Hacking toys with Energia

Computers & Mobile Robotics Technology
Hacking toys with Energia
Robert Wessels with a hacked Hexbug and Launchpad-enabled remote control.
Robert Wessels with a hacked Hexbug and Launchpad-enabled remote control.

maker-faire-bay-area-logo-2014The Texas Instruments MSP430 is similar to the Atmel ATmega micro-controller, however there are some differences, including a very low price, and some interesting refinements for low power consumption.

If you want to get your hands on one, the easiest way is to pick up a TI Launchpad developer board, however the big problem—at least until recently—both for the Launchpad and the MSP430 itself, was the programming environment. For a generation of makers used to the Arduino, the Eclipse-based development environment of the MSP430 was overly complicated and hard to use.

This was solved with the arrival of Energia. With cross platform support—for Windows, OS X and Linux—just like the Arduino environment itself, it brings the Wiring and Arduino frameworks to the MSP430, and the TI Launchpad. That means you can take your Arduino source code—your sketch—and drop it directly onto the MSP430. It makes the MSP430, once horribly hard to use, as easy to use as the Arduino.

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I talked with Energia creator Robert Wessels and Texas Instruments’ Adrian Fernandez about the TI Launchpad and the Energia Project, and about the hacked Hexbug toys they’ve brought with them to Maker Faire this year.


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Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.

View more articles by Alasdair Allan


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