Modkit – Programming Arduino With Your Browser

Modkit is an in-browser graphical programming environment for microcontrollers. Modkit allows you to program Arduino and Arduino compatible hardware using simple graphical blocks and/or traditional text code. Modkit’s graphical blocks are heavily inspired by the Scratch programming environment developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.

Getting Started

Our first public preview is live! We know many of you have been following the project and can’t wait to try it out. If you’re a Mac user, you can go ahead and download the desktop component that you’ll need to connect to your device from the online Modkit editor and get started. Windows and Linux versions are coming soon so check out our blog to follow our progress. Read More or view the old site.

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Connecting devices, buildings and environments

Pachube is a web service enabling people to “connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world”. It is already around for about two years now and has been initiated by Usman Hague, Chris Leung, Chris Burman, Ali Hasegawa and Sam Mulube.

The service can be understood as a platform for networking and sharing environmental sensor data, or as a “generalized realtime broker for objects, devices, sensors, spimens and networked environments”. The aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual. Pachube allows any participating project to “plug-in” to any other participating project in real time – this means that for instance buildings, interactive environments or websites can “talk” and “respond” to each other”.

Things vs Environments

An interesting point Hague makes in this interview, as well as in his talk at LIFT09, is that the term “internet of things” and its inherent focus on objects might actually be too “hardware”-centered (floors, walls, roofs, building elements), missing the soft aspects of space, such as light, sound, smell, temperature, electromagnetic fields…). His point is, that even small remote changes in this “software” can have a large effect on the usage of an environment, although the rigid structures of the hardware might still be the same. Hague’s prefered term is “ecosystem of environments”.

Applications

The provided pachube API allows for the development of diverse applications to visualize and communicate collected environmental data in real time. here is an initial set of possibly useful situations the service could be used for.
already developed pachube applications can be found here.

Real-Time Architecture

One of the very promising tools is Pachube2Sketchup, a plug-in for the 3d software google sketchup.

It allows the real-time integration of real-time or historic pachube data to generate or dynamically modulate 3d models of built environments.
This plug-in might be quite useful as a prototyping tool for dynamic or mediated buildings or sensor-based generative architecture.
The video introduction, although quite basic and “only” scaling simple geometric forms to visualize gas, water and electricity usage of a building, gives a first glimpse on how real-time data can be used in a professional design process.

Here’s also a link to the “street as platform”-project by the UTS Master of Digital Architecture class taking place last year November in Sydney. During the project, several applications using Arduinos and Pachube have been developed.

Helping Hands

While searching for a flexible yet powerful way to collect, document and organize all the bibliographic content I will be stumbling over during future research, I came across a few nifty tools.

DEVONthink

DEVONthink

The first is DEVONthink, a really clever piece of software “designed to manage and keep in order all those disparate pieces of information so important to your work or studies.”

DEVONthink stores your documents, scanned papers, email messages, notes, bookmarks, etc. in one place. Access live web pages seamlessly from within DEVONthink to review, extract further information.

Create RTF documents, edit them in full screen, and cross-reference. Clip data from other applications using drag-and-drop, Services, or the Dock menu.

Search, classify and show relationships between your documents — automatically and language-independent, with the help of Artificial Intelligence.

Share your knowledge using the built-in web server on the local network, over the Internet, and via iPhone.

Especially the drag-/drop functionality and the neat integration of all sorts of data-formats make this application really easy and fun to use. The built-in fulltext search and the suggestion of contextual search results make devonthink the weapon of choice for organizing and referencing your literature-reviews, as well as preparing paper-outlines. Here is a well-described use example of DevonThink as a research system.

Zotero. A Firefox extension.

Zotero. A Firefox extension.

Another quite useful tool in terms of keeping proper bibliographic references as you go is Zotero. I have just started using this little Firefox extension, but it seems to work really well recognizing bibliographic information on library websites or online book stores. Great features such as tagging and note-taking for your references, as well as good integration with other word processing through export functionalities (bibtex,  biblX, …) and plug-ins. One could even use this FF add-on alone to store other research material like pdfs, images, text-documents etc., simply by attaching them to related bibliographic entries. Very clever.