Tag Archives: Embedded-Design-Interview

1:1 Interview with Mel Li (Part 1)

In 2013 there were 100 Maker Faires held around the world with nearly 530,000 people in attendance. Among the events, there are players and exhibitors who showcase their creation to the spectators. Many young techies, savvy tinkers, and even academic researchers are turning to tinkering. According to Makezine, there are over 40 million people who are classified as being part of this broader creative class. Among this creative class, there lies a blend of creative professionals. They are estimated at nearly 40 million people, all who create for a living, and are involved in a variety of fields from engineering to biotech to education to small business. We are witnessing the rise of the creative class – the Maker Movement.

Among this creative class, there are also some Makers who love the blend of creativity, fantasy, and technology in fantasy role-play (also known as “cosplay”). They live and advocate artistry, practice creative fiction, or conduct game play by integrating experimental R&D into their lives. The integration of new technologies into the Maker movement allows people to bring their creative or artistic endeavors from fantasy into reality. Below we interview Mel Li, a Biomedical Engineer and Maker, whose work showcases an illuminating wearable technology. She participates in an entertainment technology fantasy role-play coupled with imagination and real-world integration, all made possible by the advent of embedded mediated digital technologies. Mel Li is a Biomedical Engineer by day and creative Maker by night. Today, this dual-role is adopted by many graduates and researchers who are technologists, passionately wielding technology for artistic expression, research and advancement.

TV: What is your opinion of the Maker Movement?

ML: For me, technology should not only be about practicality, but should also be creative and aspirational. It really exists in the mind and the imagination. Without creative visions from artists, writers, and engineers, we have goals to work towards. I think this is the root cause for a lot of transformative ideas and technologies. For example, Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk classic “Snowcrash” predicted a lot of the Internet and I think many sci fi aficionados can see that current technologies from Google Glass to Amazon quadcopters and self-driving cars owes a lot to creative influences. These advances are a motivation to learn more about the world around us… I think we’re living in a really exciting time. I want to be part of something important that makes a difference. “Making things” makes me feel resourceful; it makes me feel I can do things I did not know I could do.

Also, I am excited to be part of this super trend for wearables. There is a lot of “Maker Movement” in all of us. We have been making for countless centuries. Making is an attitude that isn’t the sole domain of the young, or the old. Today, the tools to build complex or innovative things are simply faster and more available to everyone. Using Arduino, I quickly realized I too could make creatively. It gives me a great feeling that I am a participant in this Maker Movement. A lot of modern technology is now simplified and easily broadcast. On Twitter, I can interact with famous and inventive people; I can tweet with Obama or communicate with the next contemporary cool inventor. 3D printing is not for small one time use or useless parts or useless created things. Technology in general is used to making things in a mass produced way. It’s all changing now. 3D printing is helping make highly personalized products. People make their wedding rings. Doctors and researchers make prosthetics and print unique designs for custom tailored patients. Even still, there are many more uses. Tech is becoming super personal and highly personal, it’s digitally produced, it can be tailored to fit your imagination.

Figure 2: Photo by Benny Lee

Photo by Benny Lee

Most importantly, you can express who you are to people by building their own things. These are the strong pillars, and can cause a resurgence of manufacturing. Prototyping phases are condensed. The risks have been removed with new instruments such as crowd-funding. You no longer have to think about high volume or highly invested factory models. It’s through crowd-funding where Kickstarter tied to R&D can make a lot of sense. Going to a hackerspaces and crowd-funded models to validate, get help, print out whatever is on your mind. Early phases can now be easily proofed and transparently evolved through open-source troubleshooting. The Maker Movement is important. It’s really the first time in digital technology where tools or ideas have become economically feasible and available.

Figure 3: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

TV: Can you talk a little about Arduino and AVR MCUs?

ML: Arduino is one of the best things that happened to Makers, artists and engineers. Arduino is such a great revolution. A lot of people close to me or in my lab research groups use it for personal or professional projects. For example, some have used it for persistence of vision (POV) bike wheel displays, others for piloting hobby drone helicopters for surveying hiking conditions. These machines are now our friends and part of the cast. Whether among friends or professional coworkers/collaborators, Arduino and Embedded design have become part of our discussion and rapport with one another.

This world had become much easier for entry and the barriers to learning are now far removed – allowing more and more people from other core disciplines to get more tightly involved with their ideas. It’s a deeply knitted thread into everything in our lives. In fact, this sort of technology is serving as an invaluable tool. It’s sort of an extension to our imaginations and thoughts.  We are now able to not only have a discussion on the topics or matter at hand, but we can actually work together to help demonstrate and move great ideas from concept to reality. For me, it would have been too taxing and exhausting if I had to program in basic using exotic and difficult learning languages which are really expensive to do without the helpfulness, openness and availability of open hardware, open source, Arduino IDE and Atmel. These things that use to be beyond our limits have now come closer to “easy.”  Now the more important question becomes what we are working towards.

Figure 4: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

TV:  How does imagination and creativity meet technology? 

ML: Imagination and creativity are important for seeing beyond what exists out there and instead looking forward to what could be. Technology is about obtaining the depth to make these dreams real. A lot of my spare time is in the depth of the research or personal build. Technical depth helps pull away the curtain of mystery and make things transparent. It unfolds the creativity with logic and fuses them together with others.

TV:  What is the pursuit?

ML: I like to blend fantasy with reality. I mean simply thinking about it, lots of the tech and smart electronics we use today were once unexplained or unimaginative a decade or so ago. The fantasy world helps unleash abstract concepts in my drawings and paintings. Now there is an availability of technology and lowered barriers for entry such as what you find with the ease of Arduino and forgiving Atmel AVR chips. It’s his ease-of-use which help provide a concrete bridge to formulating my day-to-day work. This technology provides a platform to someone like me, who is immersed into creative/research academia; a canvas to exhibit my work.

Figure 5: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

I have always been a big fan of the fantasy and game world. It’s a relief, pleasure, and balance, being also a research scientist trying to figure out and solve difficult problems. The electronic cosplay collection as a maker help stretch the imagination. The Maker work helps extend my parameters of creativity, lift any preconceived barriers and make thoughts elevate more open. With my graduate research work, the Arduino inspired fluorescent LED costume helps personify the notion of science and tech, where these two disciplines of study are typically not necessary known to be social. When you are in a gaming cosplay, it truly is really easy to share and quickly attract interest. Gaining interest in your project portfolio to present your maker work is not difficult.  When you are at an open convention, people will come up and talk to you… The best feeling is being able to share what you have created.

TV:  What is accelerating the Maker Movement?

ML: Arduino has been so fantastic, with cost and ease of use its primary valued traits. These platforms help me on the weekend. I really like to learn and use motor control and so I have used these controls in a bunch of projects. Time-wise, it’s practical and some of my projects usually took a weekend or week at most.  I used to play a lot of computer games. This led me to building my own computers then I tore things apart to break things and build them back again. It made me feel very knowledgeable and empowered. This whole Maker Movement which is being accelerated more by the Internet, Adafruit, Etsy, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Sparkfun, Seeed Studio, crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, etc…  To me, it’s really doing things in a more sharply defined or distinct ways and building hardware. Making is an attitude that isn’t the sole domain of just the hacker, young techie, or the old adapting to what’s new. Creativity with raw materials, the introduction of digital tools, social sharing, communities, and thriving or developing potential market for wearables or IoT apply to today’s Maker Movement.

Together with the social sharing and instant accessibility, the Movement has become more active. We can find this in academia or even in a social community gathering where people get together with a shared common belief.  For example, Makers and hackers are some of the friends I have at Georgia Tech. We find new platforms to constantly test and stretch our imaginations. Some are building robots together and finding similar pursuits in chasing their imagination. This helps in the exchange of creativity and innovation but also with fostering interesting new ideas. Of course, this all happens when you build something that has a personal expression and share something very meaningful or passionate towards …  Technology has become very personalized.

Figure 1: Inspirational work from Anouk Wipprecht's fashion designs

Inspirational work from Anouk Wipprecht’s fashion designs

TV: How would you characterize yourself?

ML: Well for me, I’m at heart two coalesced into one. I’m a Biomedical Engineer and a Maker. I’ve recently completed a PhD program at Georgia Tech and I’m currently a postdoc over at the University of Washington. At the same time, I really enjoy personal projects. I love to research and create – expand the creative envelope and engage in pursuit of the imagination. This makes me a true Maker at heart. I enjoy pursuing my projects with wearable electronics and I created DIY laboratory automation. Through my creative cosplay and imaginations, I am very passionate around wearable technology as an expression. I have created wearable electronics, which are powered by the Atmel microcontroller and Arduino boards. For example, during this year’s Maker Faire (Bay Area), I showcased some items from my DIY laboratory automation projects which demonstrates how the Atmel MCU and Arduino can be used for low-cost, multi-channel optics control and fluorescence visualization.

Part Two of the interview with Mel Li can be read here.

1:1 Interview with Mel Li (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1 …)

TV:  Tell me about the Lab on a Chip?

ML: The lab-on-a-chip (LOC) is a device that integrates one or several laboratory functions on a single chip of only millimeters to a few square centimeters in size. LOCs deal with the handling of extremely small fluid volumes down to less than pico liters. The notion of the “Lab-on-a-Chip” generally indicates the scaling of single or multiple lab processes down to chip-format, primarily dedicated to the integration of the total sequence of lab processes to perform chemical analysis.  My previous work examined the design and validation of a LOC for screening blood samples to determine optimal personalized drugs and their respective dosages for specific patients to prevent heart attacks. A lot of those techniques were first inspired by the fact that tools requiring the examination, characterization and integration of the sophisticated hardware controls are made available.

TV: Describe your post doctorate work and bio medical engineering?

