Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Liquidware Sensors Review

Liquidware, the same folks who brought us the Open Source Hardware Bank have come out with a new line of sensor breakout boards that are worth taking a look at, especially if you are into Arduinos. Several factors distinguish the Liquidware boards from the others that are available.

They are targeted for Arduino. You can, of course, use them with any suitable micro controller out there, but they make it really quick and easy to get the sensors up and running on Arduino. Each sensor has a cheat sheet divided into three sections: "Learn," that describes the basic principles of the sensor; "Connect," that tells you how to connect the sensor to an Arduino, and "Code," that shows a minimal example of how to read data off the sensor. With these cheats, I was able to get the 3-axis accel and the ambiant light sensor up and running within 5 minutes (and to think that I had been putting this off for a month for lack of time).

I think these guys are on the right track here with these sensors. One improvement I might suggest, is to go beyond the basics on the cheat sheet. I think this could be accomplished by shrinking the font a bit and adding a column named "More" or something like that. This column would explain the full funtionality of the device. On the accel for instance, it'd definitely be a plus up to have a table for the G1 and G2 pins that affect the sensitivity of the unit. If done correctly, the new sheet will not frighten beginners, but will be more useful to the pros.

I've used a similar breakout board for the accelerometer (MMA7260QT) from Pololu, which cost about five bucks less. If you go this route, you might need a little more time getting up to speed.

Bottom Line:
If you are a seasoned pro, of course you will not NEED these hints, but even so, they will probably end up saving you some time getting things going.

If your new to electronics, these sensors can increase your chances of success using sophisticated sensors.