This project used an Atmega644 microcontroller clocked at 20MHz in each of the two functional modules for processing. Memory storage is provided by a standard Secure Digital (SD) card. Xbee modules provide bidirectional wireless communication and we use the TLV5616 DAC chip for generating analog audio. The LM358 dual op amp provides active filtering to the output of the DAC. Music files can be added to the SD card using any computer with a multimedia card reader. Once the base station detects an SD card inserted into the holder, it awaits data requests from the portable module. The portable module requests data when required and feeds these values into the DAC. The DAC output is low-pass filtered by the op amp, which also buffers the DAC output before it reaches the audio output jack.
The portable module can send navigation commands (play, stop, next track or previous track) to the base station, where they are implemented. These control signals are transmitted over the Xbee as well. The SD card and Xbee modules operate at 3.3V, while all our other hardware required a 5V power supply. Extra power regulation was required to enable the use of these devices. In addition, we needed circuitry to allow 3.3V devices to interface safely with 5V microcontrollers while allowing a throughput on the order of several hundred kilobits per second.
Initially, we had planned to use an mp3 decoder IC in our project. However, the chip we obtained did not work and debugging it took up a lot of our design time. We then decided to stream in the uncompressed .wav data format instead.
Since streaming audio is a very bandwidth intensive task, it is hard to accomplish with cheap RF hardware. We had thought about transmitting the audio as an amplitude-modulated analog wave. However, this mode of transmission would be very sensitive to environmental noise. Since the Xbee modules offered enough bandwidth to get passable audio quality with a digital transmission method, we decided to use them instead.
The RF baud rate of the Xbee modules we used was 250 Kbps. However, the overhead of the 802.15.4 protocol meant that the actual maximum transfer rate attainable was much lower. Due to this limitation, we had to limit our music data to a resolution of 8 bits at a sampling rate of 8 KHz. This resulted in a net required bandwidth of 64 Kbps for consistent audio playback. The 8 bit resolution of the music data reduced the quality of the sound, but the limitation was a necessary consequence of our wireless hardware and the lack of any usable audio compression schemes.
Standards and Copyrights:
This project used the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for the wireless link. We used a pair of Xbee devices that implement this protocol. SD card technology is patented and use of the SD mode interface requires an expensive license. We used the SPI interface instead, which lacks access to encryption and speed features available in the SD interface, but is free to use. The SD cards used were formatted in the FAT file system. Part of the FAT standard is patented by Microsoft, but it pertains to implementing long file name extensions in devices made for sale. We did use the file name extension feature of FAT in our software. However, we are not planning on commercializing our music player, so the patent does not apply in our case.
Base Station | Portable Module
Photograph of the base station
Figure 2: Photograph of the base station hardware setup with superimposed functional divisions. Click within an area to view details about that circuit. 1. Xbee Transceiver Module
- This module provides wireless communication to/from the base station and the portable module at the ISM band of 2.4 GHz. The four pins connected are 3.3V, ground and the serial communication lines. 2. Microcontroller Board
- The standard 4760 prototyping board pictured above is populated with an Atmega644...
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