Making Things Talk

Recently, I was sent a copy of Tom Igoe’s book, “Making Things Talk: Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects.” It’s a book about building devices that talk to each other. Through a series of simple projects, readers will learn how to get their projects to communicate with one another by forming networks of smart devices that carry on conversations. Whether you need to plug some sensors in your home to the Internet or create a device that can interact wirelessly with other creations, Igoe’s book explains it all.

Making Things Talk is written for people who want to make things talk to other things. The book is ideal for diehard “techies,” but also serves as a primer for people with little technical training, but a lot of interest. According to the author, all you need is a little electronic know-how, a couple of inexpensive microcontroller kits, and some network modules to make them communicate using Ethernet, ZigBee, and Bluetooth.

Project examples:

  • Enable your pet’s bed send to send you email
  • Wire a favorite stuffed animal for a game of Monski Pong
  • Set up communication between microcontrollers, personal computers, and web servers using three easy-to-program, open source environments: Arduino/Wiring, Processing, and PHP
  • Make a seesaw game controller that communicates over the Internet
  • Learn how to use ZigBee and Bluetooth radios to transmit sensor data wirelessly
  • Write programs to send data across the Internet based on physical activity in your home, office, or backyard
  • Broadcast messages to others on the network; build a battery–powered GPS that reports its location wirelessly; send data across the Web based on physical activity in your home, office, or backyard

Tom Igoe, the author of the Making Things Talk, teaches courses in physical computing and networking at the Interactive Telecommunications Program in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He is co-author of the book, Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers, which has been adopted by numerous digital art and design schools around the world.