David Cuartielles, Ph.D. candidate in Interaction Design and Co-founder of Arduino, answers a few, but very frequently asked, questions about the electronics prototyping platform Arduino.
This post was originally published in the Medea publication Prototyping Futures.
What is Arduino?
DAVID: Arduino is an electronics prototyping platform that is used, by many, as a way to learn about digital electronics. It offers easy access to a whole body of knowledge. One of the key aspects of this technology is that, from the beginning, it was designed having the users in mind. It was made thinking that students would either buy a board or build their own, and that the system would offer a software abstraction good enough to enable them to quickly learn about embedded programming. Arduino includes the hardware and the software to get it to work, and the documentation to learn how to make it. The whole technology is open source. As a matter of fact, the Arduino project has become a reference project when talking about making open hardware available for others to use.
When was it created?
It was created in 2005. At the time, I was a visiting researcher at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, where I met with Massimo Banzi and Dave Mellis. The three of us designed the first system, Gianluca Martino and his partner Daniela Antonietti joined us immediately after, and Tom Igoe joined just before summer that same year.
Who are using Arduino?
Arduino is used by students coming from almost every discipline at university level. Art and design students were our initial user group from, but by making the system easy to use to them, we made it easy for everybody. Many design studios, but also research groups, started using Arduino technology for its ease of use, as it makes things that should be easy to solve, easy to solve. Since Christmas 2011, Arduino is also sold at retail stores (e.g. at Swedish Kjell & Co) . Who knows how many electronics aficionados there are making projects in their spare time…
How many users are there?
Arduino has registered over 700,000 official boards, but we have estimated that there is at least one derivative or clone board per every official one (read The Power of the Copy of the Copy). Our server statistics seem to indicate so.
What will the future bring for Arduino?
Since we started, we can proudly say that we have helped in transforming education at many universities and schools around the world. We are now analysing how to approach education at high schools, but also how to manufacture locally to have the largest possible reach. Nowadays, 80 percent of the Arduino branded devices are manufactured in Italy, but the import taxes in countries in Latin America, or other places like India or China, makes it hard for the official boards to reach those countries. We are also very engaged in the design of artefacts that will make the Internet of Things possible, but also thinking about new educational tools like robots or boards oriented towards 5-and-6-year-old kids.
Any interesting projects on your desk?
I prefer talking about projects that I have made that have inspired others. I made a robot called Oh_Oh to teach kids in a poor neighbourhood in Mexico City. Together with Xun Yang, a graduate from K3 at Malmö University, we created a robot and a whole series of exercises around it in about one month. The CCEMX (Spanish cultural center in Mexico) financed part of the development, but we still went for local manufacturing and minimising the budget as much as possible.