For those who are comfortable with using or are interested in MATLAB - the "programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numerical computation" - instructables user rmagtibay has published a collation of information on interfacing an Arduino board with the software. With this combination you can receive data from an Arduino for analysis and also control it. A quick demonstration is show below:
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If Arduino is new to you - you will want to get yourslef a solid board for your projects - and the ideal board for all-round work and beginners is our Freetronics Eleven - the Arduino-Uno compatible with low-profile USB socket, onboard prototyping space and easy to view LEDs: