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InstantSOUP for the Fabricator's Soul
Jamais Cascio, 22 Jun 05

netbell.jpgInstantSOUP -- Instant Satisfaction Potentially Useful Objects (the acronym reversal is, um, amusing) -- is hardware and software toolkit designed to introduce people to "physical computing." It uses a beginner-friendly input/output board and programming language called "Wiring," which in turn is based a visual programming language called "Processing." All are open projects, intended to grow as they gain more users and developers from the broader community. They're also aimed at people who wouldn't normally think about learning to program computing hardware.

InstantSOUP projects, or "recipes," include: SoundPad, an introduction to wiring and output); Etch a Sketch, which uses hand-built controllers to draw on your computer screen; TinkerToy, where you build a remote-control car; and the NetBell (shown), which taps a glass to make a gentle tone whenever someone visits a given website. While none of these lessons may be immediately applicable to one's art or design projects, they teach larger lessons about how digitally-controlled hardware functions and is crafted. Discussion forums and workshops are available, as well, to help users learn the environment.

I'm particularly happy to note that Wiring and Processing are available for MacOSX and Linux, as well as Windows.

Hit the extended entry for more details on each of these projects.

InstantSOUP:

Who is InstantSOUP for?
For students of design – interaction design, product design, architecture – InstantSOUP teaches how to prototype concepts that involve digital behaviors, to produce interactive artifacts that give a direct experience of your concept. For people who already use Flash and ActionScript, InstanSOUP is a way to connect Flash programs with the physical world. You can, for example, make physical input devices for games, connect hacked electronic gadgets to Flash, or do anything else that connects the virtual and physical worlds.

Wiring:

Wiring is a programming environment and electronics i/o board for exploring the electronic arts, tangible media, teaching and learning computer programming and prototyping with electronics. It illustrates the concept of programming with electronics and the physical realm of hardware control which are necessary to explore physical interaction design and tangible media aspects.

Processing:

Processing is a programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and sound. It is used by students, artists, designers, architects, researchers, and hobbyists for learning, prototyping, and production. It is created to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context and to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool. Processing is developed by artists and designers as an open-source alternative to commercial software tools in the same domain.

InstantSOUP, Wiring and Processing are all projects started at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, an Italian school teaching designers how to use new technologies for interactive experiences, "just-enough" prototyping, brainstorming, and the like.

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