BlinkM Smart LEDs and other cool new hardware.
BlinkM is a new smart LED from ubiquitous computing consultancy ThingM. It can smoothly fade to an RGB- or HSV-specified color, randomly fade between nearby colors (for mood lighting), or play back a number of canned, and a single saved, sequence. The compact package contains a bright RGB LED and an AVR microcontroller, and can be connected directly to an Arduino USB board with no additional components. BlinkM is controlled via I2C and up to 127 can be connected to a single Arduino board (or other microcontroller). See the datasheet for details. There’s also sample Arduino code available for talking to them using the Wire library, and a cross-platform application for graphically creating a color sequence. This is a great way to easily and quickly create cool lighting with an Arduino, and without the use of many pins or much code. You can get a BlinKM for $12.95 from Sparkfun.
I’m guessing that this is only one of many cool products we’ll be seeing from ThingM – these guys have quite a record. In particular, Arduino users may have seen the notes from Tod’s Arduino classes (Spooky Arduino, and Bionic Arduino) and might have heard of Sketching in Hardware, a conference Mike started to bring together creators and users of physical computing platforms and related tools. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.
ThingM’s not the only company that’s been creating cool new stuff to use with Arduino boards. Libelium, the designers of the Arduino XBee Shield, have recently launched two new products. The GPS module slips onto the pins unused by the XBee shield – great for determining your location and wirelessly transmitting back to a computer (and many other things). The GPRS/GPS shield additionally puts your Arduino on the cellular network, letting you send and receive data wherever you are. The RepRap project (to create a self-replicating fabrication machine) has been working on porting their electronics to Arduino and creating some nice products in the process. Check out their kit which has all the PCBs you need for an Arduino-based RepRap machine. Or if you’re just looking to control some motors, check out the stepper motor driver PCB or the PWM driver PCB.
Those of you looking for something with (significantly) more processing power than an Arduino should check out Bug Labs, which just launched their online store. They’re going to be shipping their BUGbase handheld Linux computer and accompanying modules in March.
If you prefer the smellier side of physical computing (e.g. chemicals and solder), check out these new single-sided serial boards: one from Adilson Akashi and the other from WestFW. Both can be etched and assembled by hand, then bootladed and programmed with the Arduino software. For the absolute lowest-cost, minimum component Arduino-compatible, check out the uDuino instructions. Bitty’s been working on a ZIFduino with a zero-insertion force socket for easy ATmega programming. Limor Fried (a.k.a. ladyada) has some tantalizing new designs posted on Flickr. We’ve haven’t been slacking off either, and hope to have some more to share with you soon. In the meantime, say hello to the newest member of the Arduino team.
BlinkM photo by Tod Kurt