ML: I worked on research projects that are helping us to better understand and detect early heart disease.  My current research work involves measurements for fluid migration over surfaces then discussing those applications for medical diagnostics. My works also involve motor control for fluorescence microscopy for applications in life sciences.  This work involves spectrum study of fluorescent DNA or proteins. This graduate work is related to the building and diagnostic device which can measure at microscale, pinpoint dosage of drugs to show visibility of early signs of heart disease. The medical application revolves around a low cost infectious disease as well as looking at tuberculosis and malaria. The idea is to provide a breakthrough in what typically required extensive cost, lots of lab work and long examination to be replaced with a low cost and easily administered solution. The application is very similar to taking a sample of mucous or saliva; this is sort of like a pregnancy test. We collaborate with large industrial partners such as GE Healthcare and hopefully we’ll be able to produce a commercially viable product in time.

TV:  How are AVR Microcontrollers being used with the Arduino in your cosplay costume

ML: I use the ATmega168 (via the development and application of the Arduino Duemilanove board) for this costume. The microcontroller is used to control the color, power and timing of the lights on the costume through shift registers. The cosplay costume using this controller chip is the one pictured here.


I also use the ATmega328 (via the Arduino Uno/Uno R3 board) for the lab projects previously described.  Specific tasks for the controller include driving the position and timing of a servo motor and/or linear actuator, as well as switching power on and off from an AC wall socket to a high powered, wide spectrum LED light source. Additionally, it was also used in a costume where it again controlled color, power and timing of LED’s, but these were driven using normal (non shift register) PWM signal controls. My costume using this controller chip is pictured here:

Figure 6: Photos by Mike Vickers

Figure 6: Photos by Mike Vickers


This is the ATmega32uF (via the Arduino Micro board) for my current project (in progress) that will be used for motor control.



* Mel’s costume is an original design inspired by a wide range of cyberpunk/fantasy artists including Masumune Shirow, Eric Canete, Joe Benitez and various modern gaming concept art. According to Mel, the process was a lot of fun and took approximately three months of on-and-off planning and building. The assembly is made from over 60 parts designed in Solidworks and sewn/cut/glued/laser-cut/heat-formed using various techniques. The costume includes color changing LEDs on the spine and front that are controlled by Arduino boards with Atmel AVR and ARM microcontrollers and onboard RGB controllers (respectively). The costume is powered by 16 AA batteries, 1 LiPo rechargeable battery, two 2032 coin cells and one 9-volt battery. In total, there are more than 70 LED’s on the entire costume and over 60 parts.

** Part one of this interview can be read here.


1:1 Interview with Marcus Schappi of MicroView

The Atmel-powered MicroView – which made its first official Kickstarter appearance last week – has already raised nearly $547,925 from over 6,666 enthusiastic backers.

Essentially, the MicroView is a chip-sized platform with a built-in OLED (64×48) display that allows Makers to see what the Atmel-based board is “thinking” without having to link with a PC.

 The device, designed by the Geek Ammo crew, is built around Atmel’s versatile ATmega328P microcontroller (MCU).

Recently, Atmel’s Tom Vu sat down with MicroView creator Marcus Schappi to discuss the project’s Kickstarter success.

Tom Vu: What are the origins of Project MicroView? How did it all start? Given your success with Ninja Blocks, what motivated you to do this project?

Marcus Shappi: This is the first time you can see what your Arduino is thinking! We’ve always tried to make learning electronics easier. We started by creating an Arduino with LEDs on each output pin so you know when the pins are being turned on. We next built Ninja Blocks, an Internet of Things (IoT) system that removes the impediments of needing to know electronics, networking and programming. To cap things off, we asked ourselves how can we make this even easier, and [then] came the MicroView.  We’ve put an incredible amount of time into the MicroView Arduino Library, with only a couple of lines of code makers can dispay images, text, widgets, graphs and gauges. MicroView embeds the power of an Arduino or dev board, onto the size of a chip.

TV: What is Geek Ammo core philosophy and mission?

MS: At Geek Ammo we want to make awesome open source gear (hardware) for Makers and Geeks.

Marcus Shappi and Geek Ammo - Kickstarter Funded Project

TV: Obviously, this compliments the Arduino environment. Why does achieving the smallest form factor matter during the phases of development and engineering process?

MS: When Makers are building projects, often size is a consideration (the MicroView is a tiny 26mm x 26mm x 16mm); this is especially so with wearable and airborne projects where size and weight are a constraint. When holding a MicroView in your hand you’ll instantly notice that it has standard spacing (bread board compatible), but not only that it’s also DIP compatible, making it easy to include in projects with just a couple of headers. Meanwhile, users can also appreciate the smooth ergonomic surfaces on the underside which make it easy to remove the MicroView from a prototyping breadboard.

TV: What can you do with a packaged OLED on microcontroller? Can you provide some use-cases where the display is useful during the Maker Build or Prototype process toward achieving MVP?

MicroView with OLED making ease of use on a nicely fitted Breadboard-AVR

MS: The OLED on the microcontroller really makes it easy to quickly understand what’s going on inside the Arduino. As part of our Arduino library we’ve included code to easily render text, widgets, sprites, graphs and gauges. This is great for displaying information on what your project is doing. Every project has some level of debugging and the MicroView makes this so easy. This could be in a wearables project or even robotics.

TV: Tell us about why education is important in getting newbie younger and Maker-aspiring audience more involved? How are you helping facilitate this early start?

MS: Yes, naturally education is important for the next generation of Makers, and the MicroView helps to make electronics more accessible. By virtue of having the built in OLED display we’re able to show tutorials on how to use the hardware, and that’s cool, but what is really special is the ability to interact with a project and get live feedback on the OLED display. MicroView can help teach you electronics and Arduino. The MicroView comes preflashed with built-in tutorials that are displayed on its OLED screen.

TV: What versions of development platforms can be used with MicroView?

MS: The MicroView support Arduino today.MicroView from Kickstarter Funded Project  Demonstrating Agile Development with OLED Interface

TV: Can MicroView be used inside some connected items? IoT? Wearables? Drones? Robots? Please describe some imaginative projects?

MS: Yup, it sure can. Anywhere where you can use an Arduino you can use a MicroView. We’ve used it to display weather and [other] information. We’ve [also] used it as the brains of a robot, showing the motor status and even a wearable project that displays a heart beat.

TV: What does can MicroView do better for an inspiring engineer or ideate builder looking to help sculpt the world of IoT?

MS: The MicroView make it easier to get started, you can very quickly see what’s happening. This is especially important for IoT projects where you traditionally don’t have one.

MicroView and Sample Applications demonstrating use on Robot

TV: Why doesn’t your project consider multiple rewards or tiers for crowd funding patrons? What you are getting if basic funding goals are met? Stretch goals?

MS: Reward tiers for direct multiples are not possible due to Kickstarter’s terms and conditions. We have a number of tiers starting from $45, with the most popular Tier being the “Learning Kit Tier” which includes parts to create 11 different circuits. We’ve decided to not do stretch goals as they tend to add risk to a project. We want to ship the MicroView on time!

TV: Why is SparkFun your choice in distribution and build?

MS: SparkFun are the experts at manufacturing products like the MicroView. Previously, they’ve manufactured and shipped a Kickstarter project called Makey Makey. We know they can do this, and do it well! Beyond Kickstarter, SparkFun has, by far, the best distribution in the industry.

MicroView makes it easier to get started

TV: Does this statement embody “I am a software company or hardware company” matter in the age of IoT where innovation lies beyond the core?

MS: Didn’t the venture capitalist, Brad Feld say “hardware is just software wrapped in plastic?” So yeah, in 2014 hardware is software and vice versa.

TV: How do you see and why you chose the AVR (MegaAVR)?

MS: We primarily chose AVR for it’s compatibility with Arduino. We’ve seen other projects try to port Arduino to other chipsets, and whilst on the whole they’ve done a good job, there always seems to be some bugs. We don’t want any bugs!

TV: What do you especially like about AVR MCU in your projects?

MS: When you’re designing projects, it’s critical that you have: parts availability, a part that has been field tested (tried and true), and for the type of projects we’re doing power consumption is also a big priority.

TV: What is the differentiator of the Library? Tell me about the enhanced frames per second (FPS) performance in the OLED? Why? What could be a potential use or engineering feat of this speed?

MS: The Arduino library our amazing EE JP Liew has created makes it super easy to do things that would normally be difficult on a microcontroller, like showing on the display, images, text, graphs and gauges. With JP’s library, creating a widget is only a line of code, and updating it another line. When we first started the project we used a 3rd party library, but we found that the performance was sluggish. JP rewrote the library and was able to get 200FPS (more than needed for the human eye). However, this is important on an AVR because you’re doing all your work in a single thread, so if the uC gets bogged down trying to render the screen, it can’t do other things like data-acquisition from a sensor like an accelerometer.

TV: What is the advantage of a combined small form factor OLED display for creative building and prototyping?

MS: You no longer need to connect your Arduino to a computer to see what it’s thinking. No more cryptic LED blink sequences to working what part of the code your Arduino is running.

TV: In the spirit of open source, when can I access the 3D CAD design files, PCB source files, and project’s open source code?

MS:  We’ll make the source public as soon as the Kickstarter funding period is over.


Interview: Jean-Noël talks Ootsidebox

Jean-Noël says projected capacity is the primary principle behind his Atmel-powered Ootsidebox, with an electric field projected in front of the existing touch surface affected by movements of the hand. Simply put, it is possible to calculate 3D coordinates and recognize certain gestures by measuring the perturbations of an oscillator caused by the movement of the user’s fingers (or an object) at several centimeters from the control surface.

Recently, Atmel’s Tom Vu had the opportunity to discuss the Ootsidebox with product inventor Jean Noel Lefebvre. 

Tom Vu:

What is the basic history of Ootsidebox?

