Arduino founder Massimo Banzi was in Paris for a weekend in early February, just in time for a lecture, two days of workshops at ENSCI and an interview for Makery.
More than a million programmable circuit boards have been sold in 10 years. Fabshop’s guest for the French part of the Arduino Tour is a rock star of maker culture. “The maker movement exists from the moment people who are outsiders of technology start creating with technology,” he says at the beginning of his lecture. His credo is democratization. Makery asked him a few questions.
“When we launched Arduino, our idea was to build a platform that would disappoint experts but excite beginners.” Massimo Banzi, founder of Arduino
Arduino has developed a wide range of boards over time, but the Arduino software has changed very little. Why?
Ten years ago, we started with a very simple little circuit board. Users were making little offline projects. Then came the Internet of Things, and users started to make connected prototypes. Arduino created several dedicated boards, which have grown increasingly functional, and technologically complex. But the fact that all these boards work with the same software helps users to go from one to the other more easily. The Arduino software is desigend to be as compatible as possible, independently of the sensor, the board or the project.
Will the classic Arduino Uno change ? Become more powerful ? Less expensive ?
The board, and even its packaging, were designed to demystify the product, to make it accessible to everyone at first sight. Arduino maintains this standard. Right now we’re working on Arduino Zero, which is an Arduino Uno of the same size, but more powerful. This is good for prototyping connected objects.
There are two applications of the Arduino platform. On one side, there is the classic Arduino model with shields (auxiliary boards that add a function to the Arduino such as wifi, SD card memory, controlling several motors, etc.), which is a good way to learn how to make your first prototypes. On the other side is a postage stamp-sized module that includes only a battery, a processor and a few connectors, which more and more users want to use to build a product around this central brain. This means that the module can be purchased in greater quantities, at a lower cost, in order to then produce and commercialize the product.
For a class of 20 students, you buy Arduino Unos. But to launch a chain production, you buy a simple module with a concentrated design. These are the current two distinct uses of the Arduino platform.
“18 million people logged into Arduino.cc last year, for an average time of 6 minutes. This means that people are coming to learn on the website.” Massimo Banzi
We also worked on integrating Linux into Arduino with the Yun. This enables us to link the Arduino environment to the Linux world, while being simpler than a Raspberry Pi, which is a true miniature central processing unit. The Yun is the power of Linux on a smaller scale.
What are the most incredible projects you’ve seen that were built with Arduino ?
Aha ! (laughs) It’s a difficult question, it changes all the time. What was incredible 5 years ago is nothing more than a toy now. I especially like tools that were created with Arduino, projects that enable others to make things, like 3D printers or Arduino-based laser-cutters. At the moment there are some nice projects to diagnose diseases or analyze DNA. It’s interesting, because it opens it up to new applications.
The “fun” projects, the silly little prototypes that you see a lot of on the blogs, aren’t the best projects, which are often more discreet and slower to emerge.
I always keep in mind the cat food dispenser, one of the first projects developed with Arduino by someone, at home, to solve a personal problem, in this case to control what a sick cat eats when its owner is absent. It was then made available open source, and today it’s for sale (and still open source).
“The maker movement hasn’t yet gone from mass production to individual production, but it has gone from mass innovation to individual innovation.” Massimo Banzi
Is biohacking the future of Do it Yourself ?
Yes, biohacking will be the “next big thing”. The last major trend was hardware and connected objects, the next will be the introduction of bio into the maker community, followed by electronics that can interface with biomaterials.
Just as previously with electronics, biohacking tools are becoming more financially accessible. You can now connect any sensor to an Arduino and replace what used to be an expensive custom tool. Sensors are becoming more and more complex, less and less expensive, and can now be used for bio. So biohackers will be able to carry out more and more advanced experiments.
Do you still have time to “make” things ?
Yes, a little bit, but not as much as I’d like !