Producing Waveforms using Wave Generator module in the PSLab Android App

This blog will demonstrate how to produce different waveforms using the Wave Generator module in the PSLab android app and view them on the Oscilloscope.

The Wave Generator in PSLab android app is simple to use and has a UI which is similar to physical commodity wave generators. It is capable of producing different waveforms like sine, sawtooth and square wave.

Apparatus Required

Before getting started with the wave generator we require the following items:

  1. PSLab device
  2. An android phone with PSLab app installed in it.
  3. USB cable (Mini B)
  4. OTG(On the Go) wire
  5. Some connecting wires having pins at both ends

Understanding the Wave Generator Pins

Figure 1 shows the pin diagram of the PSLab device

Let me briefly explain the use of the pins that are going to be used in the Wave generator module:

S1 and S2 pins

The PSLab device contains two pins (S1, S2) which are capable of producing two independent analog waveforms (sine,  sawtooth) having different frequencies and phase offset. The frequency range is from 10Hz to 5Khz.

SQR1, SQR2, SQR3 and SQR4 pin

The SQR1 pin is used for producing the square waveform and all the SQ pins can be used together to produce four different PWM signal having the same frequency. These PWM signal can have a different duty cycle and phase.

CH1, CH2 and CH3 pin

The CH pins are used by the oscilloscope in the  PSLab android app to monitor waveform signals produced by the wave generator pins. They can be used together to simultaneously monitor multiple waveforms.

Setting up the Device

We need to connect the PSLab device with the mobile phone as shown in Figure 2 which can be done by following steps:

  1. Connect a micro USB(Mini B) to the PSLab device.
  2. Connect the other end of the micro USB cable to the OTG.
  3. Connect the OTG to the phone.
Figure 2 shows the connection of the PSLab device with the smartphone

Producing Waveforms

Now, once the device has been properly connected to the device (which is shown at the top right corner of the app), then in the instruments page scroll down to the Wave Generator card and click on it to open the WaveGenerator activity.

Figure 3 shows the instruments containing card view to all the instruments and icon to show device status

Here you will see a screen like shown in Figure 4 containing two monitors and a controlling panel with lots of buttons. Here the Waveform panel is used to control the S1 and S2 pins whose properties are shown on the left monitor screen and the Digital panel is used to control the SQR pins whose properties are shown on the right monitor screen.

Figure 4 shows the UI of the Wave Generator Activity

For sine/sawtooth wave:

Connect the S1 pin to the CH1 pin using a connecting wire, then in the Waveform panel select the Wave1 button, choose the type of waveform(either sine or sawtooth), then click on the Freq button to change the frequency of the wave, then use the Seek bar or the up/down arrow buttons to change the value of frequency and then press the set button to set the frequency for the S1 pin as shown below:

Figure 5 The GIF shows the setting of the properties of the W1 pin in the UI

Now, click the view button at bottom right corner, this will directly open the Oscilloscope provided by the PSLab android app .

Once the oscilloscope is open, check the CH1 pin from the panel in the bottom and we can see the sine wave in the monitor shown by the screen in Figure 6 and Figure 7

Figure 6 shows the screenshot of oscilloscope showing the sine wave
Figure 7 shows the screenshot of the oscilloscope showing sawtooth wave

Similarly, if you want to see two sine waves connect the S1 pin to the CH1 and connect the S2 pin to the CH2 channel , choose the wave-type for both pin, set the frequencies for both of the waves, here you can also set the phase difference between the two waves, for setting phase difference first click on Wave2 button it will enable the phase button, then click on the Phase button and set the value of phase with the help of the Seek bar.

For Square Wave

Connect the CH1 pin to the SQ1 pin, after making the connection head over to the Digital panel in the Wave Generator, ensure that the mode is selected to square, now click on the Freq button in the digital panel and set the frequency of the square wave with the help of Seek bar, then click on the Duty button and set the value of duty cycle for the square wave as shown below:

Figure 8 The GIF shows the setting of properties for producing square wave from SQ1 pin

Now, once the square wave has been set click on the view button, the oscilloscope will open then select the CH1 pin and you can see the square wave on the monitor as shown by the screen in Figure 9.

Figure 9 shows the screenshot of the square wave as shown in the oscilloscope

Thus we have produced different waveforms using PSLab wave generator module.

