More and more prototyping kits are offering makers a broader choice of circuit boards to create their projects faster and faster. After gaining exposure through crowdfunding campaigns, these boards are supported and coveted by a growing number of fans. This Christmas, Makery decided to write a letter to Santa Claus about them…
Directly inspired by the success of the Arduino microcontroller, which is often used in embedded electronics projects, prototyping boards are growing in number, more or less successfully appealing to the public’s generosity on crowdfunding websites. Makery identified 10 that any respectable maker would want to see under the tree on Christmas morning.
Printoo : the most flexible
What is it? A sort of Arduino on paper, Printoo is a platform of flexible, ultralight open source modules and printed circuit boards.
What can it do? Perfect for prototyping interactive objects… of any shape. Therefore ideal for activating 3D printed objects or wearables.
How does it work? All sorts of modules—LED bars, printed batteries, photosensors or organic solar cells, etc.—connect to each other for a variety of configurations: solar, motor, motion detector…
Who makes it? The Printoo project was developed by the Portuguese company Ynvisible and supported by French Grenoble-based company Isorg, specialized in photosensors and image sensors in organic electronics.
How much does it cost? 6 packs are available, from the most basic (2 modules and 3 components) to the most complete (16 modules and several sets of components). From $45 to $525.
An Arduino lighter than air? Tutorial for making your own mini-blimp :
More info on Printoo website
Kickstarter campaign ended on May 17, 2014: 560 contributors, $80,336 raised for a goal of $20,000. Planned launch date: September 2014.
LittleBits : the most playful
What is it? With LittleBits, prototyping is child’s play. The magnetic modules snap together like LEGO, intiating anyone to the joy of electronics without the need for programming skills.
How does it work? Easy to recognize by their color-coded parts—blue for battery, pink for sensors and buttons, green for outputs—, modules range from most simple (LED, motor) to most complex (wireless, programmable).
Who makes it? The LittleBits library of electronic modules was conceived by Ms. Ayah Bdeir, an alumna of the MIT Media Lab and co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit.
How much does it cost? The basic kit of 10 modules costs around 145 €. The Smart Home Kit, for connecting your household objects, is available for pre-order at 245 €. There is even a special 120 € kit for musicians, developed with Korg, that can create up to 500,000 synthesizer combinations.
More info on LittleBits website
SAM : the most promising
What can it do? SAM lets you design connected objects that react to light, move or vibrate according to commands pre-set by the user.
How does it work? Its simple graphic interface means users don’t need to learn how to code. All the modules integrate a Bluetooth chip. You can connect things (switch, lamp, motor, thermometer, light sensor, cloud module…) both to each other and to the Internet without any prior knowledge of electronics.
Who makes it? The concept was developed by the Belgian Joachim Horn, whose start-up is based in London. SAM already won three awards at Maker Faire New York.
How much does it cost? SAM comes in 4 different kits, from the most simple 3 modules (45 £, or 57 €) to the most complete, which includes 12 modules (200 £, or 254 €).
Presentation of SAM on Kickstarter :
More info on SAM website
Kickstarter campaign ended on October 29, 2014: 817 contributors, 125,000 £ raised for a goal of 50,000 £.
Microduino-Joypad : the most fun
What is it? Perfect for retrogaming fans, the Microduino-Joypad game console lets you replay 8-bit Tetris or Breakout, but also create your own games.
What can it do? This open controller with the appearance of a vintage console has extended functions thanks to an integrated Microduino Upin27 interface, which can remote-control robots, drones or even send SMS.
How does it work? The console is equipped with embedded sensors (microphone, light, temperature), in addition to controllers for robots or multi-rotor drones, as well as wifi, GPS and VGA extensions.
Who makes it? Designed by Microduino Studio, the console is a very pronounced nod to Nintendo’s Gameboy, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
How much does it cost? 60 €.
Microduino Joypad demo for a dirt car-racing game :
More info on Microduino website
Kickstarter campaign ended on October 31, 2014: 252 contributors, $27,007 raised for a goal of $20,000. Planned launch date: November 2014.
TinyScreen : the most mini
What is it? TinyScreen is a 1-inch customizable mini-screen that can be attached anywhere to play, receive notifications and display information.
What can it do? TinyScreen’s mini-screen can be used as a Smart Watch that communicates with your smartphone via Bluetooth 4, or as a minuscule game console with its 4 buttons. It can also play postage stamp-sized videos.
How does it work? TinyScreen is based on the TinyDuino platform, a miniaturized version of Arduino. The board measures only 20 x 20 mm. Several default apps are playable directly on the TinyScreen, no programming required.
Who makes it? U.S.-based TinyCircuits began miniaturizing boards in 2012 in order to prototype small objects, while preserving all the power and characteristics of the Arduino.
