Seeeduino XIAO – The Small but Powerful Arduino Board

Seeedstudio XIAO Product Page
Seeedstudio XIAO WIKI
(Crossposted from cyberarms.wordpress.com)

Stuck at home because of the quarantine, and looking for something to do? Look no further, how about creating a DIY project with Seeeduino XIAO! Seeedstudio sent me their newest Arduino board and several Grove sensors for testing and review. I honestly have to say, I haven’t had this much fun playing with hardware in a long time!

I will give a quick overview of the Seeeduino XIAO and show a few examples of it interfacing with sensors. My personal goal for using the XIAO is twofold, to make smarter “Magic Mirrors”, and Red Team Pentest drop boxes. In this article, I quickly show how I used a XIAO and an LED Ring in an Arduino Magic Mirror. In future articles, I will show how to make smarter drop boxes with Grove sensors (I talk about one way to do this in my previous Seeed article).

Basically, imagine a Magic Mirror that turns on when you enter the room. Or one that could display a changing color bar that syncs with music. For my pentester friends, imagine smart drop boxes, ones that only scan for WiFi devices when there is a human in the room, or one that sleeps when the lights are off and only activates when someone turns the room lights on. All of this and more is/ should be possible with Grove sensors and an Arduino or Raspberry Pi board.

Alright, enough intro, let’s look at the Seeeduino XIAO!

The Hardware

The Seeeduino XIAO is Seeedstudio’s smallest Arduino board. It is about the size of a US Penny, and only about $5 – but it is a fully functional Arduino board. The tiny board comes with breadboard leads that you can solder to the board, if you wish. I haven’t soldered in a long time, so soldering the leads to the board was a little challenging at first, but then I found that just laying the tip on the middle top edge of every pin worked great!

You probably want your pins so they are longer on the bottom, so they will connect into the breadboard. For my future projects, I wanted the pins coming out the top of the board, so I can install it flush to the bottom of a case, so mine are “upside down”.

The Software

The Seeedstudio XIAO Wiki covers downloading the necessary drivers and setting up the Arduino environment, so I am not going to cover it.

Basically,

  • Download the Arduino IDE – https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software
  • Start Arduino IDE, follow the instructions in the WIKI on installing the XIAO board and configuring the correct port for it (Getting Started section)
  • Load the “Blink” program in the examples, and compile and upload it, to make sure everything is setup properly

That’s it! Your XIAO is now ready for your projects!

Mini Seeeduino & Grove Weather Station

Using the XIAO and a Grove Sensor together is a snap, they interface very easily together. Though, you will need to either use jumper wires or modify a Grove connector to connect them to the XIAO. On some sensors, like the High Precision Barometric Pressure Sensor (DPS310), you can just use female to female jumper wires.

Using the Barometric Sensor, you can quickly and easily create a mini weather station! Just follow the instructions on the Seeedstudio GitHub Page, make the correct wire connections, compile and run the program, switch to the Arduino monitor, and you will see both pressure and temperature settings. This is shown in the picture above.

Login to a Raspberry Pi Through a XIAO

Another cool thing you can do with the XIAO is use it as a USB to serial interface. One use for this setup is to login to a Raspberry Pi through a Windows 10 USB connection!

Complete instructions for doing this can be found in the XIAO Wiki, just follow the steps to wire your Pi to your Arduino. Compile and load the program onto the XIAO. Run Putty on your Windows 10 system, configuring it to connect to the XIAO Com port. Then power on your Pi, configure it to allow the Serial Terminal in Raspi-Config, or set the Uart command in config.txt (instructions in the Wiki) and you are good to go.

Once everything is setup, hit, “enter” in the Putty terminal and you will see the Raspberry Pi login screen! As seen in the picture above – How cool is that?

Grove LED Ring

The Seeed Wiki doesn’t cover how to use the Grove LED ring with the XIAO, but it is very easy. Just follow the instructions given on the Grove Ring Wiki:

  • Connect the LED ground to XIAO ground, +V to 3.3 on the XIAO, and Signal to pin 6.
  • Install the Grove LED ring Library
  • Then run any of the bottom (not the first) programs listed in the Grove Wiki

And you should see something like the picture below:

That’s it, you can quickly and easily control the LED ring with the XIAO!

The nice thing is that you can use the XIAO as a very cost-effective LED controller in your projects. For example, I used mine in an Android Magic Mirror that I made a while back. Magic mirrors are very easy to make, I just used an old Android tablet, Magic Mirror software (there are several to choose from), a large picture frame and a piece of one-way glass that fit into the frame. The Android display shines through the 1-Way glass and seems to appear in the mirror.

I mounted the XIAO and the LED ring into my magic mirror and it worked fantastic!

The LED ring, powered by the XIAO showed extremely well through the Magic Mirror glass. Again, this is a “step one” proof of concept kind of thing. Additional work with straight LED’s and you could light the entire edges up, or possible, with something like a Raspberry Pi, you should be able to get the LED ring to sync to music as a song played.

Conclusion

I only briefly covered a handful of possibilities with using the XIAO. As I mentioned earlier, this board was a lot of fun to tinker with, it is a great project board for small and large projects alike. I really look forward to using this in future drop box and Magic Mirror projects. If you want something a little larger, with built in Wi-Fi and an LCD screen, I will be reviewing the WIO Terminal soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: