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Pockit: A tiny, powerful, modular computer (2022 demo)

Pockit · Youtube · 1939 HN points · 1 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention Pockit's video "Pockit: A tiny, powerful, modular computer (2022 demo)".
Youtube Summary
• Project details + signup at http://pockit.ai

• This video is a demo of modular electronics with Pockit as of March 2022, after several upgrades in the recent months based on the community's feedback.

• Discussion group: http://reddit.com/r/pockit
HN Theater Rankings
  • Ranked #3 this year (2022) · view
  • Ranked #5 all time · view

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this video.
Mar 10, 2022 · 13 points, 1 comments · submitted by CharlesW
jasonjmcghee
This is a super impressive project. Reminds me of https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonebloks but it actually exists!
Mar 09, 2022 · 1926 points, 232 comments · submitted by rayrag
lanewinfield
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.

dhc02
The UI of the dashboard alone would be an impressive feat for a single person.

The algorithm that chooses the most likely/useful application for infinite possible combinations of modules would be an impressive feat for a single person.

The multidisciplinary coding required to get all of these pieces to work together in a hot-swap way would be an impressive feat for a single person.

The design and implementation of a single physical connection interface that can adapt or carry all these different protocols (USB, HDMI, etc) would be an impressive feat for a single person.

Not to mention the PCB design, 3D enclosure design, machine learning proficiency, aesthetic product design chops, and on and on.

All together, this is unbelievable. This is 0.01% level stuff. Mozart, Musk, Melville. Somewhere in that neighborhood.

Maraguy
The UI got me too. I'm still dumbfounded at how amazing this really is.
None
None
ketzo
I mean, even the editing of the demo video itself is incredibly slick. This dude is out of control.
hackernewds
How do we know it is all 1 person?
vosper
You got downvoted, but a comment elsewhere from the person confirms it was his wife who edited the videos.
kumarvvr
I am floored by the design.

However, the most complex and costly part is the PCB and circuit design. The PCBs used in the blocks are absolutely awesome.

Thanks to 3D printers that are cheap, the casing and other plastic materials are easy to make.

All that being said, this has very low chance of becoming a real world product. Real world is messy, dirty, wet and an absolutely shitty place for snap on electronics.

What would work, is better connector technology. It is obvious that even with all this simplification, this will still be a hobbyist product, rather than a serious mass market product.

ricardobeat
The way to that cyberpunk world that lives in collective imagination is to make electronics work in messy, dirty, wet environments, not try to shield them from it.
roughly
Hey can we use like solarpunk or something instead for our collective imaginations? We’ve been kicking the tires on this cyberpunk thing for the last decade or two and it turns out they wrote that shit as a dystopia, so, it’d be good if we could like collectively Not build that part together.
rileyphone
I came across this yesterday:

> Merveilles seems aligned with the ideals of Solarpunk while internally expecting the world of Cyberpunk, it is neither a utopian or dystopian vision, but a way of straddling both contingencies.

https://wiki.xxiivv.com/site/merveilles.html

wrycoder
Hundred Rabbits is very cool. It will be interesting to see what they talk about at their Libreplanent presentation 20Mar:

https://www.fsf.org/news/artist-collective-hundred-rabbits-t...

pigeons
https://git.sr.ht/~rabbits/libreplanet2022/tree/master/item/...
entaloneralie
spoilers!
wrycoder
Awesome. On sr.ht with a slide app [0] written in their own assembler.

[0] https://git.sr.ht/~rabbits/adelie

roughly
Oh man, thank you for that - so good in so many ways. I’ll definitely be following up on this later, I like what they’re doing.

Two things stick out for critique to me -

> Merveilles seems aligned with the ideals of Solarpunk while internally expecting the world of Cyberpunk, it is neither a utopian or dystopian vision, but a way of straddling both contingencies.

I get this, and in a way, I think it’s how I’m operating already, but man, it’s an art movement - don’t give the dystopia space in the room, it’s already got plenty everywhere else.

> The Merveilles visual aesthetic restricts color palettes to black and white, vector or pixel art, with at most a single accent color (usually a sea-foam aqua). Industrial design is minimalist, geometric black-forged metals, natural wood.

My visual aesthetic these days is “all of the above.” For the love of god, colors exist - trillions of them! Take two! Hell, take three or four! They’re cheap! And shapes - my god, man, the shapes you can make! You ever see the temple carvings in Nepal? So many shapes! Take a walk through a forest, and just look at all the shapes! Look at trees, man - the opposite of simple!

stonogo
It's an art movement -- don't give the colors space in the room, they've already got plenty everywhere else.

(this was intended as a gentle ribbing, not actual criticism. I found the contrast between exclusion and inclusion interesting :)

roughly
Hah! Touché.
user_7832
Hobbyist isn't necessarily bad though. Look at where boards like the raspberry pi/Arduino were and look at where they are now. There was an image floating around a few weeks back of a major screen at a train station that had crashed... with the raspberry pi logo at the top. It will take time, sure, but it could become much bigger than one might expect.
Animats
Connector reliability and mechanical strength is a big problem here. If the baseplate had screw holes with threaded inserts, so you could screw everything down, it would hold together better. Also, the animation looks cool, but there is no power source, and no external connections.

Google tried this in 2015. It was called Project Ara.[1] A similar click-together system, with the same problems. Plus the problem that there's no good reason to make a phone that way. Google acquired that from Phonebloks and killed it.[2]

It's not a bad idea if you solve the mechanical problems and have the components produced in sufficient quantity to be very cheap. A little bigger, a lot more rugged, with a good wire management solution, and you'd have something useful.

[1] https://www.cnet.com/tech/mobile/project-ara-everything-we-k...

[2] https://www.onearmy.earth/project/phonebloks

franciscop
> the animation looks cool, but there is no power source

It is briefly explained at 4:04 that the initial 4 mins it's running on a 3300 battery, and then he swaps it to USB charging.

JoBrad
Depending on how inexpensive these things will be, I can see myself basically putting together a few of these throughout my house, with some framing, and probably never touching them again for a year or more. However having a few kits for my kids and I to play with is more likely. In the latter case, we’ll do exactly what we did whenever playing with game cartridges: blow them off, wipe them, and try again. I think it’s part of the fun, really.
pharke
I don't see why the contacts on the demonstrated devices would be any more vulnerable to the real world than the port on an iPhone. I'm not sure these devices would be mass market since some skill is required to understand and use the software but they would absolutely have a good run at serving the same size market as 3D printers. They could even work hand in hand with 3D printers by providing the 'brains' for prototyped projects.
coryrc
Connectors are usually built so there is a small amount of "wiping" as they seat, which will scrape off oxides or dirt. They will also have just the right amount pressure to balance longevity versus contact resistance. The pockit connectors may not balance these factors well (depends on what's making contact from the modules - I couldn't find the details readily). Regardless they won't have wiping, which isn't mandatory but is the cheapest way to keep connections reliable.

So likely they won't have nearly the cycle life of USB-C but do they really need to?

pharke
If wiping is the main problem you could just wipe them with a cloth or some other device. They are exposed and highly visible after all.
morcheeba
Besides the wiping, these connectors are missing two other features: ESD protection and connection-sequencing.

Most user-facing connectors have a metal shield around them connected to frame ground. The idea is that any ESD shock goes safely through this first instead of to a sensitive data line.

Connection-sequencing ensures that the ground and power is connected before data lines are. If you look inside a cable-side USB connector, you'll see that the inner two wires (data) are recessed a little so that the power connectors go first. A device that is connected without power can (through its ESD protection circuit) attempt to draw power from data lines... this can cause damage because most data lines can't supply the current to power the entire device.

stormbrew
I think you could effectively connection sequence this interface? Though it'd be electronic sequencing rather than a physical one like on usb ports, you could make it so that a particular non-symmetrical set of pins need to be in a certain position before power is delivered through any power pins. Assuming there are multiple grounds, it could be continuity through all the ground pins that would allow power to flow.

And since the snap-in boards are all rigid you don't really need to worry about the possibility that contact will be made in like.. a rolling way. Either the pins are on the board or they're not.

But I'm not an EE, just a hobbyist, so maybe there's something I've missed there and what I'm thinking is way more complicated than I think.

riskable
You don't know if they ESD protection or not. There are loads of tiny little ESD protection ICs/diodes that can handle many inputs. Just put them very close to the connectors and you should be good to go from an ESD perspective. You don't need a metal shield around everything to protect against ESD.

Every USB device connected to your PC right now probably has a little ESD protection IC in it. Usually sitting right next to the USB connector (as close as possible).

philliphaydon
1 person? Man it's an absolutely incredible feat. I'm also blown away, and I want to play around with it. I would love to try and automate parts of the house and such.
renonce
Pockit is just one of the small parts needed to automate parts of your house. All your devices have to cooperate smoothly and this will require a standardized IoT API from manufacturers.
philliphaydon
Sure but you could 3d print parts to automate traditional things and build on top of pockit. That’s what I like.
stavros
That exists, eg Zigbee or Z-Wave. I have Zigbee (it's an open standard) and I love it.

Having the home automation communications be a message queue instead of a general-purpose communication protocol is so much better.

vidarh
And he has a ZigBee module
Lorin
He posted this a day or two ago on Reddit and I echoed the same sentiment. The test suite must be nuts (assuming there is one)!

As solo founder this is really motivational - I hope my upcoming project garners even half the interest once launched! So many hats.

seanw444
Wow. One person. That's insane. This is a really cool project. I just signed up as well. Color me impressed.
jsnodlin
Anil Reddy is an absolute genius.
symstym
But remember, there's no such thing as a 10x engineer! /s
Solder_Man
Hey HN, Solder_Man here. I am the guy behind Pockit. Thrilled to see this modularization effort has the support (and useful criticism) of so many deep thinkers in this thread.

First, a clarification: Since people have brought up the topic of "hard to believe one guy handled all aspects", I want to state that while this is my concept and my project (and I've devoted nearly every waking hour since 2020 to it), I'm no jack of all trades.

In the last two years, for example, I've gotten occasional but much-needed help (and knowledge) from two freelancing developers for some aspects that I don't have expertise with, including Linux intricacies, DMA-based firmware programming, UI design details, and some other subtleties. A more experienced PCB designer (colleague from past) has also helped me, particularly with the recent 6-layer PCB layouts. Plus, an assistant in the past has aided with the soldering of some tightly packed boards.

Last but not least, my SO has contributed graphics + Adobe Premiere effort for my videos; her equally important contribution was being a frequent listener, and sometimes a much-needed boundary, to my evolving thoughts through this project's journey.

As the project evolves to its next phase, I do hope to get more people into primary development of this modular ecosystem, in the form of both team members and eventually custom Block designers from the community, once I organize and release the necessary files + documentation for everyone to work with.

I'm perhaps late to the party, but I'll try to answer as many questions as I can on this thread now, including hopefully the ones posted several hours ago!

neilpanchal
If you need help with getting it manufactured in volume (Molds, DFM, QA, Management), I can help / put you in touch with people that make Teenage Engineering products in Malaysia.

Contact in the HN profile.

lanewinfield
Appreciate the disclosure of other people on it. But, to be honest, even if the 5 additional people you listed were on the project full time, I'd still be impressed. Well done.
SaulJLH
I need this, "I gots to has this!", but... There's only a newsletter, where do we preorder or do a deposit?
fxtentacle
Yeah, I also thought that. Put a "pay $50 to pre-order a prototype" box somewhere. At the very least, it'll give you enough budget to negotiate on eye level with production partners.
allisdust
Are you doing this full time? Or is it a part time adventure.

How are you planning to commercialise this?

Awesome and Inspiring work!

natpalmer1776
Your work is truly inspiring, keep it up!
dillondoyle
I was going to add even the video editing, that swipe edit to remove things from desk was super well done. Amazing all around.
nonrandomstring
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.

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

Sounds cool, but the reality is that in order to get the best efficiency, you often want a purpose-built, specialized design. In the case of electric cars, you need your car to be very light and to have a very integrated design in order to maximize energy efficiency. I'm not sure what you mean by a modular car design, but you definitely can't fit any motors with any battery in any frame, that will just make for a car with terrible performance.

That being said, we should be designing things to maximize lifetime, and we should probably ban certain materials or construction techniques that make recycling difficult. Maybe we need to ban or heavily tax non-recyclable materials. We could also do more to build a legal framework around right to repair.

> 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.

Kids is probably the best use case. As someone who makes things I look at this product and I think it's necessarily going to be more expensive and less flexible compared to alternatives. For kids though, this can be a gateway to make electronics less scary.

> 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.

I agree. We should be strongly promoting (and maybe legally mandating) open, documented standards for everything.

toqy
> I think it's necessarily going to be more expensive and less flexible compared to alternatives

What are the alternatives? Is there something like this I can get my hands on now?

cryptolake
No. The alternative is to buy used! Plenty of computers are available.
snek_case
The alternative is a Raspberry Pi with a USB webcam and sensors you can buy on AliExpress for a few dollars a piece. You can get your hands on that now.
fleetwoodsnack
>to get the best efficiency, you often want a purpose-built, specialized design.

>we should be designing things to maximize lifetime

The duality between these two competing (and defensible) positions is the crux, isn't it?

simion314
> I'm not sure what you mean by a modular car design, but you definitely can't fit any motors with any battery in any frame, that will just make for a car with terrible performance.

Not any in any, but some in some is already possible, some Renault cars share parts for example with Dacia. But other companies tweak their design each yer, they change how the head lights look, shapes change, then some other inside parts shape needs to change so you got people having to redesign, re-test each year new filters and piping/hosing (this is the ones I am familiar with), Other shitty thing that happens is patents, some company gets a patent for some pretty obvious thing, now if you want to make spare parts for those cars you need to work around dose patents - a lot of work and expenses to be able to offer a different choice to the consumer.

The reason the engines and other parts can't be share is design and recently DRM, for sure you won't be able to install unofficial wheels on your fancy car without breaking some DRM protection(but is for your safety /s).

ktpsns
https://pockit.ai/ – for those who prefer text/images instead of video.
FR10
TBH the linked demo video is really good, I was really amazed after each module. I feel the website is a bit empty in comparison.
None
None
Solder_Man
The project has taken so much focus that I haven't had the time nor skill to heavily improve the website's CSS/aesthetics. Or if you mean just the content, any suggestions for what I could consider adding now (besides the existent timeline posts)? I'd love for the site to not feel 'empty'!
noisy_boy
I think one approach to make the website "fuller" would be extract tiny 3-4 second gifs from the video and show them alongside text to immediately surface specific features with minimal interaction - that should be enough to whet people's appetite to make them jump to the video.
matheusmoreira
I prefer text and images but in this case I regret not watching the video sooner. Absolutely amazing demonstration.
freedomben
yeah likewise. I almost never watch the video. If I even start it, if it doesn't get immediately to the point I shut it off.

