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“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

– Steve Jobs

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By phil

Sketching in Hardware 2009

On 01, Aug 2009 | In Blog | By phil

I’m back from London and the Sketching09 conference that focused on the practice of “sketching in hardware,” i.e. making quick interactive hardware prototypes as a way to explore a design direction. Lots of great ideas and work presented. A few highlights:

  • Conference organizer and ThingM partner Mike Kuniavsky’s talk “Read Write Material Culture” proposed that only the 20th century was mostly Read-only, where before that and emerging in the 21st century, production can be local and accessible to many makers. The economics of industrial production pushed individuals away from making, but the emergence of new technologies and tools (e.g. web-based distribution, 3D printing, open-source hardware and software toolkits) make it once again possible for individuals to produce things and make a living at it.
  • Ed Baafi of Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn and the Boston FabLab demoed a web-based visual programming system for putting code on the Arduino. Using the same approach as Scratch, users can drag-and-drop programming structures and watch them run while the hardware responds. Once the code is finished, the system will download compiled code to the Arduino so it can run un-tethered. He hopes to release a beta version soon.
  • Along these same lines, David Zicarelli founder of MAX/MSP maker Cycling74 demoed a project where users can create a patch in MAX, and it will run on the Arduino, either tethered or downloaded and un-tethered.
  • André Knörig demoed Frizting, a web-based system for visualizing hardware prototypes with the Arduino and other microcontrollers. Once diagramed, the circuit can be shared, and most importantly, Frizting will generate the layout for a printed circuit board (PCB), so you can turn your idea into a more formal project that can be manufactured.
  • Jan Borchers of The Media Computing Group at RWTH Aachen University showed his Luminet project, which is a system of intelligent nodes that talk to each other, and are programmed by infecting the network of Luminet nodes, where the code jumps from one node to the next.

Slides for many of the presentations are here.