As the CodeBugs were finally set free upon a world of engineering plant life, the bug keepers paid us a visit here at element14 Towers to show us inside, outside and all around this quirky and cool create-able. I was fortunate enough to steal a few minutes with the creator of the device, Andrew Robinson from the University of Manchester to find out about the insectoid invention's origins.
"We created the PiFace, which was really successful, but we found people were having to spend a lot of time setting up the Raspberry Pi and installing it," Robinson explains, as we quiz him about why he decided the electronics world needed another single-board computer. "The idea [for the CodeBug] came from when we were doing projects for the Raspberry Pis. You don't need to install it, you don't need any software, it all just works straight from the web browser, making for a really quick introduction to electronics and coding. The Raspberry Pi is the follow on."
The CodeBug, as you probably know by now, is a miniature microprocessor board that's being put forward as a wearable device which anyone can program. It's got a couple of buttons, a 5-by-5 LED matrix display, and four inputs/outputs, which conspire to build a simple yet diverse platform for beginners and enthusiasts alike.
But that's not where it's talents and uses begin and end. Robinson and team were on hand to show the Minions of Farnell just how many uses it offers to the electronics markets, and people from the many, many internal teams were excited and inspired by the promise of CodeBug. It plays very nicely with the Raspberry Pi, and despite everything else CodeBug can do, that's an important factor in how it finds its place on the engineer's workbench.
The CodeBug Cometh
"It's the result of three year's worth of development," Robinson continues. "It's been a real challenge for us to make it as easy to use as it is. The really quick experience that the user gets is as a result of lots of work from our point of view to try and hide some of the complexity of dealing with an embedded platform."
I actually don't mind admitting that prior to seeing and playing with the CodeBug, it's prospects were hidden to me. Two minutes at the table with Andrew, his laptop, a CodeBug and a banana, and that obscurity immediately vanished. I now have three CodeBugs, and they're already being put to use in some really exciting projects (projects I promise to tell you about soon: Hint for the pop culture nut cases: "But the kids love us.").
Born from a successful crowd funding campaign, CodeBug had an eager audience -- an audience with more imagination than myself, clearly -- from the outset, so Robinson had good reason to be optimistic about its reception.
"We did some early trials, and from that we got the Kickstarter funded," he explains. "We were really pleased with the fact that the community got behind us and supported us, and that element14 have come in to help commercialise it and get it out worldwide."
The Day of the Bug
And now it's out, available, and the projects are multiplying like... well, insects.
"It's designed as an introductory point," Robinson explains about CodeBug's intended audience, "so you can do really simple things, and get things going inside of 20 minutes. And then you can connect it with the Raspberry Pi, and learn to program it with Python, connect it to the internet, use it with Twitter; CodeBug is aimed at everyone."
Throughout October we're dedicating a lot of effort to getting beneath the exoskeleton of CodeBug, with content, projects and more all built using this unique and impressively agile platform. naturally we want you to join us, so make sure you've subscribed to the CodeBug channel here on element14, and start sharing your ideas, projects and plans while building along with ours.
"I think we're really most proud in terms of coming up with this idea and finding a new class of wearable device that nobody have done before," he concludes, clearly delighted to finally see his baby bugs flying free."
You can check out the full interview with Andrew below (apologies for the slightly dodgy audio -- the place was packed out with people all wanting to get their hands on the CodeBug!), and tell us all about your feelings on CodeBug in the comments section.