With this video my jaw kept dropping every couple of minutes.

afarviral
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!
roughly
Also: Toys are cool! Toys are fun! Play with toys more! Not everything has to be Serious Business! Things can be fun!

(This message brought to you by the society for people tired of Jony-Ive-esque bullshit being passed off as the One True Design Paradigm.)

XorNot
The problem with this idea is that it assumes we have to make trade offs: case in point, remember pre-smartphone? I had a PDA which didn't have a camera, didn't have wifi - just a hardwired connection.

Now I have sitting next to me a smartphone which has 5 cameras, GPS, wifi, bluetooth, NFC, 128GB of storage and 4G.

Basically on a mass production scale it is always going to be cheaper just to put every feature in one device and build a billion of them.

EDIT: Which is not to say the system doesn't have some possibilities - at the right price point I'd replace every light switch in my house with a plate of this, and have them remotely control relays so I could remap everything. For task-specific physical applications you might want to remap/customize to taste, there's a lot of potential.

RajT88
What I like about platforms like this is the possibilities they open up for major players to experiment with weird form factors again. Basically the cost of software development, mostly.

I loved some of the insane designs prior to manufacturers deciding that the iPhone form factor was the way forward.

That said, Moto/Google did try something like this once, "Project Ara" which never really went much of anywhere. It led to a few modules being released for the Moto G and that was it. (IIRC)

RajT88
Looked it up. It was the Moto Z line.
scoot
> have them remotely control relays so I could remap everything

No need for relays – you can replace the bulbs with smart lightbulbs that can be controlled via Zigbee. Ikea smart bulbs are high quality and good value.

vidarh
ZigBee is good, but can grt annoying when you have a lot of them, and you have to think about how to make the mesh resilient (my house is a nightmare for signal propagation...). It takes frustratingly long for all of mine to switch off. A Lightwave bridge would be a way to solve that without relays, though. They provide what you need to turn the lights on and off, and you could use Pockit for larger control panels.
h0l0cube
> Basically on a mass production scale it is always going to be cheaper just to put every feature in one device and build a billion of them.

When it comes to physical widgets, there's a limit to how many you could practically have on one device. I think the real value here is that it could be open to market to allow a real diversity of physical augments allowing people to improvise devices that are unlikely to be manufactured into a single form factor, but might be perfect for their niche use case.

vidarh
I'd be inclined to be looking for excuses to put these all over the house.... I don't need them, but I want them just from this video.
snek_case
Why can't the widgets connect to a Raspberry Pi using USB ports? Using plain old USB ports as a connector is a downgrade in terms of aesthetics, but it's a massive upgrade in terms of reusability and versatility. All of a sudden, you can connect your sensors to laptops, PCs and Raspberry Pis alike. You can already get a webcam on eBay for $6. You could design any sensor and actuator to have a USB interface.

Don't get me wrong, like I said, USB devices would look less cute and tidy than the Pockit, and the Pockit is a great achievement, but USB devices truly are more simple and versatile.

vidarh
The aesthetics is an important factor. I'd pay far more for something like Pockit than for a bunch of components hanging off a Pi with no coherent design.
snek_case
You can use a 3D printer to print a case that fits all the components and makes it look however you want. You're also not restricted to having your USB devices be right next to the Pi's board. It's just more flexible.

Another thing to consider is that the connection to the blocks on the Pockit might be fragile. If you push that button/joystick too hard or bump something, it could easily disconnect.

vidarh
I could. That requires me to have a 3D printer and be willing to invest the time in figuring out how to make a case. I don't, and I'm not.

Of course it's going to be more flexible, just like it's more flexible to design your own device from scratch. But I'd trade that flexibility away for more time to do things I actually want to be doing any time, and I'd be willing to pay quite a bit of money to get that kind of flexibility without having to spend as much time on it.

snek_case
I just don't think the tradeoff is worth it. The Pockit will have a relatively small community, and you may be forced to use their software packages to develop for it. It may not be very robust or very versatile. Those are all real downsides, in addition to the higher cost.
vidarh
All of those downsides apply even more if I do something custom for myself. It's worth it to me.
h0l0cube
Low friction. Lowering the entry point at which someone can fashion a device to their needs means you have a much bigger market. Approachability is exactly why iPhone succeeded where stylus driven PDAs failed. Something like Pockit makes custom hardware more approachable to a wider audience. Maybe with Pockit, R-Pi might even have its iPhone-like killer app to take it from a niche/techinical crowd into regular consumers hands?
bee_rider
I kind of would like to call this a toy, but by that I mean -- wow, on top of any other application he can think of, this would be an amazing educational toy for a kid who isn't quite ready for Arduino or Raspberry Pi (or who might never be, not everybody interested in STEM wants to do circuits).
whartung
Honestly, it is a toy.

A very cool toy, a very sophisticated toy, but a toy nonetheless. There were in the past, and I think still today, electronic sets that let you click together modules with magnets to make circuits. It was a very handsy, easy way to play with electronics. But, in the end, that's what it was -- play and exploration.

The beauty of the concept is the easy interchange of the parts and such, and that's it downfall when you desire to render something down in to a "production" item. And by production, I mean something you're going to handle with any frequency. The ease of composability is counter to the hardening necessity for everyday use.

I supposed you could glue the parts together, but by that time whatever you made is now made of rather expensive components. Or they could offer an alternate mechanic to "realize" systems built for the longer term.

Until then, it's a wonderful toy. And that's not a bad thing.

fleetwoodsnack
>And by production, I mean something you're going to handle with any frequency. The ease of composability is counter to the hardening necessity for everyday use.

Let's remind ourselves that this is a highly advanced proof-of-concept. If the issue really is simply the integrity of materials, that can be improved, and should not be considered a long-term limitation of the underlying technology: which is frankly too sophisticated from a design and software perspective to be set aside as a toy.

After all, the difference between a "Fisher-Price" drill and a "De-Walt" drill is the integrity of materials and underlying software. It is arguably a toy aesthetically, but (in accord with your argument) it is a few carbon fiber pieces away from becoming a useful generalized personal computing tool, the same way a drill is a useful generalized power tool.

justinpombrio
Could you be more concrete? I'm not doubting you, but I'm not sure what exactly you're worried about that makes this a toy.

For example: "The ease of composability is counter to the hardening necessity for everyday use." Are you worried that e.g. the knob component will fall off? Unless it's quite loose and this happens all the time, couldn't you just put it back on and that's fine? Or are you worried about the knob breaking?

Also, hot glue is a great intermediate level of being sticky enough for everyday use but not so sticky that you can't get it off if you need to :-).

hnfong
I'm not imaginative enough to come up with actual scenarios, but I think it could plausibly become a "Swiss army knife" of electronics though?
arendtio
To me it feels more like, being the thing for home computing/automation, that the PC was for computing in general. A PC has not a clear single purpose, but is very modular and you have to spent some time to adjust it to your use-cases.

Similarly, the pockit has not that single use-case and you have to spent some time to adjust it to your use-case. However, especially with the Pockit-to-Pockit communication you can build so many cool things.

Maybe a PC is just a toy too, but IMHO it depends on how you use it.

kaishiro
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.

vishkk
Whatever it was — a lie, the truth, or, most likely, their mix­ture — that caused me to make such a decision, I am im­mensely grateful to it for what appears to have been my first free act. It was an instinctive act, a walkout. Reason had very little to do with it. I know that, because I've been walk­ing out ever since, with increasing frequency. And not necessarily on account of boredom or of feeling a trap gaping; I've been walking out of perfect setups no less often than out of dreadful ones. However modest the place you happen to occupy, if it has the slightest mark of decency, you can be sure that someday somebody will walk in and claim it for himself or, what is worse, suggest that you share it. Then you either have to fight for that place or leave it. I happened to prefer the latter. Not at all because I couldn't fight, but rather out of sheer disgust with myself: managing to pick something that attracts others denotes a certain vulgarity in your choice. It doesn't matter at all that you came across the place first. It is even worse to get somewhere first, for those who follow will always have a stronger appetite than your partially satisfied one.

- Joseph Brodsky

papandada
I'm not very well read but this writing seemed extraordinary. Turns out he won a Nobel prize for literature.
vishkk
I have read a poem or two by him before, but never essays. I literally picked this book earlier this week and really liking it -- generally essays are hard for me, but he has kind of clicked for me. If anyone is interested, the excerpt is from an essay titled Less Than One, and the name of the book is also Less Than One, Selected Essays by Joseph Brodsky.
scoot
Meanwhile I have no idea what he's talking about. Perhaps it's lack of context, or perhaps the writing is so "extraordinary" that it is unapproachable to mere mortals.
papandada
There's plenty of "good writers" and "decorated poets" who do absolutely nothing for me. I clicked with this, the world is big enough for everyone and something more to your tastes is out there.
bityard
It's (at least partly) about trying something new and learning to be happy with whatever level of success you achieve rather than envious of or competitive against those who do the same thing but do it better.

At least, that's the way I took it.

marcusverus
In my (blunt) reading, it's an eloquent, abstract way of saying that the author was way into {thing} before it was cool, but then people found out about {thing}, at which point it was no longer hip and new, and so the author was forced to move on (in disgust!). About how it's hard to be a trendsetter, because people who follow are such tryhards!

In other words, it's Hipsterism in fancy prose.

bscphil
I agree with you, but I detect a certain level of irony in

> managing to pick something that attracts others denotes a certain vulgarity in your choice

biztos
I’ve never been accused of hipsterism and the excerpt really hits home for me. Probably for a lot of contrarian nerds, always doing things the hard way because doubt is a signalless virtue and I dunno, that other road already has people on it.

