15:47
TEDGlobal 2012

Massimo Banzi: How Arduino is open-sourcing imagination

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Massimo Banzi helped invent the Arduino, a tiny, easy-to-use open-source microcontroller that's inspired thousands of people around the world to make the coolest things they can imagine -- from toys to satellite gear. Because, as he says, "You don't need anyone's permission to make something great."

- Physical Computing Guru
Massimo Banzi co-founded Arduino, which makes affordable open-source microcontrollers for interactive projects, from art installations to an automatic plant waterer. Full bio

So a few weeks ago, a friend
00:15
of mine gave this toy car to his
00:18
8-year-old son.
00:20
But instead of going into a store and buying one,
00:22
like we do normally, he went to this
00:25
website and he downloaded
00:28
a file, and then he printed it
00:30
on this printer.
00:32
So this idea that you can
00:34
manufacture objects
00:36
digitally using these machines
00:37
is something that The Economist magazine
00:39
defined as the Third Industrial Revolution.
00:41
Actually, I argue that there is another revolution
00:43
going on, and it's the one that has to do with
00:47
open-source hardware and the maker's movement,
00:50
because the printer that my friend used
00:52
to print the toy is actually open-source.
00:56
So you go to the same website, you can download all the files
00:59
that you need in order to make that printer:
01:02
the construction files, the hardware, the software,
01:06
all the instruction is there.
01:09
And also this is part of a large
01:12
community where there are thousands of people
01:14
around the world that are actually
01:17
making these kinds of printers,
01:19
and there's a lot of innovation
01:20
happening because it's all open-source.
01:22
You don't need anybody's permission to create something great.
01:24
And that space is like
01:28
the personal computer in 1976,
01:30
like the Apples with the other companies are fighting,
01:33
and we will see in a few years,
01:35
there will be the Apple of this kind of market come out.
01:38
Well, there's also another interesting thing.
01:41
I said the electronics are open-source, because at the heart
01:45
of this printer there is something I'm really attached to:
01:47
these Arduino boards, the motherboard that sort of
01:50
powers this printer, is a project
01:52
I've been working on for the past seven years.
01:55
It's an open-source project.
01:57
I worked with these friends of mine that I have here.
01:59
So the five of us, two Americans, two Italians
02:02
and a Spaniard, we — (Laughter)
02:04
You know, it's a worldwide project. (Laughter)
02:07
So we came together in this
02:10
design institute called the Interaction Design Institute
02:12
Ivrea, which was teaching
02:15
interaction design, this idea that you can take
02:17
design from the simple shape
02:19
of an object and you can move it
02:22
forward to design the way you interact with things.
02:24
Well, when you design an object that's supposed to interact
02:26
with a human being, if you make a foam model
02:29
of a mobile phone, it doesn't make any sense.
02:30
You have to have something that
02:33
actually interacts with people.
02:35
So, we worked on Arduino and
02:37
a lot of other projects there to
02:40
create platforms that would be
02:42
simple for our students to use,
02:44
so that our students could just build things that worked,
02:46
but they don't have five years to become an electronics engineer. We have one month.
02:49
So how do I make something that even a kid can use?
02:53
And actually, with Arduino,
02:55
we have kids like Sylvia that you see here,
02:58
that actually make projects with Arduino.
03:01
I have 11-year-old kids stop me and show me
03:03
stuff they built for Arduino that's really
03:05
scary to see the capabilities
03:08
that kids have when you give them the tools.
03:10
So let's look at what happens when you make a tool
03:12
that anybody can just pick up and build something quickly,
03:15
so one of the examples that I like to sort of
03:18
kick off this discussion is this
03:20
example of this cat feeder.
03:22
The gentleman who made this project had two cats.
03:24
One was sick and the other one
03:26
was healthy, so he had to make
03:28
sure they ate the proper food.
03:30
So he made this thing that recognizes the cat
03:32
from a chip mounted inside
03:34
on the collar of the cat, and opens the door
03:36
and the cat can eat the food.
03:39
This is made by recycling an old CD player
03:41
that you can get from an old computer,
03:42
some cardboard, tape, couple of sensors, a few blinking LEDs,
03:45
and then suddenly you have a tool. You build something
03:48
that you cannot find on the market.
03:51
