As seen at the Atmel Maker Faire, Embedded World and most recently, Electronica booths, former AVR Hero Pamungkas Prawisuda Sumasta, Ralf Smit and their team have successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for their all-in-one Arduino-compatible prototyping gadget, Phoenard.
While its form-factor is rather convenient, its hackability and wide-range of applications is where the Phoenard truly sets itself apart. The gadget, which is powered by an ATmega2560, not only sits perfectly in your hand but can slide quite easily into your pocket. The 11.8 x 6.1 x 1.1 cm device boasts a full-color touchscreen display and an on-board battery, and is even equipped with its own operating environment. Given its incredible versatility, the self-programmed Phoenard is bound to make every true Maker’s dream a reality.
As its creators note, the prototyping platform can be used as the ‘brain’ of any DIY Project. Unlike an Arduino, Phoenard encompasses several features built entirely into a single unit, which can also serve as your daily mobile device. Sure, you can buy a smartphone, but wouldn’t it be even more awesome to devise your own?
Aside from being 100% Arduino-compatible, the megaAVR powered device’s on-board course is a perfect choice for Makers looking to start their first creations. As the team shares, “[There’s] no need to have programming skills or have a computer with you, as the Phoenard itself can guide you.” This curriculum is a compilation of tutorials that provide step-by-step breakdowns on how to prototype and tinker around with electronics.
With Phoenard, Makers will no longer need to abandon their prototyping tools either; instead, the gadget can become your day-to-day device to carry out tasks such as calling, texting and storing contacts, serving as an MP3 player, and controlling wearable devices. Whether you want to play multi-player games with friends via Bluetooth or make a mini drum kit using Bare Conductive’s Electric Paint, countless ideas that can now be brought to life with Phoenard.
“Well, asking what can you do with Phoenard is more [or] less the same as asking what can you do with computer or smartphone. The functionality of the devices are defined by the software running on top of it.
Designed for Makers of all levels, ranging from students and educators, Phoenard is essentially for “everyone who is passionate about making and/or for those who is looking for a great tools to get started in electronics and programming.”
To complement Phoenard’s mobility, portability and self-sufficiency, the team has also introduced the Phoenard Operating Environment, which will enable a user to store thousands upon thousands of Arduino sketches right on-board. “Similar to developing apps for your smartphone, but instead for your Arduino,” the team writes.
Recently, we had chance to experience the latest rendition of Phoenard first-hand inside of our Electronica booth. Not only does the bootloader sit on the AVR, each of the applications – ranging from a GSM phone to an MP3 player – live on a microSD card. As we learned, Makers can now mod, add and draw icons right on the handed gadget, while the SD card remains in the socket. This allows a user to share his or her sketches without the need for any additional cables or computers, as they can now be transferred wirelessly between two Bluetooth-enabled Phoenards.
The team notes that they are also in the process of developing a way to wireless programming a Phoenard from a computer. Pretty sweet, right?
Currently, the gadget is equipped with both external (‘Phoenex’) and on-board (‘Phoenon’) extensions. The Phoenex — which comes in three variations — can easily be connected to a project. Meanwhile, the Phoenon is capable of being affixed to the Phoenard and connected to the main board through the 12-pin FPC connector, thereby allowing Makers to add innovative features to the everyday gadget ranging from an IR thermometer and capacitive touch to Wi-Fi and NFC.
Plugging one of these modules into the back of the device can add those functionalities, while switching between projects is as easy as docking it onto one of the extensions and selecting the appropriate sketch. “Each extension board can be dedicated for a specific project, so there is no need to struggle around the next time you want to run that project.”
So, what if you wanted to recreate the same functionality as Phoenard using Arduino? Sure, it’s possible. However, it will consist of an Arduino Mega, five Arduino shields, three modules, and will likely be five times the size and double the cost of the handheld gadget.
The team has already been the recipient of numerous honors, ranging from our recent AVR Hero Design Contest to Maker Faire Merit Awards in San Mateo and Rome. Add crowdfunding success to the list, too! Fresh off its Kickstarter debut, Phoenard well exceeded its original goal of €20,000, having garnered over €35,000. After being released during the Hackaday Prize Party in Munich, the team had attained its funding goal in just a matter of days.
Interested in learning more or ordering an all-in-one device? Head on over to its official Kickstarter page here. If all goes to plan, the initial batch of devices are expected to be shipped in March 2015.
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