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Raspberry Pi Gains Alexa Support With Pi-topPULSE Add-on

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Cheap add-on turns Raspberry Pi into music centre, dicoball, and adds Amazon Alexa capabilities

The Raspberry Pi 3 micro computer can be equipped with a number of new technology options thanks to the arrival of a cheap add-on device.

Start-up pi-top has released the add-on device called the pi-topPULSE. This device costs just £40, and will add music, lightshows, and Amazon Alexa capabilities to the Raspberry Pi 3.

It comes after Cambridge-based Raspberry Pi was awarded the UK’s top engineering accolade when it won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award last month.

pi-topCheap Add-on

The pi-topPULSE add-on board is housed with a nondescript box measuring 60x67mm, and it functions as a high-end Raspberry Pi Speaker. The add-on box also features a LED matrix and includes an inbuilt microphone to provide an interactive Raspberry Pi assistant.

“The pi-topPULSE is an integrated solution for music, lights and sound that can be used by makers, students and educators alike,” said the firm. “It can be used both as an add-on for pi-top or pi-topCEED, and additionally as a HAT for the Raspberry Pi 3.”

The thinking is that whilst the pi-topPULSE can be used as a LED array, speaker and microphone, it can also be used for games, or to listen to music. Users can also sample music recordings and the add-on be programmed as a voice controlled Raspberry Pi.

“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,” said Jesse Lozano, Co-Founder of pi-top.

“Therefore, the inclusion of Art within STEAM is vital,” said Lozano. “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.”

What’s In The Box?

But what exactly does the pi-topPULSE offer?

Well, the pi-topPULSE is being touted as suitable for beginners and experts alike. It comes with a 7×7 RGB LED matrix array, speaker and microphone. It is also fully HAT-compatible and can be mounted on top of a standalone Raspberry Pi 3, or used inside the pi-top module rail like a normal add-on board.

The add-on itself includes magnetic stands that can be added to the Raspberry Pi if used as a HAT.

A suite of python libraries also aims to make it simple and easy to use, and there is reportedly lots of example programs, demos and pi-top lesson plans (pi-topOS only) to get people started with the LEDs, speaker and microphone.

And last, but not least, is the integration with Amazon Alexa.

Interested parties can source the add-on for $49.99 (£39.99) from RS Components in the EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and from Allied Electronics in North America.

“The pi-topPULSE is an exciting new addition to the growing family of products that augment the powerful capabilities of the Raspberry Pi,” said Rob Maycroft, Global Product Manager at RS Components. “This new innovative board combines science, technology, engineering and mathematics education with the arts, delivering an all-in-one portable solution for music, light and sound for use in the classroom and elsewhere.”

The Raspberry Pi celebrated its fifth birthday earlier this year with the launch of a brand new micro PC, namely the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

Quiz: What do you know about the Raspberry Pi?