Just to make sure that we’re all tap-dancing to the same drum beat, let’s remind ourselves that Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.
Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The boards can be built by hand or purchased preassembled; the software can be downloaded for free. The hardware reference designs (CAD files) are available under an open-source license and users are free to adapt them to their needs.
There are a variety of different Arduino boards. Two of the most popular are the Arduino Uno and the Arduino Mega. Different implementations are available from a number of suppliers. There are also a bunch of plug-in daughter cards called “Shields” – again, these are available from a number of suppliers.
The whole Arduino concept has attracted a large following. One problem, however, is that just about all of the existing Arduino boards are based on relatively low performance 8-bit microprocessors, until now…
The thing is that users have been begging for more power and performance, and the folks at Microchip and Digilent have risen to the challenge magnificently by launching the first 32-bit-microcontroller-based, open-source development platform that is compatible with Arduino hardware and software (Click Here to see the product release information).
The first board is the chipKIT Uno32, which is a clone of the Arduino Uno board, but with much higher features and performance (32-bit processor, 80 MHz, 128 KB Flash program memory and 16 KB RAM, with two each of the I2C, SPI and UART peripherals). Amazingly this board is priced at $26.95 each (the average price for an Arduino Uno is around $29.95).
The second board is the chipKIT Max32
, which is a clone of the Arduino Mega board, but – again – with much higher features and performance (32-bit processor, 80 MHz, 512 KB Flash program memory and 128 KB RAM, with USB, CAN and Ethernet communication, as well as 5 each I2C, 4 each SPI, and 6 each UART peripherals). The chipKIT Max32 board is priced at $49.50 each (the average price for an Arduino Mega is around $69.95).
Both chipKIT boards can be ordered today (Click Here
). Additionally, the open-source software for both boards is available today (Click Here
). chipKIT Network and I/O Shields are expected to be available in June 2011.