I came across a blog post about the Arduino yesterday on an industrial design blog, Core77. I was definitely surprised to see an entire post dedicated to the Arduino, an open-source electronics and embedded software platform which targets DIY’ers and non-engineers who want to build/hack smart products, on a blog that focuses primarily on product and industrial design. The Arduino is getting great exposure and keeps popping up in places I wouldn’t expect. I’m excited the conversation about and accessibility of smart product design is spreading.
Why I’m Excited
The Arduino provides scaffolding for outsiders and non-embedded system designers, to understand and explore smart product design. It doesn’t matter what your experience or skill level is, Arduino provides an extremely accessible interface for people to get started, from both a hardware perspective and a software perspective. The electronics come packaged and ready to go, with easy to use connectors and easy to understand labels. Several vendors even provide drop-in electronics, called shields (click for a list of shields), which provide specific functionality (ie motor control) to the user with little effort. The free software interface provides a level of separation and simplification from the Microcontroller (MCU). Users have access to easy-to-understand functions and don’t have to familiarize themselves with specific registers and modules of the MCU.
People you wouldn’t expect are getting their hands dirty and cool things are happening. The internet is ripe with cool projects people have put together on their own and there are a ton of project examples and project guides to get people involved. Everyday people are building their own smart products!
Why This Matters To Me
Most importantly, the discussion is finally spreading to people in different walks of life! The exposure allows people who aren’t necessarily engineers to see the possibilities available in smart product design. Different perspectives can easily join the brainstorm. I’m convinced more wild and crazy ideas will be born, not only in garages but also in the office. Ultimately, better products will be designed.
And hopefully the realization of what is possible with a simple open source tool will lead people to imagine what is possible from a professional service firm (ahem Pocobor) and the value we offer. If nothing else, it helps me describe what I do and how technology is being incorporated into new products we use in our everyday lives.
We’ve even put the board in an open source project, called PedalOn, we’re completing for a client to allow customers to modify or rewrite the system software. We’ll talk more about this project in the coming weeks.
An Arduino is even inside PedalOn, a Pocobor project.
I encourage anyone not directly involved with smart product design to get their hands on one of these and start playing. The barrier to entry is low; you can get one for less than $30 from Sparkfun. Or try another distributor – for a full list of distributors look here.