Turn Raspberry Pi into an Amazon Echo with $49 pi-topPULSE

UK firm pi-top has released a new Raspberry Pi add-on with built-in speaker, microphone, and LED matrix.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The pi-topPULSE Raspberry Pi 3 add-on consists of speaker, mic and LED matrix

Image: pi-top

Pi-top, the UK maker of the eponymous Raspberry Pi-based DIY laptop, has released a new add-on to transform the single-board computer into a DIY version of Amazon's Echo smart speaker.

The palm-sized add-on, the pi-topPULSE, features a multicolored LED matrix, a "high-end" Raspberry Pi speaker, and built-in microphone. The device is also compatible with Amazon's Alexa, allowing it to function as a voice-controlled Raspberry Pi.

The device measures 60mm x 67mm, 2.36in x 2.64in, and can be mounted on a standalone Raspberry Pi 3 or placed on the company's pi-top module rail, which is used to house add-on boards.

The pi-top features a removable panel above the keyboard with fittings to add the Raspberry Pi and other modules.

The light display on top of the gadget consists of a seven-by-seven matrix of red, green, and blue LEDs, which can be used to display commonly programmed games, such as Tetris and Snake. With the speaker and microphone, it's also designed to play music, and sample music or other recordings.

Pi-top notes that the device is HAT compatible, meaning it conforms to Raspberry Pi's Hardware Attached on Top specification for add-ons.

The pi-topPULSE is the company's third add-on component, after the pi-topSPEAKER and pi-topPROTO, an additional board that fits the rails on the desktop pi-topCEED and can be used to build features such as a heart-rate monitor.

Like the Raspberry Pi, pi-top caters to students and teachers. The edtech startup believes the new pi-topPULSE can help make STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) lessons more engaging by adding "arts" to the mix. Hence, it's calling the tool a STEAM aid.

"Although children love technology, there is often a difficulty when it comes to keeping them engaged for long periods of time without an interactive and creative-based exercise. Therefore, the inclusion of art within STEAM is vital," said Jesse Lozano, co-founder of pi-top.

"Arts encourage the development of visual-spatial skills, an increased practice in problem solving, and collaboration as kids contribute to creative projects. Aiding in this pi-topPULSE adds a depth of perseverance, focus, and creativity to the classroom."

The pi-topPULSE will be available from RS-Online for $49 and comes fully assembled. It also includes a number of lesson plans for use with pi-topOS to help students program the LEDs, speaker, and microphone.


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