Arduino is an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple i/o board and a development environment that implements the Processing language. Arduino can be used to develop stand-alone interactive objects or can be connected to software on your computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, Max/MSP). The boards can be assembled by hand or purchased preassembled; the open-source IDE can be downloaded for free. Arduino is different from other platforms that can be found on the market because
of these features:
The Arduino Project was developed out of an educational environment and is
therefore great for newcomers to get things working quickly.
It is a Multi-Platform environment; it can run on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.
It is based on the Processing programming IDE
It is programmed via a USB cable, not a serial port. This is useful because many
modern computers don’t have serial ports any more.
It is Open Source hardware and software – If you wish you can download the circuit
diagram, buy all the components, and make your own, without paying anything to the makers of Arduino.
The hardware is cheap. The USB board cost about EUR 20 and replacing a burnt-out
the chip on the board is easy and costs no more than EUR 5. So you can afford to make mistakes.
There is an active community of users so there is plenty of people who can help you.
What does this all mean? We’re going to discover it through this booklet that is
designed to help designers and artists to understand what benefits they can get from
learning how to use the Arduino platform and adopting its philosophy.5
what is interaction design?
There are many definitions of Interaction Design but the one that I like the most
is simply “Interaction Design is about the design of any interactive experience”. In
today’s world, this generally is about the creation of meaning between us (humans) and artifacts. We also like to explore the creation of beautiful and maybe even controversial between technology and us.
Specifically, we believe in designing through an iterative process based on prototypes of ever-increasing fidelity. This approach, also part of some types of “conventional” design can be extended to include prototyping with technology and in particular with electronics.
This particular brand of Interaction Design is called Physical Computing (or Physical Interaction Design). This booklet is in no way a substitute for a book on Physical Computing, we recommend you buy Tom Igoe’s excellent “Physical Computing” book.
what is physical computing?
Physical Computing is about prototyping with electronics, turning sensors, actuators and microcontrollers into materials for designers and artists.
It involves the design of interactive objects that can communicate with humans using sensors and actuators controlled by a behaviour implemented as software running inside a microcontroller.
In the past using electronics meant having to deal with engineers all the time and this kept the designer from playing directly with the medium. Most of the tools were meant for engineers and required extensive knowledge.
In recent years microcontrollers (small computers on a single chip) have become cheap and easier to use allowing the creations of better tools.
The work that we have done with Arduino is to try to bring these tools one step
closer to the beginner allowing people to start building stuff after only 3 or 4 days of workshop. With Arduino the designer or artist can get to know the basics of electronics and sensors very quickly and start building prototypes with an investment of as little as 70EUR.