Getting Educated About Hardware

stellaris evalbot with iPhoneYou wouldn’t expect web software programmers to be experts on low-level hardware—and with us here at Digital Trike you’d be right as well—but when we got the opportunity to start learning a little bit about ARM architecture and how to code for it, we jumped at the chance. These days ARM chips are everywhere. They’re the computer brains in a variety of electronic devices including PDAs, mobile phones, media and music players, hand-held game consoles, calculators, and cars; but they are especially prevalent in the mobile space. In fact, approximately 98% of all mobile phones use at least one ARM processor, and they are the main processor for current and next gen iOS devices like the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and even the Apple TV. You can learn more than we have space to write about the ARM architecture on their wikipedia page.

We were able to attend a seminar put on by Avnet and Texas Instruments about their Stellaris® line of ARM processors. It was amazing to learn that a similar chip of similar speed was used in a PC as its CPU just 15 years ago. Now they run small embedded systems, and cost no more than $10. Then we got our test robot, assembled it and started doing some coding exercises for it. We were the last team done putting the robot together (again, we’re not hardware guys), but the first to get all the coding labs finished and working (we’re programmers after all). Our robot moves autonomously, detects when it bumps into something, displays messages, plays sounds, and it even has flashing lights!

Of course our little robot is just a demo with few real-world applications, so where do we hope to go from here? The most exciting aspect of the hardware to explore is the ability to communicate with it via a wireless connection. Our goal is to create a mobile phone app that communicates wirelessly with ARM processors. We think there’s a lot of potential in creating well-designed and easy to use interfaces that mobile apps are renowned for in communicating with the amazing, but sometimes hard to interface with, world of embedded hardware.

Contact us if you’re interested in how we can help bridge the gap between embedded hardware and intuitive user interfaces.