Fireside Chat with Arduino CEO Fabio Violante

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26 Mar, 2021

Fireside Chat 'The Voice of Innovation' #3

Fireside Chat 'The Voice of Innovation' #3

#3 of our 'Voice of Innovation' fireside chat series, in which Syntiant CEO Kurt Busch talks with innovator Fabio Violante

The beginning of Arduino and a roadmap for accessible tech

“When I started in electrical engineering, it was relatively inaccessible,” explains Kurt. “You would buy a breadboard and some parts and try to connect them and maybe get a basic circuit board. But when I wanted to teach my kids, I went out and bought an Arduino board, and within 10 minutes, we had something working.”

The mantra at Arduino is ‘making complex technology simple,’ and that’s reflected in its origin story described by Fabio. Arduino came about to solve the challenge faced by electrical engineering teachers who wanted a way to help their students who had low or no technology background get started quickly. It’s evident by the way that Arduino continues to champion for its products to be used by makers of all kinds that this principle is still driving the company. 

Arduino in the wild

More than 30 million designers engage with Arduino every year to build or build on, many more millions of projects. During their discussion, Kurt asked Fabio to describe some of his favorite Arduino projects from the continually growing archive. The Wevolver community shared that curiosity, asking Fabio the same question as part of a community Q&A in 2019. Back then, Fabio described the incredible project from the Tokyo Hackerspace, which developed a radiation sensor shield for the Arduino platform to help people in Japan measure radiation levels in their everyday life following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The board’s design was open hardware and the source code was released in general public license (GPL).

In this conversation, Fabio talked about one of the most exciting segments of the Arduino project family as the advent of the open-source 3D printer, which in turn helped enable the creation of the open-source drone industry. 

Arduino and AI

AI will be deployed in Arduino in a number of ways and have huge impacts on how people understand and apply deep learning. Fabio observes that we are now at the point where at least part of the capabilities of technology like Siri and Alexa can be bought into tiny battery power devices. This opens the use of voice control in tiny edge devices with a massive range of applications. 

“There is a tonne of new sensors available, from pressure sensors to accelerometers which can be combined with the next generation of ultra-low-power microcontrollers and ultra-low-power neural networks like Syntiant chips so battery-powered devices can be anywhere; augmenting you as an individual and augmenting the possibility of what you can do.” -Fabio Violante

It’s likely that at some point soon, these sensor-embedded smart objects will be able to give feedback on the way we use them, massively increasing our ability to learn new skills. These objects won’t be used to create instant experts, but novices will be able to gain a useful proficiency level almost immediately - an exciting promise of pervasive AI. 

To help deliver this promise, Arduino needs to stay ahead of the curve of innovation and continually develop new ways to deliver complex information to everyone. Our challenge is to keep up with the rapid development of technology and continue to make this increasingly complex stuff accessible, explains Fabio. This happens through a combination of a dedicated ‘translation’ team in-house and by partnering with visionary companies that allow Arduino to take the latest technology and democratize it. Kurt agrees, asserting that, “For deep learning to be truly pervasive, it's going to have to become the domain of the everyman.”

Arduino contributes to the future of pervasive A.I. through continuing its mission of reducing the barriers to learning about electronics and programming with its proven project-centered approach that induces its users to learn rapidly through action. This approach encourages users to move from technology spectators to actors by engaging directly with hardware. 

Companies like Syntiant are continuing to make AI processors smaller, lowering their power consumption and making them more accessible through partnerships with leaders such as Arduino. Innovators like Gustav Hoegen or Anouk Wipprecht (see our previous fireside chats) are gaining more opportunities to apply artificial intelligence in novel ways. 

This video is part of a series of fireside chats in which Wevolver and Syntiant partner to engage with global innovators. I encourage you to stay tuned and to follow Syntiant's profile for more of these conversations.

More by Bram Geenen

CEO and co-founder of Wevolver. Trained as an industrial designer. Previously founded a design studio that pioneered 3D printing large functional objects in the late 2000s. I also worked a lot with composite materials. Wevolver was a side-project that got positively out of hand...

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