Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about NETLab Toolkit. Click on the question to read its answer.


  • What is the NETLab Toolkit?
    • The NETLab Toolkit is a system for tangible interaction sketching and production. It enables novices and experts to quickly integrate hardware, media and interactive behaviors for products, installations, and research. The Toolkit is currently composed of 3 parts:
      • Hub: A server that knows how to talk to Arduino, Make Controller, XBee, DMX, MIDI, and OSC
      • Flash Widgets: A set of drag and drop components for Flash that communicate with the Hub and make it easy to build a project with no programming. The widgets also include hooks so more complex projects can use ActionScript code.
      • MediaControl: An application that works with the Hub by receiving OSC commands and then communicates with MIDI and DMX devices. Can be used stand-alone.
  • Why was it created?
    • The NETLab Toolkit was created to enable designers to build tangible interaction projects without a heavy technical learning curve. Instead of spending time learning low level programming, designers can concentrate on developing interesting concepts and experimenting with the medium.
  • How does it work?
    • The NETLab Toolkit takes care of the hard work of tangible interaction projects by using a widget based drag-and-drop interface instead of requiring designers to write software. The widgets visualize the all the basic needs of physical computing such as working with sensors, manipulating media, and creating physical behaviors such as turning on an LED, or making a motor turn.
  • Who is behind it?
    • The NETLab Toolkit is developed at the Graduate Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design by Philip van Allen. Ewan Branda built the Hub server, and Andy Davidson helped develop this website and some of the documentation.
  • What can you do with it?
    • The toolkit can be used to create a wide range of projects using sensors, media and physical outputs including LEDs, motors, sound, video, lighting, and MIDI. For example, it's easy to:
      • Make a knob scrub through a video at the user turns it
      • Use a motion sensor to turn on some lights when someone walks into a room
      • Have a switch trigger a random poem to be read when someone steps on it
  • What hardware does it work with?
    • It works with a range of microcontrollers including the Arduino, Make Controller, and the XBee wireless system. In addition, it works with MIDI systems for music and sound, and with DMX for lighting control.
  • What software does it work with?
    • The NETLab Toolkit runs on both Mac and Windows operating systems. The widgets work with Flash versions CS3-CS5, and the Hub requires Java. The Hub can work with Flash, Processing, MAX/MSP, and any other application that can communicate via sockets.