There are quite a few new embedded toys that I’ve discovered just recently. Here are three.
First up is the DAGU racer. This is a neat little Bluetooth controlled racing car. They’ve got it on discount at RoboSavvy at the moment. It comes with an Android app that you can use to control it, but they also expose the Bluetooth command set so that you can control it from anything, including Gadgeteer I reckon. It is powered by a tiny lithium ion battery and even comes with a set of stickers you can use to customise the racer. And for under twenty quid it was very tempting. So I got one.
I got all excited when I first found out about the Electric Imp. This is a wireless embedded device that fits into an SD card socket. You can’t actually use it as a memory card but you can use it to control a connected net appliance. And you can get it for around twenty quid. My excitement dissipated quite a lot though when I discovered that every device is bound to the imp cloud service which is where it registers its data and where messages come from.
I’ve bought these kinds of devices before, my Chumby and Nabaztag rabbit worked in a similar way. The idea of the company behind them is usually that they don’t make much money on the devices themselves, but build a subscription model which lets them pay for the infrastructure by getting cash somehow from the users of each device. Snag is, if that doesn’t work and the company goes bust you are left with a paperweight.The folks behind the imp seem quite confident that they can make it work, and the service is free at the moment. But they are talking about $50 subscriptions for business users and stuff like that, so I think I’ll pass on this, amazing as it is.
Now this I really do like. It brings you the best of the .NET Micro Framework, Arduino and Gadgeteer in a single board that costs less than thirty quid. You can feed it five volts and it just works. You’ve got an Arduino shield, three Gadgeteer ports, SD card, USB client and host and a space to put an Xbee or WiFi receiver. I’ve been looking at very simple devices that I’d like to make using the Gadgeteer and wanting a cheap, simple board that just gets things done. The FEZ Cerbuino Bee seems to fit that bill perfectly. For less than the price of a video game you get a device you can program with .NET, connect lots of Gadgeteer devices to and put onto WiFi at a bearable cost.
If you are learning C# and want to dip your toes into embedded development I can’t think of a better start. Lovely.