There are two primary ways to prototype a circuit- either you can do it physically, or within a software environment, such as SolidWorks, CircuitMaker, and a host of others. While both have their strengths and weaknesses, researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), have merged the best of both worlds with VitualComponent.
The platform is a mixed-reality tool that allows users to place virtual electronic components on a physical breadboard and tweak their values. What’s more, those virtual changes are reflected in real-time in the physical circuit. The KAIST team explains, “VirtualComponent is composed of a set of plug-and-play modules containing banks of components, and a custom breadboard managing the connections and components’ values.”
VirtualComponent is a modular MR system and functions by routing each virtual connection in the circuit to a separate module that contains a bank of physical components. A switching matrix underneath the breadboard, and enables users to pair any location with any element on the external module. These can include both passive electronics (resistors, inductors, capacitors, etc.), and active components, such as sensors and ICs.
On the augmented reality side, an app running on a smartphone or tablet uses the rear-facing camera captures video of the system, while superimposing virtual components that are displayed as graphical schematic symbols over the breadboard. A dropdown list within the app lets users change any components value and properties by adjusting a slider, making it easy to use. KAIST’s VirtualComponent is still a work in progress, and the researchers plan to update the platform that will support constraints across multiple or chained components.