Say Peek-a-boo to Chintoo!

Meet Chintoo, the adorable Particle Photon-powered freeform desk assistant!

Hey there, little guy!

Mohit Bhoite has a knack for bringing life to his projects, and Chintoo, his latest creation, is no exception.

Lovingly crafted from brass sheet and rod, this freeform circuit sculpture sits elegantly on his desk, but does more than just look pretty.

Neatly tucked away inside the cage of brass rod that makes up Chintoo's head, behind its four-digit seven-segment face, sits a Particle Photon board.

The Particle Photon is a tiny, WiFi-capable dev board with some decent specifications under the hood, all for $19!

The Photon features:

  • Broadcom BCM43362 WiFi chip - 802.11b/g/n
  • STM32F205 120MHz Arm Cortex-M3 with 1MB flash and 128KB RAM

The Particle ecosystem is great for rapidly developing IoT product prototypes, but it can also scale seamlessly to support deployment of a product, removing a lot of the challenges that are found with deploying and managing large numbers of IoT devices.

Beyond device administration through a developer console and API, you can deploy specific firmware releases to specific devices/groups, administer OTA firmware updates and more.

What's more is the provision of webhooks allows...

What's this about webhooks?

Webhooks operate up on the Particle cloud layer, and work in conjunction with the Particle publish and subscribe services.

They sit and wait to see your device publish a specific event. Once they observe the device publish that event, they spring into life, and typically make a POST, GET or PUT request to a third-party, external service.

Should that request elicit a response from the third-party server, the response data will be read by the webhook, and by publishing the parsed response to yet another event, a device that is subscribed to listen to that same event is able to collect the all important data returned by the external service.

It sounds like a bit of ping pong, but this extra layer can make prototyping external requests far easier, removing the need to flash a new POST/GET request exchange onto the device each time.

Not only that, but one publish event from a device can now cascade into multiple requests to other services, enabling you to optimize how your device handles its on-air time; perfect for getting the most out of a battery powered application.

A custom JSON file can be used to help manage this whole process. Based around mustache, it uses a system of tag-based text and variable substiution.

Particle tags, such as {{{PRODUCT_USER_ID}}}, allow generic webhook requests and responses to to be applied to specific boards, or user groups, greatly simplifying the process of deploying to multiple units.

Chintoo utilizes this system to perform its interactions, for example, fetching and displaying the weather at Bhoite request. The webhook sits and waits for a request for weather data. Once it sees this, it fires off a request to the API of the weather data provider. When the data is returned, it is made available to Chintoo, and displayed on its face in a nicely minimalistic format.

Adorable digits

As far as the user interface, Chintoo packs a lot of personality into the space of a four-digit seven-segment display. With animations in place to simulate its eyes, Chintoo also can obviously cut to the chase and display numerals or text strings instead.

Bhoite does such a wonderful job at bending form and function into his projects, with Chintoo bearing all the characteristics of what we are used to seeing from Bhoite, in the form of beautiful soldered brass rod construction.

Where we see a deviation in the usual form, is with the introduction of 0.01" milled brass sheets, which elegantly lift Chintoos head above the milled walnut base upon which he sits.

These sheets are milled using Bhoite's Bantam Tools CNC mill, and turned out just great. Milling thin sheet is notorious for inducing vibration in the workpeice, and with fine detials and geometries calling for fine diameter tooling (1/32" diameter used here), this can be a disasterious combination- something we're glad to see has been avoided here!

The results are crisp, clean tooling paths, which you could be forigven for thinking were photoetched or stamped.

Pulling it all together, this is a striking example of some of ther alternative ways you can assemble a fully functional circuit. While it might not scale to production volumes, this besoke, bouitiqe digital steampunk-esque aesthetic oozes the love and skill that goes into building it.

You can check out the latest creations from Mohit Bhoite on Twitter, or on his site here.

Tom Fleet
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