Atlas Scientific is on a mission to make high-quality sensors for environmental monitoring available to everyday hackers and makers. All of their kits are easy to calibrate and connect to your microcontroller-based project.
Color light sensors are awesome devices for everything from environmental sensors to general robotics. They can be used to monitor slowly changing events like algae blooms or leaf death, or to determine light absorption through a medium. But for all their utility, they have some flaws. First off, they can be complicated to interface to since RGB data often has to be derived using complex signal processing. Secondly, they're less than rugged, and when you want to deploy one in the field you need a device that can stand up to the weather. Even moisture in the air can make an unprotected sensor unreliable.
Atlas solved these problems by embedding the light sensor in a rugged housing below a layer of transparent epoxy which protects the sensor from moisture while still allowing light to get in. The resulting light probe is water- and dust-proof, sleet and ice tolerant, non reactive in salt water and will readily sink when submerged. On top of all that, it provides both RGB level (in 8-bit RGB format) and light intensity (in lux) as simple comma separated strings over RS-232!
If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Rookie - You will need a better fundamental understand of what code is, and how it works. You will be using beginner-level software and development tools like Arduino. You will be dealing directly with code, but numerous examples and libraries are available. Sensors or shields will communicate with serial or TTL.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Competent - You will be required to reference a datasheet or schematic to know how to use a component. Your knowledge of a datasheet will only require basic features like power requirements, pinouts, or communications type. Also, you may need a power supply that?s greater than 12V or more than 1A worth of current.
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Once I was able to get the sample code working, I was fascinated by how well this sensor was able to determine the color of things. It was able to pick up even minor hues of change in the color and it even was able to register some darker grey-ish black parts. A great find!
The sensor more or less works as advertised, but the color values aren't directly translatable to monitor RBG values, which was somewhat disappointing to my son who was trying to use it to identify Lego bricks. Needs calibration and/or correct lighting to deal with the values coming out.
A big plus however is the sensor outputs a simple string of R,G,B values that are easy to understand and process.
Atlas has already replaced this unit with a new version. The new version has integrated LEDs and is fully calibrated against them. I imagine it would give better color interpretation and the values it gives out are more directly translatable to monitor RGB values.