OTOH your summary was hilarious if a bit cynical, and I already like Brodsky so who knows.

hoosieree
It reminded me of the Yogi Berra quote "nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded".
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

beckman466
very first Reddit post about this project from the creator from 2 years ago:

https://www.reddit.com/r/arduino/comments/dj7ilc/so_ive_been...

all posts about this project (around 30):

https://www.reddit.com/user/Solder_Man/posts/

cs702
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?

roughly
If you're asking aspirationally, I agree - I'd prefer a world in which this was what people expected and wanted from their technology. I think the ongoing success of Lego gives me some hope here for a mass market for tinkering.

If you're asking more practically - the success of Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Seeed, and others suggests there's at least potentially a market here sufficient to sustain a moderately sized business for long enough to be worthwhile.

Agree about the demo, too - there's some serious wizardry on display there. I think it's one of the projects that just gets more impressive the more time you've spent trying to do what they're showing off.

Solder_Man
I think @roughly provided a good balance of practicality + optimism in their answer.

My thoughts: Not immediately, but yes, eventually. Humans have an innate willingness and desire to tinker+make things. Those qualities have gone into hibernation due to the vast array of mass-manufactured, off-the-shelf devices in the last decade. But many (have and will) come to realize that the satisfaction ceiling is so much higher when you build something yourself, getting your hands dirty, and looking at the product of your efforts.

Just that reason is enough to give rebirth to the experimental/inventive attitude that pervaded the 20th century. But there's also the fact that a personalized something can allow you to do stuff that a typical consumer product couldn't.

Pockit just aims to enable and accelerate the above realization for hardware, the way that libraries and frameworks have done for the programming world.

rpmisms
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.

TamDenholm
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

erwincoumans
Yes, we had several kits too, including SynthKit (LittleBits with Korg). The magnetic connectors of LittleBits became unreliable after a while, making it frustrating instead of enjoyable. Wish one could fix that properly.
prmoustache
That's the problem with this kind of things. They mostly attract people interested in tech, but those kind of people are usuallt already working in tech. As much as I love those things, the last thing I want when I lock my laptop is start coding and fiddling with electronic devices. I either have to take care of the kids or go for a bicycle ride, spend time with my partner, have a beer or the sea/beach or all of the above and in no particular order. I need so much to be outdoor when I finish my work day I barely find time to make music although I love doing that.

The people who could do that are the people who have time to spend hours watching Netflix series but usually they are the lazy type and not interested in that kind of things.

Unless it is used by a school most of those things end up in drawer not to be used again.

Koshkin
Indeed, people have reported having drawers full of Raspberry Pi’s, never to be touched again.
u2077
Truly impressive. Reminds me of Google’s (failed) attempt at modular devices.

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

moffkalast
Was about to say, yep.

"Oh, look! Here's Ara. Back from the dead. It's a miracle."

jpm_sd
Previously https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26590715
dang
Thanks! Macroexpanded:

Pockit Modular computing demo [video] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26590715 - March 2021 (33 comments)

Project Pockit, a modular ARM computer runnig Linux - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26547377 - March 2021 (15 comments)

kwhitefoot
Reminds me of M5Stack: https://m5stack.com/
jet_32951
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.
throwaway5486nv
you mean for building ciruits? Could you please elaborate. I thought control systems was necessary for physical objects
stormbrew
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.

xondono
> So it seems like it's kind of like low-pin-count ISA-ish bus with direct pin connections to the cpu's pins.

SPI and I2C plus some generic pins. This are the typical interfaces used in microcontrollers.

If I were to build a “bigger” versions of this, I’d avoid PCIe altogether and jump to USB 3.x directly, since it’s a much better fit.

allenu
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”.
vidarh
It's been quite a few years since I was vowed by a hardware demonstration. This is amazing.
kilroy123
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.

drekipus
This is literally a commerical project that will most likely come with a form of lock in (ie: can just anyone make modules?)

Tech is still fun. It might just be that you're getting older.

Arduino and the like are probably the least commercialised and they are ok. But everyone grows out of them.

shabier
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

mothsonasloth
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

dusted
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?
antattack
Learning programming will be much more fun since input and output are more then just keyboard and monitor.
philote
I think it's a good prototyping tool, and also makes it easy to do smaller, temporary projects. For myself, I'd like to set up that motion-sensing camera feature to check when my dog sneaks down into the basement to pee. Or set up a display next to my kids' computers to alert them to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Or set it outside to see when my neighbor's dog (or deer or other wildlife) comes into my yard. You could also use it to track who drives by your house and whether they're speeding. Or set it at your desk at work for a week and track how many times someone interrupts you. Or pull an elaborate April Fool's joke.
duxup
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.

beal
I did a similar thing with the air gradient diy kit. That these are pi based run full Linux and allow changes over time is is really compelling.
rapjr9
Take a look at Seeedstudio's Grove line of modules:

https://www.seeedstudio.com/category/Grove-c-1003.html

jack_riminton
I can't believe this is just one guy. Get him a MacArthur genius grant, quickly
joezydeco
There are loads of embedded systems hackers doing great things by themselves. They just get lost on Hacker News.

