Photo credit: Ninja Blocks Inc
The Ninja Sphere is the next generation of home automation from the team that brought the world Ninja Blocks. The Ninja Sphere is replacing the original Ninja Blocks kit and has a bunch of new capabilities, now supporting Bluetooth Smart devices and the ZigBee framework. It’s basically compatible with a ton of new devices, looks like a sleek glowing tech ball from a sci-fi movie and even has gesture control.
Photo credit: Leap Motion Inc
The Leap Motion is a wonderful piece of tech that allows you to control applications and devices using hand gestures. It tracks both hands and all ten fingers giving developers a futuristic alternative to the typical keyboard and mouse.
Since last year, things have stepped up in the world of the Leap Motion to some exciting new possibilities. They’ve got V2 of their hand tracking in beta which fine tunes tracking making it a great deal more reliable. They can now track individual bones in each finger!
V2 also provides an exciting new use for the Leap Motion – virtual reality. As exciting as virtual reality is, it is a bit offputting that you can’t see your hands. Bring in Leap Motion’s new Oculus mount and you can attach your Leap Motion to an Oculus VR headset, allowing you to interact with virtual worlds using your hands.
Photo credit: Pebble
Oh the Pebble watch… Don’t get me started on how wonderful this device is. I’m an outspoken Pebble enthusiast and have given entire talks on why people should get one! In an age before the Apple watch and Android Wear, the Pebble team were pioneering an incredibly functional, easy to use smartwatch that pairs with both iPhones and Android devices via Bluetooth. It uses an e-paper display making it easy to read in direct sunlight and battery life that lasts about a week between charges.
Photo credit: Oculus VR, LLC
The Oculus Rift headset has gotten us closer to easily accessible virtual reality than ever before. The Developer Kit 2 recently shipped this year with new iterations of the headset on the horizon – the “Crescent Bay” prototype and a Samsung Gear VR headset that uses the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
- vr.js – A plugin for Chrome and Firefox that provides access to the Oculus Rift headset, however it runs using NPAPI which Chrome is depreciating, so it might not be a good long term solution. I’ve been experimenting with OculusBridge instead.
- Babylon.js and IE11 – If you’ve got a PC with IE11, you can create a 3D environment using Babylon.js and then with a single line of code and a driver, pick up device orientation. From that you’ve got an Oculus Rift VR experience! It apparently doesn’t work for Chrome just yet but fingers crossed that happens soon.
Photo credit: The Hybrid Group
Photo credit: Arduino
We’ve been able to issue commands from remote Node servers to Arduinos a number of different ways over Node for a while now. They’ve always relied on the Arduino running its own C code which understands how to communicate with a Node server. This year saw the introduction of a new Arduino – the Arduino YUN. This Arduino is the first to have an installation of Linux running on the board, so you can set up and run a web server on your Arduino that talks to the Arduino itself, eliminating the need for a main server elsewhere to be issuing commands.
- Cylon.js module – It also has a Cylon.js module of its own that can be installed on the YUN.
Photo credit: Spark
Spark OS is an operating system in the cloud that allows Internet enabled devices to communicate. They have Spark Cores which are Wi-Fi enabled microcontroller boards similar to Arduinos (but much smaller than an Arduino Uno). You connect them up to a WiFi network and can send commands to the Spark Core board via their cloud platform. It is the easiest setup process I’ve gone through for an IoT device and has been the most reliable to hook up and use every time.
- spark-io – A module by voodootikigod who also did the Johnny-Five Arduino Node module.
- Sparky – A very simple Node.js library.
- Cylon.js module
Photo credit: Tessel
- Cylon.js module
Photo credit: Pur3 Ltd
- Official Espruino docs – A quick start guide followed by a bit more in depth stuff.
- node-espruino – A third party Node library for interfacing with the Espruino via Node.js.
Photo credit: Intel Corporation
- The “bigger” Linux image with Node.js – A guide from SparkFun on getting started with the SD card Linux option. Definitely the most powerful option with the most potential. It doesn’t cover how to use the Node.js server as it has a Python focus but it is the starting point.
- Cylon – Cylon’s module works if you have the SD card with the full powered Linux installed.
Photo credit: Google Inc
- Cardboard Chrome Experiments – Includes a bunch of demos and a code example. View source in the demos to see how it all works.
Photo credit: Thalmic Labs Inc
The Myo Armband uses the electrical activity in your muscles to control applications via hand gestures completely wirelessly. It is relatively new and is only just currently shipping its pre-orders. We’ll have a bunch of new developers giving this a go throughout the year and shall see just how well this new device works. I’m eagerly awaiting mine. There’s definitely huge potential with this technology.
Photo credit: Nest Labs
- Official sample JS for the Nest Thermostat
- Official sample JS for the Nest Protect
- Cylon.js module – Seems to focus on the thermostat functionality so far.
PatCat is the founder of Dev Diner, a site that explores developing for emerging tech such as virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and wearables. He is a SitePoint contributing editor for emerging tech, an instructor at SitePoint Premium and O'Reilly, a Meta Pioneer and freelance developer who loves every opportunity to tinker with something new in a tech demo.