The Web Plus Arduino? Webduino! Reviews and Setup Guides for Smart and Bit

Webduino
Web x Arduino = Webduino (Official Slogan)

The first time I heard the name Webduino was when visited their stall tucked in a back corner of the 2019 Taipei Maker Faire.

Everyone was focusing on a wall socket with a dev board hooked up to a Songle relay. With the Webduino, you can use the internet to turn on a light!

Serious question, does anyone trust these guys with mains voltage?

Like a Yugioh player whipping out a Blue Eyes White Dragon, I quickly snatched a Wemos Mini out of my laptop bag and said, “but is it as cheap as this?” Fortunately, nobody was paying attention to me.

Flash forward a year later. My director has signed me up for an online STEAM course held by a local think tank. The presenters for the second week were Webduino.

After attending the first interactive lecture, I realized that Webduino is a little different from other dev boards I’ve encountered. You can feed it Javascript natively!

I excitedly went to the Webduino site and ordered something that looked like a Wemos Mini and something that was obviously trying to be a Micro Bit.

Keep reading to find out what I got.

Webduino Smart Bit
Packaging is pretty nice. My photography, not so much

Table of contents

Hardware

Webduino Smart

Inside the Webduino branded box, there are an instruction sheet, a short micro-USB cable, and the Smart sealed in an anti-static bag.

Webduino Smart box contents
This is what’s included

The Smart is based on the ESP8266 microchip. The development board has a footprint similar to a Wemos Mini.

Webduino Smart vs Wemos Mini ESP8266
Cousins

Also on the board are an RGB LED, a photocell sensor and, a micro-button. The LED uses the three analog pins, 12, 13, and 15. The photocell sensor and button use A0 (marked AD on the board) and digital pin 4, respectively.

Webduino Smart Instructions
Really need to invest in some kind of lightbox

All of the pins have labels on the outside female pin covers, which I think is a nice touch.

Webduino Smart Pins
Same conditions, same camera, must be the photographer

Power is supplied via a micro-USB plug. I’m not sure if it’s possible to upload to the board via this plug, but you won’t need to if you are controlling the board over WiFi.


Webduino Bit

The Webduino Bit, also called the BPI:bit and Web:Bit, looks very similar to the BBC Micro Bit. Opening its box, I found a card with a QR code on it and the board itself.

Webduino Bit Box Contents
Hmm…. we may have a problem

The Web:Bit is powered by an ESP32 microchip. Compared to the Micro Bit’s Nordic nRF51822, the ESP32 is faster and has more memory, but also consumes more power.

ESP32
What’s in the hole?

Like the Micro Bit, the Web:Bit has a five by five LED array, two programmable buttons, a three-axis accelerometer, and a three-axis magnetometer.

Webduino Bit
Light sensors (yellow), thermistor (blue)

The Web:Bit also has two light sensors, a thermistor, and a buzzer on the board.

Webduino Bit
Accelerometer (green), buzzer (red)

The 25-pin edge connector is supposed to be compatible with Micro Bit accessories. You can see the breakout board that I bought separately from Webduino in the pic below.

Webduino Bit breakout board
I now control all the pins

A pin-out chart and additional board information can be found at Banana Pi’s site.

Power can be supplied through the micro-USB port, the battery connector, or the edge connector.


Setup

Webduino Smart

On the instruction sheet that came with the Smart, it says that the Smart must be initialized first and it provides a link to this guide.

Webduino Smart Instructions
The link works!

A little trouble

The guide is clear for the most part, but there were a few parts that made some of the little hair I have left fall out a little faster.

The first bit of trouble was connecting to the Smart over WiFi to enter my home WiFi credentials. I tried from Ubuntu. Connection failed. So, I tried from Android. Connection failed. I tried from Mac. Connection failed.

Trying again on Ubuntu and running dmesg from the terminal showed that it was an authentication problem. I sent an email and a Facebook message to Webduino asking for help and gave up for the day.

On a hunch, the next day I booted my workstation into Windows and tried connecting again. It worked! I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, or if it really only works in Windows. After that, the rest was easy.

It works!

First, connect the Smart to a power supply. Any USB port on your computer will do. The guide says the LED will eventually stop blinking. Mine didn’t, but everything still worked.

Next, in Windows, connect to the WiFi access point named “Smart”. The password is 12345678.

In a browser (Chrome is recommended) navigate to 192.168.4.1. Enter the SSID and password for your local network. It has to be the same network as the computer you will use to control the Smart is on.

Webduino Smart Setup Screen
Can hold up to three sets of credentials

Finally, hit submit. If you are like me, you will see this:

Webduino Smart Setup Screen
Don’t be sad, these things happen

That’s a good sign! It means your Smart has moved to your network. Disconnect the Smart from the power supply, and then reconnect it. The LED should flash red a few times, and then flash green once.

Check your available WiFi networks and you should see something like Smart followed by an IP address. Don’t try to connect to it!

Webduino Smart IP Address
Don’t connect!

Just to be sure everything is configured correctly, navigate to the IP address written in the smarts SSID (see pic above) and hit the submit button again. You should see something like this:

Webduino Smart Setup Screen
Yes!

A little more trouble

Great! Your smart is ready to go. Time to head to Blockly, put together a basic blink program, input your Smart’s IP address, and hit run. Then… nothing.

I don’t want to admit how long it took for me to interpret this line from the guide:

unclear directions: Websocket has some limitions when using "https"; therefore, you have to link to "http" instead.
?

Connect to the Blockly site without SSL by removing the s from the http and your code should work. In the link above, I already did that for you. Everything should work now!

Hello World!

If you aren’t there already, you should be at the Blockly web editor with SSL disabled. You need to make something like this:

Blockly code
Pretty

The board block can be found in the Board menu found in Board Control. The other two blocks are in RGB LED in the Luminous section.

The only adjustments you will need to make are changing the board type, the connection type, and entering the IP address of your smart.

After you are satisfied with your code, reset your Smart by disconnecting and reconnecting the power supply. Then press the play button in the upper right-hand corner of Blockly.

That should work! If you want to change the color of the LED, hit stop, change the color, and hit play again.

Here is the JavaScript behind the blocks:

var rgbled;


boardReady({board: 'Smart', url: '192.168.8.127'}, function (board) {
  board.systemReset();
  board.samplingInterval = 250;
  rgbled = getRGBLedCathode(board, 15, 12, 13);
  rgbled.setColor('#ff0000');
});

Webduino Bit

The QR code that is included with the Webduino Bit takes you to the setup instructions in Chinese. Once I found the English version here, setup was fairly smooth compared to the Smart.

To get started, connect the Web:Bit to a power supply and look for a hotspot called Bit. The password is 12345678 . I was able to connect from Ubuntu.

Then, enter your WiFi SSID and password and submit.

Webduino Bit Setup Screen
I like the styling of the Smart’s setup better

Take note of the Device ID that will be displayed after the new settings are applied.

Setup Info
Yes!

The guide provides a link to a sample program. However, it leads to the Mandarin language version of Blockly for the Web:Bit and the program is missing.

You can find the English version here. Alternatively, you can download the Windows app here. Either way, make a block that looks like this:

You will see the Board and Matrix LED drawers on the left. In the board block, select Wi-Fi from the dropdown menu, and enter your Device ID in the text field.

Make some art in the Matrix LED block, and hit the Run button in the upper-left corner. You should see your design on the Webduino Bit. If it doesn’t work, try disconnecting and reconnecting the power to the Web:Bit.

Here is the JavaScript:

(async function() {

  boardReady({
    board: 'Bit',
    device: 'Bit5hsgh',
    transport: 'mqtt',
    multi: true
  }, async function(board) {
    window._board_ = await boardInit_(board, 250, 2);
    _board_._bit_matrix_.setColor("0000000001ffffff02ffffff03ffffff040000000500000006ff000007ff000008ff0000090000000a0000000b44cc000c44cc000d44cc000e0000000f0000001066ffff1166ffff1266ffff130000001400000015ffcc0016ffcc0017ffcc0018000000");

  });

}());

Conclusion

In this article, I shared my experience setting up two boards that use the Webduino interface. The first, the Webduino Smart, seems to be suitable for more experienced makers, while the Webduino Bit is perfect for students.

Neither board was particularly cheap. The Smart was $250NT (~$7.50US) and the Bit was $630NT (~$19US). Are they worth it?

Webduino Smart

Pros:

  • Nice pin labeling
  • Can use JavaScript or Blockly to program
  • Several sensors and an RGB LED on the board

Cons:

  • Pre-soldered pins take up space
  • Have to use JavaScript or Blockly to program
  • Sensors may not be useful
  • No online community for support

Compared to a $3US Wemos Mini, the Smart doesn’t offer much for the higher price. Although, if you want a board that you can control with JavaScript, you might want to try it out.

Webduino Bit

Pros:

  • Control from anywhere over the Internet is neat
  • Lots of fun components for students already on the board
  • Using Blockly is easy for students who already know Scratch
  • JavaScript is useful for older students

Cons:

  • Security might be an issue
  • Have to buy a breakout board if you want to add components
  • No online community for support

The Webduino Bit costs about the same as a Micro Bit, but it has a few extra components soldered onto the board. Add WiFi and Internet control abilities, the Webduino is a clear winner if you’re looking for a student board.

Be aware that if you do get either one of these boards, don’t expect to find too much help online. I still haven’t heard back from Webduino about the connection issues I had.

I do hope to document some Webduino projects here over the next couple of months, so make sure to come back and check for updates!


4 thoughts on “The Web Plus Arduino? Webduino! Reviews and Setup Guides for Smart and Bit”

    1. I would think as long as they can read a little, they can use Blockly. As long as the activity has been scaffolded the activity correctly, I could teach use this with first graders. If I were teaching my students here (English is not so good), I would wait until they have already learned Scratch (around 3rd or 4th grade I think).

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