Arduino Enhanced Android Tablet

There are a lot of $99 Android tablets coming out of China. These tablets aren’t very useful on their own.  However, if one of these tablets were integrated with an Arduino,  it would opens up a lot of cool applications.

Many of the components needed by an Arduino based project are already included in a tablet:

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Wireless communication (WiFi)
  • User input (buttons and touch screen)
  • Color display
  • LEDs
  • USB connector
  • Accelerometer
  • Microphone
  • Speaker
  • Camera (sometimes)
  • GPS (only on expensive models)
  • Compass (only on expensive models)
  • Bluetooth (only on expensive models)
  • Gyroscope (only on very expensive models)
  • Proximity Sensor (only on expensive models)
  • Light Sensor (only on expensive models)
  • Temperature Sensor (usually attached to the CPU)
  • High speed processing (relatively speaking)
  • Flash Memory
  • SD Card
  • Open Source

These tablets lack GPIO for interfacing with extra sensors and actuators, which is where the Arduino comes in. Given some of these tablets are usb host capable, it may be possible to just connect to an Arduino through USB given the proper drivers. Another option would be to put the Arduino inside the tablet housing and just bring the IO out (there’s plenty of room inside). This tighter integration could even allow the Arduino to wake the tablet with an interrupt. I think this could be a popular bridge between two active open source communities.

Comments

  1. ourstuff888 commented
     @ 2012-03-22 [@Reply]

    I like this idea quite a lot, …. but I think it would be even better to be able to hack the tablet hardware directly and even partner with the actual Shanzai makers so we can provide feedback and they change the hardware to suit us!

    See these two wishes for some more ideas :-
    – “Shenzhen 2 U – Shanzai hardware” http://www.seeedstudio.com/wish/?p=1208

    – “Shenzhen 2 U – hackable stuff” http://www.seeedstudio.com/wish/?p=1155.

    .. and of course this is not just limited to tablets/Android as noted in those wishes.

  2. taweili commented
     @ 2011-10-04 [@Reply]

    Awesome idea!

  3. RobB commented
     @ 2011-05-12 [@Reply]

    So it looks like this wish has been granted by Google: http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/10/google-announces-android-open-accessory-standard-arduino-based/

    Future Android devices will have two USB interface modes. In accessory mode the android device is the client and the micro-controller is the host. This is similar to what http://www.circuitsathome.com/ and SparkFun’s IOIO device are already doing via ADB. This means the micro-controller needs to provide the power to android, which could be a pro or con depending on your application. Some future tablets will also have USB host support, which presumably means a standard Arduino can be connected and powered by a tablet.

    I’d guess this new class of android compatible arduino boards will be well over $50 (Seeed needs to build these). I still think the overall price can be lowered if the interfaces are available directly from the tablets microprocessor.

  4. rich commented
     @ 2011-05-08 [@Reply]

    I am not sure why the other comment of mine is still awaiting moderation, it has been long enough.
    I agree with the idea of hack enabling some other android tablet is attractive. Right now most of them are coming out so locked up that the android nature is unusable. I stock Android tablet, with a few additional pins brought out, and a slightly enlarged case, as an after market accessory is probably the cheapest way to go. Most of the 99 dollar ones are too lacking in memory, processing power and batteries to be useful, and they seem to all have dreadful resistive touch screens that don’t really work.

    What I want is a basic android tablet with a 7-10″ screen, a modern processor, and ample memory. Of course it should have wifi 802.11n and a usable, by fingers, multi-touch capable screen. In addition I want at least one unused SPI channel, and i2c channel, and 20 GPIOs brought to a header(s). Room to add a arduino or maple leaf processor, and extra sensors/batteries to power everything. I keep hope I can find an existing hackable tablet, but I haven’t yet.

    Using the usb as a connection/network could well work, but personally I would just as soon have a single real system to work from. To keep cost down I keep thinking that one of the existing tablet clones, with a aftermarket bigger case would be the right way to go here. Doing device drivers for i2c/spi is not that hard.

  5. ivaneduardo747 commented
     @ 2011-05-08 [@Reply]

    Why not just using an Arduino and some sort of USB/Bluetooth/WiFi to serial interface? A shield maybe?

  6. Binette228 commented
     @ 2010-12-24 [@Reply]

    Great idea!

  7. rich commented
     @ 2010-12-18 [@Reply]

    http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/leaf-maple-cortex-m3-p-670.html?cPath=79_82 it is not quite capable of running android, but it is a good starting arm, If I were building it I would use something like a beagleboard xm (see beagleboard.org) which is fully capable of running android. I would recommned for this type of project a set of building blocks. Display with case and battery, and charging circuit, antennas for wifi and blue tooth.
    The mounting space for a beagle board, many brick sensors. if all that is desired is i2c the connectors should allow the existing debian i2c module to directly interface with them. Leave space for a arduino or maple leaf with it having access to power and reboot switchs. probably as an i2c slave of the beagle board. Cameras net work adapters all can plug in either to the usb hub. This would allow adding wifi bluetooth, gmrs or whatever as network adapters.

    RobB: I never heard of leaflabs. A full Android tablet built on top of this would be great! It seems to me though that this will be difficult and expensive. The idea here is to leverage the hardware already being cheaply built and just tweak it to make interfacing with peripherals easier. Making the tablet Android is important because it comes with an extensive SDK, library, community, and app market that will never be matched by any DIY OS floating around.  

    • drorex commented
       @ 2012-01-31 [@Reply]

      You’ll never build anything close to an android tablet with a leaflabs maple. Yes they are both ARM, but they are in completely different classes of capability.

      Tablets:
      400 to 1000MHz CPU
      256 to 1024MB RAM
      1 to 16GB storage

      Leaflabs Maple:
      72MHz
      0.02 MB RAM
      0.00001 GB storage

      Beagleboard is about the right specs, but the problem is that the board itself costs less than some low end Android tablets. And that’s just the board, without the LCD, touchscreen, wifi, etc

  8. RobB commented
     @ 2010-11-26 [@Reply]

    I never heard of leaflabs. A full Android tablet built on top of this would be great! It seems to me though that this will be difficult and expensive. The idea here is to leverage the hardware already being cheaply built and just tweak it to make interfacing with peripherals easier. Making the tablet Android is important because it comes with an extensive SDK, library, community, and app market that will never be matched by any DIY OS floating around.

  9. rich commented
     @ 2010-11-26 [@Reply]

    This has possibilities, but it might be more practical to make such a device that is compatible with the MapleIDE or tool sets. Many of the newer chip sets are capable of much more than an Arduino ever will be ever to do, but the barrier to entry is just too high for many of them. The leaflabs folks have a stm32 with a Arduino compatible environment for it.

    Either way I like the idea of a hackable tablet.

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