This machine sorts M&Ms by color with an iPhone and Arduino

Posted in iPhone News by admin. Published December 28th, 2014

This machine sorts M&Ms by color with an iPhone and Arduino

It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is to the contrary — different color M&Ms definitely taste different. The problem arises then, how do you extract the good ones for immediate consumption? Picking through a bowl with your fingers won’t cut it, but one industrious maker has created a neat machine to do it for you with an iPhone and Arduino.

The contraption looks a little janky, but that’s because it’s a prototype. At the top is a hopper that rotates to separate the candies so that one can be dropped through the chute at a time. Each one falls into a slot in the rotating floor, then drops through when it passes over the opening in the hopper. On the way down, it falls past an iPhone, which is where the color analysis happens.

The iPhone camera is used to identify the color as the M&M passes. It only has a split second of video to do the analysis, but the device is fast enough to spot the candy in freefall and relay the ID to an Arduino over Bluetooth. The original intention was to use an Arduino color sensor add-on, but this proved too slow.

In order to sort the candy into the correct bin, the Arduino is tethered to a series of electromagnets, each one controlling a trapdoor in the candy chute. The Arduino simply has to open the right number of gates to divert the M&M down the right path. So for blue, all the gates remain closed and the candy drops into the first bin. One gate is opened for green, two for yellow, and so on. The candy doesn’t have to stop in the chute, it just drops smoothly into the right bin.

The machine is really neat, but as a prototype, there are still improvements to be made. For example, it’s not very good at sorting brown M&Ms. Shadows can make them look too much like orange, so a future version might use LEDs to eliminate that. Moving to a Raspberry Pi with a high-speed camera attached could improve sorting as well. You may have also noticed that the machine is composed of foam and paper. Well, the next version will be mostly 3D printed now that the design has been tested. Properly sorted candy is the best candy.



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