A flock of Arduinos
Oddly enough I'm not very impressed with the Arduino. I come from an embedded systems background and overall there's nothing on the board that stands out as special. It's just a simple board using an AVR. Also its software environment is just C/C++ and the shields are just stackable boards. All of these things we've seen time and time again. Yet this simple idea works. It works very well for it's intended audience, the artist, the tinkerer, and the beginner hobbyist. Obviously it has scratched the appropriate itch for it's intended community. The code itself consists of a setup and loop. Not really different from your simple standard embedded design. Yet the libraries are there, as is the community. So while I may not be impressed with the Arduino, I am impressed with what folks have done with it. Really anything that encourages a positive result is a good thing. We really are much closer to the 'Internet of things'. If we can get the cost and make networking much easier then we'll really be there.
Now, while I'm not impressed with the Arduino I still like the convenience. So I've invested in the Arduino, I intend to use them with the gHCS home automation system I'm working on. I now have 3 Uno (r3) boards, 2 Chipkit Uno32 boards, a Chipkit Max32 and a PIC32-Pinguino. The last 3 boards are PIC32 (MIPS) based. I'm also hoping to build a Arduino like board using the PIC32 (a lot of bang for the buck). I've noticed lots of other Arduino like boards available like the 32 bit ARM based Maple. Lets see how well all this goes. Making things easy for those whose expertise is not in the embedded systems area is not a bad thing. It does allow them to concentrate on the areas where they are experts (and usually the point of the work they are doing). And from everything I've seen it's quite usable. The only bad thing is that it makes embedded system work seem like it's a commodity service and it's not. While anyone can build embedded systems not everyone can do it right. The areas that the Arduinos fill are areas where engineers usually didn't tackle. Making art work interactive is no where near as complex as monitoring and control of industrial systems where safety is an issue.