Resources

PSLab device pin diagram  – https://github.com/fossasia/pslab-artwork/blob/master/Sticker/pslabdesign.png

Youtube Video Screencast for Wave Generator – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC2T5kElWbE&t=1s

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Creating the Mockup for Wave Generator using Moqups

PSLab is a versatile device that can be used as a waveform signal generator, as it is capable of producing different types of waves. It provides a cheap and portable alternative as compared to the physical wave generators available in markets.

The current UI of the Wave Generator present in the PSLab app as shown in Figure 1 is very basic and makes use of some basic UI components which are not able to properly expose all the functionalities of the wave generator. This affects the user experience negatively.

Figure 1 shows the current layout of Wave Generator in PSLab android app

In this blog, we will discuss creating a mockup for the PSLab wave generator using modern design to improve the UI/UX of the app. I will try to keep the layout simple enough so that users can easily understand it. 

Understanding the Functionality of Waveform Generator

Figure 2 shows the schematic pin diagram of the PSLab

We can observe from the image that PSLab provide:

  • Two pins named W1 and W2 which are capable of producing two different sine or saw-tooth waves having different characteristics simultaneously.
  • Four Pins named SQ1, SQ2, SQ3, SQ4 which are capable of producing Square Wave and Pulse Width modulation signals.
  • It also allows us to change the properties of these waves such as frequency, phase, duty cycle.

Before starting with the mockup a physical commodity Waveform Signal Generator as shown in Figure 3 was inspected.

Figure 3 shows digital Wave Generator by HP

Most waveform generators in the market have a control panel with buttons and a monitor screen so that the user can view the changes while controlling the characteristics of the wave. I will try to create a layout similar to this in following steps by dividing it into two halves:

  1. Upper half containing monitor screens
  2. Lower half containing controlling panel having buttons

Steps for creating the mockup

Step 1: Choosing the Tool

The tool that we will be using here to create a mockup is moqups[1].

I have chosen this software because:-

  • It is an online tool and doesn’t require it to be set up first
  • It is very efficient and powerful tool for creating mobile or web wireframes.
  • It doesn’t require any prior knowledge of programming language.
  • It has a palette to drag & drop UI elements like Buttons, Textboxes, Checkboxes etc. on the left-hand side, allows modifying the features of each element (here on the right) and other options at the top related to prototyping, previewing etc as shown in figure 4.
Figure 4  shows Moqups prototyping tool webpage

Step 2: Creating the base of the layout

The mockup tool moqups[1] have a built-in template of Android screen which we can drag and drop from the palette and use it as our base.

Figure 5 shows the Android mobile template picked from the palette of available design elements in the ‘moqups’ application.

Step 3: Creating the Lower Half

Now as discussed above I will create controlling panel containing buttons in the lower half of the screen, for this I will drag and drop buttons from the palette on the right-hand side and design them according to the theme of the app that is making their border round shape, changing their color to match the theme color and editing text in them. As the PSLab has two groups of pins so I will create two different panels with buttons for properties related to the pins of that group.

At this point we have a layout looking like this:

Figure 6 shows the lower panel containing buttons being drawn for Wave Generator UI. At right-hand side, it shows the palette having different UI elements.

I will create the monitor screens in the upper half, for our purpose as I have two panels we will create two monitor screen as shown in Figure 6. The left panel will correspond to the left panel and the right monitor will correspond to the right panel.

Step 4: Creating the Upper Half

For creating monitor, I will use simple rectangles with rounded borders and give the background black to resemble the monitor in physical devices.

I will also create some partitions in the monitor to make compartment. I will use these compartments to position the text view that represents the characteristics of the wave so that they are clearly visible.

Figure 7 shows two monitor layout with the black background being drawn using text areas and lines

So, in this layout the user will be able to see all the properties corresponding to one type of waveform on the monitor together so he/she doesn’t have to click the buttons, again and again, to see the different properties as he/she have to do in a physical device.

For instance let’s say, if the user wants to generate sine wave he/she will have to click the Wave 1 button in the panel below and on clicking,all the values of characteristics related to waveform produced by W1 pin will be visible together to the user in one screen which makes it easier for the user to analyze and set the values.

Therefore, the final layout produced is shown in Figure 7

Figure 8 shows final Wave Generator Mockup.

As we can see this layout is quite interactive and looks very appealing to the user and this will help to improve UI/UX of the app.

Resources

  1. Moqups prototyping tool website: https://moqups.com
  2. Youtube Video – How to use moqups

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Filling Audio Buffer to Generate Waves in the PSLab Android App

The PSLab Android App works as an oscilloscope and a wave generator using the audio jack of the Android device. The implementation of the oscilloscope in the Android device using the in-built mic has been discussed in the blog post “Using the Audio Jack to make an Oscilloscope in the PSLab Android App” and the same has been discussed in the context of wave generator in the blog post “Implement Wave Generation Functionality in the PSLab Android App”. This post is a continuation of the post related to the implementation of wave generation functionality in the PSLab Android App. In this post, the subject matter of discussion is the way to fill the audio buffer so that the resulting wave generated is either a Sine Wave, a Square Wave or a Sawtooth Wave. The resultant audio buffer would be played using the AudioTrack API of Android to generate the corresponding wave. The waves we are trying to generate are periodic waves.

Periodic Wave: A wave whose displacement has a periodic variation with respect to time or distance, or both.

Thus, the problem reduces to generating a pulse which will constitute a single time period of the wave. Suppose we want to generate a sine wave; if we generate a continuous stream of pulses as illustrated in the image below, we would get a continuous sine wave. This is the main concept that we shall try to implement using code.

Initialise AudioTrack Object

AudioTrack object is initialised using the following parameters:

  • STREAM TYPE: Type of stream like STREAM_SYSTEM, STREAM_MUSIC, STREAM_RING, etc. For wave generation purposes we are using stream music. Every stream has its own maximum and minimum volume level.  
  • SAMPLING RATE: It is the rate at which the source samples the audio signal.
  • BUFFER SIZE IN BYTES: Total size of the internal buffer in bytes from where the audio data is read for playback.
  • MODES: There are two modes-
    • MODE_STATIC: Audio data is transferred from Java to the native layer only once before the audio starts playing.
    • MODE_STREAM: Audio data is streamed from Java to the native layer as audio is being played.

getMinBufferSize() returns the estimated minimum buffer size required for an AudioTrack object to be created in the MODE_STREAM mode.

minTrackBufferSize = AudioTrack.getMinBufferSize(SAMPLING_RATE, AudioFormat.CHANNEL_OUT_MONO, AudioFormat.ENCODING_PCM_16BIT);
audioTrack = new AudioTrack(
       AudioManager.STREAM_MUSIC,
       SAMPLING_RATE,
       AudioFormat.CHANNEL_OUT_MONO,
       AudioFormat.ENCODING_PCM_16BIT,
       minTrackBufferSize,
       AudioTrack.MODE_STREAM);

Fill Audio Buffer to Generate Sine Wave

Depending on the values in the audio buffer, the wave is generated by the AudioTrack object. Therefore, to generate a specific kind of wave, we need to fill the audio buffer with some specific values. The values are governed by the wave equation of the signal that we want to generate.

public short[] createBuffer(int frequency) {
   short[] buffer = new short[minTrackBufferSize];
   double f = frequency;
   double q = 0;
   double level = 16384;
   final double K = 2.0 * Math.PI / SAMPLING_RATE;

   for (int i = 0; i < minTrackBufferSize; i++) {
         f += (frequency - f) / 4096.0;
         q += (q < Math.PI) ? f * K : (f * K) - (2.0 * Math.PI);
         buffer[i] = (short) Math.round(Math.sin(q));
   }
   return buffer;
}

Fill Audio Buffer to Generate Square Wave

To generate a square wave, let’s assume the time period to be t units. So, we need the amplitude to be equal to A for t/2 units and -A for the next t/2 units. Repeating this pulse continuously, we will get a square wave.

buffer[i] = (short) ((q > 0.0) ? 1 : -1);

Fill Audio Buffer to Generate Sawtooth Wave

Ramp signals increases linearly with time. A Ramp pulse has been illustrated in the image below:

We need repeated ramp pulses to generate a continuous sawtooth wave.

buffer[i] = (short) Math.round((q / Math.PI));

Finally, when the audio buffer is generated, write it to the audio sink for playback using write() method exposed by the AudioTrack object.

audioTrack.write(buffer, 0, buffer.length);

Resources

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Implement Wave Generation Functionality in The PSLab Android App

The PSLab Android App works as an Oscilloscope using the audio jack of Android device. The implementation for the scope using in-built mic is discussed in the post Using the Audio Jack to make an Oscilloscope in the PSLab Android App. Another application which can be implemented by hacking the audio jack is Wave Generation. We can generate different types of signals on the wires connected to the audio jack using the Android APIs that control the Audio Hardware. In this post, I will discuss about how we can generate wave by using the Android APIs for controlling the audio hardware.