How much does it cost? The basic kit costs $55. To make your Smart Watch, it will cost about $90.
Make your Flappy Bird fly from one TinyScreen to another :
More info on TinyCircuits website
Kickstarter campaign ended on October 25, 2014: 1502 contributors, $128,813 raised for a goal of $15,000. Planned launch date: February 2015.
BITalino : the most DIY biosignals
What is it? BITalino is a DIY project to measure body signals. It presents itself on its ongoing Kickstarter campaign as a low-cost toolbox to learn how to prototype applications in the fields of health, sports and well-being.
What can it do? These modules require no electronics skills, ideal for developing wearables.
How does it work? Several kits containing pre-wired sensors include ready-to-use configurations: cardio, motion, respiration…
Who makes it? BITalino is a project developed by PLUX, a company specialized in biomedical hardware, and by the Lisbon Telecommunications Institute.
How much does it cost? The ready-to-use board kit sells for 149 €. Special kits are more pricey: 295 € for the motion kit, which includes an accelerometer and magnetometer; up to 950 € for the cardio kit.
Motion kit applied to surfing :
More info on BITalino website
Kickstarter campaign ends on December 4, 2014. So far, the project has raised only 24,164 € out of its 50,000 € goal.
Spark Photon : the most clever
What is it? The size of a matchbox, Spark Photon lets you connect your objects to the Internet via wifi.
What can it do? Compatible with Arduino, Spark Photon lets you prototype, while its postage stamp-sized PO module connects to wifi.
How does it work? The modules are activated via Spark OS, the free open source cloud developed by Spark that connects microcontrollers to the Net.
Who makes it? Spark Photon was conceived by Spark’s team of designers and engineers.
How much does it cost? Pre-order at $19.
More info on Spark website.
Kickstarter campaign ended on June 2, 2013: 5549 contributors, $568,000 raised for a goal of $10,000. Planned launch date: March 2015.
Soft Robotic Toolkit : the most advanced
What is it? The Soft Robotics Toolkit is a library of shared resources on the design, fabrication, modeling and control of soft robots.
What can it do? It has everything you need to build robots out of flexible materials. It presents a number of applications in the medical field, from a complete prosthesis of the hand to rehabilitation gloves and even cardiac simulators.
How does it work? Open source resources and plans, tutorials, case studies, even cost analyses. More for apprentice researchers or advanced and motivated makers.
Who makes it? The initiative launched on September 19, 2014 is directed by researchers from several labs within Harvard University, in collaboration with Trinity College in Dublin.
How much does it cost? Free and open source resources online.
Demo of Soft Robotic Toolkit by Harvard University :
More info on Harvard website
WeIO : the most French Touch
What is it? WeIO is a new programmable circuit board for designers of connected objects.
What can it do? This board is aimed primarily at designers of household objects, so that they can go directly from electronics to application. Makery wanted to see it up close: The WeIO team lent us one of their 10 prototypes for a beta test.
Read our article “We proto-tested WeIO, the Arduino for connected designers”
How does it work? The board integrates a wifi connection and a server. It can be coded directly in a Web browser, without dedicated software. WeIO connects to your household wifi, smartphone and any computer within reach of the network.
Who makes it? Uroš Petrevski, Draško Drašković and Jean-Louis Frechin have been working on this project for two years, supported by a rather successful Indiegogo campaign that raised more than 30,000 €. The Nodesign team presented it at ENSCI-Les Ateliers in Paris on October 30.
How much does it cost? WeIO should be available in 2015 for about 60 €.
Indiegogo campaign ended on November 11, 2014: 327 contributors, 30,092 € raised for a goal of 8,000 €. Planned launch date: 2015.
Open BCI : the most brainy
What is it? Open BCI is a customizable brain-computer interface that lets you access data generated by brainwaves.
What can it do? For adventurous souls, the Open BCI board is a (relatively) low-cost, programmable electroencephalographic platform for measuring brain activity.
How does it work? The Open BCI board can be attached to the back of a 3D-printed headset, connected to passive and active electrodes.
Who makes it? The initiative comes from a student at Parsons School in New York and his professor. In the beginning, the novice in neuroscience and electronics wired a baseball cap to a smartphone that stored the EEG data. The hack later evolved to the OpenBCI prototype, which was awarded at Maker Faire New York 2013.
How much does it cost? The 8-bit Arduino-compatible Open BCI costs $449.99, in addition to the starter kit of 10 electrodes for $39.99.
Presentation of Open BCI on Kickstarter :
Kickstarter campaign ended on January 23, 2014: 947 contributors, $215,438 raised for a goal of $100,000. Planned launch date: 2015.
More info on Open BCI website