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As you may have heard, Google made happy waves recently when they announced the Android Open Accessory Development Kit platform. This allows Arduino-compatible and PIC based boards to “…interact with an Android-powered device in a special ‘accessory’ mode.” Unlike Apple’s frustratingly closed iPhone platform, this board (and the associated SDK and Arduino libraries) shows a company embracing the idea of ubiquitous, mobile physical computing as a user-defined extension of their OS. If we want to turn our phones into an army of miniature squeegee-wielding, filth-sensing, automated window-washing robots that Tweet, we should have that right!

I received one of the official ADK kits from Google last weekend. It consists of the ADK USB micro-controller board (a kind of souped-up Arduino Mega2560/USB Host Shield that plugs into an Android device as well as your computer), and the very snazzy Accessory Demo Shield (lights, buttons, relays, servo controllers, temp sensor, light sensor, capacative touch sensor, and analog two-axis joystick), along with a couple of micro servos and a power adapter.

Now it’s on me to do some development on the platform. I’m new to Android development, so I’ve fired up the Eclipse IDE and will start working my way through some Android books and tutorials to see how quickly I can go from zero to working Android app that can read the Arduino sensor data and operate the servos. (After that come the window-washer robots.)

I plan to write about the experience here, and would love to hear your tips and suggestions on Android and ADK resources. I’m already planning to bug our own Brian Jepson (who posted his first hands-on with the board here) for advice!

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He works in CG animation at DisneyToon Studios and writes for Make, Boing Boing, and other places online and in print. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter @johnedgarpark — if you like that sort of thing.


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