Configuration of Audio Jack for Wave Generation

Simply cut open the wire of a cheap pair of earphones to gain control of its terminals and attach alligator pins by soldering or any other hack(jugaad) that you can think of. After you are done with the tinkering of the earphone jack, it should look something like shown in the image below.

Source: edn.com

If your earphones had mic, it would have an extra wire for mic input. In any general pair of earphones the wire configuration is almost the same as shown in the image below.

Source: flickr

Android APIs for Controlling Audio Hardware

AudioRecord and AudioTrack are the two classes in Android that manages recording and playback respectively. For Wave Generation application we only need AudioTrack class.

Creating an AudioTrack object: We need the following parameters to initialise an AudioTrack object.

STREAM TYPE: Type of stream like STREAM_SYSTEM, STREAM_MUSIC, STREAM_RING, etc. For wave generation purpose we are using stream music. Every stream has its own maximum and minimum volume level.

SAMPLING RATE: it is the rate at which source samples the audio signal.

BUFFER SIZE IN BYTES: total size in bytes of the internal buffer from where the audio data is read for playback.

MODES: There are two modes

  • MODE_STATIC: Audio data is transferred from Java to native layer only once before the audio starts playing.
  • MODE_STREAM: Audio data is streamed from Java to native layer as audio is being played.

getMinBufferSize() returns the estimated minimum buffer size required for an AudioTrack object to be created in the MODE_STREAM mode.

private int minTrackBufferSize;
private static final int SAMPLING_RATE = 44100;
minTrackBufferSize = AudioTrack.getMinBufferSize(SAMPLING_RATE, AudioFormat.CHANNEL_OUT_MONO, AudioFormat.ENCODING_PCM_16BIT);

audioTrack = new AudioTrack(
       AudioManager.STREAM_MUSIC,
       SAMPLING_RATE,
       AudioFormat.CHANNEL_OUT_MONO,
       AudioFormat.ENCODING_PCM_16BIT,
       minTrackBufferSize,
       AudioTrack.MODE_STREAM);

Function createBuffer() creates the audio buffer that is played using the audio track object i.e audio track object would write this buffer on playback stream. Function below fills random values in the buffer due to which a random signal is generated. If we want to generate some specific wave like Square Wave, Sine Wave, Triangular Wave, we have to fill the buffer accordingly.

public short[] createBuffer(int frequency) {
   // generating a random buffer for now
   short[] buffer = new short[minTrackBufferSize];
   for (int i = 0; i < minTrackBufferSize; i++) {
       buffer[i] = (short) (random.nextInt(32767) + (-32768));
   }
   return buffer;
}

We created a write() method and passed the audio buffer created in above step as an argument to the method. This method writes audio buffer into audio stream for playback.

public void write(short[] buffer) {
   /* write buffer to audioTrack */
   audioTrack.write(buffer, 0, buffer.length);
}

Amplitude of the signal can be controlled by changing the volume level of the stream on which the buffer is being played. As we are playing the audio in music stream, so STREAM_MUSIC is passed as a parameter to the setStreamVolume() method.

value: value is amplitude level of the stream. Every stream has its different amplitude levels. getStreamMaxVolume(STREAM_TYPE) method is used to find the maximum valid amplitude level of any stream.
flag: this stackoverflow post explain all the flags of the AudioManager class.

AudioManager audioManager = (AudioManager)getSystemService(Context.AUDIO_SERVICE); audioManager.setStreamVolume(AudioManager.STREAM_MUSIC, value, flag);

Roadmap

We are working on implementing methods to fill audio buffer with specific values such that waves like Sinusoidal wave, Square Wave, Sawtooth Wave can be generated during the playback of the buffer using the AudioTrack object.

Resources

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