Bunnie is probably one exception to that rule, though.

code_scrapping
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.
danShumway
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.

mastax
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...

Taniwha
Yeah I want to know that too - I'm not so much suspicious, he's obviously done something amazing - more I wonder if he really has 12 pcie buses and they are they really wired in a way that they can be hooked up in 4 different orientations? (and what is the signal integrity like?)
izzydata
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.
bityard
The "computer" is not really the interesting part here. In fact, this product seems to exclusively rely on cheap devices that anyone can already buy (current supply chain notwithstanding) linked together by very well-standardized buses.

The magic here is the overall flexibility and modularity of the system taken to a nearly absurd level. Kickstarter is lousy with smaller-scale attempts at what Anil has achieved. But where this really shines is in the software: You plug in some components and the system can automatically figure out what you want to do with them, and configure an application to use them instantly, at least for many simple but common cases.

I really hope that when this is available, it ends up being a largely open ecosystem like the Framework laptop.

bee_rider
He has a TPU tile.

Automagically plugging in more compute would, I guess, require OS or application level support.

squarefoot
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.
idiotsecant
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!
tacticaldev
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.

tomcam
Is there a page that lets you buy things? I couldn’t find one on mobile
copirate
Open sourcing it hasn't been decided yet:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Pockit/comments/plhugs/is_this_proj...

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

severak_cz
It's already done. This is how these "website builders" (e.g. Wix) works - your put different modules onto a template and build your site out of these.

Also Drupal and Wordpress have similar funcionality via plugins.

tjchear
Right, but I wasn't talking about website builders. I'm talking about enabling access to a phone's various sensors and capabilities through a manner similar to Pockit.
punnerud
How would that be different from NodeRed? https://nodered.org/
tjchear
What I have in mind is rather different. Imagine your phone simulating a Pockit experience, except the sensor modules are what your phone already provides (e.g geolocation, gyroscope, accelerometer, etc), the I/O are simulated buttons/sliders and screens.

That's what I'm thinking.

orbifold
That is a cool idea :)
XCSme
This is what Web Components[0] was supposed to be, but it didn't really take off.

[0]: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/Web_Components

rileyphone
For a more recent development, https://blockprotocol.org/
tjchear
Far as I understand, web components are used to build websites / web apps. I was talking about how a phone carries a suite of sensors and various capabilities that we can make accessible in a manner similar to Pockit.
XCSme
Oh, I misunderstood your comment then "can we do something similar for Web APIs?", I thought you were referring to a similar way to build web apps.
allisdust
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.
moonlighter
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!
davesque
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.
hemloc_io
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

th0ma5
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.
goodpoint
The magnetic connectors is what makes it an expensive toy. The pluggable grid layout is nice but it could be achieved with a daughter board with pins sitting on top of any cheap SBC.
jsmcgd
I think a lego compatible version could be popular.
rpmisms
It would be trivial to modify the design to allow some form of locking blocks in place, whether through a sliding tile system, a lever lock, or a pin design. You could even do it yourself with 3d printing. Really depends if there's a professional environment that could use something like this. Maybe a lab or machine shop?
ajsnigrutin
Yep, looks great as a toy, but seems not-that-ok for any serious use, because for static setups, all the alternatives are a lot cheaper, because they don't have to be modular (eg. touchscreen display for controlling home automation).

But I like the concept for areas such as schools etc., because it makes it possible to try a bunch of different things very fast.

unfocussed_mike
Yeah. Fairly obvious applications in teaching/education devices. Though I think it should be noted that a lot of what schools want to teach with devices like this is precisely the pin connections and circuits this thing elides.

But I am not sure about the rest.

And what you don't see in demos like this are the practical limitations that the demo avoids. I didn't watch all the way to the end but I had questions about how the device communicates its limitations and handles situations where, for example, it cannot supply enough power.

XorNot
I feel like the power of this could be in something like building industrial control panels quickly? Being able to rapidly setup control boards, and equally rapidly configure them into something else would have a lot of utility in that application.

EDIT: Though that does make a key weakness the fact that there doesn't appear to be any provisioning for locking down the blocks more aggressively to the board.

nsb1
I don't know that I'd go so far as to call it a toy, but I do think that this device is more likely to be used in education or prototyping than anything else - which is still great! Just having a platform that will autoconfigure the array of devices that he's demonstrated is amazing. Being able to snap on two cameras and a TPU and have everything 'just work' so you can focus on your vision processing software is incredible.

I'm betting that it will be cost-prohibitive to have this device as a permanent fixture for any one application outside outside of the sorts of things an rPi4 already does (Home Assistant server, etc). I don't think anyone is going to use it to control an LED with a slider, but for prototyping that sort of thing it has endless possibilities.

Hats off to Anil for the huge amount of work he put into this project.

Tade0
As a third generation hoarder I have to say that the number one thing preventing me from doing projects such as home automation is that since I struggle with throwing stuff out, failed/deprecated devices would just pile up and I don't want that.
vidarh
The alternatives may be cheaper if you can find one that does what you want. But in terms of the ability to quickly throw something together where existing stuff doesn't quite do what you want or is locked down, it looks amazing.

