Sheeld is a shapeshifting shield for Arduino. That’s the best and most accurate one line description we can come up with to describe Integreight’s latest creation. Integreight was founded by 8 college friends, a mix of electronics & communications and computer software engineers, that got together initially for their graduating project to design an improved “smart” breadboard. It was then that they decided to start a company. They later joined Flat6Labs, got seed funding, and that’s how it all began.
What is Arduino?
Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It is a single-board micro-controller designed to make using electronics in multidisciplinary projects more accessible. The whole device can sit in the palm of your hand, and costs around $30. They’re bliss for people that wanna play around peeps that want to experiment, hack, and tinker with electronics.
And it just so happened that experimenting, hacking and tinkering with electronics, was exactly what Islam Mostafa, now Integreight CTO, liked to do. “I used to do many projects at home using Arduino, and I liked the fact that it has various accessories that increase its functionality,” he explains. “If your want to connect it with Bluetooth, it’s easy, buy the Bluetooth shield, you need to connect it to the Internet, no problem, go buy the WiFi shield, and the list goes on and on.”
What is a Shield?
Arduino, and Arduino-compatible boards, make use of shields. Shields are printed circuit expansion boards that plug into the Arduino to provide functionalities that aren’t supported out of the box, such as motor controls, GPS, Ethernet, LCD display, breadboarding, microphone input or audio playback, and so on.
Where is the problem?
Shields do add a lot of flexibility to the system and give it a lot of new dimensions, but they come at a cost. That would be wouldn’t be so if you knew exactly what you were doing, had a clear idea of what you wanted to build, and was merely in the process of assembling your creation. But since most of your time with Arduino will be about playing around, figuring stuff up, and discovering things as you go, it will start to feel wasteful buying all those shields with some, maybe even most, not making to the final prototype.
The solution to that problem was a lot closer than you might think. In fact, you’ve had it sitting in your pocket all along.
Islam continues: “I then realized that most of these functionalities and peripherals already exist on my smartphone, even if I need some buttons, my phone can display them on its touch screen.”
Simply put, 1Sheeld acts as an all purpose shield for Arduino. It will turn your smartphone into any of the sensors or peripherals found in it: a display, a gyroscope, a Bluetooth device, GPS, WiFi, a speaker or a microphone, even a button. This means that you can get any shield for free with a simple line of code.
“If we have a shield that acts as a gateway between the Arduino and the smartphone, that would make my Arduino access all of the phone capabilities and vice-versa, and it would even introduce shields and accessories that doesn’t exist. All of that can be done without buying the actual shields, just 1Sheeld and our Android app.”
The 1Sheeld setup consists of a board that sits on your Arduino board, and an app that manages the communication between our shield and your smartphone and let your choose between different available shields.
1Sheeld isn’t a permanent replacement to normal shields however, it is just meant for prototyping. Obviously, 1Sheeld also can’t replace shields that can’t be replicated with a smartphone’s internals. It is stackable however, meaning that you use any number of 1Sheelds together.
What’s more, the team is planning to open source the hardware and software. Anyone will be able to modify and build over the device or app. The documentation and specifications will be published so that anyone can make his own shield and put it on the app for free.
Integreight launched a Kickstarter campaign for 1Sheeld and reach it’s target in a matter of hours. Right now it has exceeded its goal by more than three and a half times, with 660+ backers. It has been featured on TechCrunch twice already (here and here), and took part of Disrupt Europe back in October and wowed the attendees.
When available, estimated to be in May of 2014, the device will sell for 50$. But you can get one off the campaign if you pledge between 20 and 40 dollars (the price excludes shipping).