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PocketLab Frequently Asked Questions

Submitted by PocketLab on Tue, 09/19/2017 - 21:57

What’s the difference between PocketLab One, PocketLab Voyager, and PocketLab Weather?

All PocketLabs are wireless multi-sensors for science exploration that can connect to the free PocketLab app to stream and record data from the numerous sensors packed into each device. See compatibility requirements for the PocketLab app here.

With all PocketLabs you can record data in the PocketLab app and export it as a .csv file for further analysis in programs like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. PocketLab One does not have onboard memory, meaning you have to stay connected via Bluetooth to record data. PocketLab Voyager and PocketLab Weather both have onboard memory, meaning you can record and store data while the sensors are not connected to a device, and download the data for analysis later.

PocketLab One is our original PocketLab sensor. PocketLab One can measure acceleration, angular velocity, magnetic field, barometric pressure, altitude, and ambient temperature, and is great for physics and physical science. PocketLab One can also connect to our VelocityLab app on iOS and through the PocketLab Web App (Chromebook, Mac, and Android) to measure position, velocity, and acceleration of a rotating object, like a wheel. To learn more about VelocityLab, click here. PocketLab One costs $98. Click here to learn more about PocketLab One.

PocketLab Weather is a portable weather station, great for Earth science, environmental science, chemistry, and homemade weather experiments. PocketLab Weather can measure light intensity, ambient temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, altitude, heat index, dew point, and includes an attachable temperature probe. PocketLab Weather costs $98. Click here to learn more about PocketLab Weather.

PocketLab Voyager is our most advanced PocketLab sensor. It’s great for physics, physical science, Earth science, environmental science, chemistry, and general science exploration. It can measure all of the data that PocketLab Weather and PocketLab One can measure. It also has higher data rates than PocketLab One, which means more accurate results for collisions and other motion experiments. PocketLab Voyager also has an IR rangefinder for measuring position and velocity. PocketLab Voyager can measure acceleration, angular velocity, magnetic field, position and velocity (with the IR rangefinder), light intensity, ambient temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, altitude, heat index, dew point, and can use an attachable temperature probe (not included). PocketLab Voyager can also attach to the VelocityLab app on iOS and the PocketLab Web App (Chromebook, Mac, and Android). PocketLab Voyager costs $148. The attachable temperature probe costs $9. Click here to learn more about PocketLab Voyager.

 

What is compatible with the PocketLab sensor? Will my iPhone, Android, Windows device, Chromebook, MacBook, etc. connect?

There are two main compatibility requirements for PocketLab with your device. PocketLab uses Bluetooth Low-Energy, so your device needs native Bluetooth 4.0. Your device also needs to have relatively new software. If you have an Android device, you’ll need to be able to update to Android 5.0 or newer. Check the PocketLab Specs page for specific compatibility requirements for PocketLab sensors. You can also check out this forum post from PocketLab co-founder, David Bakker, to see whether your Mac computer has native Bluetooth 4.0.

For iOS and Android phones and tablets you can use the PocketLab mobile app. Download the mobile app from the iTunes App Store or the Google Play Store.

You can use the PocketLab web app to connect with Chromebooks, Mac OSX, and Android (iOS and Windows currently block a Bluetooth connection to a browser). To use the PocketLab web app go thepocketlab.com/app in an updated Chrome browser. Make sure to still check the compatibility requirements for your device here. 

On Chromebook and Mac OSX you can also download the PocketLab Chrome App from the Chrome Store. 

Windows 10 is not yet compatible with PocketLab Voyager or PocketLab Weather. PocketLab One is currently compatible with our Windows 10 PocketLab app. Compatibility for PocketLab Voyager and PocketLab Weather is coming soon.

The VelocityLab App works with PocketLab One and PocketLab Voyager on iOS, Chromebook, and as a web app. Download the iOS version in the iTunes App Store. Download the Chromebook version from the Chrome Store. To use the VelocityLab web app go to thepocketlab.com/velocitylabapp using a Chrome browser on a compatible device. 

