Caspar Menkman

Sensors, Arduino's and other toys

A Dev Camp crash course

A sensor is a device that measures a physical quantity and converts this into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an instrument. The quantity measured can be anything ranging from radiation, pressure, temperature, magnetism or even the result of a chemical reaction. The Dev Camp '10 will center around the measurability, manageability and repurposing of human behavior and output. Still a little bit abstract for you? Let's dive into the sensor(y)-world together.


Arduino Open - Picture taken from The Amazing Rolo. Deborah M. Kōdō


Generally speaking a sensor is a technological or biological organ that detects or senses a signal, physical condition or chemical compound. It reacts to a specific input and gives a predetermined response. This process could be as mundane as a speedometer that measures the speed of a moving vehicle and presents this through the typical movements of the incorporated clock-hand. To be a good sensor it has to meet 3 important requirements.

• It has to be sensitive to the measured property
• It has to be insensitive to any other property likely to be encountered in its application
• It should not influence the measured property

During the Dev camp we will focus on repurposing and adjusting these three core qualities. In combination with technologies like RFID, social networking, physical computing and a lot of creativity, this should result in engaging installations, spaces, projects, mobile apps and (interactive) games.


Measuring and repurposing the capacity of sensors is very nice, but to really extend the possibilities of a sensor we need a system that can transform input in a more extreme way. If the sensors are the limbs of the future projects developed during the Dev Camp, we need a brain to direct their movements. Computer power. Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform that brings exactly that. Arduino boards are small physical computing platforms, consisting of a simple I/O board and an integrated development environment. This means that it is a platform that consists of both software and hardware. And because the properties of both the hardware and the software are freely distributed, Arduino allows the participants a lot of room in which to adjust the capacities of the system.

Sensors + Arduino = ?

During the nervy 5 days of the Dev Camp, the hackers/artists/scientists will work their socks off to be able to present their projects during the first evening of Sensor Fest. But what can we expect? Because words limit my ability to transfer my personal thoughts, I will try and illustrate them by showing you a couple of examples.

The arrival of Xbox Kinect has been widely anticipated by all of Mediamatic. Kinect is a hardware add-on to the Xbox 360. It is a camera that uses infra-red lighting to map both the player and the room he/she is in 3-dimensionally. It is voice controlled and uses a different interface then the one the Xbox 360 uses. In this video you can see someone repurposing the capabilities of the Kinect.

This is a more hands-on example of what might go down at our Dev Camp. Two guys are twiddling away with a small poke, making an iron pen hit a cd with varying speed and rhythm. This is an Arduino based project in which the receiving sensor's response to a stimulus has been altered and repurposed.

And finally, a project in which Arduino and a distance measuring sensor produce sounds directly derived from the distance between the sensor and an object.

So let's get ready for loads of circuit-bending, software hacking, re-use, mis-use and craziness with sensors the next couple of days.