Jean Noel: I kicked off this project 6 years ago and have worked on it full time since March 2013. Most of the parts used to construct  Ootsidebox are actually off-the-shelf electronics.


More specifically, I used the Atmel AT90USB1286 microcontroller (MCU) to power the device. Currently, I am exploring the possibility of meshing the popular Unity 3D gaming Engine with Ootsidebox. Combining a well known gaming engine will help us tease out more latent, long-term potential for the project, while simultaneously expanding the boundaries of game play with touchless or hybrid touch/touchless technology.

TV: How does Ootsidebox differ from other touchless and gesture sensor solutions?

JN: First of all, there is nothing at the center. For the microchip solution, you need a center electrode with two layers integrated within the body. In contrast, Ootsidebox is designed to be platform and device agnostic. In fact, the incasing can be modeled to fit around existing technologies and devices. Take, for example, example, the Android or iPad. The idea that you can simply wrap this touchless interface around existing devices and products opens new possibilities while enhancing use-cases for existing devices.


With this external fitting, much like an accessory, one can quickly enable their devices to be touchless, with gestures executed from within 10cm (set to double very soon) at maximum in front of a small screen. The device can be used in many different scenarios. For example, say you are in the kitchen cooking with greasy hands filled with sauce. The Ootsidebox can be set to seamlessly interact with various kitchen appliances – without the user ever having to touch knobs, buttons, glass, dials or sliders. Instead, activating/adjusting appliances can be performed via simple gestures (left to right or circular motions). Of course, there are many additional applications that can benefit from a touchless interface, ranging from home consumer device, gaming, health or even industrial uses.

TV:  Can you tell me more about the product design?  Is there any particular reason you chose Atmel AVR?

JN: The design is very simple, using only well known “stock components” found on any distributor or reseller site. The more complex part may be found in the 14bits DAC in SPI. Most of the components are “old school” logical chips such as 4000 family (my best friends for a long time in electronics). As for the microcontroller, I didn’t need high performance uC, so 8 bits were enough. The idea is to prepare Ootsidebox for mainstream adoption via a strategy of simplicity, a philosophy which fits well with Makers and the open source community. In terms of selecting the appropriate uC, I was careful to precisely balance price and performance. I also took into consideration various factors such as the large AVR community, availability of open source libs and the quality of the support and tools from the chip manufacturer. The mindset, reputation and philosophy of the brand (Atmel and Arduino) helped steer my uC choice. In fact, startups today are very closely tied to Maker Movement, reflecting Arduino and Atmel. That’s why I’m very confident when choosing Atmel, because Atmel and the Arduino community really support the Maker Movement today.

TV: How does Ootsidebox differ from other platforms on the market?

JN: It’s really a control device that computes touchless gestures versus touching and manipulating. Most of us are quite familiar with the ongoing touch revolution, as we use the very same interface interacting with smartphones and tablets on a daily basis. In addition, there are already commercially viable products such as Android devices equipped with sensor hubs that are designed to process gestural movement of the hand.


Ootsidebox differs on many levels, as the device is meant to be an add-on or fitting to an already existing device. Easy modification will encourage HMI enhancements for existing products or emerging devices. Remember, a consumer/user does not have to be married to just one product line from a major manufacturer. With Ootsidebox, you can control the devices without touching; move up, down, side-to-side, rotational, and even emulating the click of a button. Perhaps most importantly, the touchless interface will undoubtedly inspire future design roadmaps. For example, the touchless form factor is perfect for industrial and medical use. Just imagine a dentist needing to activate or handle various devices during treatment when messy hands are not necessarily ideal.

TV: What is the future of Ootsidebox? Do you plan on making it open source?

JN: Yes, there are plans to launch a campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo to attract more involvement in the development and use of this touchless sensor solution. The platform and innovative slope for additional development is limitless. We plan on releasing Ootsidebox as open source / open hardware, complete with specs for mechanical design. Crowdsourcing will help spur additional innovation, while allowing the platform to accommodate a wider degree of functionality. 

TV: How do Hackerspaces influence your work?

JN: A few years ago, disruptive products and ideas were conceived in garages. Today, the very same process takes place in Hackerspaces, where creativity thrives and technical skills abound. By designing projects in Hackerspaces, Makers and engineers are fully connected with a worldwide network of creative people boasting different backgrounds. This synergy significantly accelerates the innovation process.

TV:  What is your personal experience with AVR microcontrollers (MCUs) and Arduino boards?

JN: I was using other brands before I discovered the benefits of AVR uC during my discussions about Ootsidebox with my friends at Elektor Labs.


Also during my stay at Noisebridge Hackerspace, Mitch Altman was using AVR Arduino to teach electronics for newbies (I really love what’s happening there). My first experience with the Arduino environment was with Teensy++ 2.0, based on the AT90USB1286 MCU. This Atmel AVR microcontroller is the one I used for my last prototype of the Ootsidebox tablet accessory, which will be launched soon on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. We are also working on a smaller project with Elektor Labs. Essentially, it’s a “3D Pad” built in the form of a shield for Arduino.

TV: Are touchless gestures the future of user interfaces?

JN: Touchless gestures are a part of the natural evolution of the more traditional user interface. It’s a way to provide a more natural and intuitive user experience, which is somewhat of a growing requirement due to the proliferation of complex equipment in our everyday life. Of course, touchless gesture interaction is also more natural. In the future, with the help of Ootsidebox technology, product designers and Makers will not create electronic platforms to “manipulate” or “interact” with devices, but rather, for individuals to directly “communicate” with them instead.

Really, people expect them to be as smart as living entities. I learned that during various discussions with scientists about the project. In the brain, “communicating” vs. “manipulating” simply does not invoke the same connections pathways. Clearly, touchless and gesture UI are paving the way to a very fascinating evolution of consumer electronics in the near future. That being said, I see touchless user interfaces complimenting, rather than replacing, multi-touch, much the same way the mouse didn’t replace a keyboard.

Clearly, this kind of technology can help save lives, while reducing nosocomial risk in healthcare environments. It may also allows drivers to stay more attentive to the road when navigating with gesture-based infotainment. Personally, I’m dreaming of disruptive aesthetic designs in the field of high-tech consumer electronics. I can’t wait to see what a guy like Philippe Starck will be able to create. As I noted earlier, this project is 100% open and we invite everyone to participate on Twitter. Just post your questions and suggestions here: @OOTSIDEBOX, while including the hashtag #AtmelBlog. I’ll answer you personally. You can also check us out here on Facebook

Video: ARM interviews Atmel’s Ingar Fredriksen

Earlier this week, Atmel kicked off Embedded World 2014 by expanding its low-power ARM Cortex M0+-based MCU portfolio with three new families: the SAM D21, D10 and D11. The trio of entry-level, low-power MCUs are packed with a number of high-end features including Atmel’s Event System, SERCOM module, peripheral touch controller and a full-speed USB interface.

During the show, ARM’s Andy Frame interviewed Atmel’s MCU Marketing Director Ingar Fredriksen about the company’s ARM-based SAM D family of products.

“The original SAM D20 lineup has been a tremendous success for Atmel,” Fredriksen told Frame. “We see a lot of opportunities for the series over the next five years.”

Commenting on the new additions to the SAM D series, Fredriksen highlighted Atmel’s integrated peripheral touch controller (PTC) which supports buttons, sliders, wheels and proximity with up to 256 channels. This configuration allows developers to migrate from a two-chip (one MCU + one touch) solution to a one-chip platform.

Indeed, the PTC supports mutual and self capacitive touch, while offering optimized sensitivity and noise tolerance as well as self-calibration. Simply put, the PTC eliminates the need for external components and minimizes CPU overhead. More specifically, implementing one button takes one channel, while wheels and sliders occupy three.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel’s SAM D portfolio is architected beyond the core, leveraging over two decades of MCU experience to create unique, connected peripherals that are easy-to-use, while providing scalability and performance.

To help accelerate the design process and eliminate the need for additional components, Atmel’s new SAM D lineup integrates additional functionality, including full-speed crystal-less USB, DMA, I2S, timers/counters for control applications, along with several other new features. Atmel’s SAM D devices are also code- and pin-compatible, making it easy for designers to migrate up and down the family.

Interested in learning more? You can check out Atmel’s ARM-based solutions here and “Think Beyond the Core,” a free white paper [PDF] about Atmel’s scalable SAM D lineup here.

Video: ARM interviews Atmel’s Jacko Wilbrink

Earlier today, the ARM crew interviewed Atmel exec Jacko Wilbrink on the sidelines of Embedded World 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany.

Wilbrink discussed Atmel’s popular ARM-based SAMA5D3 microprocessor, confirming that the MPU has been a “tremendous success for Atmel.”

Wilbrink also said Atmel will continue to offer scalable ARM-based MPUs, with an eye on introducing more dual-core implementations in the future. 

Last, but certainly not least, Wilbrink showcased Newark’s (element14) new $79 Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained evaluation kit – a low-cost, fast prototyping and evaluation platform for microprocessor-based design.

The board, which is powered by Atmel’s SAMA5D3 ARM Cortex-A5 processor-based MPU, is packed with a rich set of ready-to-use connectivity and storage peripherals, along with Arduino shield-compatible expansion headers for easy customization. In addition, the platform is a perfect target for headless Android projects, while a Linux distribution and software package facilitates rapid software development.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the SAMA5D3 series is ideal for wearable computing and mobile applications where low power and a small footprint are critical. Key SAMA5D3 Xplained features include:

  • Fully documented and readily available Cortex-A5 based MPU solution
  • Rich set of peripherals, specifically on connectivity
  • USB power (no need for power adaptor)
  • Flexibility – Arduino-compatible connectors, enabling the user to leverage the extensive Arduino shields ecosystem
  • Open Source hardware – All design files available; easy to reuse in customer projects
Software package with drivers and examples for bare metal developers
  • Qt developers kit and Linux distribution free of charge

The new SAMA5D3 Xplained evaluation kit – priced at $79 – is slated to ship in mid-March 2014 from Farnell element14 in Europe, Newark element14 in North America and element14 in APAC. You can pre-register for the board here.