And I like this phrase: "Scratch your own itch."
03:53
If you have an idea, you just go and you make it.
03:56
This is the equivalent of sketching on paper
03:58
done with electronics.
04:00
So one of the features that I
04:03
think is important about our work
04:05
is that our hardware, on top of
04:06
being made with love in Italy —
04:09
as you can see from the
04:11
back of the circuit — (Laughter)
04:13
is that it's open,
04:15
so we publish all the design
04:17
files for the circuit online,
04:19
so you can download it and
04:21
you can actually use it to
04:23
make something, or to modify, to learn.
04:24
You know, when I was learning about programming,
04:27
I learned by looking at other people's code,
04:28
or looking at other people's circuits in magazines.
04:30
And this is a good way to learn,
04:34
by looking at other people's work.
04:36
So the different elements of the project are all open,
04:38
so the hardware is released
04:41
with a Creative Commons license.
04:42
So, you know, I like this idea that hardware becomes
04:44
like a piece of culture that you share
04:46
and you build upon, like it was
04:49
a song or a poem with Creative Commons.
04:51
Or, the software is GPL, so it's open-source as well.
04:54
The documentation and the hands-on teaching
04:57
methodology is also open-source and released as the Creative Commons.
05:00
Just the name is protected so
05:04
that we can make sure that we can tell people
05:06
what is Arduino and what isn't.
05:09
Now, Arduino itself is made of
05:11
a lot of different open-source components
05:13
that maybe individually are hard to use for
05:15
a 12-year-old kid, so Arduino
05:18
wraps everything together into
05:20
a mashup of open-source technologies
05:22
where we try to give them the
05:24
best user experience to get something done quickly.
05:26
So you have situations like this,
05:28
where some people in Chile
05:31
decided to make their own boards instead of buying them,
05:33
to organize a workshop and
05:36
to save money. Or there are
05:38
companies that make their own
05:41
variations of Arduino that fit
05:43
in a certain market, and there's
05:45
probably, maybe like a 150 of them
05:46
or something at the moment.
05:49
This one is made by a company
05:51
called Adafruit, which is run by
05:53
this woman called Limor Fried,
05:55
also known as Ladyada, who is
05:57
one of the heroes of the open-source hardware movement
05:59
and the maker movement.
06:01
So, this idea that you have a new, sort of
06:03
turbo-charged DIY community
06:06
that believes in open-source,
06:09
in collaboration, collaborates
06:10
online, collaborates in different spaces.
06:13
There is this magazine called Make that sort of gathered
06:15
all these people and sort of put them together
06:18
as a community, and you see
06:20
a very technical project explained in a
06:22
very simple language, beautifully typeset.
06:24
Or you have websites,
06:27
like this one, like Instructables,
06:28
where people actually teach each other about anything.
06:31
So this one is about Arduino projects,
06:33
the page you see on the screen, but effectively here you can
06:34
learn how to make a cake and everything else.
06:38
So let's look at some projects.
06:41
So this one is a quadcopter.
06:43
It's a small model helicopter.
06:45
In a way, it's a toy, no?
06:47
And so this one was military technology
06:49
a few years ago, and now it's
06:51
open-source, easy to use, you can buy it online.
06:53
DIY Drones is the community; they do this thing called ArduCopter.
06:56
But then somebody actually launched this start-up called
07:00
Matternet, where they figured out that you could
07:03
use this to actually transport
07:05
things from one village to another in Africa,
07:07
and the fact that this was easy to find,
07:10
open-source, easy to hack, enabled them
07:11
to prototype their company really quickly.
07:14
Or, other projects. Matt Richardson: I'm getting a little sick
07:16
of hearing about the same people on TV over and over and over
07:19
again, so I decided to do something about it.
07:22
This Arduino project,
07:25
which I call the Enough Already, will mute the TV anytime
07:27
any of these over-exposed
07:30
personalities is mentioned. (Laughter)
07:32
I'll show you how I made it. (Applause)
07:33
MB: Check this out.
07:38
MR: Our producers caught up with Kim Kardashian earlier
07:40
today to find out what she was planning on wearing to her —
07:42
MB: Eh? (Laughter)
07:45
MR: It should do a pretty good
07:46
job of protecting our ears from having to hear about the details
07:48
of Kim Kardashian's wedding.
07:50
MB: Okay. So, you know, again, what is interesting here
07:52
is that Matt found this module
07:56
that lets Arduino process
07:59
TV signals, he found some code
08:01
