Portrait of Nicolas Villar

Nicolas Villar

Principal Hardware Architect


Nicolas Villar is a Principal Hardware Architect in the Clinical Sensing & Analytics Group at Microsoft Healthcare NExT, working on Project Premonition: an advanced health project which aims to develop technologies for scalable monitoring of the biome. The system employs robotic mosquito traps and metagenomic techniques to collect and analyze mosquitoes, detecting the movements of potential pathogens in the environment before they cause outbreaks in humans. It also collects big data on insect behavior to better inform epidemiological models and public health organizations.

Previously, Nicolas was a Senior Researcher based at Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK. There, he co-led the Connected Play initiative, and was a member of the Sensors and Devices research group. His background is in embedded interactive systems, working at the intersection of computer science, ubiquitous computing, human-computer interaction and design.

Nicolas co-led the development of Project Torino: an educational tool to teach blind and low-vision children the fundamentals of programming. He co-developed Project Emma, a platform to study the mitigating effects of vibration on tremors experienced by Parkinson’s patients. He led the R&D of Project Zanzibar, a play and interaction platform in the form of a thin, flexible sensing mat that can identify and track physical objects placed on its surface, as well as user’s touch and hand gestures. He was also one of the creators of .NET Gadgeteer, a modular electronics ecosystem to accelerate development of custom electronic devices.





Previous Work

.NET Gadgeteer

Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a rapid prototyping platform for small electronic gadgets and embedded hardware devices. It combines the advantages of object-oriented programming, solderless assembly of electronics using a kit of hardware modules, and quick physical enclosure fabrication using computer-aided design.

More information about .NET Gadgeteer is available through the project’s website.


I was previously at the Lancaster University Computing Department, where I worked as a Research Associate and PhD student in the Embedded Interactive Systems research group. During that time I had the good fortune to be involved in a number of very interesting collaborative projects, including the Equator IRC, Pin&Play, Smart Surroundings and Smart-Its.


My PhD work was centred around the development of VoodooIO: a novel platform for flexible user interfaces that allows end-users to compose and adapt physical control interfaces in a manner that is both versatile and simple to use. With VoodooIO, users can quickly put together fully functional interfaces out of a pliable substrate material and physical control devices such as buttons, switches, sliders and dials. Every control is in fact a minimal computing device, equipped with small pin-like connectors at their base . By pinning a control into the substrate material, the control becomes connected to a power and communication network that is built into the substrate. Controls can be freely attached, detached and arranged in any orientation, even during use: physical attachment equals digital connectivity.


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