1:1 Interview with Magnus Pedersen of Atmel

TV: What do you do? How are you contributing to the realization and maturation of the Internet of Things (IoT)?


Magnus Pedersen with the Philips Hue (a connected IoT enabled smart device). The Philips Hue Wireless Light Bulb promises full control of its functions over Wi-Fi, including per-light brightness and color settings, remote operation and geofencing capabilities. In addition, Philips includes a powerful GUI-driven app to custom tune lighting in nearly any environment.

MP:  I am currently working on new ultra low power wireless devices and systems compliant with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, which supports wireless applications such as ZigBee and IPv6/6LoWPAN. Providing standards based reference designs and implementation helps our customers bring IoT devices quickly to the market.

TV: What products do you see becoming the potential glue for Internet of Things embedded designs?

MP: IoT in my mind is all about connectivity and there is a major trend towards wireless. There are many standards competing for designs in the IoT space, but I believe low power solutions like ZigBee, Bluetooth Smart and Wi-Fi will grab the lion share of the market for IoT devices.

TV: What are some of the challenges in building out MCU Wireless and Wireless/RF enabled devices to support enterprise initiatives?

MP: The primary challenge is the lack of standards for the upper layers, and to some extent, lack of infrastructure and gateways to gather data from the IoT devices – bringing the data back into the enterprise servers for analysis.

TV: What’s your favorite MCU wireless device and why?

MP: My current favorite is Atmel’s ultra low power family of wireless microcontrollers. It’s single die design, offering a high level of integration. Plus, it is designed with ultra low power consumption in mind. The ATmegaRFR2 family is quickly grabbing market share in some relatively new markets like wireless lighting control. Major players are putting a lot of efforts into ZigBee Light Link compliant systems these days.



TV: Can you think of a reference design and various other solution sets that have helped a customer realize his or her vision of embedded architecture and design? Specifically, one that meets all design and BOM requirements – while also exceeding quality and maximizing in B2B as well as customer end to end satisfaction?

MP: Atmel has been active in the ZigBee community for many years. We have certified ZigBee Stacks and referenced implementations for firmware and hardware that we are sharing with our customers. We have a very open policy to share source code, and we are even sharing our hardware design files for our customers to use, either as is, or modified to customer needs. This way, customers can leverage years of R&D that have already been invested in the reference designs – all while moving efficiently through evaluation, prototyping and actual products ready for mass-production.

TV: Is there any advice you can offer to our readers who are forced to make tough decisions when it comes to schedule and embedded projects? For designers, architects and manufacturing managers?

MP: Learn from the mistakes of others. You do not have time to make them all yourself! Make sure you engage with suppliers that have been in the game for a while and are willing to share past experiences in terms of hardware, communication stacks and reference designs. Relying on and working with an experienced supplier will save you from some of the traditional pitfalls and challenges in wireless designs.

TV: There are so many standards related to connectivity. I can imagine the early web and many early technology paradigms in similar nascent scenarios. Which protocol and stack do you endorse as the communicator for IoT embedded designs? Does it matter?

MP: I think you’re right – the IoT is still in it’s infancy and there are still quite a few standards competing for the same applications. In the ultra low power domain IPv6/6LoWPAN is promoted by the IPSO Alliance and the ZigBee solutions promoted by the ZigBee Alliance is now fairly mature and ready for prime time. A couple of years ago the smart energy domain was very interesting, but the fastest growth today is within wireless lighting control and home automation. Do a search for “Philips Hue” and you can see some of my favorite applications right now.

TV: IoT refers to connecting literally everything to the Internet. Do you agree with this sentiment? How soon do you think this will become a reality?

MP: Yes – I do agree. And that means we are talking about a set of solutions ranging from handsets and tablets to even smaller embedded and highly specialized devices with years of battery lifetime. We’re even seeing battery-less devices being driven by energy harvesting techniques.

TV: Is the Internet of Things going to be the biggest leverage point for IT as well as valued added chain to many industries? If so, what are some of the business challenges?

MP: IoT represents huge opportunities for existing industries and it will also represent great opportunities for startups to create new business. The latest forecast provided by Gartner indicates that there will be up to 30 billion connected devices by 2020, resulting in  $1.9 trillion in global economic value-add through sales into diverse end markets. Those are big numbers!

TV: Will competing communication standards get into the way of IoT emergence? Does lack of agreement equate to limited economies of scale? Is there a risk associated to choosing the wrong MCU Wireless device?

MP:  I do not think competing standards will create any issues. Some standards will fit better than others, and especially in consumer applications growth will be driven primarily by consumer demand, rather than standardization bodies or organizations. There is an obvious risk for the product vendors tied to this – selecting the wrong standard might prohibit growth and represent a fatal decision for both startups and even established companies.

TV: IoT is obviously about more than just connecting your toaster. What are some some examples for big industries and markets where IoT can bring added value and revenue? Explain at least to a B2B customer point of view for a Fortune 500?

MP: IoT is about making everyday life easier for everyone. It’s about the introduction of the smart home, HVAC and lighting solutions coming online. It’s about alarm systems and doorlocks and cameras – everything coming online. It is also a story about a generation of people being always online, almost to the point of being addicted to internet-access. I recently saw an update to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicating that WiFi access is now becoming the most important requirement, perhaps even more important than food and water. I thought it was funny, but yes, there is probably some sense of truth in this as well – at least for some people.

Figure: Maslow 2.0

Figure: Maslow 2.0


It might not fair to give one example of products or companies, but if you look at communities like Kickstarter and search for IoT projects, there are an overwhelming number of ideas and projects.

TV: Is the IoT hype going to mature and actually become mainstream with an unfolding of emergent products that redefine the shape for products and services offered to a company? If so, tell me about some of the challenges and what can be done to make this transition easier?

MP: The IoT hype is going to mature and there will be new businesses in data collection, data transfer and data storage. New businesses will also be build around data analysis of  smartphones and tablet applications.

TV: Have you heard of Amara’s law?  We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. What are the potentials in the short/long term for Internet of Things as we move forward?

MP: Devices that communicate with each other enable new opportunities. This can be a device(s) within a limited geography or area, while in the longer term these devices will be connected to the cloud and can then be accessed from anywhere.

TV: Describe some of the technology partnerships and reference designs that can act as mentors and education models for engineering teams seeking to revamp/evolve their products into the world of connectivity.

MP: Atmel is involved with numerous partners in the IoT domain. We’ve enjoyed long-term partnerships with standardization bodies such as IETF and IEEE, as well as the ZigBee Alliance. Atmel is also teaming up with marketing organizations such as the IPSO Alliance and The Connected Lighting Alliance. As a silicon vendor, there is also a need for additional resources at the application level and even hardware reference designs. Over the past few years, we’ve teamed with companies like MeshNetics in the ZigBee domain (their IP was acquired by Atmel in 2008), and Seninode for their embedded IPv6/6LoWPAN solutions. (Sensinode was recently acquired by ARM). A general goal is to provide complete reference designs for both hardware and firmware in order speed the design process on the customer side, and it is also the general idea that these designs should be available as open source.

TV: What are some of the challenges associated with extending the typical product to a connected product? What are the design constraints and challenges that can be learned from one another?

MP: Atmel recently conducted an IoT survey with our key customers, revealing few technical challenges. The evolving standards enable new businesses, but it also broadens the competition.

TV: What sort of recommendations and technical advice do you offer to help core engineering teams and architects build highly connective products that can be designed and produced in the  highest quality and lowest BOM available?

Being responsible for the low power wireless product line in Atmel, we’re bringing out standard compliant wireless solutions including RF transceivers, wireless microcontrollers, communication stack and profiles, and even certified hardware reference designs to kickstart customer projects and bring them quickly to market.

TV: What are you currently working on and most excited about?

As a marketeer for a large microcontroller and touch company, I have the opportunity to engage with products and solutions that are going to be introduced in the near future. Products that don’t exist yet – I find that part very exciting

TV: Are there any people or books that have inspired you lately?

MP: Steve Jobs. It is really amazing how he created killer products and applications, even thought we didn’t know that we wanted or needed them. The iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and the Apps-store… Steve changed the world of handsets from Nokia/Blackberry dominance to the handsets as we know them today. I have also watched the speech he gave for Stanford University graduates back in 2005 many times. Steve Jobs urged the students to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks — including death itself. I think this was a really great speech in the sense that he asks us to think about what we really want to achieve in life, knowing that death is the only destiny we all share – no one has ever escaped it.

TV: How can we establish and negotiate technological priorities? In a world of limited bandwidth, the growth in connectivity will challenge our current network capacity to cope with data. We need a better way of understanding which services should be prioritized. For example, how can we make sure vital medical data or pluggable Internet of Things devices aren’t slowed by streaming and IoT enabled loose end points?

MP: I wouldn’t be too worried about this. Network capacity will continue to scale and various security mechanisms will deal with priorities and separate the vital networks and applications from the less critical ones.

TV: How can we take a long-term perspective on services and objects? We currently design for beginnings – getting people connected and tied into a system. How can we make sure people end relationships with service providers as easily? As more big-ticket items become connected (cars, fridges etc) and are sold on to new owners and users, this becomes increasingly important.

MP: As “things” becomes connected more and more consumers will make use of the new applications and systems. Ease of use and the willingness to change will be the keys. The consumers are a challenging set of customers as they will not accept systems and application not stable enough or easy to use. Companies offering such products will simply fail.

TV: How can we balance aspirations for the IoT with the reality of what it will be able to deliver? There are strong tensions between the aspirations and our vision of a technological future and the pragmatics of our everyday lives.

