The popular open-source Arduino microcontroller has been implemented in countless projects worldwide, and this very success has led the hacker community to create several smaller and cheaper alternatives to the Arduino, such as the Digispark. TinyDuino continues in this miniaturization trend but, crucially, does so while promising to retain all the flexibility of its illustrious forbear.
TinyCircuits hacker-in-chief Ken Burns was prompted to create the TinyDuino based on his feeling that the Arduino and Arduino LilyPad were, as much as he loved them, often too big and expensive for use in smaller projects. Therefore, he set about creating a smaller version of an Arduino which maintained the key benefits of expandability and power.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
TinyCircuits actually offers two models: the TinyDuino and TinyLily Mini. The former is probably the biggest draw, and is based on an Arduino Uno, but is smaller than a U.S. quarter at just 20 x 20 mm (0.78 x 0.78 inches). It is this model which boasts the most flexibility, as it supports the use of TinyShields – small, stackable boards which contain modules such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
"Just like on the standard Arduino platform where you can plug in expansion shields to add more features, the TinyDuino allows expansion by using TinyShields," explains Burns. "Whether you want to add communication capabilities (like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB), the ability to read sensors (like temperature and humidity), drive a display or run motors for your swarm of tiny robots – there is a shield for that."
The cheaper and even more diminutive TinyLily Mini is based on the Arduino LilyPad, and measures only 14 mm (0.55 inches) in diameter. While TinyLily Mini doesn’t support TinyShields, it does sport a range of peripherals designed by TinyCircuits which include a USB Adaptor, LED Board and Motor Driver. Further to this, the TinyLily Mini is washable and contains sew tabs to allow it to be used in e-textile projects.
Both TinyCircuits boards can be plugged into a computer and programmed with the Arduino IDE (integrated development environment), and Burns states that his creation is as easy to use as the Arduino, with only minor differences between them. Burns further posits that his boards could be just what’s needed for designers who wish to create devices related to the Internet of Things.
The TinyDuino Kickstarter project has exceeded its goal of US$10,000, with 19 days still remaining. There are several price points available for potential backers, the cheapest being $20 for a TinyLily Mini kit, with USB adapter.
The promo video below features TinyDuino's pitch.