Recently, there has been a surge in the development of various sensor boxes which allow users to easily get data from various sensors into their computers. There are three main methods that these sensor boxes get data into the computer: serial, MIDI, and USB. The MIDI interfaces such as the Doepfer Contact-to-MIDI CTM64 [doe()] are the easiest way to use arbitrary devices for input. Such boards convert electric signals to MIDI, making them very easy to use in a musical setting.
For sensor boxes that use serial or USB to connect to the computer, how they are interfaced depends on what protocol is used over the serial or USB connection. Generally, there would need to be specific Pd objects written in order to use them with Pd, but there might be ways around this, such as using command line tools and the [shell] object. The MakingThings' Teleo [tel()] is an example of a USB interface with specific objects needed to use it. Currently there are only objects for Max/MSP, but there is talk of Pd support.
Hans-Christoph Steiner 2005-04-25