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Sweet Apps

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We usually reach for our Red Bull energy drinks early in the morning instead of coffee, or late at night to help us focus, but now Red Bull is giving us something new to reach for—breaking an aerospace record using NI LabVIEW.


The mission of Red Bull Stratos will take renowned base-jumper and pilot Felix Baumgartner to 120,000 feet above earth on the very edge of space. From there he will attempt a stratospheric free-fall jump, the longest in the history of man, with hopes to break the speed of sound with his own body. 


Red Bull Stratos is using LabVIEW software to help prepare for this incredible feat. When technical project director, Art Thompson, was asked about his experiences with LabVIEW he had nothing but positive things to say. Check out a screenshot of Red Bull Stratos using LabVIEW from their “Mission to the Edge of Space” YouTube video.


Red Bull Stratos’ attempt to break the speed of sound with the human body will make history and deliver valuable findings for medical and scientific advancement that will aid in the exploration of space in future years. Red Bull may give us wings, but they’re also changing space flight and aeronautical research forever, with some help from LabVIEW.


>> How else is LabVIEW getting into space? Check out this space elevator.


>> Check out the Red Bull Stratos video.




As part of a research study by Future University Hakodate, students in Japan and the UK are collaborating in real-time to program a robot to follow specific circuits. The students have similar LEGO robots programmed using NXT MINDSTORMS 2.0 software.


All communication between the students takes place inside a customized virtual space called “futureuni” using OpenSim. Students control avatars that use a number of uniquely developed tools to facilitate communication between countries. For example, there is a virtual whiteboard where students can upload JPEG images such as screen captures and digital photos, as well as a virtual media player where a live video stream from the physical lab in Japan is broadcasted into the virtual space.



By capturing all the communication in the virtual space and in the physical world, head researcher Michael Vallance can monitor the development of students’ cognition and knowledge. In the next phase of research, he plans to design and build a simulated virtual nuclear power plant using ReactionGrid’s Jibe 3D toolkit.


>> Love MINDSTORMS? Check out this student-built LEGO U.S. Space Shuttle.


Antarctica, the world’s fifth largest continent, is the coldest, the emptiest, and the windiest place on earth. Although it contains 90% of the world’s ice and 70% of the world’s fresh water, it gets so little precipitation that it’s technically considered a desert. The general climate is so hostile, with average temperatures hovering around -50°C, that there are no land mammals or permanent residents. So... let’s go!


This February, NI India field engineer Paras Loomba traveled to Antarctica as part of the 2041 International Antarctic Expedition. 2041 was founded by explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan, OBE, the first person in history to walk to both the North and South poles. The goal of the expedition was to provide corporate leaders, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and teachers with first-hand knowledge about climate change in the Antarctic peninsula.



Loomba used NI wireless sensor network (WSN) products throughout the trip. For example, he monitored the temperature one night when they camped out, successfully measuring temperature from 2 degrees to -6 degrees Celsius and withstanding wind velocity of 50 knots.


Because 2041 encourages the use of renewable energy whenever possible, Loomba used a solar battery to power the monitoring setup. Later in the trip, he collaborated with the participants from Lloyd’s Register Group, using their small wind turbine to power the WSN gateway.



>> Learn more about our low-power, reliable WSN platform.

>> See how engineers are using LabVIEW and PXI to investigate the inner workings of glaciers and ice sheets.

>> Check out Paras’ Facebook page recounting the expedition.


Captain Kirk had it right when he called space the final frontier! Whether it’s what constitutes dark matter or what causes pulsars to rotate, there are many questions left to answer. Luckily, the High-Energy Density Plasma Physics (HEDP) group at UCLA is currently working to solve some of these mysteries. They’re using a high-energy laser system to create the conditions needed for a phenomenon called astrophysical collisionless shocks. Basically, a dense plasma interacts with a highly magnetized plasma to produce shocks that have been found in things like supernova explosions and meteorite impacts.


Their high-energy laser system consists of three lasers named Phoenix, Raptor, and Peening. To give you an idea of how powerful these lasers are, the Raptor laser can hit a 0.1 mm target with a terawatt of power, which is roughly equivalent to the power produced by 1000 large nuclear power plants. Put another way, that’s comparable to focusing all of the sunlight hitting the Earth's surface onto your hand. (We don’t recommend doing that, for the record.)


Because the requirements needed to run these three lasers safely is beyond manual human control, the group turned to LabVIEW to design a software package that could control the laser system. They’re also using CompactRIO to monitor the lasers using cameras, scopes, and other diagnostics; control critical components like beam shutters, motors, and vacuum lines; and maintain the interlock safety system.


And if controlling insanely powerful lasers wasn’t cool enough, check out the user interface that one of the HEDP group members built from scratch for their system:




Look familiar? They modeled their GUI after LCARS, the computer operating system used in Star Trek. It took NPSC Graduate Fellow Derek Schaeffer about a month to build the basic graphical components needed to create LCARS frames, fonts, sounds (yes, there are sounds too), and standard controls. He completed most of the graphical designs using Microsoft PowerPoint and imported them as pictures into LabVIEW custom controls.


>> Learn how G Systems used LabVIEW and CompactRIO to build three test systems for a space exploration vehicle.


Does it ever bother you when someone leaves the lights on? Aside from energy efficiency concerns, it can get troublesome to keep checking lights around your house. This sweet app, created by a group of students from the Islamic University of Gaza, makes it so your home will be smart enough to take care of its lights – and a whole lot more.


The students said that their application delivers two essentials – comfort and safety. Using NI LabVIEW software, they created a system to control and monitor various things around a house (see chart below).



The lights are connected to motion detectors so that they turn on when someone walks into a room and the intensity of the light is also controlled by the user. As with temperature, the user can indicate settings and have them change automatically at certain times of day. They also had a sun cell that sent its reading to their LabVIEW program, which then toggled the external lights on and off.

A central UI was created through which the user could control the various systems. The program also sends text (SMS) notifications in case of fire or robbery emergencies aside from setting off an alarm. The controls were accessible through a local network so that it could be pulled up in a browser, and all the data was collected in an excel file.



>> What sweet apps have you created to help with common household chores? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail us at


>> Check out the Smart House Student Design Competition submission for the LabVIEW code and more information.


A Really Sweet App

Posted by Laura_Arnold Feb 23, 2012

Talk about having your cake and eating it too! The Rocket City LabVIEW User Group in Huntsville, AL, had the following dessert made to celebrate their first meeting of the year.



Mmm... tastes like graphical system design.


Interested in meeting up with fellow LabVIEW enthusiasts? LabVIEW user groups meet regularly to discuss various programming techniques, technologies, application design patterns, and much more. Plus, there’s free food (though we can’t promise there will always be cakes like the above masterpiece).


>> Find a user group in your area.


Behold, the latest miracle pill! It won’t instantly make you a genius or help you lose 20 pounds, but it can monitor what medications you have taken, when you took them, what manufacturer produced them, and other important physiological data.


Researchers at Proteus Biomedical have joined forces with JKI, an NI Silver Alliance Partner, to fine-tune developments on a groundbreaking new system called Raisin. The system consists of a small bandage-like wearable monitor and a digestible pill containing a sensor. The digestible sensor is bonded to the patient’s pill, and stomach acid activates the sensor once the pill is swallowed.



JKI used LabVIEW to develop operations that communicate through Bluetooth connectivity to the sensors. This allows the sensors to know what information to gather and how to transmit it. It also helped them run diagnostic tests to ensure the system worked properly. They used LabVIEW to develop production tests, verify the system, and create testing tools.


Based on this, the sensor can communicate acquired data to user-friendly, customized displays on mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computers, and patients can choose who to share the information with, including family members and doctors. Raisin can also help avoid lethal drug and allergy combinations and can help better monitor the health of children and the elderly.



>> Check out another amazing medical application that uses LabVIEW: a miniature robot that can crawl around a beating heart.




They both made appearances in this year's Super Bowl!


It’s no secret that over 30,000 different companies use NI products to develop measurement and control systems. Our products have been featured on some of television’s nerdiest shows, such as Deadliest Warrior and Mythbusters. But this year NI DIAdem made it to primetime television with a cameo in the most watched Super Bowl ad in history l-in-history.html.


While watching the Super Bowl this year, one of our employees caught a glimpse of something familiar in one of the many car commercials. After investigating and playing back every single automotive commercial, we spotted DIAdem in the Cadillac ATS Green Hell commercial! DIAdem is used to quickly access, process, and report on large volumes of data to help engineers make informed decisions.




Including National Instruments’ technology in a Super Bowl ad is a testament to how our tools are driving innovation across a wide variety of industries. We can’t wait to see the next big thing engineers accomplish with our platform!



>> Learn more about how DIAdem can help you overcome the limitations of Microsoft Excel.

>> Find out why Europe’s vehicle safety program standardized on a DIAdem-based system for crash tests.


Happy Valentine's Day, Sweet Apps readers! We LabVIEW very much.


At National Instruments we help make the dreams of engineers and scientists come true on a daily basis—and sometimes we’re the Cupid that brings two companies together.


