What is a Phidget?

R. Kimball

A phidget is a physical widget. Widgets are small software programs that complete a specific function. Phidgets use the Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface to interact with a personal computer. Most of these devices can interact with a variety of operating systems, while some are created specifically for one operating system. Once the device is attached to the personal computer, the computer controls the device’s operation.

A USB flash drive is a phidget.
A USB flash drive is a phidget.

A USB flash drive is an example of a phidget. It might be attached to a personal computer in order to move information between computers or other devices. The flash drive serves also as additional memory for a computer or other device. Many media players have USB slots so that files may be transferred via USB flash drive.

Individuals interested in robotics and computer automation use phidgets to implement specific functionality outside the personal computer. These devices might be used as a global positioning system or as a temperature sensor, among many other functions. Once these devices are connected to the computer, they might be used to control other functions managed by the computer, such as adjusting the thermostat in a given room.

Different peripheral devices that allow the personal computer to expand its functionality might be considered a phidget. Serial hubs allow a user to connect multiple USB-supported devices to a computer at one time. A user may choose to use a USB serial hub in order to connect multiple electronic devices to the computer simultaneously for charging or refreshing the information housed on such devices. Card readers allow the computer to read a variety of memory cards used by cameras, telephones, or other mobile electronic devices by connecting the reader to the computer via a USB connection.

A phidget may be created to allow different niche groups to gain access to a computer as an operator of the device itself. This allows the niche devices to be produced at a reduced cost, since they do not need computer functionality included within them. Craft cutting machines that may be connected to a computer in the same manner as a printer might be considered phidgets. A sewing machine that does machine embroidery work when connected to a computer via a USB connection is a very complicated phidget. Another example of a physical widget is a device that allows guitar players to record songs directly from the guitar and store them onto the computer via a USB connection.

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