Pip is like a Raspberry Pi-powered Nintendo Switch you can code on
Alphr Kickstarter of the week: Pip
You likely won’t be getting a Nintendo Switch bargain this Black Friday, what with them still in short supply, and Nintendo selfishly not wanting to shorthand their shareholders. Still, if you can’t play Mario Odyssey, you could always make your own version – and with the Pip, you’ll be playing your creation on something that looks not a million miles away from the Switch. And you can even play it with a banana if you want, in a tribute to Donkey Kong.
What is Pip?
The Raspberry Pi is a wonderful device that can introduce children to the magic of coding and the kind of earning power that makes journalists like me green with envy. But while self-starters will see the appeal immediately, it can seem a little daunting to some – plus, you need a dedicated corner of the house to code and work. What if the Raspberry Pi could be housed in Switch-style case allowing coding, projects and gaming on the go?
That’s the vision of Curious Chip, a pair of Glasgow designers who came up with Pip. “We saw there was immense value in something you could use and take anywhere, something that could augment other activities, something that you could grab and take through to show your parents,” says Jason Frame, the co-founder of Curious Chip. Indeed, the two had originally started with another Kickstarter product, with a similar concept, but physically much larger: “We realised that we didn’t like the idea of something that would require a permanent set space in the family home,” Frame explains. “So we stripped away all of the unnecessary stuff and sketched out an idea for v1 of Pip and got to work.”
The result is Pip: “a portable device for coding, tinkering and creative play.”
The device comes with a set of Switch-style joypads to clip into each side of the 800×480 4in touchscreen, but this being Raspberry Pi-based, the real limit is your imagination. For a little extra, you can get the Makers pack, where things get more physical with a camera module, breadboard and PipHAT – which lets you attach whatever you like as a controller. The accompanying video shows the kind of creativity you could inspire in your children: from playing games with a banana, to monitoring plant water levels. It even features an endorsement from Raspberry Pi co-founder, Eben Upton, which is about as solid an backing as you can get in this space.
So what is Frame’s favourite way to use Pip? “Spontaneously,” he enthuses. “When we got our prototypes working at first, I’d have Pip just sitting in the living room. Because the software is so accessible, and there’s nothing to configure/set up, whenever I (or my son) had an idea for something, we could just dive in and make it.”
Why should I care?
How much and when would I get it?
Okay, so you are looking at a price that’s considerably higher than your average Raspberry Pi. The Pip is built around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, which can be bought for around £30. The cheapest you can get a Pip for is – at the time of writing – £150. That’s a 25% saving on its RRP of £200.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than just the Pi. Not only do you get it built into the housing with battery and screen, but you get a pair of game controllers and access to the online software, tutorials and more.
If you want the Maker kit, you’re looking at an extra £50. So £200, on early bird – a saving of £69 on the £269 retail price.
Whichever bundle you go for, the release is around a year away, with products estimated to be landing on backers’ doorsteps in September 2018.
Is there anything else like Pip out there?
Well, there’s the basic Raspberry Pi, of course. You can buy a Raspberry Pi 3 for as little as £30 for the latest model, but you will need to connect it to your own peripherals, and if you want to make it portable – well, that’s on you.
Educational toys for coding are reasonably commonplace. Our pick of the bunch is the Sphero SPRK+, which comes in at around £100 – but it’s far less versatile than Pip, and will only teach the logic behind coding rather than a specific language.
How risky is backing Pip?
As ever with crowdfunding, there is no such thing as a guaranteed product. The end result may not be what’s promised, might never see the light of day, or might disappoint in another way. Only pay what you can afford to lose.
In Pip’s case, the first thing to say is that it’s very close to reaching its funding target. With nearly three weeks to go, it’s just £4,000 short of its £30,000 target. Anything raised above and beyond that is a very good sign for dealing with hiccups along the way.
It also helps that this is a product with a working prototype, which is based on readily available technology in the Raspberry Pi. Eben Upton’s personal endorsement is another strong pointer of a product that will live up to expectations.