Ivan Tadeu Ferreira Antunes Filho

MAS.865 | How to Make what makes (almost) Anything

Make MIT

with Allan Costa

Make MIT is the MIT makeathon, a hackathon intended for people to build physical things, or to build devices that interact with the real world. Allan and I registered for it last year and had since then been brainstorming projects. One week before Make MIT we were discussing between trying to build a CNC machine, making AR mods, engravers, graplers, light shows, etc. In the end we choose to add AR to mods since it was the project that we were most excited about and that would probably impress the most the competition jury.


We created a AR interface for Mods. This allowed us to use a phone to point to the devices, recognize the devices through the phone camera, and click to connect it to other devices. It also allowed us to very easily identify the information and state of the devices.

This could be useful to more easily inspect devices and/or to build modular machines since it allows us to very fast connect their multiple parts, as long as there is a common interface for the parts.


Mods is a project lead by Prof. Neil Gershenfeld in the CBA that allows one connect modules, i.e. devices that do very specific tasks, using a friendly web interface. It allows people to use a web-browser to connect devices and do computation. By doing so it can be used to build modular machines that do a variety of tasks.


AR is augmented reality. We augment the feed from a camera with extra information to help the user interact with the devices. AR We used AR.js to modify mods. It seems that Unity would also be an option(that could possibly be faster and easirt), but in order to keep the mods project pure javascript, we used this library.

Devices to interface

Using photons, a single board device by particle, we built multiple small devices capable of receiing and sending data. We could control small speakers, a motor, a potentiometer, led strips, photo detector, and LEDs. We were also going to connect a microphone; however, the competition ran out of microphones before we could get one. Photons made our task simpler, because we could simply use the Particle database to store the value of the data captured by our devices, as well as to store the commands that the devices should run.

Instead of photons, we could use any device as long as we had implemented a simple database capable of storing the data captured by the devices and capable of communicating this data. The devices would listen for commands (either by WiFi, bluetooth or another form of communication), and act accordingly. In other words, any device capable of interfacing with mods could be used.


The project worked surprisingly well, and was a proof of concept that connecting devices using AR could be easily done by using the open source tools available to us at the moment. Video results and more photos can be seen on Allan’s post