Americans are deeply religious people—and atheists are no exception. Western Europeans are deeply secular people—and Christians are no exception.
These twin statements are generalizations, but they capture the essence of a fascinating finding in a new study about Christian identity in Western Europe. By surveying almost 25,000 people in 15 countries in the region, and comparing the results with data previously gathered in the U.S., the Pew Research Center discovered three things.
First, researchers confirmed the widely known fact that, overall, Americans are much more religious than Western Europeans. They gauged religious commitment using standard questions, including “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”
Second, the researchers found that American “nones”—those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular—are more religious than European nones. The notion that religiously unaffiliated people can be religious at all may seem contradictory, but if you disaffiliate from organized religion it does not necessarily mean you’ve sworn off belief in God, say, or prayer.
The third finding reported in the study is by far the most striking. As it turns out, “American ‘nones’ are as religious as—or even more religious than—Christians in several European countries, including France, Germany, and the U.K.”
“That was a surprise,” Neha Sahgal, the lead researcher on the study, told me. “That’s the comparison that’s fascinating to me.” She highlighted the fact that whereas only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty, 27 percent of American nones say this—not exactly what you might expect to hear from atheists or agnostics.
But America is a country so suffused with faith that religious attributes abound even among the secular. Consider the rise of “atheist churches,” which cater to Americans who have lost faith in supernatural deities but still crave community, enjoy singing with others, and want to think deeply about morality. It’s religion, minus all the God stuff. This is a phenomenon spreading across the country, from the Seattle Atheist Church to the North Texas Church of Freethought. The Oasis Network, which brings together non-believers to sing and learn every Sunday morning, has affiliates in nine U.S. cities.
Last month, almost 1,000 people streamed into a church in San Francisco for an unprecedented event billed as “Beyoncé Mass.” Most were people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. Many were secular. They used Queen Bey’s songs, which are replete with religious symbolism, as the basis for a communal celebration—one that had all the trappings of a religious service. That seemed completely fitting to some, including one reverend who said, “Beyoncé is a better theologian than many of the pastors and priests in our church today.”
The Catholic-themed Met Gala earlier this month was another instance of religion commingling with secular American culture. Fashion’s biggest night of the year saw celebrities sweeping down the red carpet dressed in papal tiaras, halos, angel wings, and countless crucifixes. These outfits, along with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s accompanying exhibition, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” drew the ire of some Christians. But it’s notable that so many celebrities, not to mention average Americans, embraced the theme with gusto. It’s easier to imagine this happening in America than in, say, staunchly secular France.
The Pew survey found that although most Western Europeans still identify as Christians, for many of them, Christianity is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a religious one. Sahgal calls them “post-Christian Christians,” though that label may be a bit misleading: The tendency to conceptualize Christianity as an ethnic marker is at least as old as the Crusades, when non-Christian North Africans and Middle Easterners were imagined as “others” relative to white, Christian Europeans. The survey also found that 11 percent of Western Europeans now call themselves “spiritual but not religious.”
“I hypothesize that being ‘spiritual’ may be a transitional position between being Christian and being non-religious,” said Linda Woodhead, a professor of politics, philosophy, and religion at Lancaster University in the U.K. “Spirituality provides an opportunity for people to maintain what they like about Christianity without the bits they don’t like.”
Woodhead pointed to another finding in the Pew study: Most Western Europeans still believe in the idea of the soul. “So it’s not that we’re seeing straightforward secularization, where religion gives way to atheism and a rejection of all aspects of religion,” she said. “We’re seeing something more complex that we haven’t fully got our heads around. In Europe, it’s about people disaffiliating from the institution of the Church and the old authority figures … and moving toward a much more independent-minded, varied set of beliefs.”
The U.S. hasn’t secularized as profoundly as Europe has, and its history is crucial to understanding why. Joseph Blankholm, a professor at UC Santa Barbara who focuses on atheism and secularism, told me the Cold War was a particularly important inflection point. “The 1950s were the most religious America has ever been,” he said. “‘In God We Trust’ becomes the official national motto. ‘Under God’ is entered into the pledge of allegiance. That identity is being consciously formed by specific actors like Truman and Eisenhower, who are promoting a Christian identity at home and abroad, over against a godless communism. It’s the Christianization of America—as a Cold War tool.”
Over time, that dichotomous thinking has relaxed a bit. Now, a quarter of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, and secularism can mean a wide range of things. “There are ways of being secular that are more okay with hybridity, and there are ways of being secular that require more purity,” explained Blankholm. He cited the Humanistic Judaism movement, which sprang up in the U.S. in the 1960s and which rejects theism while still embracing Jewish history and culture, as an example of the former. “A term like spirituality can capture that hybridity.”
The Pew survey shows that 27 percent of Americans call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Even though they’ve left organized religion behind, many still pray regularly and believe in God. This raises an issue for researchers, because it suggests their traditional measures of religiosity can no longer be trusted to accurately identify religious people. “I think people are doing things that don’t mirror Christianity sufficiently enough for our categories to continue to be as explanatory as they once were,” said Blankholm. “These categories are at their limit—they’re in some ways outmoded.”
Sahgal said she was aware of this problem, and sought to make the survey questions more granular so they would capture reality more accurately than the traditional questions alone would have done. So, for instance, the survey didn’t stop at asking respondents whether they believe in God. It drilled down further, asking whether they believe in God as described in the Bible or whether they believe in some other higher power.
As religiosity takes on forms that scramble our old understanding of that term, it’s forcing researchers to ask themselves anew what we talk about when we talk about religion.
“Those challenges are going to get worse—and they know it,” said Blankholm. “But I love that they’re developing a new vocabulary, because that’s exactly what we need.”
I grew up in rural central Louisiana, which was extremely white and christian. Fairly early on I became atheist, but had to say agnostic, otherwise me and my family would have seen some serious violence. (active KKK, saw cross burnings, a gay friend of mine had to get his face reconstructed after being beaten by 6 guys with a bat). It helped that I went to church every week and could whip out bible quotes at the drop of a hat, but I used that to call people out on their shitty behavior. Down there "christian" is an ethnic group, not a real religion. When I'd point out the fact that Jesus was extremely consistent in saying that everyone is a human being and deserves love and compassion, no matter who they are, where they came from, how much money they have, or even whatever awful things they may have done, then lots of folks would just say "well, not X group!". Refuges, migrants, even MS-13 members, would all have been embraced by him. While I don't believe that Jesus ever actually existed, at least that lesson has sunk in.
A look inside the Xbox Inclusive Tech Lab as they reveal their new controller with improved accessibility. (Video shot and edited by CNE and Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.)
REDMOND, Washington—The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC), slated to launch "later this year," looks almost incomplete at first glance. The clean, confusing-looking slab, nearly the length and width of an Xbox One S, has no joysticks. The usual selection of Xbox inputs has been reduced down to a few menu buttons, a D-pad, and two black, hand-sized pads.
Don't let the pared-down design fool you. The XAC is one of the most unique and widely useful control tools Microsoft has ever designed, and it seems poised to change the way many players interact with the games they love.
The operative word is "adaptive." XAC's potential truly begins with its back-side strip. There, you'll find a whopping 19 ports, all 3.5mm jacks. No, this isn't a giant middle finger to the headphone-jack haters at Apple and Google. Rather, these ports see Microsoft connecting with, and loudly celebrating, what has long been an open secret in the world of gaming peripherals: the community of add-on devices designed for limited-mobility gamers.
Oversized buttons, finger switches, blowing tubes, foot pedals, and other specialized inputs have long been built for gamers who can't hold onto or efficiently use average controllers (gamepads, keyboards, mice). Recent speeches from company heads like CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox chief Phil Spencer have paid lip service to "inclusivity" in computing and gaming, but this device, the XAC, aims to do the trick by connecting niche add-ons to standard Microsoft hardware.
After exploring the ways hospitals, charity groups, and non-profit organizations already help limited-mobility gamers enjoy the hobby (and pay for unwieldy, specialized gear), in 2015 Microsoft's Xbox research group started an initiative to build an Xbox-branded hub that can bring down costs and frustration for users and caretakers alike. One year later, this skunkworks project received funding and a pathway to become an official Microsoft retail product.
In fact, this project has been hiding in plain sight for over a year. The Xbox Inclusive Tech Lab opened at one of Microsoft's Redmond campus buildings in 2017, and Ars visited last year under the auspices of an Xbox One X demo and conversation. After that chat, a helpful PR agent's eyes flashed brightly as I asked about the specialized headsets and pedal-driven rigs against one wall. I'd love to see what these are about, I noted.
Six months later, standing in the same room, that agent's teammates grinned from ear to ear as they pulled the veil off a table that exposed the XAC—and, crucially, its range of compatible accessories.
As the above gallery shows, the XAC can be connected to a variety of peripherals, most of which offer binary on/off input—like a basic button press. Gabi Michel, a senior Xbox hardware program manager and a major member of the XAC team, told Ars that a few of the 3.5mm ports support an "analog" range of joystick and trigger presses as well. Two USB ports support joystick peripherals such as existing PC flight sticks and a new Xbox-branded, one-handed "nunchuk" from peripheral maker PDP.
Thus, XAC lands as a weird product from a "first-party" gaming company, because it has to be completed by whichever gamer uses it. During its reveal event, Microsoft's hardware design team argued that this was no accident. They had to unlearn all of their previous assumptions, they said, and realize that a one-size-fits-all controller would never work for the XAC's target audience.
Taking "copilot" to the next level
"The old design axiom is, 'You are not the user,'" says Bryce Johnson, Microsoft's "inclusive lead" in its product research and accessibility team. Johnson is wearing a T-shirt with the all-caps phrase "MORE LOVE" on the front. Talking about inclusivity principles as they apply to Microsoft products and software, he says the old axiom has been harder to mind on the Xbox team because they do all play games in their free time. "Before Xbox, I was in Dynamics. I didn’t work on accounting software all day, go home, and play comptroller all night," he adds. "But our Xbox team plays games in the day and plays games at night."
When it came to designing a more accessible controller, though, members of the design team had to get into a mindset outside of the standard controller use cases they were familiar with. Thus, again and again, a mantra was repeated during the preview event: by leaving any gamers in the cold, the standard controller just wasn't good enough.
Xbox One's controller was constantly praised by Microsoft staffers for being an "industry leader," but each person offered some variation of admitting that "optimizing a single use case" left a lot of potential gamers in the cold. "Emails to [Microsoft CEO] Satya [Nadella] about disability ended up on our desk," director of user research Kris Hunter says. "We’d have to direct people to nonprofits or to hacking resources."
The Xbox team eventually launched two initiatives on the console, each meant to help limited-accessibility players on a default-hardware level. Xbox One's "copilot" mode lets multiple controllers function as the input for a single player. Players can also access a full button-remapping control panel to reassign controller buttons to function as they see fit.
These were a good start, but Microsoft reps still received plenty of questions over control-related problems. Strange online hack attempts, like fans cutting Xbox One controllers in half just to spread buttons out to more easily reachable places, also suggested that more needed to be done for these players.
All the while, XAC was being built behind the scenes. An early version (which we weren't shown) first emerged at Microsoft's annual Hackathon in fall 2015, and by spring 2016 three interns were assigned to fine-tune its design and "business case" pitch. Months later, the XAC appeared at the next Microsoft Hackathon, and this version passed the first-blush test.
Once that prototype gained enough Hackathon traction, Hunter's job was to decide if and how Microsoft would build the thing. An early thought of passing the XAC concept along to a third-party hardware maker was quickly shut down. "We decided early on that this was something Microsoft had to build," Hunter says. "This was our opportunity to prove that we were serious about assistive technologies for all gamers. We had to use that a lot to sell this internally."
Hunter was also frank about the difficulty of getting members of Microsoft's business team to get on board. "We got the question: how many [units will sell]?" Hunter says. "We were like, we don’t know! And we won't know until we ship. The traditional business success metrics... this doesn’t fit into any of those normal metrics. We had to move the goalpost. The [return on investment] is different. This is about allowing more people to play."
(Not so) dumb buttons
The principle underlying XAC—getting people who can't use traditional controllers into games—is nothing new. Gamers of a certain age can probably remember old gaming magazines with occasional spotlight features on limited-mobility controllers, whether set up in hospital wards or attached to players' feet. But Hunter also made it clear in her winning sales pitch to Microsoft bosses that the simplicity and affordability of their solution would absolutely bring new attention and new users to the space.
To wit: it's not easy to find solid, affordable devices made by big companies in this space. The kind of increased accessibility gear you can find right now through grueling Google and Reddit searches is usually stuff made by small teams that don't build at scale or one-off builds from hackers like Ben Heck (whose own "single-handed Xbox controller" design hasn't been available to the public for some time).
As a reasonably priced example, the hardware makers at Broadened Horizons sell an XAC-like hub, dotted with tiny, confusing buttons and lacking any useful, slappable buttons of its own. That unit costs $399 to start, and it requires buying more buttons and add-ons just to compare to XAC's value out of the box.
XAC doesn't completely solve the cost issue; a blowing-tube controller like a Quadstick, for instance, still starts at $399, and it's practically mandatory for users with certain disabilities. But XAC delivers two very solid, poundable buttons fixed within a sturdy hub chassis. Buying similarly sized buttons with 3.5mm connectors can already add up to the $100 asking price of other controllers, and that doesn't include XAC's tasteful slope design, rubberized feet, or full-hub architecture.
Even if you get an adaptive controller—either through a direct purchase or by receiving a selective, waiting-list grant from a nonprofit like AbleGamers—there's still the matter of setting it up and attaching it to a compatible gaming machine. You're likely going to be limited to PC games, which isn't necessarily so bad, but you'll probably also face some non-intuitive software and install processes. If you're a limited-mobility gamer, that means you may need physical help from someone—like a family member or hospital caretaker—who may have no idea how to install a driver or dig through a Github repository, let alone how to play Fortnite.
XAC's ease of use first becomes apparent when you connect it to a compatible machine like an Xbox One or computer. At that point, it is essentially recognized as a wireless Xbox One S controller—which means in many use cases, the syncing and setup process is smooth. Plus, that "S" is important, since it represents an update that S consoles' controllers received in 2016: the ability to use both the Xbox One wireless standard and Bluetooth 4.1. All Xbox One consoles, and any Windows 10 machine with a $25 Xbox Wireless Adapter, will play nice with XAC right out of the box. (Older Windows versions can be rigged up as well, and Bluetooth functionality opens up more options if needed.)
When Ars staffers saw an unexplained preview image of the XAC controller before the event, many wondered how those large pads would work. Some guessed they could be pressure- or location-sensitive, but they were wrong. These are big, dumb buttons, assigned to A and B (though they can be reassigned with the Xbox Controller app).
At first, I'll admit I was a little bummed. I originally dreamed that these buttons might play nice with a stick or mouth attachment to double as a joystick or an array of functions in a pinch. But then I watched MikeTheQuad, a member of the Warfighter Engaged community of disabled veteran gamers, test the XAC out. As a tetraplegic, Mike has some range of arm and hand motion, but his individual fingers are not up to the burden of holding a controller and pressing all its buttons. He can move joysticks around with each palm and bonk certain buttons in a pinch, but for a fuller range of maneuvers, he needs more.
Mike used a standard Xbox gamepad alongside the XAC, plus a few large buttons plugged into the unit to rest near his wrists for easier access. That positioning flexibility is no small perk. XAC's combo of wireless protocols, 20-hour battery, and mounting brackets means someone like Mike can pretty much put the hub wherever is most convenient.
Mike also quite frequently flicked his wrist at the XAC's two big "dumb" buttons to access controls like crouching or weapon swaps. As I watched Mike flick at the XAC with the same speed I might move my thumb from the "A" button to the "Y" button, I thought for the first time in my life about what a privilege it is to quickly tap around all of a gamepad's buttons.
With this setup, Mike was able to pull off some impressive moves, like double- and triple-jumping around open-air spots in Overwatch or marching all the way to sixth place in a 100-person Fortnite match. Seeing Mike in action with the XAC was awesome.
"I get a competitive edge," Mike said of the XAC as he plays through more first-person shooters. "I get back into my gaming."
After that, I didn't think those big XAC buttons were so dumb anymore.
Look, Xbox: No hands
The Xbox Inclusive Tech Lab includes other examples of personalized control systems based on a particular disability. Take the room's "no hands" Rocket League station, which starts with a standard Rock Band drum kit pedal as the car's accelerator (Harmonix's kick pedal was already using the 3.5mm jack standard when it launched in 2007). From there, a pair of large push buttons are attached to a standard desk, which a player can hit with their pedaling leg's knee to steer left or right.
Topping all of that off is a button attached to a chair at the point where a player's head naturally rests. Tap that button with your head, and you can make your Rocket League car bunny-hop.
This example, admittedly, had been built in the ITL as early as last November, well before the XAC's public announcement. It was also running on a specialized hub on a Windows PC. I played Rocket League's "training" mode with this rig for a bit, and I was able to instantly get my bearings for basic steering and maneuvering—but more importantly, I could already imagine replacing the single Rock Band pedal with the XAC base unit, which would give me two bashable buttons to smack with my feet. In Rocket League's case, that would mean a no-hands gamer would be able to accelerate and hit the "nitro" button.
XAC's five-degree slope was built in after testers requested it, since the unit was commonly used either on tables or as foot pedals, and it's a nice touch. The big buttons are a treat, as well, because they offer deep, clicky action, like a massive Cherry Red keyboard switch, yet they also respond to the faintest touch. I pounded them with feet, fists, and elbows, and their responsiveness always seemed up to snuff. It's also very easy to rest one fist or foot between the big buttons and comfortably rock it back and forth—which is absolutely an expected use case.
During our tour of the XAC development, we also got to walk through Microsoft's Xbox Accessories testing lab, where we saw a wave of XACs and Xbox One Gamepads being pounded on by mechanical switches and fingers. Xbox reps wouldn't answer how much pressure was being applied to the controllers in numbers like PSI; instead, they insisted that the pressure was equivalent to an average foot pounding on an XAC button for two weeks straight, 24 hours a day. Other tests measured how the XAC would handle being run over with a wheelchair, we were told, but we didn't get to see those in action.
The XAC team pointed out a variety of thoughtful design touches. Its built-in battery, for example, came as a result of users struggling to flip an Xbox One gamepad's battery compartment open. XAC's USB Type-C port is a response to saving users the trouble of lining up a micro-USB port's orientation. An additional AC power adapter port is available for those cases in which a connected USB device demands its own power. And the 19 back-side ports are all labeled from the top and include grooves, so that anybody wanting to pull and swap switches can simply drag a 3.5mm plug by touch.
"Experiment, instead of having to build"
Microsoft invited caretakers and non-profit representatives to the XAC reveal event to share stories, particularly staffers from the Craig Rehabilitative Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, Microsoft looped into the device's development and prototyping phases. Rehab and youth hospitals have long leaned on the healing power of video games—a fact we at Ars are well aware of, as our annual charity drive benefits Child's Play and its mission to put more video games into care centers.
But when a game system simply doesn't work for a patient—especially one with specific mobility needs—its healing power diminishes, Craig Hospital assistive tech specialist Erin Muston-Firsch tells Ars. Between configuring and outright hacking specialized rigs, or having to download updated drivers, or having a single component fail and thus knock an entire rig out, there's a constant uphill battle in the special-needs gaming space. That difficulty is multiplied when caretakers, hospital workers, and family members aren't fluent in gaming.
"People ask why I liked gaming [in the rehab process]," Muston-Firsch says. "It's not only natural in everyday living, but it offers an opportunity to work on skills, building endurance, strength, and movement, cognitive, or perceptive skills. It's a lot of joy, and selfishness, on my part to get people back into gaming—maybe with a social component with friends, or playing a game and forgetting about what you don’t have for a minute.
"But when you introduce someone to gaming again," she adds, "the more barriers you throw up, the less likely someone is going to get back in."
Microsoft's announcement video for the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
Microsoft invited Muston-Firsch and her colleagues—and their patients—into some of XAC's earliest tests. But even before that, one of the original Microsoft Hackathon projects sought consultation from the nonprofit Warfighter Engaged (including the aforementioned MikeTheQuad), which uses grants and outreach to get specialized controllers into disabled and veteran gamers' hands. During those hackathons, WE Chief Medical Officer Erik Johnson pushed for the eventual product to take on its current shape, as opposed to a many-buttons, many-options smorgasbord.
"Everyone’s very unique, and we have to figure out different ways to set them up [with gaming rigs]," Johnson says. "At the Hackathon, we asked, could we have an engine that we can start with, so we can cut out the beginning stuff? [That way] we can experiment, instead of having to build."
But this controller doesn't begin and end with the most severe use cases that consultants like Muston-Firsch and Johnson advocate for—a fact that they gladly admit to. Microsoft researchers talked at length about innovations that began with a focus on assistive tech, only now they'll impact all of our lives. Major advances in email and Internet connectivity were invented (in part) as a response to deafness. Bendy straws were built by a father so his daughter could drink out of cups. More than 25,000 people a year lose use of an extremity, Microsoft researchers say, but who else might benefit from tech made on their behalf?
Johnson has an answer: possibly all of us (at some point). "Think of today's 60- and 80-year-olds. When you ask them, what do you like to do in life? You'll hear, read the newspaper, watch TV. Thirty years down the road, if I have a stroke, somebody better put a game controller in my hand."