MP: I do not agree to the statement that there are strong tensions. We see enormous activity from entrepreneurs in the IoT space these days, and yet I think that this is just the very early beginning of a new mega-trend in the industry, as well as applications and services being provided to the consumers. Some of these ideas will fly and become great products, others will fail. And again, I think the consumers will be the judges when it becomes to the decision of what will be a success story and what will fail.

TV: Who represents who? Who stands up for, educates, represents and lobbies for people using the IoT or connected products? Is this the role of people centered designers? As a product extraordinaire, how can you help companies bring Internet of Things devices or connected smart products to life?

MP: That’s a really good question! With the indications I already mentioned from the analysts, (predicting a $1.9 trillion market in 2020), there are many groups and communities scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get their piece of this big pie. Some of the drive will come from the industry promoting their technology, but there will also be IoT solutions being demanded and pushed for by the consumers themselves.

TV: Who are the people using it? How do we define the communities and circles that use each product and their relationship to each other?

MP: As with most new products and solutions, quite a number of initiatives will be rolled out in high end products first. Some solutions are maybe more the limited audience of tech-freaks, but IoT is rapidly becoming a reality in everyones lives.

TV: What can we learn about IoT in everyday business communication, product design and product emergence?

MP: IoT opens up a huge space of new solutions, systems and products. We will move into a world of smarter devices, where the devices themselves are capable of communicating with other IoT devices. Some of these devices will even make decisions to interact with and control other devices without any input from human beings. Just look at the car-industry. High end cars are now able to park without a driver, they can position themselves in the lane, keep distance from the vehicle in front, and we’re about to get a fleet of cars that are able to communicate with each other, making decisions on our behalf. Some cars are also equipped with systems for automated emergency calls and even report the exact position it is calling from. These are examples of systems already available. Given the fact that the devices are connected they can also be reprogrammed to change behavior without any need for major hardware updates. This offers flexibility in design and helps keeps the platform up to date before a new hardware product design cycle needs to be kicked-off.

TV: How does rapid prototyping help drive new product developments and how does it fit with a people-centric or customer-centric methodology? How can government nurture efficiencies or disruption? Is it their role to help adopt innovation for the end customer?

MP: Rapid prototyping enables shorter development cycles, but it can also be used to spin multiple prototypes quickly to test various options and product configurations. This way you can execute modifications and changes early in the development stage and avoid costly redesigns at a later stage. This might represent the difference between a project failure and a successful product. Personally, I think governments should play an active role in innovation, making sure startups and even established companies have an environment where they can achieve sustainable growth. In the past we’ve even seen governments actively funding IoT projects during economic downturns, like what US government did back in 2009 – feeding hundreds of billion of dollars to the industry in order to create new jobs. Some of these funds went into smart energy projects rolling out smart meters as we have already seen in California.

TV: How can we track “Things” and what will this tell us about their use?

MP: There are a number of ways to track “things,” ranging from traditional GPS technology to various methods of range measurements and triangulation algorithms. This provides useful information about the device, or its owner, and can be used in many ways. I already mentioned automated emergency calls reporting a vehicle’s position, but the number of applications benefiting from location (positioning) services is really unlimited. From the retail industry for example, we see an increased demand for such services in connection to targeted commercials for each and every customer, as well as monitoring customer behavior in a shopping mall to maximize sales.

TV: What are the new interfaces and dashboards that will help people to interact with the IoT? How important will the distinction be between devices equipped with a screen (touch, etc) and those without? How does this play a role in the latest features of Atmel’s microcontrollers and microprocessors?

MP: User interfaces are extremely important. These interfaces have quickly evolved from traditional button and screens, to the touchscreen technology as we know it today. Touch screens and their related applications and user interfaces has proven very easy and intuitive to use, so it is quickly becoming the de-facto standard. This is obviously also the reason why Atmel as a company has invested heavily in touch technology over the last few years, ranging from capacitive buttons, sliders and wheels, to small and large touch screens. As more and more products utilize this technology, capacitive touch technology is rapidly becoming a standard building block in all Atmel microcontrollers.

TV: Who should ask where potential pain is in the business innovation belt? Is it the designer or business manager, or both?  Do we create value and value chains that reward creators or just end user customers? How can the designer and product creativity map to microcontroller functionality and capabilities?

MP: I think this needs to be reviewed by all parties involved. Innovation is an interactive process involving everyone from the designer to the consumer. Good products will also create value for everyone involved in the process – from the design kickoff until there is a finished product in the hands of the consumer. Selecting Atmel as a design partner ensures access to a family of microcontrollers capable of scaling in terms of resources and peripherals such as wireless connectivity and touch enabled user interfaces. It is a very important strategy for Atmel to be positively aligned with the customer when defining roadmaps and the next generation of microcontrollers. The only way we can make sure we have the right technology available at the right time is to define our future roadmaps in close cooperation with our customers.

1:1 Interview with Erik Kettenburg of Digistump (Part 2)

(Part 2 – continued)

digispark-atiny85-avr-atmelTV: Why AVR as the microcontroller? What did you especially like in the development, prototype, production use-cases for AVR 8-Bit Microcontrollers?

EK: The best thing about AVRs is that they have a huge community and it makes sense why – as for microcontroller use, they are pretty easy to use, thanks to all of the tools for them – of course Arduino is a big part of that – but even before that, probably the key component was avr-gcc – being able to write C/C++ code and easily compile it for AVRs with a completely free unrestricted compiler is a huge incentive to develop with it, especially for makers who don’t have the big bucks or the desire to use proprietary compilers. PIC took a long time to catch on to that, and still isn’t nearly as easy to get started with, and the community is not as open and beginner friendly either, in my opinion – and I started with PICs back in the late 90s.

The other great thing about AVRs is that they are pretty robust and there is nothing quite like a device that can source up to 40ma on a pin and survive – that makes it much more beginner friendly!

TV:  Are there any particular microcontrollers or microprocessors you would like to get your hands on more easily in design and prototyping?

EK: There are lots of them – lots of the new silicon MCUs being developed in China would be fun to play with and see what they can do – like the Allwinner ARM SoCs but we have lots of trouble getting them – we find ways though.  Lots of MCUs have a ton of potential for use in startups and IoT but we don’t even think about using them because of all the non-competes, minimum orders, binary blob drivers, etc – it doesn’t make sense to develop open source software with a very closed company.

TV: How do ARM and AVR microcontrollers differ to you, why do you design your first project in AVR?

hello-digispark-avr-tiny-avr-8-bit-attinyEK: Our first project was using an AVR 8-bit Microcontroller because that is what we knew best and that is what our target audience was used to – because of Arduino.

TV: Why did you choose Atmel ARM for DigiX? Development, IDE options, Design, Production, Quality, Supply or any other reasons?

EK: We chose the ARM chip for the DigiX because we do see it as the future of IoT products – the AVR is being pushed to its limits when you stack Wifi, LCD touch solutions, sensors, and more all on top of it – the ARM still has plenty of room to handle more – so it is a natural progression for power users to move towards more powerful hardware.

TV:  Our goal was then to make it as easy to use as possible – we chose the same chip as the Arduino Due because we wanted to add to their support for that chip in Arduino rather than compete with it – we wanted to help make both the DigiX and Due easier to use.

From a design, supply, and production standpoint it has been far more difficult, expensive, and harder to work with – but it is worth it to enable people to access that kind of power in an easy to use format.

TV:  Is it more about low power and smarter hardware design or beyond the core development with Restful cloud based architectures to empower the Smart Connected Thing? What do you find more important, if you had to choose?

EK: Low power and ease of use – many of the best ideas come from people who are in no way experts at the hardware or software involved – the more people are able to use the tech, the more likely a breakthrough will come about. Low power is also important because the more we can move to small and battery powered, the more we’ll see these ideas break free of the home and desk and move into everyday on person use.

TV:  Do you see the Maker Movement and Enterprise coming together in matrimony someday? What are some of the challenges?

EK: I don’t see them at odds – as I mentioned before – I think the enterprises who embrace the maker culture will be met with more success and the rest will be left behind, at least by those embracing the maker culture.

TV: For a designer or developer, are we at the hour of product creation or the hour of connectivity?

EK: Both – we need people doing both to fuel this cultural change!

TV:  If you had to build the perfect smart city integrated with personal networks, take me through your choice of network topologies and protocols most considerably ideal to optimize the connectivity for people and customers. What would your design look like in terms of ideal integrated connectivity (802.11.x, 802.15.14, ZigBee, 6LoWPAN, IPv6, CoAp, MQTT, etc)?

EK: Whether or not it is ideal – I think that it would be met with the most success if it is 802.11.x based for long range, and 802.15.4 for personal area and shorter range links – the short range 802.15.4 protocol would be ideal for devices communicating with other devices around them and wifi is already so ubiquitous that it makes sense to use it for longer distance and high bandwidth connections. Its range and prevalence also allows it to be very successful without worrying nearly as much about infrastructure.

I don’t see IoT world being built on closed protocols – industry is trying to do that, but they are ending up with expensive devices that people actively resist while we openly welcome more open devices like WiFi into our lives. WiFi is extremely prevalent and the (finally) emerging widespread us of IPv6 opens up many new doors. Technologies like 6LoWPAN, or simply put IP over low power radios has the potential to increase standards between low power 802.15.4 devices. Additionally, by essentially moving the internet into the realm of low power wireless devices the transition between personal area networks and WiFi/standard IP networks becomes far more seamless, and therefore much more user friendly. These technologies will reduce complexity, barrier to entry, and part count – which should allow for IoT to spread freely and at a much lower cost. These technologies are still working there way into the Maker culture, and the more open they are the more quickly they will be adopted.

TV: How can Internet of Things and Internet of Everything come to more realization when it comes to design choices and connectivity designs? What design aspects would like to share with the community or similar-minded engineers, makers, hackers, and designers of tomorrow?

EK: As creators we all need to focus on removing the barriers to other makers and consumers using the technology – this means price and ease of use. Maker culture remains rather elitist, mostly due to price – a simple, elegant, and affordable design will take us farther towards mainstream culture then all the features that can be possibly packed into it. digispark-avr-8-bit-mcu

We also need to keep those designs accessible, and our communities friendly – to all, all people, all types, all skills, nationalities, sexes, etc – the open source hardware community has a long way to go to shed the elitist mens club image – it is getting there, but we can always work to be more welcoming.

TV: How can designs that you bring to the community help change the product landscape? Any last thoughts you would love to share with the Embedded Design and Makers community?

EK: I hope the products we bring to the community change the landscape – and I think in general products made by makers can do that by accessibility (a common theme with me) and doing new things with old tech, or old things with new tech – basically looking at things a different way. Since the Digispark came out we’ve seen many clones/derivatives taking advantage of using V-USB and the ATtiny – which has been awesome! We like to see when makers share their methods and inspire new applications through taking a different approach.

Last thoughts: Keep making, I am firm believer that the more of us make, and the more things we make, the better idea will come around – so lets all make our ideas reality, regardless of whether or not other people think it is possible! My other thought would be, open up your process – the more open we’ve become as a company the better we’ve done – I love the popular quote that goes something like “Don’t be afraid someone will steal your idea, you’re not that important, and if it is that good of an idea you’ll make money off it anyway” – we’ve found that to be very true and will keep pursuing that strategy.

(This concludes the interview, part one can be found here).

1:1 Interview with Erik Kettenburg of Digistump (Part 1)


 1:1 Interview with Erik Kettenburg co-founder of Digistump (Part 1)

Tom Vu: Why did you create Digistump? Did you see a strong need to do this primarily for the movement of connectivity hardware and embedded software going too slowly or too conventional? Why do this yourself instead of use what is available?

Erik Kettenburg: Digistump was created from the success of our first project launch on Kickstarter. We launched the Digispark hoping to sell 500 units on Kickstarter and ended up selling 25,000 – in the course of that campaign I started to design several add-on boards (shields) for the Digispark and when it was all complete we had orders nearly 100,000 units total across all products. Turning that momentum into a company was a natural choice and in doing so we wanted to stay true to our original goal of making open source hardware cheaper and more accessible.

The creation of the Digispark was fueled by a feeling that existing open source development products were too expensive to leave in all the little projects that I had built. The Digispark was created to be as minimal as possible while still being very user friendly – thus enabling it to also be much cheaper – which is something we didn’t see in the open source market.

TV: Walk the reader through your two successful Kickstarter projects. What do they do and who should use these products?


EK: Our first Kickstarter, as mentioned above was for the Digispark, and ended up raising just over $330,000. The Digispark is an Atmel AVR 8-bit Microcontroller ATtiny85 based development board with on-board USB. The ATtiny85 doesn’t have hardware USB and the AVRs that do or an external solution (as is used on the Arduino) would have made it too expensive, so we built off of the V-USB project which is essentially a hack that does USB communications from regular i/o pins. The Digispark has 6 i/o pins (we disabled the reset pin to get an extra), a 500ma voltage regulator for using with external power, it can be powered over USB and has an integrated USB connector, a bootloader that allows it to be programmed over USB with our slightly modified version of the Arduino IDE (or by command line with any hex file), and two LEDs – one for power, and one connected to Pin 1 for use as a status indicator. It is about the size of a quarter. The Digispark now retails for $9.95 and has over a dozen shields kits available for it that allow you to quickly add everything from a motor drive or real time clock to a RGB LED or protoboard. It makes both a great first board to get started for a low price and also a great board to leave in projects, or use in projects where cost and size are a concern.

Our second Kickstarter was for the DigiX and just ended a few months ago. The DigiX aims to be the opposite of the Digispark – it is an Atmel ARM SAM3X8E based development board that aims to have everything you could ever need. It is also compatible with the Arduino IDE. The main feature is that it has built in, easy to use, client and server capable low power WiFi, allowing it to be an IoT device without purchasing anything else! It also has a mesh networking module, microSD reader, EEPROM, status LEDs, switching voltage regulator, audio output, and 99 i/o pins. It is compatible with all Arduino Due compatible shields and we also sell a level converter shield along side of it that makes it electrically compatible with all classic Arduino shields. The DigiX is the ultimate Arduino compatible board for the ultimate power user – or anyone looking to get a WiFi enabled Arduino platform for an affordable price. Currently it is on presale (expected to ship late October) for $59, with the level shifter also on presale for $15. lessThan2cm_digispark-avr-atmel-tinyavr

TV: What challenges do you see in the maturation of a embedded design project especially when dealing with operations, prototyping, production, licensing, distributors, supply, etc? Any tips to share?

EK: We have had many challenges with both of our products. The Digispark was a very simple design but used standard parts in non-standard ways. This presented some challenges when it was handed over to a factory for production. They were not able to program the Atmel 8-bit AVR ATtiny85s successfully because they had never before programmed them in that way, it took several weeks to get it worked out and eventually we sent them the programmer we were using and the exact commands and they were able to duplicate our setup and then transfer that knowledge to their automated programming machines.

digispark-avr-attiny-atmelThe other major obstacle with the Digispark was that we had to scale very quickly, as I mentioned before we expected to, at best, sell 500 units – we sold 100,000 across all products and 25,000 Digisparks alone – we had to scale everything, production, packaging, kitting, shipping, bank accounts, etc. It was good problem to have but added significant delays. The result of that scaling, though, was that we now have a full company set up and running, and the Digispark continues to be very successful, as well as our other products we have introduced since.

From a distribution standpoint we were surprised to find that the distributors found us, and so that hasn’t been too hard. Micro Center stores, MCM, and RobotShop, to name a few, carry our products and just today we have shipped our first order to MakerShed for them to carry them as well. We’d love to see even more distributors carry them, but I would say the biggest problem we’ve had is finding the time – my wife (the other Founder, and my partner in the business) Jenni works on Digistump whenever possible as her main job (in addition to taking care of our 2 month old daughter Maple, and our 18 animals on our small farm) – I still work a day job (as CTO for Portland based Vacasa) and split the rest of my time between Digistump and family as well. We hope that someday I’ll be able to work on Digistump full time.

With the DigiX – which is still in production – our issues have been more with supply – for instance we needed 2,000 SAM3X8E chips right away to start production, that meant we had to buy from about 6 different suppliers to get enough of them. The WiFi modules had to be made to order, and generally having such a complex and cutting edge board has meant the parts can be harder to find.

Some of the challenges we’ve experienced have made us plan ahead more and other have made us give serious thought to moving production in house. Our next product the Digispark Pro (to hear when it comes out join our mailing list at digistump.com) will be made entirely in house on a pick and place machine we recently installed.

TV: Is DigiStump sort of like the composite utility belt or multi-purpose digital rivet for USB based hardware design/development?

EK: I hope that Digistump will grow to be a sort of smaller version of Sparkfun or Adafruit – focused on in-house products, hopefully built in house as well. Where Digistump differs already and will continue to is that price will remain a major focus. We want to keep things accessible to everyone, folks in other countries, students, kids, retirees, etc. We believe that anyone should be able to get into the electronics hobby and we’ve already seen this approach pay off with many schools using Digisparks to not just teach children, but allowing them to take them home and continue to use them.

Digistump is also expanding beyond hardware – in an effort to enable makers we will also be adding a low cost prototype PCB service and laser cutting service.

TV: Give an outlook of what there is to come – hypothetical and speculative products, empowerment of individual makers, enterprise designers, and tinkerers? Convergence?

EK: The momentum and mainstream acceptance of the maker movement is something I never could have dreamed would happen. When I was a kid and very much into computers and electronics in the 90s, it was not cool or encouraged at all, now we see children being encouraged by schools, parents, and more importantly each other to invent and innovate. I only hope the I (and Digistump) and continue to find ways to enable their creations – I think that should be the number one goal of the entire open source hardware community – to enable the next generation of makers. digispark-avr-atiny85-8-bit

With this mainstream acceptance we are also seeing the culture move into enterprise situations, which some may think is the death of the movement, but I think is an excellent step – when a enterprise tries to be “disruptive” it is far better than it simply writing off the movement and continuing to make marginal improvements – we should welcome all disruption and all innovating, regardless of the source.

TV: What is the difference between products built from Startup DNA vs Enterprise DNA? Are there recognizable traits or differentiators? Is there a special need for “Made in Makers” seal to advocate authenticity, consideration, and brand?

EK: I think Enterprise DNA is moving towards the maker culture, but 99% of companies are still stuck in the marketing and/or marginal improvements approach. A very recent example of this would be Intel – they just released a new processor aimed at IoT but they are pushing it towards existing industrial customers and making reference boards available through select channels – if Intel really wants to compete with ARM producers like Atmel on the IoT platform they need to get those in the hands of makers and tinkerers, not just career design engineers. A company like Intel needs to go to a company like Arduino, Sparkfun, or even Digistump and say “We want you to make a cheap dev board for this chip, we’ll even help you market it” that would be disruptive (mostly to their internal structure) and far more effective for being part of the future of IoT then millions of dollars in marketing. I guess what I see is that there is still a wall that makes no sense – Makers can’t get access to many of the newest parts and Enterprise can’t get anyone to make something truly innovative with them, so they aren’t capturing the attention of our increasingly maker obsessed culture, and equally important, the new companies that these makers spawn aren’t using their tech.

Because of this divide I don’t think we need a “Made by Makers” seal – it is obvious what is made by Makers – and if a enterprise makes something disruptive or innovative enough to seem like it fits in maker culture then they deserve to be called makers as much as I do.

