This article was about spending cuts but this caught my eye… The UA Flandrau Science Center is going to roll their own multi-touch tables using Arduino…
…Faust says that typical exhibit designs and construction can be expensive–and that exhibits break down or get boring after awhile. Therefore, the UA thinks a different approach is in order: Flandrau plans on using open-source hardware and software technologies that can easily be built and fixed in-house. (Open-source software and networks are developed by computer experts who believe in the free sharing of technology and information.)
One cost-saving example that Faust cites: The UA Science Center plans to use dozens of touch-screen tables and interactive walls. Faust says one company the university contacted, GestureTek, makes touch-screen tables similar to the type that the UA wants to use–and charges $50,000 per table.
“Our exhibits director believes that we could produce a comparable table at 55 inches, with multi-touch and object recognition, for approximately $10,000 using our open-source hardware and software,” Faust says.
In addition, GestureTek only provides a one-year warranty, and then the Science Center would be on its own. If the center wants to change the content of the GestureTek table, it could be forced pay $5,000 to $35,000 to reprogram it.
“We could change the content in-house for little or nothing,” Faust says. “I think this really demonstrates the power of the open-source approach that we are using.”
An article in the October issue of Wired magazine offers some clues into the technology to be used at the yet-to-be built UA Science Center. The story is about Arduino, an Italian company that makes circuit boards specifically for open-source networks. Arduino puts of all its schematics, designs and software on its Web site for anyone to download for free. The catch is that plans and software designed from Arduino’s materials must be put on the Internet for others to use–which is what the UA Science Center plans to do with its exhibit designs. In fact, Faust says, several exhibit specs have already been discussed and tweaked by posting the plans on open-source networks.
Arduino Gift Guide! – The Arduino open-source microcontroller platform can be programmed and equipped to perform a nearly endless list of functions. It’s likely the best all-around centerpiece to a modern electronics project. But one of the tasks Arduino is best used for is straight-up fun – the open design means there’s an Arduino board suitable for almost any project, and a wealth of add-on “shields” extends its abilities with ease.