If you’re not afraid of hacking together a bit of code and plugging tiny wires into a credit-card-sized circuit board, you probably already know what an Arduino is. If not, here’s the short version: An Arduino is a little electronic brain you can program to do interesting interactive stuff, like dim the lights in your living room when you turn on your TV. It lets you turn dumb objects (or environments) into smart ones.
Meanwhile, you may have also heard of Twine, a little green box full of sensors that lets you connect physical objects to the Internet without having to know any code at all. If you’ve ever wanted your basement to send you a text message if it floods, Twine is for you.
Now, if you’ve ever wanted your Arduino to connect easily to your Twine—because you’re some kind of mad maker genius—the guys behind Twine have got you covered. They’ve created Cloud Shield: a sleek little slab of circuitry that hooks onto your Arduino and gives it (and anything it’s hooked up to) a way of talking to the Internet (and anything connected to it).
"By 'talk to the Internet,' I mean email, text message, phone call (complete with synthesized speech), tweet, and send notifications that web applications can receive for all sorts of physical-web magic," explains John Kestner, co-inventor of Twine.
The problem that Cloud Shield solves is one of communication. Just because you’re a whiz at hacking together smart objects with an Arduino doesn’t necessarily mean you want to spend a ton of time messing around with the nitty-gritty of getting the thing to connect to the web, too. "When we’d prototype future connected products at the MIT Media Lab, we always spent a lot of time on the networking connectivity," Kestner says. "This left little time to work on the cool part—the new interfaces we were designing! This frustration is what led us to make Twine, and now that we can build Arduino projects around it [with Cloud Shield], we’ve come full circle."
Think of it like this: Twine is so idiot-proof that within 30 minutes of unboxing it, I had set it up to enable my washing machine to send me a text message when the laundry was done. Now imagine what someone with actual creative/technical know-how—i.e., an Arduino user—could do with that kind of fluid connectivity. (Kestner’s goofball promo video shows someone constructing an Arduino-powered "bananaphone" using Cloud Shield in less than a minute, but that’s just the beginning.)
"Pairing Twine and Arduino [with Cloud Shield] gives users the ability and communal knowledge to measure and register things that we ourselves couldn’t conceive of," Kestner says. "Just as Arduino makes it easier to program bits of the physical world, Twine makes it easier to give those things a voice on the Internet." Sounds like a match made in hacker heaven.