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Minibloq on iPad: Here We Come

Update: The project makes good progress and so I move this discussion over to my XWiki Page which handles screen shots, videos and code much better than this blog. That said I took time out of my schedule to setup gitolite server on my server so that the project can be shared (aka cloned) and later people can start to contribute back to the project as soon as I decided on the license. In case you are interested in the project you can send me your public ssh key and I so you will get read access to the project.

Update: Now that the Minibloq Alpha software is available for certain backers I could build and run it on Windows XP using VMWare Fusion. So I started to create an XCode 4 project for it and hope that I could compile and run it on XWindows on my Mac. In case that fails I might start on porting it to become a native OS X application using the OS X UI rather than XWindows. A few days ago I got the Ethernet shield but I am not sure yet that I can program the Arduino board with it.

A while I was able to contact Julian from Minibloq to discuss my idea to port Minibloq over to the iPad. He liked the idea and so I started to proceed with my idea. These are the next steps I will take to start the Minibloq on iPad project:

  • Get an Arduino board -> Done
  • Get an Arduino project up and running on my Mac (need to buy some parts) -> Done
  • Figure out how to connect the Arduino Board to an iPad preferably using an USB cable -> It seems Ethernet Shield is the solution -> Received the Shield but did not find time to evaluate it
  • Figuring out how to program an Arduino Board from an iPad
  • Get Minibloq project to compile and run on my Mac OS X (as soon as the Alpha version is released on June 6th) -> Started the XCode 4 project
  • Evaluate all dependencies of Minibloq and see if they can be used on the iPad and if not what it takes to port or replace
  • Evaluate the GUI redesign of Minibloq

If everything works out I should have a good picture in mid June if Minibloq can be ported to the iPad and how long it would take. The final question after that is when shall we start with it because I don’t want to start doing porting while Minibloq is still under heavy development. On the other hand there might be many things like porting libraries or starting to design the GUI that can be done without having to do much catch up with Minibloq’s changes.

For now this was a good start and I am looking forward for the first release of Minibloq to get my hands dirty with it and to program my Arduino board.

By the way if any reader has any experience with connecting an Arduino board to an iPad (or any other method like with Ethernet or Bluetooth) please drop me a note on “schaefera AT me DOT com“.

This project could be a great after class program for my kids’ school where with an iPad, a cheap Arduino board and some electrical equipment the kids could create and program robots with very little technical knowledge. Eventually they will get that knowledge but with a lot of fun that comes way easier.

Cheers – Andy Schaefer


Blocklets, B-Squares, Minibloq, Arduino / DuinoBot and iPad == Kick-Ass Roboting

Lately I encountered some really cool projects on Kickstarter which are cool by themselves but together they could really make robotics a cool and fun activity. These are the projects I like and also back:

  • Blocklets: A cool, lego-like building system with a lot of potential
  • Minibloq: An open-source project to create a cool GUI to program and control robotic devices
  • B-Squares: Solar-powered squares to produce, store and use the electricity

Now these projects are all pretty cool but together they could create a kick-ass environment for robotics especially in schools. Now if it would be possible to convert Minibloq to the iPad I can image that this would make it dead easy to program robots. Doing that might not be easy but I think this is worth while. If Minibloq can be made to work as easy as Garageband on the iPad then it could be fun, educational and easy to deal with robots and devices like Arduino. Using Blocklets to create structures and vehicles and B-Squares to power them would make it possible to create bigger and more complex robots.

A few years ago I bought a Lego Mindstorm box and even though it was fun for a while it is too complicated to program, does not work with a Mac and is limited to the sensors it supports. Even though I like Legos a lot I am not going to buy a new set of Mindstrorm and I don’t think that the user interface is good, fast or easy.

Right now I am trying to see if it would be possible or even feasible to port Minibloq over to the iPad. Then I would need to check if it is possible to connect an Arduino board to an iPad (I think it might work using an USB to 30-pin connector). After that I want to write a little test program that would access an Arduino board from an iPad to get a feeling how that might work before starting to code the iPad App.

Cheers – Andy