was complex, for starters these chips don't come in DIY-friendly packages, and even if you used pre-fabricated breakout boards, you were often left with the task of dealing with the chip interfacing, setting things up and reading data off.  Not only that, but then you had to deal with data filtering and implementing sensor fusion code if you wanted high performance and smooth outputs.

Thalamus does all this for you - just connect Thalamus to your project using one of the supported ports (USB, UART, or SPI), and you can begin receiving raw sensor data as well as computed roll, pitch and yaw angles thanks to the damn good quaternion-based AHRS system that we developed from the ground up for Thalamus.

This makes it super-simple to begin building electronics projects that detect motion or sense orientation, whether your host system is an Ardiuno, a Raspberry Pi, or a fully fledged x86 system.

Raspberry Pi hooked up to Thalamus using the UART
Raspberry Pi hooked up to Thalamus using the UART
Raspberry Pi hooked up to Thalamus using USB
Raspberry Pi hooked up to Thalamus using USB

Thalamus' six main output pins are arranged as a block of six 3-pin plugs suitable for connecting to digital servos and ESCs.

- Quadrotors! The purpose for which Thalamus was born.  We have produced a fully-featured flight controller code for Thalamus, which includes several flight modes (including GPS/waypoint flight modes when used with a compatible GPS/telemetry unit), support for an ultrasound module for height hold/auto-land, and a special input port for a Spektrum satellite receiver (allowing 7-channels over just three wires).  Futaba S.Bus receivers and PPM input will also be supported.  The code for this is available on our website and is released fully open source.

The R10 Quadrotor kickstarter project (which is powered by Thalamus) can be found on Kickstarter.  The following video is the pitch video for the new R10+ (R10 Plus), which can be found on our website.  We're crowdfunding the R10+ in parallel to this project.

The quadcopter code can easily be modified to handle flight stabilisation for fixed wing craft.

There is also an autopilot module available that connects to Thalamus and includes a GPS module and long-range XBee radio, allowing autonomous waypoint flying and receiving wireless telemetry in realtime from Thalamus.  However, this autopilot module is not part of this Kickstarter project.

- As a development board: We've written an extensive C library to make it straightforward to write firmware for Thalamus, easy-to-use functions allow you to access the hardware peripherals and sensors on the board.  We release this code and all of our example codes as open source.

You can compile the code using an open source compiler, and you don't need any additional hardware to load compiled code onto Thalamus, it's all done over USB.

All in all, this make Thalamus a mean development platform for advanced users who want to make the most out of the hardware.

Examples

- Cheap Pan-tilt Gimbal Mod: Thalamus make a great controller to control these cheap FPV pan-tilt mechanisms from an RC controller, you cold control three at a time!

But, use Thalamus's IMU, and the cheap pan-tilt mechanism becomes fully-fledged gyro-stabilized gimbals.

We've used the above mechanism to mount a spotlight on the bottom of the R10 quadrotor, producing a stabilized spotlight that stays pointing in the same direction regardless of how the craft is manoeuvring, and can also be redirected in-flight.

- Roboeinstein

As soon in the video, Roboeinstein's arms flail around in response to rotation.  In fact I had him plugged in backwards in the video, his arms are supposed to move to stay level, even when his body is moved around.

Features

  • Fast Microcontroller: A 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller clocked at 72MHz can handle AHRS (attitude and heading reference system) and sensor fusion at 400Hz and beyond
  • USB: Native USB functionality allows it to enumerate as a variety of devices.
  • Open source software and compilers: our software and libraries are released as open source, and can be compiled using open source compilers.
  • MEMS sensors: 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis magnetometer, 3-axis gyroscope, and barometer.
  • IO: 6 PWM headers for controlling servos or ESCs, can be reprogrammed as digital inputs/outputs or analog inputs. Two additional digital pins for ultrasound module, can also be reprogrammed as digital inputs/outputs. One analog input for battery voltage sensing up to 26V.
  • Communications ports: three SPI ports (two SPI channels) for expansion, one RX port specifically designed for connecting to a Spektrum satellite receiver, or Futaba S.Bus receiver. Small and easily mountable: 30mmx50m with four M3 mounting holes.
  • Easy firmware updates: Updating firmware is done over USB, no special hardware is required, just a USB cable

What are the pledge levels?

Last time we made the mistake of offering many different pledge levels, making it an almost impossible task to deal with the logistics and fulfilment of multiple versions of a product.  This time we have one and only one pledge level.  There are multiple pledges to pick from, they are all identical except for the shipping date.

- With all of the pledges, you will receive: one Thalamus MK8 unit.  That is all.

This is what you get.  The table is not included
This is what you get. The table is not included

- The first few backers will also receive their Thalamus packaged in this limited edition tin.  We have limited numbers of this tin so only the first handful will receive one.

Does what it says on the tin
Does what it says on the tin

- Stretch Goals: Let's talk about stretch goals if/when we reach our target.  In the mean time we're always open to suggestions.

- Volume pricing and resellers: We have been contacted by several people already about volume pricing, we are interested in doing this, so please email us!

What makes Thalamus different?

There are many IMU boards out there, with different levels of performance, features, and price points.  What makes Thalamus stand out?

- Highest Performance in its price category: Packing a fast 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller clocked at 72MHz, nobody can say we're skimping on the processing power, it's how we can run our quaternion AHRS at 400Hz in software floating point and still have plenty of clock cycles to do all the other stuff.  We've got native USB, drag & drop firmware uploading, and all of the above features, a lot more than you might expect for a small board of this price.

- Easy to use, plug and play: for most projects that need an IMU, as long as you have a spare USB, UART (just RX is enough), or SPI port available, you can begin using Thalamus right away - there's no assembly or coding of Thalamus needed, just read the data in using you standard libraries, and decode it.

- Designed for hobbyists and academia: we come from a hobbyist background, our very first product was Forebrain, a low cost Cortex M3 development board.  We are engineering graduates, we know the needs of academia and research projects from undergraduate-level and above.  We understand the needs of both hobbyists, students, and academia, and Thalamus is designed to meet those needs.  If you're a hobbyist, student, or researcher, Thalamus is designed for you.

Why a Thalamus Kickstarter?

We're already shipping 450 Thalamus MK7 units as part of the R10 Quadrotor kickstarter project, and already users are starting to use and improve the codebase.  But Thalamus is more than a flight controller, it's low cost and small size makes it a useful piece of kit for projects, allowing hobbyists and academia to build projects that react and sense motion or orientation or magnetic fields.

Over two years of  refinement and improvement, we've managed to drive the costs right down while maintaining the necessary level of speed and performance.  We've also built extensive experience developing quadrotor systems.  But now we need your help, to kickstart a developer community for Thalamus, to work alongside our existing community using Thalamus as part of the R10 Quadrotor system.

Risks and challenges

We've had supply issues in the past with the R10 Quadrotor system, many of which stem from waiting for an out-of-stock chip from a single supplier, and other issues with the logistics and manufacturing. We've learned a great deal during that process, and this time round we are doing everything we can to mitigate or limit these problems. Here's a summary:

Many of our supply problems with the previous R10 kickstarter arose from backer quantities being significantly higher than expected. This time we have limited the first batch quantity to avoid this problem.

For the previous kickstarter, we were using a single source for our components in order to enjoy price breaks on the higher order quantities. However this causes delays when the supplier did not have enough stock. This time we are using multiple suppliers, and the limited first batch size also avoids this.

The previous kickstarter was also a significantly larger project, with many parts, many suppliers, and many production steps. This Kickstarter is much simpler, with only a handful of suppliers and two production steps.

Previously we were a three-man team, we've since then picked up several more members, and so we are more able to manage the logistics of production.

We also took on many of the suggestions of our backers, in one notable instance, we took the suggestion of one backer and changed to a different barometer chip. This turned out to be a really bad idea, not only did it delay production as prototypes had to be made and tested, but it turned out that even though bench-testing showed a similar performance compared with the old chip, the real-world performance is significantly worse. We learned our lesson: when it comes to our product, we should stand firm to our decisions. And never change the hardware at the last minute.

Finally, we are streamlining everything as much as possible and we have limited the project to just two pledge levels, and one product in order to simplify logistics and fulfilment.

Our experience with the previous project was that quality checks are vital, we've been let down in the past by suppliers and manufacturers who cut corners and don't perform proper quality control. This time we are using suppliers whom we trust and have demonstrated their reliability, and we are also performing our own quality checks.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $58 or more About $58

    Thalamus IMU. First batch.

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $58 or more About $58

    Thalamus IMU. Second batch.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    6 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (30 days)