The Ard-Vark:Open Hardware/Software Arduino Project in A Box
The Ard-Vark is a basic electronics box for sensor inputs and motor outputs, controlled by a mobile app.
Easy electronics with wireless mobile app control
The Ard-Vark is a basic electronics box that can be remotely controlled by an app on your iPhone, iPad or Android phone. It is Arduino compatible. Have you ever wanted to build a project that needed electronics but you didn't know how to start? Would you like to add motion to one of your creations, and be able to control it with your phone or tablet and not have to learn electronics, soldering, programming and a few hundred other things? Then the Ard-Vark is for you.
Shown here with optional silicon case. The Ard-Vark is the size of a TV remote control (about 4 1/2" long, 2 3/4" wide and just over 1" deep). Note that this is a prototype unit that uses a sticker for the artwork and text. The production varks will have a nice, silk screen printed finish.
Sensors In: Built-in Sensors and Add Your Own
The Ard-Vark has built-in light and temperature sensors, and you can check these easily on a mobile device app. It also allows you to connect up to 6 other sensors. 3 analog or "variable" voltage sensing, and 3 digital (on/off).
One of the "you set it" inputs can be set up for a sonar sensor. Just plug in a PING sonar sensor ("Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please. ") and the Ard-Vark will tell you distance to objects where the sensor is pointed. The app can be set for "PING" mode with one button so you get a reading in units of inches/cm.
Actions Out: Control servo motors with a mobile app
You can control up to 4 hobby servo motors, 2 DC motors, a built-in LED and a speaker to make sounds (mess with your cat remotely). All of these are under direct wireless remote control using the app. With the 3 "You set it" lines you can set each to be digital (either on or off) outputs.
What can you do with it?
For example, as shown in the video, I added servos to a stuffed toy tiger to make him dance.
You can see a quick tutorial on youTube for how to make this at
Based on the Arduino for advanced users...
If you are already familiar with the Arduino, the Ard-Vark will be easy for you to modify. You can use the Arduino IDE to change the default programming for the Ard-Vark (which will be available open-source code) using the USB port of your computer.
...but no experience required. Works right out of the box
You do not need to know the Arduino in order to use the Ard-Vark however. It will work with app remote control out of the box. So it's a great way to start out easy. If you want to learn more advanced topics, you have a great platform to learn more.
Aren't there things like this out there already?
There are many electronics prototyping boards, the Arduino being one that is a particularly good one. But you need to learn programming to use it.
There are products that do wireless remote control. But they are either specific to a product like RC car control or shooting foam dart guns, or whatever. Or they are wide open "do what you want" solutions, and you have to invent. And again, you have learn programming, and electronics. Oh and probably soldering. And ...
Other things out there already are nicely packaged control boxes that include a battery compartment and/or AC adapter power. But they don't have wireless control.
There are mobile apps for iPhone and Android that control Arduino boards. But you have to make your own box or hardware to use it. Again, soldering, electronics, blah, blah, blah...
The Ard-Vark integrates all of these desirable things into one package:
- Easy to control remotely, no programming needed
- Wireless control by Wifi
- Control it from a mobile app for iPhone, iPad or Android
- In a durable case that has battery compartment or AC adapter plug
- Servo headers and other connectors ready for use
How does the Wifi work?
The Ard-Vark has a wifi module built in (Roving Networks RN-171 for those of you that care). Out of the box, you connect by wifi to an ad hoc network that the Ard-Vark sets up. You join the ad hoc network on your mobile device, then you can type in your home network and password and the Vark will connect to your network. Or if you happen to be out in a cornfield somewhere where wifi is not available, you can continue to use the ad hoc network.
What are funds used for? What's next?
The Ard-Vark has been prototyped, and needs the finishing touches to bring it to manufacturing level so that we can get the price down for Joe User's wallet. And bear in mind that kickstarter collects their fee (no complaints from me, thanks kickstarter) so that is figured into the minimum needed.
For future development, we already have a sonar sensor planned that could be added on. If we hit twice our goal, we can develop more input sensors and/or output modules that can be plugged in. For instance, a pluggable module that has a string of RGB LEDs on it, or a Moisture sensor, motion sensor, current sensor, snozberry sensor (we may need a lot more backing for that one).
We plan to do an app with iOS (iPhone and iPad) first. If we get double our goal, we can also accelerate the pace to get out the Android version faster.
Update1: "Under the Hood" details posted
I have seen several questions asking about technical details, so I added a page to the Active Innovations web site at
This shows a block diagram, photos of the prototype board, etc. So clearly, this is for the "Advanced Users" noted in the video. Note that photos are of the prototype board, not of the final version.
Update 2: More sensors and outputs
In response to questions about what accessories are offered, I'm posting this update. We have plans for the following. Chime in and vote for what you'd like to see or suggest others.
- Light and small appliance control - Turn on/off a lamp or small appliance
- Tilt switch - simple sensor to detect when a vark is tilted
- 3 axis accelerometer - Uses the analog sensor inputs to detect when vark is bumped or tilted
- Relay control - plug into digital I/O to switch on/off DC devices
- Moisture sensor - check for moisture levels
- Current sensor - monitor energy usage of an appliance
- (30 days)