My view of MicroView, the tiny Arduino with a screen

microview Microview is an Arduino shrunk down to the size of a postage stamp, if you remember those, and with a screen on top. And I got mine yesterday after backing their Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.

So first impressions? It really is a tiny, lightweight Arduino with an astonishingly clear screen.What is sitting on my desk is exactly what was promised those many months ago. I bought the Microview with the USB programming module so coding it is no harder than plugging it into the computer and firing up my favoured Arduino programming environment. The Microview people have included a bunch of handy libraries to make drawing shapes or dials, or writing text, on the screen simple.

Clearly Microview is aimed at an educational environment with a built-in set of tutorials teaching the basics of creating your first circuit. While I liked that concept it initially seemed to be heavily about manual manipulation as there doesn’t seem to be much explanation of why I’m being asked to plug a resistor into a breadboard. I also found that the instructions on the Microview’s tiny screen and those on the website didn’t quite match – which was mildly confusing.

If I have any, even if mild, criticism of the Microview it is in the packaging. Mine came covered in unusually sticky tape which, after its necessary removal has left sticky residue all over that lovely little screen. The educational package I bought also comes with a range of parts from servos to resistors – having a piece of paper or even a web page with says what they all are would be a good idea as a couple are rather obscure.

The Microview is being built and sold by US company Sparkfun electronics but it’s the brainchild of local Sydney team Geek Ammo headed by Marcus Schappi. It was a clever move getting the production and distribution done by a reputable group like Sparkfun, but it’d be nice to see a bit more recognition of the Australian connection shining through – not least because this was probably the best-run Kickstarter campaign I’ve ever seen.

I can see how useful Microview will be as a monitoring device, and that screen providing instant feedback would brilliant in an educational environment where powering up the serial monitor is a bit distant and ugly for many kids. Getting a portable power supply that’s as neat as the device itself is clearly going to be a priority and would be an obvious additional sale for the company: Having it function as a self-contained cube would be awesome.

The unit comes with some sample projects, and people who got theirs early already have other examples up on the Web. I’m not yet sure what we’ll be doing with the Microview, but I am sure that there are some wonderful possibilities.

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