One of our chief complaints about the Raspberry Pi is it doesn’t have a lot of I/O. There are plenty of add ons, of course to expand the I/O capabilities. The actual Raspberry Pi foundation recently created the Sense Hat which adds a lot of features to a Pi, although they might not be the ones we would have picked. The boards were made for the AstroPi project (the project that allowed UK schools to run experiments in space). They don’t appear to be officially for sale to the public yet, but according to their site, they will be selling them soon. Update: Despite some pages on the Raspberry Pi site saying they aren’t out yet, they apparently are.
The board has an ATTiny, but it is not supposed to be user programmable (we smell future hacks here, though). There is a Python API and, presumably, the CPU is running something like Firmata. The most obvious feature, though, is an 8X8 RGB LED matrix. This can be used for (very low resolution) graphical output or scrolling text. There’s also a five-button joystick and a host of I2C sensors including an inertial measurement sensor as well as pressure, humidity and temperature sensors. In addition, there are several 3D sensors including an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a magnetometer.
The hat has an odd mix of devices, but lots of interesting possibilities. We wish we could just stick to one word instead of hats, shields, capes, and everything else vendors keep inventing. We keep suggesting “leech” but no one’s marketing people will let that one get past them. We’d settle for daughter board.
Since only a few people have the hats from the first run (update: and they’ve only been on general sale since late August), there aren’t many projects out there yet. But see the video below, including the one that uses the 8X8 matrix for the first thing we thought of when we saw it: Conway’s game of Life.