In 2010 Intel and Sisu Devices—an NI Alliance Partner—met at NIWeek, and it was love at first byte. Okay, not really, but they did decide to work together to develop a demo based on “Pipe Dream,” a computer-animated music video created by Animusic in 2004. Sisu calls it the “Pipe Dream Demo” and Intel calls it the “Industrial Control in Concert Demo,” but whatever you want to call it, this demo showcases the ability to create a robotic orchestra. That’s right, no humans play this concert, just machines and some NI LabVIEW code.


Using NI hardware and software, the two lovebirds created this real-world masterpiece in only 90 days in time for the Intel Developers Forum. They used LabVIEW to implement the entire system, and LabVIEW Real-Time was the real-time operating system used on most of the embedded controllers throughout the system. How sweet is that?

If you'd like to see this demo in person, it will be on display in Intel's booth at the Embedded World trade show in Nuremberg, Germany, from February 28 - March 1. National Instruments will also have a booth at the show, so come visit us in Hall 4, Booth 4-422!



>> Learn more about building embedded control and monitoring applications with NI products.

>> Interested in musical Sweet Apps? Check out this piano-playing robot.





Tornados are a mystery of twists and turns to many people, but the meteorological scientists at TWISTEX, are studying them every day to uncover the secrets (and data) behind this weather phenomenon.  When it came time for the team to develop a new way of collecting and recording data, they turned to NI for the hardware and software to get the job done.


TWISTEX is a team of scientists that measure the sound, temperature, air pressure, wind speed and direction of tornados.  Recently, they developed a sturdy, stand-alone instrument that can capture, analyze, store, and report data that is inexpensive, lightweight, and simple to use. 




By using NI CompactDAQ hardware, LabVIEW, NI DIAdem, and an NI 3110 industrial controller, TWISTEX scientists created an instrument that can do everything they need and then some.  (Read about the company’s research and the instrument here.)  By using NI products, TWISTEX’s new instrument is also the first meteorological instrument that can measure audio from inside a tornado.  The data collected by the TWISTEX team is used in research to better understand and predict atmospheric conditions and severe weather patterns.


>> Watch Tim Samaras of TWISTEX talk about his passion for chasing and studying storm systems at NIWeek 2011.


>> Check out the case study here.


Would you like a free pass to NIWeek? Submit your technical paper to the Graphical System Design Achievement Awards and you could win one conference pass to NIWeek 2012, August 6-9 in Austin, Texas.


The Graphical System Design Achievement Awards is the National Instruments worldwide technical application contest for sharing your most innovative graphical system design projects using NI software and hardware. A judging committee of technical experts reviews the submissions and selects a finalist and winner for each application category. Read about the application categories here.


All selected finalist and winner papers are published on and displayed at the Austin Convention Center during NIWeek. Each finalist also receives one conference pass to NIWeek 2012 ($1350 USD) and an opportunity to network with industry leaders, trade press, and NI leadership at the invitation-only awards ceremony and dinner on August 7, 2012. The recipient of the Customer Application of the Year Award also receives a one-year NI Training and Certification program membership valued at $1,999 USD.


The deadline for submissions is March 30, 2012.


>> To enter for a chance to win, visit


Imagine a world where race cars run cleanly and don't emit any harmful toxins into the environment. 20 engineering masters students studying at Group T International University College in Leuven, Belgium, helped move us closer to this reality by developing both an electric and a hybrid race car which they assembled and converted in two Citroën 2CV's.

The electric vehicle is called the Odyssee (58). Its front wheels are driven by a switched reluctance motor (SRM), and this is the first time a race car is equipped with this kind of motor. The big advantage of this motor is that it doesn't use magnetic material, it uses DC (switched) power which makes it more efficient than an asynchronous motor. The team is using CompactRIO to read out throttle, position, and temperature sensors and to communicate with the motorcontroller to allow current to flow to the motor.


The hybrid car, Pegasus (85), contains an original 2CV engine extended by an injection system to run on bio-ethanol (E85). Additional power is unleashed when an extra electric motor in the back is activated. This motor contains its own battery pack.

No true advancements can be made without steady progress. The CQS Group T Racing Team has successfully participated in the 24h02'CV race at Spa-Francorchamps. The team placed third in the experimentals with Pegasus, which was a significant accomplishment.

>> Check out more automotive student design projects here.


Stay Smelly, My Friends

Posted by mlax Jan 24, 2012

We all get a little body odor here and there. It’s just a good way to remind ourselves to go take a shower. But did you ever think your body odor could be the unique trait that helps security and automated recognition systems differentiate one human from the next?


Thanks to scientists from Mahidol University, we now have a reason to keep our body odor nice and smelly. They have created a sweet app that recognizes and identifies people by the unique chemical make-up of their body odor. Similar to facial recognition or fingerprinting, this new biometric technology may be the future in secure access to things such as buildings, computer systems, laptops, cell phones, and ATMs.The scientists were able to analyze the unique chemical pattern that each person emits by designing an artificial olfactory system based on LabVIEW and NI hardware.




