.NET Gadgeteer is a new open source platform based on the use of the .NET Micro Framework. It brings with it lots of hardware modules that are backed by object oriented software. Is this an Arduino killer?
The Arduino open source processor board and its language have more or less taken the embedded world by storm. If it isn't an Arduino project then it's so last year. There are however a lot of alternatives and .NET Gadgeteer is a new open source platform based on the use of the .NET Micro Framework, which is derived from .NET and C# but also open source.
The whole idea was thought up and implemented by members of the Microsoft Research Sensors and Devices Group over period of more than two years.There is a new web site devoted to the platform and you can download the code from CodePlex. The first hardware offerings can be obtained from GHI Electronics.
What is special about the idea, and what makes it different from other .NET Micro Framework platforms such as NetDuino, is the way that this is a complete modular gadget kit. You have a mainboard ($120) which runs the software and interfaces with the other modules. These include a USB module ($25), a display ($100), camera ($34), LED module ($15), buttons ($5), Ethernet ($15), WiFi ($100), SD card ($7), USB Host ($6), Serial to USB ($20) and a joystick module ($7). There are also some expansion modules and a starter kit which includes a processor and a selection of modules ($250). You need to visit the GHI web site to see the complete range which includes some lower cost options.
The next innovation is that all of the modules are supported by standard classes that give you easy and high level access to what they can do. That is the framework has been extended to include object oriented access to all of the hardware - no more wondering what pins to use or what hex codes to send. The hardware is modular and so is the software.
What is missing are some power controllers. If you need to switch something on then you will have to breadboard something with relays or power transistors. However, what you have in modular form is a head start on creating any gadget that you can imagine.
If you want to see how good it is take a look at the two videos that show how a video console and an animation gadget:
This approach is obviously easier to use than an Arduino from both the hardware and the software point of view - to make it take off it needs a wider support from manufacturers, makers and professionals.