.NET Gadgeteer - Microsoft’s open-source toolkit for building gadgets
By Pawel Piejko
August 4, 2011
DIY gadgets' makers have a new solution for quick and easy building of custom devices in the form of the .NET Gadgeteer platform. Utilizing .NET Micro Framework and C# programming language, .NET Gadgeteer is an open-source toolkit combined of a basic ARM CPU-equipped mainboard and a choice of easily attachable modules, including displays, buttons, camera, Ethernet, USB ports, or WiFi. The idea resembles the Arduino platform or EZ-Builder kit for DIY robotics projects like DJ Sures' WALL-E.
Roots of the project are to be found in Microsoft Research engineer Steve Hodges' prototype of the SenseCam wearable digital camera. It took around two man-years to accomplish the prototype and essentially led Microsoft's team to look for simpler solutions.
Nicolas Villar and James Scott of Microsoft's Sensors and Devices Group, have worked over the past two and half years developing the .NET Gadgeteer toolkit.
The .NET Gadgeteer's central processing unit mainboard is designed to enable easy attaching of chosen modules, without soldering or detailed, specialist knowledge of electronics. The programming is done via C# language, based on Microsoft Visual Studio with IntelliSense feature streamlining the coding process by auto-completing lines of code or utilizing code packages. All required software is available as free downloads.
.NET Gadgeteer is generally aimed at engineers, designers and researchers requiring a quick and easy way to build prototypes of devices, or as an educational tool for teachers, as well as any amateur tinkering enthusiast.
.NET Gadgeteer's team has come with a number of devices showcasing the toolkit's capabilities including an automated home-heating system (to be presented at UbiComp 2011 conference in Beijing in September), a miniature stop-motion animation studio and a miniature arcade cabinet.
GHI Electronics is the first company to offer .NET Gadgeteer toolkit in the form of FEZ Spider Starter Kit which comes with a mainboard and over a dozen of attachable modules and cables. Pre-order pricing is US$249.95 and shipping begins on 30 September.
Steve Hodges and Nicolas Villar describe the .NET Gadgeteer project in the following video: