– TweetM on The Colbert Report
– FreeM, a limited edition wireless BlinkM controller
– Maker Faire and the launch of two new products
– BlinkM/MaxM/MinM/LinkM availability
– Chapters from Mike’s new book

What a whirlwind. A little more than two weeks ago Mark Frauenfelder, editor of MAKE Magazine, came to me at Maker Faire (see report below) and asked if we could make a Twitter visualizer for his June 8 appearance on The Colbert Report (promoting his excellent book, “Made by Hand”).
Of course, I immediately said yes. We’re huge Frauenfelder and Colbert fans at ThingM, so this was a no brainer. The visualizer made for Maker Faire used a BlinkM and a LinkM connected to a netbook. It would go out whenever too many people were on the network. But for the Colbert Report it needed to work by itself, in a studio, on cue.
For the TV show we stepped it up and created a completely standalone version using only two main components: a BlinkM and an Asynclabs YellowJacket. The YellowJacket ( is an Arduino clone that has onboard Wi-Fi chip. Using it with a BlinkM, meant that we only needed a battery pack, a breadboard, and some wires to complete the project. Thanks to the BlinkM’s automatic color-fading and RGB control, the YellowJacket CPU was free to focus on opening a Web connection, fetching files and interpreting the results. With only 2K of memory to work with, there wasn’t a byte to spare. Fortunately, this is exactly the kind of situation for which we designed BlinkMs. With some clever software hacking by Tod, we had a fully functionally “TweetM” ready for Mark on Colbert in days!
We sent our TweetM (and the LinkM/BlinkM “tethered” version we showed at Maker Faire as backup) on Friday and it was ready for Mark’s appearance. It was awesome to see it in action on Stephen Colbert’s desk by Tuesday, where Mark showed it off and christened it the “all-knowing Twitter orb.” We still call it TweetM.
Check out Mark’s interview on our site, and (even better) you can now PRE ORDER your own TWEETM kit on our site, offered by our good friends at FunGizmos.

Bands put out limited edition boxed sets. Artists make small run multiples of their works. Fast food chains have funny colored milkshakes. Why not do that with electronics? So we did. We combined two of the most requested features for BlinkMs–standalone operation and wireless control–into a single 9v battery top with Infrared control. Plug a 9 volt battery into a FreeM and you can plug a BlinkM on top. Then point any Sony-compatible infrared TV remote control (which includes many of the universal remotes, as well the remotes to many “no brand” TVs) at it and turn it off, on, change the brightness, turn it to specific colors and play you own scripts. Infrared remotes have a surprisingly long range, so it’ll work 20 or 30 feet away, depending on conditions (and it of course only works line of sight).
It’s perfect for stage sets, RC car lights, or anywhere else that’s difficult to get to, but you need a little controllable colored light.
It’s available immediately in kit form from our friends at FunGizmos, but only until they run out.

It’s hard to summarize the intensity of Maker Faire in San Mateo. Think of something that’s a cross between a carnival sideshow and Tokyo’s Akihabara technology district. Around 100,000 people showed up for the two days of steampunk vehicles, crafting demonstrations, cardboard robots, antique cars and giant flamethrowers. And the maker or makers of nearly everything there is in attendance, so you can come up to and ask a question, or ask to push the buttons.
We launched our two newest products at Maker Faire, which proved quite popular:
– LinkM is a driverless USB programmer and controller for BlinkMs that makes adding RGB light to any project a 15 minute process. No Arduino or programming required.
– BlinkM MinM is a tiny smart LED for wearable, UAVs and other places where small, tiny, programmable light is desired. Just like a regular BlinkM, only much smaller.
Tod’s photos of our table:
Many more photos of Maker Faire:

We’ve been working hard to make sure that availability of our products is uninterrupted. Here is where all of our products are right now:
BlinkMs: Widely available worldwide. We just shipped out another 1000 to our distributors. If your local distributor doesn’t have them in stock, ask them to order them from us.
BlinkM MaxMs: In stores mid-July.
BlinkM MinMs: Available now. We have shipped MinMs to a number of our suppliers, and as soon as they put them in their online catalogs, they’ll be available. Again, if your local distributor doesn’t stock them, ask them to order some. We have plenty.
LinkM: Available soon. They’re in a box on their way to us right now. As soon as we have them, we’ll send them to our distributors.
FreeM: Available now. Our friends at FunGizmos are the only place you can get the FreeM infrared remote control BlinkM battery connector.

Mike is publishing select chapters from “Smart Things: ubiquitous computing user experience design” on, his personal blog. The book won’t be out until September, but you can read large selections from it right now.
Chapter 1 (“The Middle of Moore’s Law”):
Chapter 3 (“Interaction Metaphors”):
Chapter 6 (“Information Shadows”):

Posted in June 2010