New portable learning/gaming device on Kickstarter uses the Raspberry Pi Compute Module

Just recently launched on Kickstarter, Pip is a portable “digital creation” device based around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module. Let’s take a look at the product, and I’ll give you my opinion at the end.

Hardware

The Pip is based around the Compute Module, as I’ve said, and features a custom host board which adds several significant features as you can see below:

It’s an ingenious design that comes wrapped in a custom-moulded plastic case (pictured at the top of the post). You can see the driver board and other components below:

The screen is surrounded by two plug-in controllers which turn it into a gaming platform. In terms of physical computing, there are two parts which are fed off the 40-pin header on the side of the Pip: a ‘HAT’ (which looks a bit too small to be called a HAT, but let’s gloss over that for a moment) which is a touch-capacitive board with crocodile clips (making it a bit like a Makey Makey); and a breadboard module which is linked to the Pip via a ribbon cable.

Software

The Kickstarter talks of a custom operating system, or set of software, that will allow a gamified learning experience. This custom software starts you off on drag-and-drop programming before moving onto “proper” coding. Of course, the SD card containing the custom software can be replaced with a standard Raspbian if you want to, so the full suite of ‘normal’ Raspberry Pi software is also available to the user.

Pledging

The Pip starts at £150 (Earlybird, rising to £175) for just the Pip, without the physical computing parts. £200 (Earlybird, rising to £225) for the Pip, physical computing parts and a Pi Camera. There are other, larger pledges too for different packs. Take a look at the Kickstarter here.

Opinion

This looks like a very nice device. It’s colourful, without being over the top, has lovely hardware and the software system sounds nice too.

However, I’m a little concerned that the pricing will prove its downfall. When you compare it to something like the pi-topCEED, with its much larger screen and mature software, £200-£225 for the full kit sounds a little excessive, especially with the tiny screen. When you consider that you’ll need another device to program it with if you want to really get into coding (because the screen is tiny), it’s difficult to justify the price. To find something similar in price and concept, you’d need to look at the Kano Complete Kit and perhaps that’s where it’s aimed – the high end.

If you can afford it, and you’re after something small and perfect for kids, I recommend taking a look at the Kickstarter. Go for the full Pip kit (with the physical computer parts) to really take advantage of what makes the Pi so special (apart from it being cheap as chips, of course!).

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