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Making Things: the coolest tinker toys ever

April 04th 2004 | David Vogeleer

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Making Things: the coolest tinker toys ever

David Vogeleer gets his hands on one of the new modules from Making Things and reviews its ability to interact with Flash.

by: David Vogeleer Product reviewed: Teleo Miny Introductory Set
Ease of software install: cake
Ease of hardware configuration: cake
Price: $149.99
Overall Rating: Awesome!

A few weeks ago at Flash Forward in San Francisco a new product entered the Flash world, but unlike previous products designed with Flash in mind, these were not simply just software, but also hardware. As a matter of fact, the whole idea of these products is to combine software with external hardware.

The products are called Teleo modules and they come from Making Things, a company out of San Francisco, California. The products are small electronic modules that hook into the computer via USB and are controlled through an XML server that Making Things provides for download via the web. They have several modules available for different types of input/output combinations, but the module I tested was the introductory module.

For only about $150, the introductory module has the USB connection, power supply, 4 analog inputs, 2 digital inputs 2 digital outputs and 2 PWM outputs. It does not come with any input or output devices such as LEDs or switches, but they can be purchased from makingthings.com with the module, or they can be found at any local electronics store.

The software is currently in beta and consists of Flash components, the USB driver and an XML socket server for both Mac and PC. The components are self-installing through the extension manager for both Flash MX and Flash MX 2004 and are designed with ActionScript 1.0 with the Flash 6 player in mind but they are saying that, "support for ActionScript 2.0 is a high priority, and will be added in the very near future" so keep on the lookout for those.

Using the components is a simple process and there are different ways they can be controlled. They can be placed on the stage, and then set to display an interface that you can use to control the outputs, or receive the inputs. You can also just have them on the stage and control them via ActionScript which you will find to be not only easy to implement, but also very familiar if you are already using event listeners. The software is so straightforward that you can get the included tutorial up and running in less than 10 minutes.

imageWorking with the hardware is also fairly simple. The documentaion that comes with the module is easy to follow with several examples, and there are even more examples of how to use certain sensors on their web site.

With good documentation and a tutorial included with the software, you will be building your own experiments in no time. But you will need a couple things:

1. A very tiny flat-head screw driver, the screws to hold down the input/output wires are very small
2. Some thin wire, not all switches and output devices will be able to reach power to input back to ground, so you will need to wire them: I used 22 gauge stranded, it worked perfect

You may also want the following to make life a little easier when working with these modules:

1. Alligator clips, makes it easy to swap out devices without having to keep unscrewing the input/output screws
2. Solder gun, helps to create a more permanent connection between the devices and the wiring

All this stuff can be found at your local electronic or hobby store.

In conclusion, these modules are a great way to take your Flash skills beyond the screen with its simple to install and use interface. I expect to see a lot of great experiments with Teleo modules coming from the Flash community.

You can get the beta software here for both Mac and PC.

And you can download a few sample files here.

 

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