TV: What’s your definition of disruption? Who successful/innovative in industry do you look to as a mentor? Do you draw forth similar way of thinking?

EK: To me disruptive is overused – a technology or company can be disruptive when they launch, but years later when millions are using them they are no longer disruptive, the next thing is, and it only is if it challenges the current norms. Stripe was disruptive to the merchant payment industry, now even Paypal follows their lead (and actually Paypal was very disruptive when it started). Disruptive seems to often, today, be self applied when it doesn’t fit – I look at companies and individuals who change markets or even better cultures as disruptive – Arduino, RepRapMakerbot, Adapteva and the Parallela, Laen as and OSHPark to name a few. I wouldn’t dare call Digistump disruptive, we built on an existing community (Arduino) and technology (Arduino, V-USB, and AVR). I hope someday to come up with an idea that is disruptive.  neopixel-digispark-avr-tinyavr

As far as those I look to in this industry for inspiration – Sparkfun and Nathan Seidle, Arduino and Mossimo Banzi, Ubuntu and Mark Shuttleworth

TV: What are some of the challenges of the day for Makers and Startups (Kickstarter, Indiegogo)?

EK: Since the Digispark campaign we’ve seen the crowdsourcing arena get very competitive – and dare I say more corporate. While there is still a fair amount of organic success on Kickstarter and the like – there is also a strong segment of companies, startups but well funded ones, with big production budgets, slick movies, etc – and those are getting harder and harder to compete with. Additionally we’re seeing established companies (even some who call themselves open source) latching on to new ideas and using their considerable resources to put a competing product in the market by the time the new project ships. This sort of competition is not just a challenge but is hurting innovation that the community has worked so hard to foster. That isn’t to say all companies are doing that – SparkFun, SeeedStudio, Atmel, lots of companies have been good friends to the small startups – it is, after all, very much in their benefit to do so. Atmel chips run the majority of new open source projects because Atmel gets it – Atmel gets that they need to support Makers, starting with Arduino and now expanding to many other startups like Digistump. Our Atmel reps (Mike as Cascade Tech) treat us like we are big customers even if we only buy a fraction of the chips the big guys buy. Other companies’ reps have treated us very badly, and made it nearly impossible to get advice, samples, or help because we aren’t huge – I think companies like that will find themselves left behind in the maker revolutiondigispark-rgb-shield-tinyavr-avr-atmel

TV: What do you plan on doing with DigiX and Digispark, its quite noticeably public especially in its origins and funding from Kickstarter. What is the eventual roadmap for Digistump LLC?

EK: As I mentioned previously, we’ll continue to build development boards, and other electronics to enable makers – while keeping these devices as accessible and affordable to everyone as possible. That doesn’t stop with our products either, where most companies want $30-$100 to ship internationally we are shipping some products for as little as $3 – and most for under $10 – we really want to make sure that everyone can get into electronics – so much so that we’ve yet to take any profit – we just keep investing everything back into products, efficiency, and keeping the prices low. That is part of the reason I still need a day job!

As I also mentioned, we are moving into service – including PCB prototyping (with a US fab partner) and laser cutting. We’ve been slow to roll these out because we are automating them almost entirely so that we are able to offer then at a much lower price than the existing services.

What else is in store? Well Digistump also does lesser-known contract work, everything from manufacturing to design, development, testing, consulting, and prototyping. I’m not an EE – I have a degree in Economics actually – but I have a lot of business experience in both the web development world and now the hardware world – I hope to find more contract work as it allows me to improve my skill set for Digistump while also helping companies look at technology in a less corporate way – of course, I can’t talk much about what I’m working on, but I’ve been able to show some companies how to develop awesome products for a fraction of what they had been paying traditional product development teams, and give some tips on marketing, tech infrastructure, etc on the way. That has been a lot of fun, and I think it will be awesome if we can keep that a part of Digistump as well as we grow.

TV: What needs and requirements were set forth to have custom firmware and bootloader in the DigiSpark?

EK: The bootloader for the Digispark does a lot. The ATtiny85 does not have a reserved bootloader section in its flash – which means it really isn’t setup for having a bootloader.

TinySafeBoot (http://jtxp.org/tech/tinysafeboot_en.htm) came up with serial solution some time ago and Embedded Creations did it with USB support – but those needed to be further refined into something smaller than Embedded Creation’s bootloader that was also more reliable, and ready for production use. After the failures of some of our experimental work on it, Jenna Fox, a very talented individual stepped forward and offered to help and started the Micronucleus open source bootloader  which Digistump sponsored, and supports in every way possible. Digisparks run that bootloader and it provides protection of the bootloader and upload over usb, all using the internal oscillator (with automatic calibration). To date it is the smallest, robust USB bootloader for ATtiny chips – and certainly the best tested ATtiny USB bootloader as well. It also remains truly open source.

Interested in reading more? Tune into Part 2 of Atmel’s 1:1 Interview with Erik Kettenburg co-founder of Digistump


1:1 interview with Geoffrey Barrows of ArduEye

ArduEye is a project by Centeye, Inc. to develop open source hardware for a smart machine vision sensor. All software and hardware (chips and PCBs) for this project were developed either from pre-existing open source designs or from Centeye’s own 100% IR&D efforts. In the interview below, Atmel discusses the above-mentioned technology with Maker Geoffrey Barrows, founder of ArduEye and CEO of Centeye.

geoffrey-barrows-ardueye-avrTom Vu: What can you do with ArduEye?

Geoffrey Barrows:  Here are some things people have actually done with an ArduEye, powered by just the ATmega328 type processor used in basic Arduinos:

  • Eye Tracking- A group of students at BCIT made an eye tracking device, for people paralyzed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”), that allow them to operate a computer using their eyes.
  • Internet connected traffic counter– I aimed an ArduEye out at the street in front of my house and programmed it to count the number of cars driving northbound. Every 5 minutes, it would upload the count to Xively, allowing the whole world to see the change in traffic levels throughout the day.
  • Camera trigger- One company used an ArduEye to make a camera trigger at the base of a water slide at a water park. When someone riding the slide reached the bottom, the camera took a picture of the rider and then send it to him or her via SMS!
  • Control a robotic bee – My colleagues at Harvard University working on the “RoboBee” project mounted one of our camera chips on their 2cm large robotic bee platform. The chip was connected to an Arduino Mega (obviously not on the bee), which ran a program to compute visually, using optical flow, how high the bee climbed. A controller could then cause the bee to climb to a desired height and hold a position. This was a very cool demonstration.
  • Control a drone – My colleagues at the U. Penn GRASP Lab (who produced the famous swarming quad copter video) used two ArduEyes to control one of their nano quad copters to hover in place using vision.
  • The New Jersey based “LandroidsFIRST robotics team uses ArduEyes on their robots to do things like detect objects and other robots.

These are just some examples. You can also do things like count people walking through a doorway, make a line-following robot, detect bright lights in a room, and so forth. I could spend hours dreaming up uses for an ArduEye. Of course an ArduEye doesn’t do any of those things “out of box”- you have to program it. Arduino_ardueye-avr-atmega

TV:  Explain the methodology and the approach? What is your general rule of thumb when it comes to resolution and design margins?

GB:  My design philosophy is a combination of what I call “vertical integration” and “brutal minimalism”. To understand “vertical integration,” imagine a robot using a camera to perform vision-based control. Typically, one company designs the camera lens, another designs the camera body and electronics, and another company designs the camera chip itself. Then you have a “software guy/gal” write image processing algorithms, and then another person to implement the control algorithms to control the robot. Each of these specialties is performed by a different group of people, with each group having their own sense of what constitutes “quality.” The camera chip people generally have little experience with image processing and vice versa. The result is a system that may work, but is cumbersome and cobbled together.

Our approach is instead to consider these different layers together and in a holistic fashion. At Centeye, the same groups of minds design both the camera hardware (the camera body as well as the camera chips themselves) and the image processing software. In some cases we even design the lens. What this means is that we can control the interface between the different components, rather than being constrained by an industrial standard. We can identify the most important features and optimize them. Most important, we can then identify the unnecessary features and eliminate them.

This latter practice, that of eliminating what is unnecessary, is “brutal minimalism”. This is, in my opinion, what has allowed us to make such tiny image sensors. And the first thing to eliminate is pixels! It is true that if you want to take a beautiful photograph for display, you will need megapixels worth of resolution (and a good lens). But to do many other tasks, you need far fewer than that. Consider insects- they live their whole lives using eyes that have a resolution between about 700 pixels (for a fruit fly) to maybe 30k pixels (for a dragonfly). This is an existence proof that you don’t always need a million pixels, or even a thousand pixels, to do something interesting.

TV:  What are some of the interesting projects you have worked on when involving sensors, vision chips, or robotics?

GB:  The US Air Force and DARPA has over the years been sponsoring a number of fascinating programs bringing together biologists and engineers to crack the code of how to make a small, flying robot. These projects were all interesting because they provided me, the engineer, with the chance to observe how Nature has solved these problems. I got to interact with an international group of neuroscientists and biologists making real progress “reverse engineering” the vision systems of flys and bees. Then later on I got to implement some of these ideas in actual flying robots.

This gave me insights to vision and robotics that are often contradictory to what is generally pursued in much university research efforts- the way a fly perceives the world and controls itself is completely different from how most flying “drones” do the same. Flying insects don’t reconstruct Cartesian models of the world, and certainly don’t use Kalman filters!

uva-darpa-aerovironment-avrI also participated in the DARPANano Air Vehicle” effort, where I got to put some of these bio-inspired principles to practice. As part of that project, we built a set of camera chips to make insect-inspired “eyes”, and then hacked a small toy helicopter to do things like hold a position visually, avoid obstacles, and so forth, with a vision system weighing just a few grams. What very few people know is that some of the algorithms we used could be traced back to the insights obtained directly by those biologists studying flying insects.


