Hardware

Raspberry Pi transformed into Amazon Echo by smart assistant add-on

The pi-topPULSE adds a speaker and microphone to the Pi, allowing it to listen for spoken questions and answer them using Amazon Alexa, the service that underpins the Echo.

An add-on has been launched for the $35 Raspberry Pi that converts the tiny, best-selling computer into an Amazon Echo-style smart speaker.

The pi-topPULSE adds a speaker and microphone to the Pi, allowing it to listen for spoken questions and answer them using Amazon Alexa, the service that underpins the Echo.

Available for $50 from RS Components, the pi-topPULSE board slots on top of the Pi, but only the latest board, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, will be able to use Alexa.

The pi-topPULSE will do more than just act as an Echo-style smart assistant, also including a display on top of the board. The display, a 7x7 RGB LED array, can show animations or be used to play games. Seven additional LEDs are also included on the board.

The board can also be attached to the Raspberry Pi laptop, the pi-top, and the Pi-based desktop machine, the pi-topCEED. Both machines are made by the same London-based firm that makes the pi-topPULSE.

SEE: Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide

The makers of the pi-topPULSE see the board as being a useful tool for schoolchildren who want to learn how to code and create art using the Pi.

Jesse Lozano, co-founder of pi-top, says the pi-topPULSE is designed to provide "interactive and creative" exercises for children that keeps them engaged "for long periods of time".

The pi-topOS will include worksheets outlining how to create various games, including Snake and a Flappy Bird clone, which can be played on the pi-topPULSE's LED display. The pi-topOS is the Debian Jesse-based operating system installed by default on the pi-top and the pi-topCEED.

Those running the Pi's official Raspbian OS will need to run a simple terminal command to install the software libraries needed to set up Alexa, before linking their Amazon account to a pi-top account. Full instructions are available here. The process will be slightly simpler for users of the pi-topOS.

On a similar note, Google recently gave away a kit that transformed the Pi 3 into a Google Assistant, bundling the free hardware with The MagPi, the official magazine of the Raspberry Pi.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 67 x 60.5 x 15 mm (LxWxH)
  • Weight: 40.5g
  • Mounting points: 4 magnetic feet for pi-top and pi-topCEED. 2 magnetic-spacers for Raspberry Pi 3
  • Case: White injection mould ABS plastic
  • Fits: Raspberry Pi 3 HAT and pi-top Add-On compatible
  • Display: 7x7 programmable RGB LED Matrix with a high refresh rate
  • Speaker: Two watt 4Ω speaker
  • Microphone: In-built microphone concealed inside the case
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The pi-topPULSE fits on top of the Raspberry Pi.

Image: pi-top

Read more about the Raspberry Pi

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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