They used the NI USB-6008 multifunction data acquisition (DAQ) device to control what the device could smell, and the air flow coming through the system.It also helped to read eight gas sensors with an 8-channel analog multiplexer. LabVIEW was used to write the measurement software and the real-time principal component analysis (PCA) allowing for this automated human body odor recognition system to stop and smell the armpits.





>>  Read the full case study




>>  Learn more about NI data acquisition devices like the NI USB-6008


Seeing houses lit up is one of the signs that the holidays are here - some of us may still even have them up to help prolong the holiday cheer. There are some creative minds among us that take holiday décor to another level (read: Andy Coulson’s DIY Christmas suit). Surely, if your lights were as impressive as Lockheed engineer John Klepacz’s display, you would be in no hurry to take them down.

For John, getting lights at the store was not enough. He applied his engineering skills to making his house not just shine – but also dance. Using NI technology, items from eBay, and things lying around his house, he was able to create a beautiful light display that he synchronized to music.



In total, the display is composed of 12,000 lights. He also built the arches and the trees himself. The arches are made using a wiring harness. His “mini mega tree” was built with LEDs and things he had laying around the house – a wooden closet rod, metal fence post, 2x6s from his porch, and muffler clamps. He even built his own extension cords.


John used two NI PCI-DIO-96 cards, a relay driver board, 36 solid state relays, and a program he created in NI LabVIEW to control the lights. Here’s a screenshot of his main control panel:

LV front panel.jpg

Check out his YouTube channel for more light shows and explanatory videos.

It doesn’t end there. This year, John has already planned to add another 36 channels (for a total of 72 channels) and another 3,000 lights. He has already purchased the hardware and some of the lights.

>> Do you or someone you know have a great holiday decoration project? Let us know in the comments!

>> For more DIY projects, join the DIY LabVIEW Crew.


Happy New Year! I’m sure many of you are looking forward to the exciting new things that 2012 has to offer. Being part of the Science and Big Physics team at National Instruments, I am personally very excited about what 2012 will bring on the particle physics front: the evidence of the existence of the Higgs Boson particle (i.e. God Particle)? Irrefutable proof  that neutrinos travel faster than light (OPERA Experiment)? My excitement comes from the fact that National Instruments platforms are used both in the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN and also for the OPERA experiment at Gran Sasso National Laboratory (LNGS) near L’Acquila, Italy. For more about the OPERA experiment and breaking the speed of light, read this article titled “Is Einstein’s Theory in Danger?” This Sweet Apps covers the Higgs Boson pursuit.


The LHC at CERN hosts six experiments and two (ATLAS and CMS) are dedicated to finding the Higgs Boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter. The quest for the ever-elusive Higgs Boson is the more commonly known objective behind the construction of LHC at CERN, where NI PXI and reconfigurable I/O (RIO) platforms control the collimator of the hadrons (either protons or lead ions) that go around the 27 km accelerator near the Swiss French border. Learn more about CERN and hear from the CERN scientists and engineers about how they are using NI products.



Perhaps you’ve read or heard something about the Higgs Boson, which in essence is the underlying foundation for the Standard Model for particle physics. Here is my high-level explanation for the non-physicists like me: the Higgs Boson is a hypothetical elementary particle associated with the Higgs field, proposed by Dr. Peter Higgs. The Higgs field gives the subatomic particles its mass. The more a subatomic particle interacts with the Higgs field, the higher its mass, which explains why sub-atomic particles that appear similar in size have different mass. The Higgs field consists of countless Higgs Bosons, just like if you are in water; it is filled with countless H2O molecules. The Higgs field and Higgs Boson is still theoretical and scientists are looking to validate the Standard Model by finding the Higgs Boson.


To find the Higgs Boson, scientists crash beams of protons into each other from opposite directions and massive detectors (CMS and ATLAS) are in place to detect Higgs Boson. The energy of the proton beam at full power is so high that it can melt a 1,100 pound block of copper.  As you can probably guess, it is extremely important that the protons from this high-energy beam do not stray from their path and are reliably controlled. This is where NI RIO and the PXI platform come in: CERN takes advantage of the reliability of the FPGA in the NI RIO platform and uses it to move blocks of graphite in place to absorb the protons that are not in the nominal path of the beam or, in other words, go astray. This process is commonly known as “collimation.” Since this is a 27 km tunnel, there are more than 100 of these collimators around the tunnel that have to be synchronized accurately and reliably.


>> Learn more about how the system works and how CERN engineers are using more than 200 PXI systems

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