Modulo is now based on the Atmel | SMART SAM D21


Modulo is a simple, modular solution for Makers looking to build electronics.


Back in May, former Pixar developer Erin Tomson unveiled a new set of plug-and-play boards designed to take the headache and hassle out of building electronics. Not long after its Kickstarter launch, Modulo flew by its $10,000 pledge goal having garnered over $50,000 from 315-plus backers. Since then, the Richmond, California-based startup has experienced tremendous popularity at Maker Faires and has even demonstrated its simplicity with some DIY projects of their own, ranging from a tea-brewing robot to a smart sous vide machine.

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Essentially, Modulo is a series pre-made circuit boards that provides Makers with all of the necessary tools to bring their gizmos and gadgets to life, without the messiness of wiring and soldering. Each module is equipped with its own little processor (ATtiny841) that is tasked with handling its operation and communicating with a controller board. While the Modulo Controller had been built around the mighty ATmega32U4 for its crowdfunding debut, Tomson has since upgraded its design to include the much faster and powerful Atmel | SMART SAM D21 — the same Cortex-M0+ MCU at the heart of the Arduino Zero. What this means is that the Controller will work nicely with Arduino and will be well received by the flourishing DIY community.

“This new chip is four times faster, has eight times the Flash storage, and has 12 times the RAM of the ATmega32u4 used in earlier prototypes,” Tomson explains.

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Using a connector on its back, Makers can slide their boards right into the so-called Modulo Base which securely holds them in place. Following a successful Kickstarter run, Tomson had decided to switch the connectors, both for attaching each Modulo to the base and for cables that link the bases together. These improved connectors are easier to assemble and more compact. Furthermore, those wishing to employ a Spark Core, Photo or Electron instead of the Controller can do so by selecting a Spark Base.

The Arduino-compatible Controller boasts six I/O ports that can be used as digital or analog inputs and digital outputs. Four of the six ports can even be used to control servos or output a PWM signal. Additionally, each port has its own power and ground pins to help keep things nice and neat, while circuitry on the board will protect it from any potential wiring mishaps.

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Similar to other DIY dev kits like littleBits, Modulo features a number of different modules with varying capabilities. These include a color OLED display, a push-button illuminated knob, a motor driver, a thumb joystick, a temperature probe, I/O and extension cables, as well as an IR transceiver and a Blank slate that lets Makers devise circuits from scratch. Any four modules can be connected to the Base, or can be daisy chained together for larger projects.

The ARM Cortex-M0+ driven Controller can also act as a bridge, enabling users to manage their modules from Python running Raspberry Pi or a Mac, Windows or Linux computer. Beyond that, they can choose to use the Arduino IDE to reprogram the Controller or connect to the Internet via Spark. Communication between devices is accomplished through the standard I2C bus.

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The Modulo Protocol allows for the Controller to dynamically discover connected devices, assign addresses, retrieve device capabilities and detect bus errors. It is an extension of I2C and can be utilized on a mixed ­protocol bus along with SMBus and traditional I2C devices.

“Modulo wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of the open source community, so we’re giving back by open sourcing our protocols, hardware designs, firmware and libraries,” Tomson adds.

Those wishing to learn more, explore technical specs or pre-order a Modulo set can head over to its official website here.

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