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Arduino MCR: Third Workshop

14th May 2014

At this Arduino Manchester group Meet-up session, we were invited to talk about the progress of the Pararchive100_1340 project and to hear where members were with their own research projects. As always, the session was convened by James – an artist, musician, and maker based in Manchester, and the leader and coordinator of the group. In attendance were Chris, Michelle, Roman and his friend Donna. James began the session by projecting the latest news and developments from the Arduino development platform on a screen. These included the following products: the Micro View – according to the manufacturer – the first chip-sized Arduino compatible with a built-in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display that allows one to quickly display text, sprites, graphs and gauges. What is really interesting about the OLED is that one can see what their Arduino is thinking without having to connect it to their computer. For more details, visit the Micro View site.

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Another new product – Digispark Pro – is described by its maker (Digistump) as the cheapest Arduino compatible development platform for mobile and wireless hardware that is easier to use – with more pins, programme space and features than earlier versions. You can find further details here. Printoo, yet another new Arduino product, is described by its manufacturer as a printed electronics prototyping platform capable of bringing everyday objects to life. The manufacturer adds that in a world where computers have become an integral part of our lives, Printoo aims to give people the ability to embed computational power into everyday objects and devices, and thatit also enables new ways to link the physical and the digital worlds. Visit Printoo for more information.                                                                                                                                                  

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Ag Inkjet Circuit (abbreviated as AgIC), and named after a Tokyo-based start-up developing circuit printing system using a home inkjet printer – transforms home printers into circuit board manufacturing equipment. Click here to learn more. The last of the new products of interest to the Arduino group members was The Micro – a product that the manufacturers (M3D) claim is not only the first truly consumer 3D printer that is incredibly intuitive, easy to own, and seamless by design, but one that also makes 3D printing an enjoyable experience for the every-day person. Read more details here. Members were then requested to share any news they had. Chris intimated that he had bought himself a mini thermal receipt printer that can be used to print text, barcodes, bitmap graphics and even machine-readable codes consisting of an array of black and white squares, typically used for storing URLs or other information – also commonly known as QR codes. In doing so, the mini thermal receipt printer uses low energy in comparison to conventional printers and is manufactured by Adafruit – a company that uses Arduino hardware. You can access more information about the printer here.

100_1333The discussion then moved on to Pararchive’s progress so far. The technology team had prepared a short update report in advance that James talked through the members present. Broadly speaking, storytelling has so far been structured around so-called blocks/events, bits of information/metadata that substantiates and connects the events, artefacts in the form of photos, sounds, videos, documents and physical objects that similarly enrich the events as well as connectors that act as links between events. We provided a few concrete examples from the Ceramic City Stories group for illustration after which members had the chance to ask questions and to talk about their own planned research projects. James led from the front, explaining that he has a strong interest in the digital heritage of Manchester, particularly desktop manufacturing and the city’s pop and rock music as well as jazz history. As such, James is exploring archival100_1332 material related to Manchester that would be fed into a portable, GPS-guided radio that would narrate the history of noteworthy places as users wandered through such spaces. Had James not settled on the portable radio, he would in all likelihood have gone for a “jacket or hat of exploration”! In addition to the archival metadata that would help construct coherent stories and promote discovery, James is making a case to consider geographical data as well which he sees as crucial to the radio’s exploring function. James has now started assembling a prototype of the radio as reflected in the featured image of this post.

100_1334Michelle – a lawyer by trade and an Arduino enthusiast – said that she’s currently contemplating pursuing two research projects. First, one that looks to design a fashionable heated glove for women (particularly in the age range of 30-45) who suffer from the Raynaud’s disease (a condition that causes body parts – especially fingers, toes, the tip of the nose and ears – to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress). To this end, Michelle wants to conduct some research on the patients of the disease with a particular focus on when an attack occurs and the extent to which patients cool –using archival material. Second, Michelle is also interested in the history and trend of textile manufacturing in the North West. She wants to look at how the textile industry – once a beacon of the North West – can be brought100_1338 back to Manchester in response to the ever increasing outsourcing of the industry elsewhere in the developing world. Donna has an interest in 3D printing/projection mapping and needs some time to think about how this could fit into the broader group’s and Pararchive project. Overall, it was an interesting and exciting evening that demonstrated a high level of creativity at Arduino MCR. Watch this space for updates!