The BlackBerry PlayBook Protects Your Milk from Aliens (Or: Using the BlackBerry PlayBook for Rapid Prototyping)

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Hi everyone! We’ve got a special treat for you today – Mathias and Fredrik, our friends at The Astonishing Tribe, have put together a great blog post about the Arduino™ platform. If you’re searching for E.T., this might be your best weapon – how? Find out below… – Ed.

Today’s consumer devices pack an unparalleled bang-for-your-buck, giving end users blazing-fast and high-performing products. This is more than “fine and dandy” for users in the intended demographic of the device, but what about users like ‘The Prototyper,’ ‘The Hobbyist,’ and ‘The Startup Techie,’ to name a few? You recognize them from their desire to change the way that we use devices; to disrupt the established models; to get their hands dirty and create something new.

Yep, people like us are especially excited by new devices, and in our experience the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet’s power and performance has no equal for tinkerers.

With the relative complexity of today’s electronics, it’s not feasible to start from scratch; you need good building blocks to implement your vision. You’ll want to use commercial off- the-shelf (COTS) components as much as possible and you most likely don’t want to be bound to a bulky PC.

Fortunately, we have the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. It’s a powerful and portable consumer tablet, with a great user interface and an open SDK. We find it is an ideal platform to host your UI, crunch data, and more.

So how do we get started prototyping our ideas with the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet? For electronics concepts: enter Arduino.


Arduino is:

“an open-source electronics-prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.”


Arduino platform has spawned an innovative and affordable range of products, ranging from various Arduino boards to meet your form-factor requirements to I/O boards (“shields”) that facilitate connectivity.

A Real World Problem

We need to catch the milk thief! Is there no justice in the world?

How can we protect our milk from aliens? Perhaps we can rig a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and use its camera to capture a photo of the nefarious milk thief. But the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet camera can’t see in the dark, making it difficult to detect intruders in a dark kitchen at night.

We’ll need a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, an infrared (“IR”) sensor, a servo to pan the sensor, and a way to control the servo as well as to handle the IR sensor.





The Arduino board uses an IR range sensor to find targets. The IR sensor is placed on a servo to scan the area of interest (e.g. kitchen). The data is sent to the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, on which we’ve built an application to present a sonar map and look for movement. If movement is detected, the application will sound an alarm and take a picture. The video above shows the system in action.

Now, let’s catch that thief and bring an end to domestic lactose thieving!

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