.NET Gadgeteer

This weekend, Microsoft attended Maker Faire in New York and UbiComp in Copenhagen to demonstrate a really cool technology that has been developed and used by Microsoft Research in Cambridge England.  It is a rapid prototyping system built on the .NET Micro Framework.  There are three additional components (beyond NETMF) to make this a platform in which you can bring an idea to implementation in literally minutes.  They have created a main board built around the GHI EMX module with a set of 16 connectors on the back.  They have also built a broad array of modules that can simply plug into the main board without any specific wiring or even knowledge of the underlying protocol.  And finally they have built a set of libraries to make the integration of these modules into an application extremely simple.  It is called .NET Gadgeteer.

All that is required is to select the modules that you want to use and to plug them into the main board.  

To get ready for the faire, we asked a number of volunteers in Microsoft (some without any hardware experience) to build some demos for us.  These demos included a line following robot, a ‘Simon’ game, an MP3 player, and  an environmental monitoring devices. To give you an idea of what these folks were able to construct with this technology, one group created a monitoring system that consisted of a central controller with a camera on a servo that could sweep and area or by position to a particular spot and remote environmental sensor.  The controller communicates with the sensor over an 802.15.4 radio and the controller communicates of Ethernet (wired or wireless) to a web service with a Silverlight interface that runs on either a PC or a Windows Mobile 7 phone.  From that Silverlight application, you can see the images captured by the controller, aim the camera on the remote controller, and see the input from the sensors.  Clearly you can build some rich applications with this technology.  

This technology is currently in development and use within MSR research but we did talk to several parties interested in investigating bringing the concept to a commercial product.  We’ll keep you posted as this progresses.

Comments (25)

  1. Herrick Spencer says:

    Two words…. "I want"… one more…."Gimmie"

  2. Brett Pound says:

    some more….. Field. Test…….  Me….

  3. William says:

    Could Charles do another C9 video with Collins (and maybe Gus from GHI) on Gadgeteer?  Eric Meirs would also have some thoughts on functional composition of hardware and software.  He dreams about automated factories, so this kind of thing he would enjoy I think.  tia

  4. John says:

    Worldwide Availability? When, where at what price… actually, price doesn't matter I want it!

  5. Colin Miller says:

    We are working on availability – worldwide.  If all works otu well, by Spring.

  6. Ryan says:

    It is spring already! Cost? Is it a package or each peripheral a separate cost?

  7. Colin Miller says:

    All up to the company that brings it to market.  They are all aware that cost is a key concern to this audience.

  8. Andy says:

    Nice idea guys, this aproach is great. Keep up the good work

  9. Dale says:

    Is there a mailing list for availability or updates?

  10. Colin Miller says:

    Hi Dale,

       We are looking into that possibility right now.  Failing that, we will certainly keep you up to date on this site.

  11. William says:

    Will the .NET Gadgeteer have a cellular SIM interface card?  Also, when will the Gadgetter be available and is there a comperhensive list of device boards that will be available?



  12. Colin Miller says:

    If this works as we hope, there will be a heathy ecosystem of modules.  The exact availability and kit makeup will be up to our commercial partners.  We are not in a position to make announcements for others I'm afraid.

  13. Rob says:

    Are you able to share the current parts list for anyone interested in pulling it all together themselves?

  14. Colin Miller says:

    Hi Rob,

       There is nothing too magic about the parts list.  It is built on a commercially available module – the Embedded Master from GHI Electronics.  alot of the magic is in the software stack and the VS integration.  There are two biggish design issues that we need to address before the stack is opened up – the pin mappings for the connectors need to be flexible enough to work with a variety of underlying processors and we need to make sure that there is support for seamlessly integrating modules from diverse sources.  Look for some activity on this soon.

  15. TinFoot says:

    Just what I have been looking for. I will visit this site frequently to find out when and where I can purchase.

  16. Doug says:

    Any idea when this will be seen in the wild?  Where should we look for updates on hardware availability?

  17. Abi Bellamkonda says:

    Do we have launch dates?

  18. Colin Miller says:

    We are in the final stages of re-working the architecture so that it is hardware independant.  Once we do that, the plan is to Open Source the reference redisgns for others to build commercial applicaitons from.  Unfortunately, that means that we have no specific dates that are under our control.  Watch for updates on NETMF.com

  19. Cygni52 says:

    Wow!  …this could be huge!  Great work to everyone involved!!!

  20. Adam says:

    Any updates on this? I'm really hoping that this is coming to market soon!

  21. Adam says:

    Never mind, saw the latest update on netmf.com. Sweet!

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