Hacker News Re-Imagined

Pockit: A tiny, powerful, modular computer [video]

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  • 3 months ago

  • @rayrag
  • Created a post

Pockit: A tiny, powerful, modular computer [video]


@rayrag 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Discussion/AMA on Reddit:

https://old.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/ta85ql/my_small_modu...

Shorter demo (7:30) submitted to Reddit:

https://v.redd.it/3wfbkleb4dm81

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@matlo 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Really impressive work

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@motohagiography 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

When you struggle to think of what can't be composed in this architecture, it's a whole new way of building. It's clearly the expression of an incredibly elegant mind. Watching that demo was a moment that reminded me of a now famous comp.os.minix usenet post from the early 90s.

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@amarento 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

The demo, on its own, is a masterpiece, as is the idea behind the whole thing. Bravo !

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@marcodiego 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Looks like Project Ara done right.

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@jack_riminton 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I can't believe this is just one guy. Get him a MacArthur genius grant, quickly

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@debdut 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

True example what an individual can achieve! Blown away

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@bbayer 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Such modular design is tricky. Some parts require close distance to specific components like clocks. OP did a good job by solving such problems.

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@wnolens 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

What a beautiful labour of love. Thank you, I'm inspired.

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@th0ma5 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

The hardware is very cool. The start of the integration with the dashboard is neat, but I'm not entirely sure how useful it would be other than making a video like this. Perhaps something like OSC or something could help keep it modular from a software standpoint and not so toy seeming. I also think a lot of software has whole knows what layers expecting hardware to not just suddenly disappear. Appear is maybe less a thing.

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@noneeeed 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

It's like a grown-up version of the Little Bits kits. How very impressive.

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@tomlin 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is the stuff of future design. I love it.

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@dusted 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

it's super cool, but I have some difficulty finding a "not just playing around" use case for it, not because it's useless, but because I can't come up with a use case that would be dynamic.. I'd not want to pay for the modularity overhead for using them as, for instance, light switches around the house.. Anyone got some cool ideas for what to do with them?

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@account_created 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Mind blowing.

My reaction was: "Ok, that's cool, but he can not have X module" a minute later "X" appears, and it went throughout the video.

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@anonu 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is beautiful. This is where art meets technology - and that's always been a fascinating crossroad for me.

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@throwaway5486nv 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Does each block require separate power source or the power comes from the core block(base)?

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@baalimago 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I'm much more interested in the person than in the product, in this particular case

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@ehnto 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

What impresses me the most is how holistic the project is, they are clearly using this device and thinking carefully about how to make it useful, and how it will be used.

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@lloydatkinson 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I'm sure this will be killed off just like the CHIP computer

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@netspider 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I would like to know the person behind this project?

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@hathym 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

very nice project, it reminds me of the LG G5 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4GZQyJMoyo)

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@throwaway5486nv 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is mind blowing

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@squarefoot 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Very beautiful, seems the ideal toy to teach kids how to play with technology in creative ways. It could be completed by kits with real pcbs and parts to turn the modular device into an useable functioning board. All software and firmware should also be 100% open. Schools should seriously consider adopting it, although I fear the amount of engineering and design will probably keep the price very high.

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@TamDenholm 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This reminds me of LittleBits [1] many years ago i bought a kit from them that was really very expensive and had some fun. The only problem is i never touched them again after the first couple of weeks of playing with them. However, they're certainly an excellent learning tool for kids and beginners.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LittleBits

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@duxup 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I’ve stared playing with an Arduino recently and thought “it would be handy if the various sensors and add ons just snapped on”….

This appears to be that, but with a Pi (and of course a lot of impressive finish / software ).

A Pi for the masses / convince sounds amazing.

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@allisdust 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

At the minimum this should win a design award of some kind. Looks like it quickly becomes complex when we combine software to the hardware but the way it seem to work with so many connectors feels just so intuitive.

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@aqibgatoo 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Wohoo! I am blown away!

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@vivegi 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is a great design and I absolutely love it. How does one build apps / custom behaviors for the hardware components?

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@ktpsns 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

https://pockit.ai/ – for those who prefer text/images instead of video.

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@nl 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Please do a Kickstarter. I want to put money into this now.

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@breadchris 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

checks calendar to see if this is an april fools joke nope, this is just amazing

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@gentle 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is so great. It reminds me of what BugLabs was doing about ten years ago, but this is honestly better.

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@idiotsecant 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This reminds me a little of the philosophy of the "frame.work" laptop. While it approaches the problem from the 'let's make a modular,repairable laptop' side and this approaches it from the 'let's make a powerful and easily extendable embedded device' side. immensely ambitious and cool projects, both!

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@mrfinn 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Lego meets Arduino. Loved every second of the demonstration.

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@cs702 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Wow. I've rarely come a cross a demo in which things keep getting better and better and better and better.

I find it hard to believe that one individual plus a small community of hackers have built all of it. Amazing, amazing work.

The one question I kept asking myself as I was watching the demo:

Is there a mass market for such a beautiful, elegant, modular computing device?

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@mindfulplay 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Quite amazing! Regardless of the profitability or scaling this up, it’s refreshing seeing the modularity where the sum is much larger than the parts. Well, here the sum likely is larger than the product!

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@webXL 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Blow away by the different tech demo'd here. It reminded me of "The Mother of All Demos" by Douglas Engelbart

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@therein 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Amazing demo. Simply floored.

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@hemloc_io 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Woah this is massively cool!

I've always wanted little bits and bobs of hardware to mess around with, but actually getting into the EE required for it is fun but time consuming.

This really fits right into what I'd want for something that allows for quick POCs, prototypes and just trying new stuff out.

I'd love to make things like a hacked together OP1! https://teenage.engineering/products/op-1

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@bodge5000 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

was hooked as soon as I saw the MIDI out module, for musical applications alone this could be a gamechanger (to my knowledge theres nothing else truly like it out there, outside of complete DIY)

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@FpUser 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I can't find any uses of it for me personally but I find this thing incredibly cool and nicely engineered and with attractive design. Could be a gold mine for kids education. Assuming of course there are no similar things from big guys (I've no idea what is really out there in this area).

As a work of a single person this project is totally amazing. The author is a gem.

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@adrianthedev 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Wow. This is like a low-code arduino. Amazing!

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@izzydata 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Maybe I am being over critical, but this is not what I imagine when I think of a modular computer. It's cool being able to swap in and out all kinds of peripherals like that in any position and orientation, but the computer itself does not seem modular. Unless you could connect multiples of them together and increase their performance and space for more peripherals without causing additional overhead.

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@shabier 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is really incredible. I can't wait to get my hands on the device and tinker around with it. It is giving me the same vibe as project Ara[0], and I'm here for it.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Ara

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@severak_cz 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Ok. I am subscribed.

If this goes for reasonable price and has some kind of soundcard block I am going to buy this and made synth out of it.

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@neurocat123 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

What happens when we take this concept into the third dimension—could we assemble these modular blocks into a mass of computronium?

Perhaps slightly more realistically speaking, could they be made stackable? Perhaps this could be a way to set up certain operations, for instance you could have some hardware for doing efficient convolutions on a camera feed as a "middle" block.

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@danShumway 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I can't think of why I'd practically need or want this. I know on some level it's a toy, and there are better ways to implement all of this stuff if you're trying to make cost-effective hardware projects.

However, wow do I want one. This is so cool, I heckin love this. I love everything about this. The whole thing just looks delightful from the blocks, to the configuration/programming, to how real-time and responsive the feedback is when moving blocks around and hooking stuff up.

Amazing presentation too, this video is really well made.

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@davesque 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I'm imagining that the creator of this project really went the distance in sticking to their initial vision of what was possible. I think sometimes visionary projects fail because the creators eventually compromise on the vision when the devils emerge from the details. But, if they can muster enough technical competence and determination to push through that difficulty, we get something like pockit. The video really makes me want to hear from the creator about the process of developing pockit and how different challenges were overcome.

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@huachimingo 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Already spreading the video through "contacts" ;)

What an amazing design.

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@saulrh 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I can see this as a general-purpose computing device, but what I really want this for is simulation gaming. I could make a new instrument panel for every rocket I build in Kerbal Space Program. A dedicated selection of dials and toggles for every application I use. A different set of gauges and sliders for every plane in DCS! It'd be great!

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@pjmlp 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Quite impressive demo.

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@Koshkin 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Impressive, but let’s not forget that we live in an age of miracles. A terabyte in a chip the size of your pinky’s fingernail? You’ve got it! A supercomputer in your pocket? Sure!

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@u2077 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Truly impressive. Reminds me of Google’s (failed) attempt at modular devices.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Ara

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@nonrandomstring 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Sometimes the point of a technology is not its direct utility but to carry forth or promote an idea.

Because of what's happening with climate, pollution and e-waste, the future is modular. Modular phones, computers, cars and even nuclear reactors.

Having this kind of thing in schools helps kids get used to the idea that technology is configurable at the physical level without electronics skills.

Strong interoperability legislation should be a part of technology going forward. Industry will welcome and adapt to it because it's ultimately a better compromise than tougher regulation and export controls.

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@bloopernova 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I am blown away.

I can't even imagine how complex the code must be behind the scenes for all of that to work together.

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@kaishiro 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Man. You think you're doing alright and then something like this comes along and just screams your inadequacies at you.

What a wild achievement. Well done.

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@morelish 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

some big company ought to buy him out right now...

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@vidarh 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

It's been quite a few years since I was vowed by a hardware demonstration. This is amazing.

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@Uptrenda 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

What a truly beautiful and elegant design. This is so reminiscent of the hacker ethos in how it captures the potential and love of technology. How can a project this creative not be more famous? I have seen many of these kinds of 'small, powerful computer projects' before and I've never felt inspired by any of them. But this project really captures the imagination with the potential of modularity / expanding capabilities.

This is honestly so creative. It makes me filled with that childish sense of wonder I initially had with coding. What things could you make if you had a whole box of snap-ins and a few Pockits? This is frigging insane. If you're an angel investor consider throwing this guy a bone!

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@code_scrapping 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Blown away, by both the adaptiveness of the platform and software. It feels like the flexibility that I'd want for all of my prototyping experiments. Signed-up, and patiently cheering from the side-lines.

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@afarviral 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

So cool. Anyone criticizing the real utility of one of these (e.g. calling it a toy) is not thinking long term. Over time a single unit could be repurposed for any number of distinct and serious usecases (home automation being the most natural fit, but many others), and this and its software are important steps toward a more robust and useful devices and less waste. Minitirized, waterproofed, secure and many more modules and "apps", standardized and mass produced. This is huge. Keep going!

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@rapjr9 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This work is impressive and I'd like to see it continue. I do see some issues though. The problem of connector reliability has already been mentioned. Let's say I add two LED modules and two sliders and I want each slider to control one LED, or I want both sliders to control both LED's or I want both sliders to control both LED's but one slider's action is reversed. That decision is in my mind and can not be automatically guessed, there has to be some way to decide which modules are linked to other modules and what action is expected. Do I want motion detected by a PIR sensor to turn a light on via a relay module or turn a light off (when I'm walking up stairs out of a basement)? Again, a need to configure. To go deeper, say I connect an I2C temperature and humidity sensor and I want the temperature to control a heating pad and the humidity to control a humidifier, plus I want a readout of both on an LCD module and I want both to feed into another LCD module that displays an air quality index while another LCD module shows CPU temperature. Configuration is needed. If I add 5 camera modules, do I run out of high speed buses? So far I see a few specialized use cases demonstrated, but not a general method of interface and routing configuration. Modules may need to be configured also (does the temperature module report Fahrenheit or Celsius? Is the conversion handled in the sensor or the app?) As soon as you start to build anything complex the default behavior is not likely to be what you want (try building an audio mixing board out of modules), so I see a limit on complexity. The capabilities of the editor mentioned in the video will be interesting (to be shown in a future video it says). Connections to external devices that are not wireless also seem like an issue, a pull on the HDMI cable is going to pull the HDMI module off the board. If I plug in a slider, a button and an HDMI module what are the slider and button automatically configured to do to the HDMI module? There is an attempt here to encode common functionality and routing. That only allows you to do common things, not uncommon ones. Still, until you try you don't know what is possible or how far this could go.

I would encourage using optical and wireless interfaces instead of wired interfaces since those are much less sensitive to the quality of the contact. Power supply could be inductively coupled. If you make it all RF wireless you don't need the baseboard, the modules could be anywhere, powered by anything. The modules, especially the inputs, should be able to dynamically alter the routing of all the other modules (for example, routing audio from five input modules to either or both of two audio output modules controlled by a 3-state switch.)

In some ways I see this as building a configurator for an MCU. MCU's have all kinds of I/O, timers, interrupts, some have RF interfaces and sensors, etc. Imagine all the modules (or at least RF/optical interfaces to them) already built into a chip and you just want to configure them for a specific application. Instead of copying the example code for a SPI interface and modifying it, you instead just configure it in a configurator. The configurator could automatically recognize multiple chips and let you route RF/optical connections between them (with a selection of protocols) and configure their I/O. No need for a baseboard or modules, everything is just general purpose chips with tons of stuff already built into it (sensors, RF, I/O, protocols), and you just turn on and off and route whatever parts you need. Sounds somewhat wasteful, but if you make a trillion chips like this it may actually be more efficient, particularly in terms of human effort, for building a wide range of systems. Security would be a problem, if a flaw is found in the basic design everything built using it would be vulnerable. Reliability might be increased since anything that fails would be trivial to replace.

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@syassami 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Wow.

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@ibejoeb 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Love the physical switches and controls. This is like VB but IRL.

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@jet_32951 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

So very many applications! One is it will make lashing up an approximately-OK control system easier early in a project. There are five or six machine designs in my past where having a rudimentary control system was needed for initial testing. This would have saved days or weeks on each one.

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@dt3ft 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Whoa! This has the potential to grow to unimaginable scale! I'm seeing star-trek gadgets. I'd love to get my hands on a starter kit.