 

How do I connect with the PocketLab mobile app on Android or iOS devices?

Step 1: Download the PocketLab app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

Step 2: Make sure your software is as up to date as possible. (See compatibility requirements here).

Step 3: Make sure your Bluetooth is turned on.

Step 4: Open the PocketLab app.

Step 5: Turn on the PocketLab sensor by pushing the on/off button on the PocketLab.

Step 6: The PocketLab should either automatically connect, or a message prompting you to connect should appear at the bottom of the app. Click connect on that prompt to connect.

Note: Bluetooth 4.0 does not require a PIN number like traditional Bluetooth devices. PocketLab will not connect to your device in the Bluetooth settings page. It will only connect to your device in the PocketLab app.

Step 7: Commence Nobel Prize-winning science exploration.

Watch the PocketLab mobile app getting started video here.

 

How do I connect with the PocketLab web app on Chromebook, Mac OSX, Android devices?

Step 1: Make sure your Bluetooth is turned on.

Step 2: Open a Chrome browser. (Note: the web app will not work on other browsers at this time).

Step 3: Go to www.thepocketlab.com/app.

Step 4: Turn on the PocketLab sensor by pushing the on/off button on the PocketLab.

Step 5: On the screen, click the button that says, “Click here to connect”.

Step 6: A window should pop up that lists the Bluetooth devices seen by your computer. Click on the PocketLab sensor you wish to connect with. (Note: The signal strength of the devices is listed. If you have multiple PocketLabs in the room, put the PocketLab you wish to connect with close to the computer and click on the PocketLab with the highest signal strength).

Step 7: Commence Nobel Prize-winning science exploration.

Watch the PocketLab web app getting started video here.

 

Can I use PocketLab with a Windows device?

There is a PocketLab Windows 10 app but it currently only works with PocketLab One. It does not yet work with PocketLab Voyager or PocketLab Weather.  The PocketLab web app does not work on Windows 10 because Microsoft currently blocks Bluetooth connection to a browser.

We are working very hard on a PocketLab Voyager and Weather app for Windows 10. Unfortunately, Windows is notorious for poor Bluetooth support and we have to work around many limitations with the Windows platform. From the Microsoft website, they consider supporting the industry standard Web Bluetooth protocol as a “Roadmap Priority: Low”. You can help us by upvoting the Bluetooth support issue on the Microsoft Developer website here: (https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/platform/status/webbluetooth/)

 

I’m having issues connecting with my Android device. Are there any troubleshooting techniques I can try?

The PocketLab App requires all permissions to be allowed. It needs location data for the Bluetooth protocols to work properly, the camera permission for the video graph function, and memory to record data. If any of those settings were initially not allowed when first downloading the app, the PocketLab may not be able to connect. Also, in the past, updates to the Android OS have sometimes automatically changed permission settings to the PocketLab App. Head to your phone's settings, then find the PocketLab App in the settings menu, click on it, and you should be able to view what permissions your phone has allowed. Make sure all the permissions are allowed and try connecting again.

Because there are thousands of Android devices of different models and builds it is very difficult to test them all. While an Android device might have Bluetooth 4.0 and is running Android 5.0 or later, sometimes there are still connection issues, mostly due to Bluetooth issues with the Android device. We have a list of devices that we’ve tested on our spec sheet here.

To troubleshoot, first try updating the Android device to the most up to date software. PocketLab requires Android 5.0 or newer. Next, try restarting the Android device. Then, turn on the Android’s Bluetooth. Next, open the PocketLab app and turn on the PocketLab sensor. Try that in that specific order. If it isn’t connecting, note what the LED light on the PocketLab is doing.

If you are using a PocketLab One and it still isn’t connecting, try a hard reset of the PocketLab. To do this, remove the orange backplate with a small screw driver. Pop the battery out and then re-insert it. Check out this video for how to remove the battery.

If it still isn’t working, email us at [email protected] describing your connection issue. Make sure to tell us what the LED light on the PocketLab is doing while attempting to connect.

Note: PocketLab does not require a PIN because it uses Bluetooth 4.0. If you are being asked for a PIN you might be trying to connect in the Bluetooth settings page instead of in the PocketLab app itself. PocketLab will only connect in the PocketLab app, not the PocketLab settings.

You can also try connecting to the PocketLab web app on your Android device. To connect, open a Chrome browser on your Android device and go to www.thepocketlab.com/app. Follow the instructions for connecting with the web listed above.

 

Do PocketLabs have to be connected via Bluetooth to record data or can they record data on their own?

PocketLab One, the original PocketLab, must maintain a Bluetooth connection to record data. It does not have onboard memory. PocketLab Voyager and PocketLab Weather do have onboard memory and can be set up to record data on their own, without a Bluetooth connection. You’ll have to connect PocketLab Voyager and Weather initially to the PocketLab app in order to set up the sensors you want to record with, set the data rate, etc. Click the icon in the upper left corner of the app that looks like a memory chip to begin memory mode set up. Memory mode is currently available on the PocketLab Web App and on the PocketLab iOS App. 

Check out this video for more details on setting up the memory feature on the web app.

 

How do I use PocketLab Voyager or PocketLab Weather’s onboard memory feature?

 The onboard memory feature is available in the PocketLab iOS app and in the PocketLab Web App. Once you've connected to either of those apps, you'll need to open the memory control panel to set up memory mode. To open the memory control panel, click the memory chip icon in the upper left corner. See the video below for more details.

This video will show how to set up the onboard memory on the web app.

 

Are there more advanced features, like a burst mode, coming to PocketLab?

More advanced features like burst mode, an API, and others are not available yet. We are working on plans to develop these features.  If you specific questions or a requests, email us at [email protected].

 

Is there a SPEC sheet for the different PocketLabs?

Yes! Check it out here. The spec sheet will give you compatibility requirements as well as specific information on the sensors in each PocketLab.

 

Can I directly access the data programmatically in real-time? Can I stream the data into another application? Is there an API for PocketLab available?

You can access the data in real-time through our PocketLab and ScratchX integration. Scratch is a platform for programming education that uses block coding. You can learn more about the integration by following this link. 

As far as an API or direct access to the data in real-time, we do not have that available at the moment. We are working on developing a way to access the data outside of the PocketLab app. There’s a lot that goes into developing an API so it is helpful to hear about the types of use cases it will be used for. If you have a specific use case in mind, let us know at [email protected]

As soon as we have more information about a potential API we will let you know. 

 

Can I connect PocketLab with Scratch?

Yes! PocketLab has an integration with ScratchX. You need access to the PocketLab Web App, available on Chromebooks, Macs, and Android phones and tablets. To learn more about the PocketLab integration with Scratch, click here

 

Can I connect the PocketLab to the PocketLab app via the USB port instead of the Bluetooth connection?

No. The USB port is for power only. It can’t send data. Use the USB port to charge your PocketLab device.

 

Can I measure position or speed with a PocketLab?

Yes! PocketLab can measure speed in a couple ways. Our innovative VelocityLab app allows you to measure the position, velocity, and acceleration of your PocketLab as it rotates on a wheel, gear, can of soup, or anything else that rolls. VelocityLab works with PocketLab One and PocketLab Voyager on iOS and on the PocketLab Web App (Chromebook, Mac, and Android).. Check out this lesson to see how VelocityLab is used.

PocketLab Voyager also has an infrared rangefinder that can be used to measure the position and velocity of an object. For example, you can attach PocketLab Voyager to a cart and push it toward a wall. The rangefinder will measure the changing distance to the wall to give you position and velocity. Check out this lesson for an example.

There is no sensor that measures its own speed. So for example, you can’t hold the PocketLab in your hand, run around, and then try to determine your speed. Measuring speed is actually a pretty difficult task for a sensor. For a more detailed explanation of the difficulties measuring speed, check out this post from PocketLab’s co-founder and CEO, Clifton Roozeboom.

 

Where can I find PocketLab activities and lesson plans?

We have over a hundred freely available lesson plans that use PocketLab One, PocketLab Weather, and PocketLab Voyager all available on our PocketLab Educators Site. Some are written by the PocketLab team, others are written by PocketLab teachers and science enthusiasts. Want to contribute your own PocketLab lesson? Email us at [email protected].

 

The temperature graph seems off. Is it right?

Yes, but it may require a long settling time. PocketLab’s temperature sensor on PocketLab One, PocketLab Voyager, and Pocketlab Weather measure ambient temperature. These sensors are located on the circuit board, inside the plastic housing of the PocketLab. This means that while they are accurate they have a long time constant to “settle” on the correct temperature. If the PocketLab has been in your backpack or in your hand it will take awhile for it to cool back down to room temperature. The ambient temperature sensor is best used for weather experiments.

If you are looking to measure quicker changes in temperature, the temperature change of a solution, etc., try using the PocketLab temperature probe which is compatible with PocketLab Voyager and PocketLab Weather.

 

When I’m looking at the acceleration graph, one axis shows 1 g of acceleration, but the PocketLab isn’t moving. How is this possible?

The 1g you’re seeing is from the constant acceleration due to gravity. Gravity is always pulling down on the accelerometer, so you are always going to see a total of 1g of acceleration caused by Earth’s gravity field. Depending on the orientation of your PocketLab you will see that 1g measured on different axes. Think of an accelerometer as a mass inside a bed of springs. By measuring the mass's displacement in those springs, the sensor can measure acceleration. As you shake the PocketLab around, the mass will move around in that bed of springs and that can be measured. However, you are still always going to see that mass affected by gravity.

For teaching purposes, we also have an Acceleration Scalar graph which looks at the aggregate acceleration of all three axes, minus 1 g to offset gravity. In this graph, when PocketLab is at rest you should see it read 0g. When PocketLab is in free fall, you should then see it read -1g as it’s in the air.

More questions? Email us at [email protected].

 

Can I calibrate the barometric pressure sensor?

The BME sensor (PocketLab Voyager and Weather) which contains the barometric pressure sensor, the humidity sensor, and the internal temperature sensor is factory calibrated. It can’t be calibrated by the user in the field. However, the pressure sensor is accurate to within 0.1 kPA. so it shouldn't need to be calibrated any further. If you have other questions about pressure sensor readings, email us at [email protected]

 

How is the pressure altitude graph calculated? Is it accurate to my altitude above sea level? 

The pressure altitude graph works like any altimeter. It uses the barometric pressure sensor to get an altitude reading. The barometric pressure in Earth's atmosphere changes fairly predictably, even in very small increments. The pressure altitude graph can give accurate measurements to within approximately 10 cm. Yes, the pressure altitude graph can give a measurement of your absolute altitude above sea level. To get a measurement of absolute altitude, connect the PocketLab and switch the Pressure Altitude graph. It will default to measuring absolute altitude. If you zero the altitude graph, to switch back to absolute altitude, you'll need to disconnect the PocketLab and reconnect/refresh the app. That will switch the graph back to its default status to measure absolute altitude. When measuring absolute altitude, however, the context is important. The altitude graph is calibrated to give an accurate measurement of absolute altitude outside in normal weather conditions. If you are indoors and have the AC on, or you are outdoors in the middle of a not-typical weather pattern, there are a lot of interesting barometric pressure data to collect, but you won't get an accurate absolute altitude reading. No matter the context, you can always collect data on changes in altitude. There is a "zero" button that can zero out the current altitude reading to make reading relative changes in altitude easier to measure.