I love it when a development kit shows up on my desk. While I really don't have the time to put them through all the paces that I would like, it certainly helps me keep abreast of the latest technology. In addition, it helps me feel some of the pain that designers have to go through to see a project from development to a more complete stage.
A kit that I came across recently would fall into the category of “easy to use.” The “CY3270 PSoC FirstTouch starter kit” from “Cypress Semiconductor” is like many of the latest kits, whereby it simply plugs into the USB port on a PC. Cypress is selling them for just $30. In addition to the USB stick, it contains a detachable multifunction expansion card and a CD-ROM that holds all the necessary drivers and lots of example code.
The goal of the kit is to provide a quick and easy way to evaluate the mixed-signal programmability that's offered by the PSoC. It definitely accomplishes that goal. I actually did my evaluation on a plane, using my laptop. Without having to write any code, I was able to get a real feeling of how the PSoC could be embedded into a design.
The functions the kits makes available include touch, temperature, light, and proximity sensing using the company's CapSense technology. The output can be handled by controlling the color of LEDs or the sound of a buzzer. With the expansion board and its accessible functional pins, designers can easily expand the functionality into whatever application they're working on.
If you're looking to add these functions or anything similar, I suggest you give this kit a try.
Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine. He can be reached at .