written by somebody else that generates infrared signals for the TV,
08:03
put it together and then created this great project.
08:06
It's also used, Arduino's used,
08:08
in serious places like, you know, the Large Hadron Collider.
08:10
There's some Arduino balls collecting data and sort of
08:13
measuring some parameters.
08:16
Or it's used for —
08:18
(Music)
08:20
So this is a musical interface
08:31
built by a student from Italy,
08:33
and he's now turning this into
08:35
a product. Because it was a
08:38
student project becoming a product.
08:39
Or it can be used to make an assistive device.
08:42
This is a glove that understands
08:44
the sign language and transforms
08:46
the gestures you make into sounds
08:48
and writes the words that you're signing on a display
08:50
And again, this is made of all different parts you can find
08:53
on all the websites that sell Arduino-compatible parts,
08:55
and you assemble it into a project.
08:57
Or this is a project from the ITP part of NYU,
09:00
where they met with this boy
09:03
who has a severe disability, cannot play with the PS3,
09:05
so they built this device that
09:08
allows the kid to play baseball
09:10
although he has limited
09:12
movement capability.
09:14
Or you can find it in arts projects.
09:16
So this is the txtBomber.
09:18
So you put a message into this device
09:21
and then you roll it on the wall, and it basically
09:22
has all these solenoids
09:25
pressing the buttons on spray cans,
09:27
so you just pull it over a wall
09:29
and it just writes on the wall
09:31
all the political messages.
09:32
So, yeah. (Applause)
09:35
Then we have this plant here.
09:37
This is called Botanicalls,
09:39
because there's an Arduino ball with a Wi-Fi module
09:41
in the plant, and it's measuring
09:45
the well-being of the plant,
09:47
and it's creating a Twitter account
09:49
where you can actually interact with the plant. (Laughter)
09:51
So, you know, this plant
09:54
will start to say, "This is really hot," or
09:56
there's a lot of, you know, "I need water right now." (Laughter)
09:59
So it just gives a personality to your plant.
10:03
Or this is something that twitters when the
10:06
baby inside the belly of a
10:09
pregnant woman kicks. (Laughter)
10:11
Or this is a 14-year-old kid in
10:13
Chile who made a system that
10:15
detects earthquakes and publishes on Twitter.
10:17
He has 280,000 followers.
10:19
He's 14 and he anticipated
10:22
a governmental project by one year. (Applause)
10:24
Or again, another project where,
10:28
by analyzing the Twitter feed
10:31
of a family, you can basically
10:33
point where they are, like in the "Harry Potter" movie.
10:35
So you can find out everything about this project on the website.
10:38
Or somebody made a chair that twitters when somebody farts. (Laughter)
10:41
It's interesting how, in 2009,
10:45
Gizmodo basically defined,
10:48
said that this project actually gives a meaning to Twitter,
10:51
so it was — a lot changed in between. (Laughter)
10:53
So very serious project.
10:57
When the Fukushima disaster happened,
10:58
a bunch of people in Japan, they realized that the information
11:00
that the government was giving wasn't really open
11:03
and really reliable, so they built
11:06
this Geiger counter, plus Arduino, plus network
11:08
interface. They made 100
11:10
of them and gave them to people around Japan, and essentially
11:12
the data that they gathered gets published on this website
11:16
called Cosm, another website
11:18
they built, so you can actually get reliable real-time
11:20
information from the field,
11:24
and you can get unbiased information.
11:26
Or this machine here, it's from
11:29
the DIY bio movement,
11:31
and it's one of the steps that you need in order to process DNA,
11:34
and again, it's completely open-source from the ground up.
11:36
Or you have students in developing countries making
11:40
replicas of scientific instruments that cost
11:43
a lot of money to make.
11:46
Actually they just build them themselves for a lot less
11:48
using Arduino and a few parts.
11:50
This is a pH probe.
11:52
Or you get kids, like these kids, they're from Spain.
11:54
They learned how to program and to make robots when they
11:57
were probably, like, 11, and then they started to use Arduino
12:00
to make these robots that play football. They became
12:02
world champions by making an Arduino-based robot.
12:04
And so when we had to make
12:07
our own educational robot, we just went to them and said,
12:09
you know, "You design it, because you know exactly
12:12
what is needed to make a great robot that excites kids."
12:14
Not me. I'm an old guy.
12:18
What am I supposed to excite, huh? (Laughter)
12:20
But as I — in terms of educational assets. (Laughter)
12:22
There's also companies like Google