Right now we are also participating in the NSF-funded Harvard University “RoboBeeproject, whose goal is to build a 2cm scale flying robotic insect.  Centeye’s part, of course, is to provide the eyes.  My weight budget will be about 20 milligrams. So far we are down to about 50 milligrams, with off-board processing, so we have a way to go.

RoboBees Project TeamTV: You mentioned insects. do you draw inspiration from biology in your designs?

GB: Another aspect of our work, especially our own work with flying drones, is to take inspiration from biology. This includes the arrangement of pixels within an eye, as well as the type of image processing to perform and even how to integrate all this within a flight control system.

There is a lot we can learn from how nature has solved some tough problems. And we can gain a lot by copying these principles. However, in my experience it is best to understand the principles behind why nature’s particular solution to a problem works and innovate with that knowledge, rather than to slavishly copy a design you see in nature. Consider a modern airliner and a bird in flight. They do look similar- wings keep them aloft using Bernoulli forces, a tail provides stability, by keeping the center of drag behind the center of gravity, and they modify their flight path by changing the shape of their wings and tail. However an airliner is made from metal alloys, not feathers!


I like to invoke the 80/20-principle here – If you make a list of all the features of a design from nature, probably 80% of the benefit will come from 20% of the features, or even less. So focus on finding the most important features, and implement those.

TV:  What are the technology devices, components, and connectivity underneath?

GB:  For almost all of our vision sensor prototypes, including ArduEyes, there were four essential components: A lens, which focused light from the environment onto the image sensor chip, the image sensor chip itself, a processor board, and an algorithm running on the processor. You can substantially change the nature of a vision by altering just one of these components. We usually use off-the-shelf lenses, but we have made our own in the past. We always use our own image sensor chip. For the processor we have used everything from an 8-bit microcontroller to an advanced DSP chip. And finally we generally use our own algorithms, though we have tinkered with open source libraries like Open-CVcenteye_product_stonyman_breakout_001-645x425

It can take a bit of a mentality shift to be able to design across all these different layers. Most of the tools and platforms out there do not allow this type of flexibility. However with a little bit of practice it can be quite powerful. Obvious the greatest amount of flexibility comes from modifying the vision algorithms.

TV:  Does nature have a smart embedded designer? If so, what would Nature’s tagline or teaser be for it’s creations? What’s the methodology or shape, if you can sum it up in a few words?

GB: Perhaps one lesson from Nature’s “embedded designer” would be “Not too much, not too little.” To understand this, consider evolution: If you are a living creature, then your parents lived long enough to reproduce and pass their genes to you. This is true of your parents, grandparents, and so on. Every single one of your ancestors, going all the way back to the origins of life on Earth, lived long enough to reproduce, and your genetic makeup is a product of that perfect 100% success rate. It is mind blowing to think about it.


Now, for a creature to live long enough to reproduce, it has to have enough of the right features to survive. But it must also not have too many features, and it must also not have the wrong features. Most animals get barely enough energy (e.g. food) to survive. If a particular animal has too many “unnecessary features,” then it will need more food to survive and thus is less likely to pass its genes on.

Another lesson would be that a design’s value is measured relative to the application. Each animal species evolved for a particular role in a particular environment- this is why penguins are different from flamingos, and why fruit flies are different from eagles. Applied to human engineered devices, this means that any “specification” or figure of merit considered in a vacuum is meaningless. You have to consider the application, or the environment, first before deciding on specifications. This is why choosing a camera based only on the number of “megapixels” it has is dangerous.

TV:  What is your rule of thumb when it comes to prototypes, testing, improving, and then rolling out include fuller design?

GB:  I’m going to be more philosophical here: Rule #1- A crappy implementation of the right thing is superior, both technically and morally, to a brilliant implementation of the wrong thing. Wrong is wrong, no matter how well done. Rule #2- A crappy implementation of the wrong thing is superior to a brilliant implementation of the wrong thing. Doing the wrong thing brilliantly generally consumes more resources than doing it crappy, plus the fact you invested more into it makes you less likely to abandon it once you realize it is wrong.

Of course, the ideal is to do a brilliant implementation of the right thing. However when you are prototyping a new device, or trying to bring a new technology to market, it is very difficult to know what are the right and the wrong things to do. So the first thing you must do is to not worry about being crappy, and instead focus on identifying the right thing to do. Quickly, one ought to prototype a device, experiment with it, get it in the hands of customers if it is a product, get feedback, and make improvements. Repeat this cycle until you know you are doing the right thing. And only then put in the effort to do a brilliant implementation.

Those who are familiar with the “Lean Startup” business development model will recognize the above philosophy. I am a big fan of Lean Startup. I would give away everything I own if I could send a few relevant books on the topic back in time to my younger self 15 years ago, with a sticky note saying “READ ME YOU FOOL!”

Now of course we have to take the word “crappy” with a grain of salt. I don’t mean to produce and deliver rubbish. That helps no one. Instead, what I mean is that the first implementations you put out there are “brutally minimalist” and include the bare essence of what you are trying to produce. It may be minimal, but it still has to deliver something of real value. This is often called a “minimally viable product” in the Lean Startup community.

The same applies to when we are conducting research to develop a new type of technology. The prototypes are ugly, and often use code that makes spaghetti look like orderly Roman columns. But their purpose is to quickly test out and refine an idea before making it “pretty”.

TV:  What is the significance of the ATmega328 in your embedded design?

GB:  We chose the ATmega328 because this is the standard processor for basic Arduino designs. We wanted to maintain the Arduino experience as faithfully as possible to keep the product easy to hack.

TV:  How important is it for you to rapidly build, test, and develop the evolution of your product from Arduino?

GB:  Funny you should ask. We use Arduinos and ArduEyes all the time to prototype new devices or even perform basic experiments. When I get a new chip back from the foundry, the first thing I do is hook it up to an Arduino. I can verify basic functionality in just a few hours, sometimes even in ten minutes.

TV:  What is the difference between Centeye and ArduEye? Technology differentiators?

GB:  ArduEye is essentially a project that was developed by Centeye and supported by Centeye. The main differentiators are that ArduEye was developed in isolation from our other projects, in particular the ones associated with Defense. We essentially developed a separate set of hardware, including chips, and software, and did so at no small expense. This is partially why it took so long for this project to become reality.

TV:  How do you see ArduEye and vision chips in the future for many smart connected things?

GB:  I think the best uses for adding vision to an IoT application will come not from me, but from tinkerers, hackers, and other entrepreneurs that have identified a particular problem or pain that can be solve using our sensors as a platform. But in order for them to innovate, vision must be tamed to the level that these users can quickly iterate through different possibilities. I see ArduEye as a good platform to make it happen, to let such innovation occur in a friction-less manner.

TV:  What are some one the IoT implications of using brilliant sensor eye devices in their products?

GB:  At one level there is a rich amount of information you can obtain with vision. Think about it- you can drive a car if you only have visual information. However vision has a tendency to generate a LOT of data. This is true even for a very modest image sensor of several thousand pixels. And it is true that bandwidth is getting cheaper, but I don’t think the Siri model of pushing all the data to “the cloud” for processing is a viable one. You will have to find ways to process vision information up at the sensor, or at some nearby node, before that information can be sent up to the cloud.

TV:  How can sensors like ArduEye be compounded with richer use-cases especially when integrating the Big Data and Cloud initiatives of modern trending IT innovations?

GB:  Over the next decade we will see newly minted billionaires who have figured this out.

TV:  How can ArduEye evolve? What do you see as a visionary for ArduEye to be integrated more so to accelerate  efficiency?

GB:  Good question! Well, first of all, this will depend on how others are using ArduEye and the feedback I get from them. For ArduEye to be successful, it has to be valuable to other people. So I would really like to hear feedback from anyone who uses these products, so that we can make them better. I’ve been willing to speak with anyone who uses these products. Tell me- do you know any other image sensor companies that allow you to speak with the people who design the chips? That said, some obvious improvements would be to incorporate more advanced Arduinos, such as the Due that uses an ARM processor.

TV:  Are there security or privacy concerns for this technology to evolve? What are the caveats for designers and business makers?

GB:  Security and privacy will be a big issue for the Internet of Things, and will lead to many entrepreneurial opportunities. However, this is not our focus. But if you think about it- a benefit to using ArduEyes to monitor a room instead of a full resolution camera is that you won’t be able to recognize their faces! You can say, half jokingly, that privacy is built in!

TV:  How are vision chips and open source ArduEye helping people live better or smarter lives? Where do you see this going in 5-10 years?

GB:  The ArduEye is a fairly new project and is one that takes an uncommon, though technically sound approach to machine vision. So right now all of the use cases are experimental. This is very often the case for a new emerging technology. It will take time for the best applications to be found. But I expect that as our community of users grows, and as we learn to better service this community, we could see a diverse set of applications. Right now I can only speculate.

TV:  Where do you see Sensors, Vision, etc play a more pivotal and crowding role in the grandeur Internet of Things, Internet of Everything, and Industrial Internet?

GB:  In order for the Internet of Things to reach it’s full potential, it will need sensors to acquire all the information that is needed. Already the number of devices connected to the Internet is in the billions. It will only be a matter of time before this reaches the trillions. And we all know that vision is a powerful sensory modality. Some of the vision sensors will be higher resolution imagers of the type you see in cameras. However in the same way that there are many more insects than large mammals on planet Earth, it makes sense that there is room for many more cameras of ArduEye capability than for full image sensors. This is where I see Centeye playing in the future. More than that, this is why I originally founded Centeye in 2000- the company name was meant to be a triple pun, with the prefix “cent-“ meaning many, tiny, and expensive. Many eyes, tiny eyes, cheap eyes. I was just too soon in 2000…