Arduino is Open Source Imagination and Invention

The Economist has famously called 3D Printing the third industrial revolution. But designer, educator and Arduino cofounder Massimo Banzi says, no, what he sees as the real third industrial revolution is the open source hardware and maker movement.

We know the number of people all around the world who are building or buying hobbyist level 3D printers and making all sorts of things in their garage is exploding. The real breakthroughs, the real excitement, is being generated by those who are combining a microprocessor with 3D printing and other DIY projects. And the microprocessor that is setting the maker world on fire is the Arduino, which is popping up in not only endless DIY projects, but also in the 3D printers themselves.

The Arduino, licensed under GPL and Creative Commons, is an open-source electronics prototyping platform that is a mashup of open source technologies. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. And I don’t mean just quasi-engineer adults, I’m talking about kids will little training.

Here’s a rundown on the Arduino from their site:

Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The microcontroller on the board is programmed using the Arduino programming language (based on Wiring) and the Arduino development environment (based on Processing). Arduino projects can be stand-alone or they can communicate with software running on a computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP).

The boards can be built by hand or purchased preassembled; the software can be downloaded for free. The hardware reference designs (CAD files) are available under an open-source license, you are free to adapt them to your needs.

Banzi calls the Arduino “the equivalent of sketching on paper, done with electronics.” In this talk, he explains what the Arduino is, how it is empowering the maker movement, and then runs through quite a few of the maker projects that incorporate the versatile platform. The audience was blown away by what they heard, and you will be too. Here are some of the less-commercial and very interesting projects he mentioned:

  • Students sending satellites into orbit
  • A cat feeder that recognizes which cat from a chip
  • A quadcopter that can transport items from one African village to another
  • The “Enough Already” device that will mute the TV when an overexposed personality is mentioned
  • An NYU project who allows handicapped kids to play video games
  • A glove that understands sign language gestures and turns them into sounds and writes the words on a display
  • The “txtBomber” contraption made up of multiple spray cans that lets you roll a political message on a wall
  • “Botanicalls,” a unit that goes into a planter so the plant can tweet how it feels
  • A chair that tweets when somebody sitting on it passes gas

Some of the above are just fun projects, but the Arduino is being used in many very serious projects in private enterprise, governments, the military and the rest of us.

Arduino is at the heart of a new revolution that is democratizing the invention process. If you can think it, make it.