This hardware system lets you create soft robots, adaptive furniture, smart clothing, breathing art and inflatable food.
Pneuduino is a modular hardware system developed by Felix Heibeck and Jifei Ou of MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group. The platform enables the control of air flow and pressure, which opens endless possibilities for Makers, artists, designers and researchers who want to add unique shape-shifting features to their projects.
“Air is one the most abundant resources on Earth. By adding computation ability to air, we can create new types of materials that enable us to design robots that are soft, furniture that is adaptive, clothing that is intelligent and art pieces that are breathing,” Heibeck and Ou explain. In fact, you can even turn dough into an inflating, shape-shifting interface.
Pneuduino is open source and can be programmed with Arduino IDE. It currently consists of four different modules: a Master Board, a Pneumatic Control Board, an Input Board and a Grove Extension Board.
The Master is based on an ATmega32U4 and can command multiple connected modules using the Pneuduino library. Up to 11 pneumatic control boards can be linked to it, along with an additional Input Board and Grove Extension Board.
What’s more, the Pneumatic Control Board is the hero of Pneuduino responsible for air flow and reading air pressure. Two solenoid valves enable full control of one, or partial control of two air bladders. The pressure sensor can read values up to 58 PSI, while the four LEDs under the sensor reveal the pressure. With an ATmega328P at its core, it can be managed from the Master Board and the Pneuduino library or, for simple applications, can be used individually by programming and powering it through the FTDI header.
If you need a simple button to trigger an event or a dial to tweak a parameter, the Pneuduino Input Board will come in handy. It features a pair of push-buttons, a potentiometer and can be hooked up directly to the master board.
Beyond that, those wishing to add an extra sensor, LED or other peripheral to their pneumatic system can employ the Pneuduino’s Grove extension board, which can connect any 5V-compatible I2C device.
Pneuduino is currently being used in workshops with high school or college students. While each workshop has a different focus, they all introduce concepts of air as an actuator and sensor, as well as various fabrication methods to create transforming artifacts. Interested? Head over to the toolkit’s page here.