12:26
that are using the technology
12:28
to create interfaces between
12:30
mobile phones, tablets and the real world.
12:33
So the Accessory Development Kit
12:36
from Google is open-source
12:37
and based on Arduino, as opposed
12:39
to the one from Apple which is
12:41
closed-source, NDA, sign your
12:42
life to Apple. Here you are.
12:45
There's a giant maze, and Joey's sitting there, and the
12:47
maze is moving when you tilt the tablet.
12:50
Also, I come from Italy, and the design is important
12:54
in Italy, and yet very conservative.
12:57
So we worked with a design
13:00
studio called Habits, in Milan,
13:01
to make this mirror, which is completely open-source.
13:03
This doubles also as an iPod speaker.
13:06
So the idea is that the hardware, the software,
13:09
the design of the object, the fabrication,
13:13
everything about this project is open-source
13:14
and you can make it yourself.
13:17
So we want other designers to pick this up and learn how
13:18
to make great devices, to learn
13:21
how to make interactive products
13:23
by starting from something real.
13:25
But when you have this idea,
13:28
you know, what happens to all these ideas?
13:30
There's, like, thousands of ideas that I —
13:32
You know, it would take seven hours for me to do
13:34
all the presentations.
13:36
I will not take all the seven hours. Thank you.
13:38
But let's start from this example:
13:41
So, the group of people
13:43
that started this company called Pebble, they prototyped
13:45
a watch that communicates via Bluetooth with your phone,
13:48
and you can display information
13:51
on it. And they prototyped with
13:53
an old LCD screen from a Nokia
13:55
mobile phone and an Arduino.
13:57
And then, when they had a final
13:59
project, they actually went to Kickstarter
14:01
and they were asking for 100,000 dollars to make
14:04
a few of them to sell.
14:06
They got 10 million dollars.
14:08
They got a completely
14:10
fully funded start-up, and they don't have to,
14:12
you know, get VCs involved or anything,
14:14
just excite the people with their great project.
14:16
The last project I want to show you is this:
14:19
It's called ArduSat. It's currently on Kickstarter,
14:21
so if you want to contribute, please do it.
14:25
It's a satellite that goes into space, which is probably
14:27
the least open-source thing you can imagine,
14:30
and it contains an Arduino
14:32
connected to a bunch of sensors. So if you know how to use Arduino,
14:34
you can actually upload your experiments
14:37
into this satellite and run them.
14:40
So imagine, if you as a high school can have the satellite
14:42
for a week and do satellite
14:45
space experiments like that.
14:47
So, as I said, there's
14:50
lots of examples, and I'm going to stop here. And I just
14:52
want to thank the Arduino community
14:54
for being the best, and just
14:56
every day making lots of projects.
14:58
Thank you. (Applause)
15:00
(Applause)
15:04
And thanks to the community.
15:06
Chris Anderson: Massimo,
15:09
you told me earlier today that you had no idea, of course,
15:11
that it would take off like this.
15:13
MB: No.
15:15
CA: I mean, how must you feel when you read this stuff and you
15:15
see what you've unlocked?
15:17
MB: Well, it's the work of a lot of people, so we as a community
15:20
are enabling people to make
15:23
great stuff, and I just feel overwhelmed.
15:24
It's just, it's difficult to describe this.
15:27
Every morning, I wake up and I look at all the stuff that
15:29
Google Alerts sends me, and it's
15:31
just amazing. It's just
15:33
going into every field that you can imagine.
15:35
CA: Thank you so much. (Applause)
15:37
(Applause)
15:39
Translated by Joseph Geni
Reviewed by Morton Bast

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About the Speaker:

Massimo Banzi - Physical Computing Guru
Massimo Banzi co-founded Arduino, which makes affordable open-source microcontrollers for interactive projects, from art installations to an automatic plant waterer.

Why you should listen

Computer-based interactivity used to be beyond the reach of most artists, designers, and other electronics amateurs who wanted to make their work respond to light, sound and other stimulus by moving, beeping, tweeting. Then, in 2005, Italian engineer Massimo Banzi and his team created the Arduino microcontroller, a small, cheap programmable computer, bringing interactive technology to the masses.

With a variety of sensors, the Arduino is versatile and easy to use. Since its inception, the device has popped up in projects as varied as an exhibit on brains at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, to a DIY kit that sends a Tweet when your houseplant needs water.

More profile about the speaker
Massimo Banzi | Speaker | TED.com