Interaction is the bread-and-butter of countless memorable projects, installations, and even games. Be it scrolling your way through history or playing plants as musical instruments, Arduino Uno’s are a one-stop-shop for DIY brilliance and clever interaction, often requiring only a bit of coding and some hardware. The Arduino Uno, legendary among microcontrollers for its ease-of-use, can make even the smallest electric signals create spectacular products. An Arduino is also a great way to extend your TouchDesigner knowledge beyond the screen. If you can think it, you can make it with an Arduino and a bit of elbow grease!
Making the Most of Microcontrollers
Microcontrollers are tiny computers capable of running (often) low-level computation, processing periphery input, and typically outputting data to another processor. In English, this time — microcontrollers are little computers you can use to take an electric signal — say, a slider moving up and down — translate it into data, and ship that data off to be used by much bigger computers.
A typical microcontroller converts real-world electricity into digital values usable by computers with very little additional user input. Some require soldering to install, but many are tailored towards beginner-friendly, solderless applications needing only some knowledge of how electric signal flow works.
An Arduino is a microcontroller made to be versatile and easy-to-implement. The Arduino Uno is rather cheap and extremely powerful, capable of converting up to 5 analog signals into digital values, outputting in real-time with very little latency. Moreover, the Arduino Uno is built around the breadboard paradigm — rather than have to solder your connections by hand, you can use small conductive plates called “breadboards” to create complex circuits with only a few small wires.
Arduino Uno’s plays very, very nicely with TouchDesigner, extending the digital platform far into the physical and back again. They can be sourced just about anywhere in the world and you can often buy full prototyping kits full of sensors, actuators, and LEDs for less than $100. We’ll be taking a look at how some artists have used Arduino and TouchDesigner for their work, from tiny to massive, below!
Some Arduino & TouchDesigner examples
The Perfect Arduino Portfolio
P. G. Lucio’s knowledge is a boon: here, he’s filled a webpage with experiments connecting Arduino to TouchDesigner, from ultrasonic-sensitive particles to pixel sorting algorithms. A masterclass in connectivity between TouchDesigner and microcontrollers! The header image of this post is also from Pablo’s behance below:
With a bit of programming and minimal hardware, you can turn an Arduino microphone into the wind pushing a particle field along!
LEDs in Action
This installation piece by Collectif Scale uses an Arduino and TouchDesigner to create spectacular patterns with mesmerizing motion to match.
Excellence in Interaction
Futureforms Lab’s Murmur Wall is a massive merging of TouchDesigner and Arduino into a reactive, endlessly-generative installation occupying an entire courtyard.
Water, Water Everywhere
Arduino supports nearly any niche sensors you can get your hands on — if it outputs electricity up to 5 volts, you can use it as a control source for anything!
Get Our 7 Core TouchDesigner Templates, FREE
We’re making our 7 core project file templates available – for free.
These templates shed light into the most useful and sometimes obtuse features of TouchDesigner.
They’re designed to be immediately applicable for the complete TouchDesigner beginner, while also providing inspiration for the advanced user.
Infinity Steppers and Masterful Mapping
Ludiscreen’s spiraling lightshow marries MadMapper, TouchDesigner, and a fleet of Arduino steppers to create a stunning work that plays deftly with depth.
TouchDesigner in the Palm of Your Hand! (With Arduino)
A smaller but nonetheless incredible project, with Arduino, you can have an entire lightshow in the palm of your hand!
The Musical Multitool
Takumi Ogata’s endlessly impressive DIY instruments all use Arduino at their cores, lending to its incredible customizability and ease-of-use.
Speaking of palms — Arduino doubles as an incredible MIDI controller, used here as a fully-mobile and wearable glove!
Arduinos are an excellent way to extend your TouchDesigner knowledge beyond the screen. The applications are limitless and getting started is as affordable as it is easy. I hope you enjoyed this primer and that you’ll stick around as we dive deeper into physical computing!