It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that in the 11 years that Arduino electronics boards have existed, the world’s become a pretty amazing place, technology-wise. Much of it is thanks to Arduino and similar boards, though the true credit goes to the creative minds that think up novel solutions to all of life’s frustrations. Before Arduino, they’d need a solid electrical engineering background to even attempt some of the ideas that are now trivial to tinkerers everywhere.
The beauty of these hobbyist boards is that they make interfacing with almost anything as easy as programming a few lines of code. Want a smartphone-operated garage door opener? Easy. Thinking your coffee maker could use its own Twitter account? No sweat. Want a bathroom mirror that can tell you if you should bother doing your hair? You’ve got this.
These miniature, expandable, upgradeable computers with open-standards interfaces allowed for anyone to do just about anything they want with technology. Then, “the cloud” came along and upped the ante. Off-loading processing power to large corporations like Amazon and Google has allowed inventors to incorporate some pretty advanced technology into their small electronics projects. A perfect example would be these “dumb blinds made smart” by Imgur user yavin0427. Combining an Arduino board with some servo motors, a few gears, and his window blinds, yavin0427 pipes everything through Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, he can now talk to his blinds and boy, do they listen.
While there are now some commercial options for "smart blinds" available, they start at around $300 per window and go up from there. And that's before you add the actual smart control system. It only took yavin0427 about $100 in parts to automate three windows, with voice control, and he didn't even have to switch out his existing window treatments.
He found a deal on a five-pack of servo motors and had the gears laser cut to his specifications out of plexiglass.
From there, it was a simple matter of using an Arduino board and Amazon's Alexa to control the servos. He incorporated a Samsung SmartThings expansion shield into his Arduino setup to allow further home automation projects to communicate with each other. For instance, he could decide he'd like the blinds to close automatically if it's bright out and he's watching television. The possibilities are endless!
The boards are designed to work with no soldering necessary.
The low-tech blinds before their transformation:
The biggest change to the blinds themselves was removing the worm gear that turns a twist of the dangling stick into blind control.
Instead, a custom-made gear (which ended up needing a little last-minute trimming) is fitted and the servo is mounted above.
The total motion required to open and close the blinds is 180 degrees, which just so happens to allow room to leave the control arm on the servo. This protrusion is handy in case of a power or Internet outage.
You can see it in its full glory in this short video, complete with audio of the voice commands.
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