Inspiration

I was tired of having to fumble for the pause button when I got up from the computer or when a teammate came to my cubicle to talk to me without waiting for me to pause my music. I thought there must be a better way. Why should I adapt to technology when it could adapt to me?

What it does

Smart Beats knows when you are wearing them and automatically pauses Spotify, Pandora, Netflix or even youtube when you take them off. And then it resumes them when you put them back on. It also uses an Amazon Echo to silently listen for your name or other keywords and rumbles your headphones so you know someone is trying to talk to you.

How we built it

Smart Beats was built from a pair of beats that we embedded a set of sensors and a wifi based microcontroller called the Particle. The Particle reads in data from the sensors and used the combined data to make a best estimate of whether the headphones are on your head. We featured a flex sensor, a tilt sensor, and a light sensor. We were able to visualize our sensor data using Keysight's BenchVue (TestFlow) technology and using this data we were able to determine which sensors were most reliable and what their threshold for detection should be. A java program polls the particle from your computer and sends appropriate play/pause commands to your program. The listening feature was built on an Amazon Echo that we integrated with our Java program using an SQS Queue.

Challenges we ran into

We hoped a flex sensor was going to give us a lot of good insight based on the flex of the band, but the sensor turned out to not have a ton of sensitivity and provided little resolution. We were able to integrate more sensors to overcome this. In the software it was particularly difficult to get Alexa connected with our program the way we wanted. Also difficult was deciding how to implement the pause/play feature so that it would work across multiple applications. We also ran into scheduling problems with a blocking server call.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

It works! We were able to resolve the sensor data reliably enough to determine if the headphone were being worn. The pause/play features work on any application that allows a spacebar to pause or play. (Which are surprisingly many). We are also proud of the connection to the Amazon Echo which actively listens for Cameron's name in order to alert him to his surroundings.

What we learned

Learning to work with the Particle was cool. It made it really easy to connect to the internet and write small programs to control it with very little learning curve. In terms of software, We learned more about API's, post/get requests, SQS queues, node.js, and communicating over a wireless network.

What's next for Smart Beats

The form factor could be improved to embed more of the wires and microcontroller inside of the headphones. We would want to make sure it works on all platforms and OSs and even expand to mobile platforms.

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