Commonly used sensors

Here are suggestions for the most commonly used sensors by beginners. There are of course many variations possible for each of these, this is just a sampling. To purchase, check with local vendors first. The links below are to online vendors, note these change frequently, so a newer or cheaper option may be available. 

Useful video overviews of sensor basics:

light (basic): photocell (

light (precise): Ambi (

distance (proximity): Sharp IR sensors (short range, medium, long, Maxbotix ultrasonic sensors ( etc.)

proximity switch: magnetic reed switch (, hall-effect magnetic sensors (

touch, slide/ribbon: linear softpot (, rotary softpot (

touch, non-contact (cheap): DIY capacitive

touch, non-contact (better control): capacitive breakout board

flex/bend: flex sensor (short, long

stretch/pressure – fabric: EeonTex Conductive Stretchable fabric and Pressure Sensing fabric

rotation: potentiometer (10k linear, knob

pressure: force sensitive resistor (round, square

sound: Sound Detector – volume (, volume or threshold (

sound (MIDI): MIDI Shield –

tilt (basic): tilt switch (

tilt/rotation (advanced): accelerometer ( or or

vibration: piezo (

temperature (basic): TMP36 (

temperature (precise): TMP102 (

wind: anemometer (

heartbeat: Pulse Sensor ( or

location (GPS, outdoor): Adafruit GPS products, Sparkfun GPS buying guide

location (indoor): Location, Pozyx, RadarCat


Note that many of the above sensors are more complex and require more work to interface with. Note also some of the units from Sparkfun are sold alone or with breakout boards (additional circuitry added) – if given the option, choose the breakout board, that will save you hours making your own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: