Intro to the Arduino Entrepreneurial Ecosystem slides & audio

[originally posted on the ThingM blog]

The theme for the Caltech Entrepreneurs Forum’s November event was “The Internet of Things, Arduinos and the ‘Maker Entrepreneur’“.


My talk “Intro to the Arduino Entrepreneurial System” touched on all these topics. The entire event was a blast, including a wonderful talk about commercial making with open source by Quinn of QtechKnow.

Slides with notes and MP3 audio of the entire event are below.

Download MP3 of the entire Forum proceedings, including Tod’s talk.

MakerFaire Bay Area 2013 and my talk on blink(1) & Kickstarter

[originally posted on the ThingM blog]


Whew, MakerFaire Bay Area 2013 is over and it was astoundingly fun. Not only did we get to interact with so many people doing awesome things with ThingM products (like these BlinkM MinM earrings) but we got to show off a bunch of projects made with blink(1) and BlinkM-family stuff to thousands of new people. We heard tallies of 120,000 people showed up over the weekend, and we love seeing the concepts the Maker community inspires diffusing out into the larger world, as this LA Times article speaks to.

This year not only were we fortunate enough to have a ThingM table in the Maker Shed (Thank you Leah, Alex, Will, Carlyn, & Mike for helping staff it), but we also gave talks. Mike spoke about the future of manufacturing in a work filled with Maker-inspired tools and techniques, while I gave a talk on the process we went through to take blink(1) from an idea to Kickstarter to production.

Slides from my talk are below.

Get on the BlinkM Bus with a BlinkM Cylon

BlinkMs are a lot of fun by themselves, but they’re also little network devices, each having its own address on an I2C network. Here’s where I think BlinkM can really shine since it makes controlling multiple RGB LEDs pretty easy. For Maker Faire, I wanted to show off this facet by having a single Arduino control a dozen or so BlinkMs on a single I2C bus. The result is shown in the little video below.

Read on for how this was put together.

Continue reading “Get on the BlinkM Bus with a BlinkM Cylon”

“WiiChuck” Wii Nunchuck Adapter Available

Want to hook up a Wii Nunchuck to an Arduino but don’t want to cut up the cord on your Nunchuck? Yeah me too. So I made some of these:



It’s a small PCB that adapts the Wii Nunchuck connector to standard 4-pin header. I call it the “wiichuck adapter”. It plugs directly into the Arduino, no wiring necessary. You can get one too for $4.

Available from the following wonderful shops: FREE DOMESTIC SHIPPING. International shipping for $1 more.
Little Bird Electronics (Australia)
SparkFun. Ships domestic & internationally. Be sure to order header pins too!
– and just about any SparkFun distributor

Continue reading ““WiiChuck” Wii Nunchuck Adapter Available”

Things at ThingM, my Berkeley INFO290-13 talk

On Nov 8th I was a guest lecturer at the “Theory and Practice of Tangible User Interfaces” class at UC Berkeley. It’s a physical computing course, about “a new approach to HCI which focuses on the physical interaction with computational media.” The class has both lecture and lab components. The lab section is hands-on experimenting with novel physical interfaces, using Arduino as the core. So of course I have a great fondness for the course.

things at thingm

The talk itself was a sort of summary of the things we’ve been pondering at ThingM. If you’re already familiar with the stuff Mike and I have been talking about for the last several months, there’s not much new. But for me it was interesting to put it all together into one package and attempt to construct a narrative that threads it all together. The talk covered:

  • Computation as Material
  • Smart Interface Components
  • Reversible Hacking
  • Technology Sketches
  • Informational Objects

Before my talk I got to see the in-progess work of the students’ final projects to create new kinds of musical instruments using a variety of input devices, Arduino, Processing, and so on. It was great. I was invited to be a guest lecturer by fellow Sketcher Kimiko Ryokai, an assistant professor at Berkeley’s School of Information. Thank you, Kimiko, for letting me be a part of your class and to meet your students. The class was 40 strong and it’s obvious there’s a lot of interest in the process of making software interact with the real world. I hope more schools follow in this one’s path.

The PDF of my slides with notes is here:
berkeley_info290-13_todkurt.pdf (8.8MB PDF)

Smart Interface Components, my Sketching07 talk


The Sketching in Hardware 2 conference was a blast. So many interesting people and ideas. I wish we could have it every few months. Mike has his notes and a good summary of this year’s Sketching.

My talk was on “Smart Interface Components”. It was a generalization of the things I’ve been thinking about with the Smart LED prototypes.


Slides from the talk: sketching07-tod-smartcomponents.pdf

What are Smart Interface Components? Current interface components, the sensors and actuators that comprise the user interface of the gadgets we use, are dumb. They require specialized domain-specific knowledge to make work correctly, non-trivial processing to use, and in general are a pain. Tiny microcontrollers are becoming cheap enough to embed even at the edges of our hardware designs. A component with local brain can embed some of the domain knowledge and enable a higher level of communication between it and the application processor.

An example presented is a Smart LED. LEDs are dumb. Multi-color LEDs are hard to control. Can we make it better?

Imagine an LED that instead of worrying about PWM and current-limiting resistors, you just give it the HSV or RGB color values via a serial line? “#FFCC22 @ 20% brightness”, you say.

Some prototypes (from the flickr set):

Work is continuing in making production versions of these smart LEDs.

LoveM Memory Chocolates technology sketch

Another technology sketch from my company ThingM. This time it’s Valentine’s Day-themed, with LoveM, a heart-shaped box of “memory chocolates”.

(revver link)


LoveM is a Technology Sketch of an augmented box of chocolates that displays personal memories on an LCD screen as chocolates are removed from the box. It attempts to evoke joy and surprise through the use of available, inexpensive technology embedded into a familiar object. It investigates what happens when we put technology in a non-utilitarian, non-game context and explores the ideas of introducing personal, intimate content into an otherwise mass-produced product.

It’s also our Valentine’s Day present to you. ;-)