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@tjchear 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Seeing Pockit gives me an idea: can we do something similar for Web APIs?

Perhaps a web app with a 2D board where users can place modular blocks the same way one would place Pockit blocks on the magnetic breadboard. We could have a geolocation module, vibration module, button module, slider module, camera module, etc. Like Pockit, the system finds a script with the closest matching blocks to what's placed on the grid, and runs the script. E.g placing a camera flashlight module + button module on the grid triggers a script that would toggle the light when the button is pressed. User could also write their own scripts.

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@allenu 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Wow. This is so incredibly well done. The tech itself is amazing, but so is the design of everything, not to mention it’s all well presented visually. It reminds me of the classic “mother of all demos”.

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@mastax 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

All I want to know about this is what the pinout of the connector is. I want to know how it was done and the limits of what it can do. The author has provided very little information about it[0], which makes me a little suspicious.

[0]: https://old.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/ta85ql/my_small_modu...

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@lanewinfield 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

As far as I can tell, this is a single individual that has done all of this work. I am floored at the design and intricacy of this project.

Really, truly blown away. I'm sure there are plenty of edge cases to correct for but I haven't gotten so excited by a demo in a long time. I've obviously signed up to learn more.

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@jpm_sd 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙



@stormbrew 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

If anyone else is curious, like I was, about what the signal bus is like on the pins, and couldn't find much detail on the website, the person behind this explained a bit on the reddit AMA someone linked: https://old.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/ta85ql/my_small_modu...

So it seems like it's kind of like low-pin-count ISA-ish bus with direct pin connections to the cpu's pins. Presumably that limits how big a board you can have to the number of gpio pins you've got, or you'd have to build some kind of multiplexing like oldschool irq/port sharing...

I'm really curious if it would be possible to do this as, essentially, single lane PCIe blocks instead. I think it would be harder from a hobby-project perspective (and also probably complexify the blocks), but PCIe is kind of built around flexible topologies so you could build it around a pcie root complex/switch instead of just directly exposing pins to the devices ISA-style.

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@rpmisms 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is insane. Sure, it's not on the level of a professional tool, but you can emulate so many professional tools with it that who cares?

Many people want a thermal camera on occasion, but probably don't need one lying around all the time. Here's the solution. Maybe you want a Gameboy? Put one together on a lazy afternoon and play some retro games. Oh, you just want a quick and dirty USB hub? Do it. Oh, no! Your car is acting weird and you want to stream the OBD-II data and match it with accelerometer data? Go for it!

This is just insane in terms of flexibility, and I think it could replace many devices people use extremely infrequently, as well as do other things we don't really think about. And it's fun! Technology is absolutely insane now, and I think we neglect the fun aspect too much.

Edit: I used the word insane a lot. I stand by it.

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@copirate 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙



@kwhitefoot 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Reminds me of M5Stack: https://m5stack.com/

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@mothsonasloth 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Very cool,

It reminds me of Star Trek's Isolinear chips that you would see Crew members slotting or re-ordering to create different effects, or create an ionic pulse from the deflector shield.

https://youtu.be/rr8eO6gfnuY?t=66

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@beckman466 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

this reminded me of Dave Hakkens and his Phonebloks concept video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDAw7vW7H0c

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@moonlighter 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is pretty incredible. An entirely different level than the old and trusty breadboards! Love how the components just snap magnetically and load the best-matching software to support them. Looks super promising!

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@tacticaldev 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Ok, wow! This is, by far, the most innovative "product" I've seen in years!

I will definitely be keeping a very close eye on this project!

I sincerely hope it does well enough to get to production levels large enough to be "affordable". I would totally buy this for my Daughter's as a way to get them interested in building/coding.

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@mib32 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Man I so much wish to do something like that, but 40 hour job eats all the time. Can somebody give an advice how to find time to doing such interesting things?

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@Venkatesh10 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Looks good. But how will it perform over the years to come?

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@space_rock 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

Can we get internet of things devices with power of ethernet? Seems so much easier that WiFi, Bluetooth and a battery and usb for recharging

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@arendtio 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

> For this block's current version, I soldered circuitry directly taken from Google's dev board (10:57)

Best line ever :D

It is one thing to have the skill to solder a chip off an existing board without damaging it, but being able to reused the same chip with a completely different hardware interface is just impressive.

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@baalimago 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I have no idea what the usecase is, but it's incredibly impressive from a technical standpoint

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@kilroy123 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

I really want this to become a thing. I feel like computers and tech have become less and less fun over the years as it has become so commercialized.

Something about this just seems fresh and fun again.

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@ideology228 3 months

Replying to @rayrag 🎙

This is one of the coolest thing I have seen in a long time.. awesome work

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