Eric Holm

Report Arduino Unplugged workshop

12 | 13 | 14 March 2007

This was the first ever edition of a Bluetooth Arduino workshop. Massimo Banzi specially developed new content for this workshop on the brand new Bluetooth Arduino board. Although it was quite complex, it turned out to be a very stimulating workshop.


Arduino workshop 2007 -

The workshop opened with a general introduction of the Arduino platform by Massimo Banzi. Massimo is assisted by Ubi de Feo from TwoDotOne, who specialises in Bluetooth. The Arduino board was original developed at the Ivrea institute in Italy. Underlying its developement was a growing conviction that today media literacy boils down to hardware literacy. Therefore the typical Arduino approach is all about experimenting with and reusing stuff that is already available, a practice known as ‘tinkering’. For instance, Massimo showed the basic USB keyboard hack, that can be used as a simple way to connect sensors to a computer (the keyboard hack is the main topic of another workshop) Arduino is about physical computing, about taking things apart and trying out instead of speaking about constituing atoms and engineering principles.
After that we got a quick view into PureData (an open source node based software tool). There is a PureData patch called PDuino that one can use to programme the behaviour of the Arduino board entirely from your computer.

Massimo showed some projects that people built with Arduino. For instance M.otu, by Mario Canali: a sensor based game that records the player's emotional state by using a heartbeat and a "Galvanic Skin Response" sensor system.
Another project is Xsense, Xsense is a helmet that turns the sounds from outside into a synaesthet 's colourful vision.
The environment that you normally see, turns into a sonic landscape.
Flirtshirt, another Arduino project, is a shirt with an LCD display that displays different symbols like hearts, dollar signs or you phone number. You can choose the symbol you like by spinning the clock like input device.
After the lunch the participants got hands-on and everybody installed the Arduino environment. We proceeded with building the elementary ‘blinking led’ project. This blinking LED is known as the ‘Hello World’ of physical computing.

The second and third workshop days were more focused on the Bluetooth version of of the Arduino board. The Bluetooth module inside the Arduino is not only a replacement for the USB cable but a very versatile module. It has a range of about 100 meters and can do a lot more than only sending and receiving data, for example searching for other Bluetooth devices. Every Bluetooth device has an unique number, by placing more Arduino BT’s in one building you can track movements. The Arduino BT’s can also talk to each other in a network. Combining more modules the Arduino BT can also be used in a network called Piconet.
The theoretical but very informative Bluetooth introduction Ubi de Feo, Massimo's assistant, showed one of his current Bluetooth project for Nokia. A great advantage of the Bluetooth Arduino is that you can control it from your Bluetooth enabled phone. By using an example code that runs on a Nokia 6600 it’s possible to send data to the Arduino BT from your phone.