Project showcase

Let it Snow - IoT Snow Globe with Virtual Reality Web - V2 © GPL3+

Tip the snow globe over to make it snow in VR or press the temperature sensor to raise the temp and experience smog/haze in VR.

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Components and supplies

Necessary tools and machines

3D Printer (generic)

Apps and online services

About this project


Last August 8-11, we were fortunate to participate at the 2017 China-US Young Maker Competition. It was a great event, the Chinese Maker community is vibrant and growing. It's awesome to see great projects and young Makers in one event!

The entry project for the competition is this IoT VR SnowGlobe. Snow Globe hosting a Virtual Reality Website. Watch as it snows in VR via HTC Vive, Google VR/Samsung GearVR, or Windows Mixed Reality Headset, Tilt the Snow Globe and snow starts falling in Virtual Reality.

The Virtual Reality IoT Snow Globe is a device to transport users into an interactive virtual experience. Using sensors in the device, users can interact with the Virtual Reality (VR) experience by shaking to create snow or touching the temperature sensor to create fog. This platform can be customized as an educational tool for countless other applications.

In this scenario users are immersed in a virtual arctic experience to explore shrinking Arctic sea ice. A mommy bear stands on a piece piece of floating sea ice separated from her cub; A video about saving polar bears plays in the background, encouraging the participant to support the cause. The snow globe can be tilted to experience light snow in VR. When the temperature rises smog starts to fill the scene signifying climate change. The polar bear is 3D printed from the same model viewed in the VR experience to provide a consistent experience.

According to National Wildlife Federation, Polar bears are being impacted by global warming with sea ice platforms moving farther apart and swimming conditions more dangerous. Polar bear population size is decreasing due to fewer hunting opportunities and increased scarcity of food. And as climate change melts sea ice, the U.S. Geological survey projects that two thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050.

VR, and embedded technology is evolving faster than ever. With tools available it is getting easier and easier to build Virtual Reality experiences. This VR experience is not hosted on a computer but in the affordable embedded hardware in the base of the snow globe. Hardware includes the Intel Arduino 101 board, ESP8266, and Arduino MKR 1000.

We are embracing Virtual Reality as a transformative tool to educate and promote action for social change and build awareness.

The experience

The snow globe hosts a virtual reality website experience within the 3D printed base.

You can view the VR experience with a computer or any phone.

Use Samsung Internet to access the VR Webserver. In Windows Mixed Reality Headset, use the Edge Browser. Use Mozilla Firefox if you have Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

Tip the snow globe over to make it snow or press the temperature sensor to raise the temp and create smog.

The Device

  • Arduino 101 - IMU (inertial measurment unit) to detect shaking, also Bluetooth beacon so users can find the website for the VR experience.
  • Wemos D1 Mini ESP8266 - Hosts the VR website
  • Adafruit Power Boost 1000 - Charges LiPo batteries and boosts voltage up to 5V for electronics.
  • Samsung Galaxy S i9000 battery.
  • Velliman temperature sensor.
  • 3D printed base, battery socket.

Construction details

We started with a MindWare Sow Globe kit which comes with two snow globes.

Cut off the extra plastic on the screw on base.

3D print base, lid, battery holder, and props for the Snow Globe. All the 3D printed files can be found here:

When mounting the electronics, hot glue and double sticky foam tape is your friend!

LiPo or lithium battery's run between 3.2 and 4.2 volts DC, this is not enough juice for our boards so the Adafruit PowerBoost 1000 is responsible for boosting up the voltage to 5v for the microcontrollers. The PowerBoost also charges and maintains the battery. If you plug in a laptop while hard wired to the power supply it could cause issues so using USB connectors was the solution; if powering from 5V the right place is the USB port anyway, also you have to disconnect the device battery power to program the boards.

Removing the Arduino 101 is a snap, it just slides out of the holder track on the battery connector.

  • The Wimos can be pulled out of the base socket.
  • The Samsung i9000 battery is removable, simply press down on the catch and pull the battery out.
  • The temp sensor use the standard three wire servo connector so removal or replacement is a snap.

The lid/bottom cover just snaps on.


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