"I hope it'll drive the industry"
Strangely, nobody talked at the event about one use case this device enables: more assistive hardware use on computers in general. It's a slam-dunk device on most Windows machines, while Bluetooth opens up possibilities on pretty much any other operating system—Linux, MacOS, iOS, and Android. The existing Xbox Accessories app lets users pre-load three custom button remapping settings into the device, which can be swapped by tapping one of the menu buttons. Unfortunately, these are currently limited to Xbox button commands—meaning, you can't tell the XAC to treat its "Y" button port as a space bar. (On Windows, you can use an app like ReWASD to open this possibility up, at least.)
For now, the company line is about accessibility and gaming—and not about being the industry's leader in the sector.
"I will never turn this into a Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft [competitive] thing," head of Xbox Phil Spencer said at the event. "Anybody, literally anybody who wants to learn from the work we’ve done here—or even try to do more than that with the work we’ve done here—I’m completely open to that. it doesn’t have to have an Xbox logo on it. Let's just allow more people to play."
Spencer admitted a personal stake in the accessible-gaming world: when he has played online Xbox games, he has often come to learn that his teammates or opponents have played through various disabilities (including butt-kickings in the fighting game Killer Instinct served by blind players). He and his teammates shared a few stories, some more personal than others, about limited-mobility gamers who got back into the hobby because of help from non-profits or hacking projects, or those who said "enough is enough" thanks to disabilities and stopped gaming altogether.
Over the years, many gamers have found their way in spite of the "big three" platforms not delivering official accessibility products until now. Spencer openly admits that the XAC is late to the sector—and that major companies' work isn't done—but he's happy with what his team has delivered at this late point in the party.
"You quickly realize that the limitations that we sometimes unknowingly put in front of broad sets of people to use our platform, don’t keep everyone [away]… the true people will work through it and find solutions," Spencer says. "That, [when] we reflect back... they shouldn't have to work that hard. We can work hard, and do things like the Adaptive Controller. We’ll do more work in this area. The forward momentum from projects like this will continue, and I hope it’ll drive the industry."
Truly, I like that Microsoft put their corporate heft behind this product and It is my sincere hope this is the start of a trend towards more accessibility in the game industry (they've clearly been influenced by Mr. Ben Heck).
Up close with a sea lion in Vienna, under the cherry blossoms in Stockholm, World Dance Day in Budapest, “Bodies in Urban Spaces” in Vilnius, May Day protest in Puerto Rico, ballet in Central Park, flooding in coastal Kenya, yoga in a Mexican desert, thousands of guitarists play “Hey Joe” in Wroclaw, Poland, and much more.
And not just for our 100+ boards (they’re open-source!), but also for an entire ecosystem of partners and makers, making Wings.
We asked Maxim and Particle why they chose Adafruit Feather Wing compatibility for their latest hardware offerings, here’s what they had to say (Maxim has 2 FeatherWing compatible boards, MAX32620 & MAX32630FTHR).
“We needed to create a controller platform to demonstrate some of our sensors and other peripherals. We also wanted it to be useable as a development platform for our microcontrollers. We needed something very flexible to support the wide variety of products that Maxim offers. With many of our recent products focused on ultra-portable/wearable applications, it also needed to be compact and battery friendly. After looking at all the various prototyping form factors on the market at the time, we decided to follow the feather form factor developed by Adafruit. The feather form factor is compact and battery powered, making it ideal for wearable prototyping. It has a dual row 100 mil pitch header that is compatible with breadboards and stacking headers for ultimate ease of use. It is small enough to be embedded as a controller on a larger board, but also complete enough to be the host board for a sensor or peripheral module. The biggest differentiator was the variety of off-the-shelf wings available for the board so that we could mix and match features like displays with our demos.”
“We chose the Adafruit Feather form factor because of how thoughtfully it was designed. The footprint is just right, the ecosystem of Wings covers all the bases, and it was carefully designed to ensure the boards are all compatible with one another despite a huge variety of microcontrollers and accessories. Also, Adafruit is awesome.”
The process starts by combining the EPS styrofoam with a solvent called D-limonene. This was specifically chosen due to its low toxicity and ease of use. The solvent liquifies the solid foam and the air bubbles are then allowed to make their way out of the solution. If it’s desired to create a coloured end product, it’s noted that this can be achieved by using other plastic items to provide colour at this stage, such as a red Solo cup.
It’s a slow process thanks to the choice of solvent, but it makes the process much more palatable to carry out in the average home lab setup. It’s possible to then perform casting operations or further work with the recovered material, which could have some interesting applications. It’s not the first plastics recycling project we’ve seen, either – check out this full setup.