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Visible Breadboard: System for Dynamic, Programmable, and Tangible Circuit Prototyping with Visible Electricity

Abstract. This paper reports a new system for prototyping circuits called the Visible Breadboard. The Visible Breadboard is a solderless breadboard that allows users to make or erase physical wirings with tangible input by hand and to see the voltage level of each hole at all times by a colored LED light.

The Visible Breadboard has 60 solid-state relays set in parallel crosses and controlled by a micro-controller. These relays connect the 36 holes on the system surface. The connected holes work as wirings in the circuit into which users can insert electronic materials. Each hole has an AD converter function working as a voltmeter and a full-color LED. The voltage of each hole can be visualized by these full-colored LEDs. Users can operate this system by touching the surface with their fingertips. Users can also connect the Visible Breadboard to a PC. When the Visible Breadboard is connected to the PC, it functions as a new kind of interface for developing and sharing circuits.

Our experimental results showed that this device enables users to build circuits faster and more easily than an ordinary solderless breadboard.

Keywords: Rapid Prototyping, Physical Computing, HCI.

1 Introduction

Nowadays there is great interest in hobby electronics and DIY. Open source programming languages and IDEs such as Arduino [1] and Processing [2], are in widespread use. With the use of a solderless breadboard, soldering is no longer required to build electronic circuits for these purpose. The hobby electronics and DIY environments have become easy and accessible by spreading of instruction on web. Moreover, there are many communities and people interested in DIY and hobby electronics on the internet and their communications are seen on SNS.

Learning electronics and having a knowledge of electronic circuits help people understand what energy and system are. When we make a circuit, it is very easy to understand power consumption, for example, comparing an actuator that is very large to an LED that is small.

Many articles and tips regarding DIY and hobby electronics are available on the web. In these communities, it is easy to share schematic diagrams and pictures of circuits, but very difficult to share actual circuits.

Furthermore, although a great deal of information about hobby electronics and DIY is available, it is still difficult to understand what happens in the actual circuits and to share these circuits. IDEs have become more workable, but building a circuit is still manual work and difficult for a beginner. In the real world, we cannot see voltages in the circuit and are not able to UNDO our actions.

When we want to know the voltage in a circuit, we use a voltmeter. It shows us the voltage by analog meter or LCD display, but does not visualize the voltage on the circuit. It is also difficult to measure multi-points in the circuit at the same time. Moreover, when we teach electronics in the classroom or workshop, it is difficult to share a circuit. There are often mistakes made copying a circuit.

To address these problems, we have developed a new system, which we named the Visible Breadboard (Fig. 1). The Visible Breadboard has dynamic circuit connections for each hole using solid state relays and visualizes the voltage on the surface with a colored light.

From the viewpoint of programming materials [3], circuits made of solid state relays can be defined as real programming material that change physical characteristics through programming and using electricity.

This research paper will first cite some of the related researches and discuss the reason our research is relevant in section 2. Secondly, it will explain the implementation and function of device in section 3 (hardware), 4 (middleware), and 5 (software). Thirdly, it will show some of the conducted experiments in section 6. After that it will discuss the limitations and experimental results in section 7. Lastly, we will conclude with possible future work in section 8.

Fig. 1. (left) concept picture shows real circuit, visible voltage, circuit programability, and share for prototyping purpose. (right)system overview

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