In terms of "serious use" I think that depends on what you mean by "serious". E.g. my hone automation setup is not static, because I keep finding new little things I want to tweak, and often the ready-made solution lack options I'd like to have unless I'm willing to spend time tracking down very specific modules. My time is valuable to me - I'd happily pay extra for a modular system where I know if something is lacking a button for something I want I can literally just plug one in instead of having to search all over for a different model of something.

Of course this will not replace mass market "close enough" solutions.

But I think there are still more than enough people who want to tinker but don't want to have to whip out a soldering iron.

ajsnigrutin
You can always get the same components that this kit uses, solder them together and do it cheaper. Want a dimmer for your smart lights? esp8266 + one of many potentiometers available + maybe an adc if you need more than one. You'll never use this whole kit just for one potentiometer, with the rest of the components in a drawer somewhere, because this would make it too expensive. Cramming multiple modules just not to "waste" them, makes you build a tool around what you have, instead of using just what you really need.
vidarh
Yes, you can, but I have no interest in building my own. I don't need these things badly enough to be willing to invest much time in it.

Things like a single dimmer etc. is not the problem, because for simple stuff like that there are plenty of off the shelf options.

The issue is anything that deviates from what manufacturers expect. And yes, I'd be happy to use a lot like that for that even at a quite high cost because the existing options to do it cleanly without a self build are also expensive.

mib32
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?
Koshkin
Does not seem possible if you have a family (young kids, especially).
corobo
What do you do outside of the 40 hour job?
Koshkin
Spending the money earned, too, takes time.
mib32
Like, eating, walking out, talking with wife, reading something, playing xbox occasionally - like the things that I wanna keep even if I do the side project.
criddell
You would have to take the time from those things.
lostmsu
Also from job too. Many software shops look at the result, rather than the time spent. Might need to shuffle hours in some jurisdictions though.
neurocat123
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.

bbayer
Such modular design is tricky. Some parts require close distance to specific components like clocks. OP did a good job by solving such problems.
dt3ft
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.
FpUser
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.

space_rock
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
ibejoeb
That would be excellent. A little box that I can plug in with one wire and be done.

Alternatively, I'd like a software product that makes it a snap to run programs on cloud provider but bridged/tunneled as if they were running on my local lan. I want it to support multicast dns and all of that stuff for things like sonos, zigby, chromecast, airplay, etc.

erulabs
This is extremely close to what we're building at https://pibox.io if you're interested - although after some polls we decided to drop PoE on our first model. Just improved the mDNS support last night!
saulrh
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!
vivegi
This is a great design and I absolutely love it. How does one build apps / custom behaviors for the hardware components?
arendtio
> 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.

motohagiography
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.
xondono
> When you struggle to think of what can't be composed in this architecture

Anything requiring low latency or high-throughput will probably struggle here.

throwaway5486nv
Does each block require separate power source or the power comes from the core block(base)?
marcodiego
Looks like Project Ara done right.
beckman466
this reminded me of Dave Hakkens and his Phonebloks concept video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDAw7vW7H0c
RTFM_PLEASE
Yeah, the first 10 seconds of the Pockit video immediately sent me back nearly 10 years to Phonebloks.

Some follow up:

Typical, fairly sensationalist piece on Google's Project Ara - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQqudiUdGuo

and then, Phonebloks, 5 years later - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wwrIpv38nE

mindfulplay
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!
Koshkin
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!
ehnto
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.
nl
Please do a Kickstarter. I want to put money into this now.
debdut
True example what an individual can achieve! Blown away
account_created
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.

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

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

gentle
This is so great. It reminds me of what BugLabs was doing about ten years ago, but this is honestly better.
baalimago
I have no idea what the usecase is, but it's incredibly impressive from a technical standpoint
baalimago
I'm much more interested in the person than in the product, in this particular case
breadchris
checks calendar to see if this is an april fools joke nope, this is just amazing
noneeeed
It's like a grown-up version of the Little Bits kits. How very impressive.
ideology228
This is one of the coolest thing I have seen in a long time.. awesome work
hathym
very nice project, it reminds me of the LG G5 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4GZQyJMoyo)
bodge5000
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)
huachimingo
Already spreading the video through "contacts" ;)

What an amazing design.

ibejoeb
Love the physical switches and controls. This is like VB but IRL.
wnolens
What a beautiful labour of love. Thank you, I'm inspired.
mrfinn
Lego meets Arduino. Loved every second of the demonstration.
Venkatesh10
Looks good. But how will it perform over the years to come?
vanderZwan
Arguably it would be better than current solutions because you can upgrade the modules that need upgrading while keeping the stuff that works, instead of throwing out everything and starting over.
izzydata
Unless you want it to have a better computer. The computer doesn't seem modular to me. You can't quickly add additional or better memory. You can't replace the processor with a better one. The computer itself is a single entity that in many ways is less modular than a traditional desktop computer.

Wouldn't a desktop with 100 USB ports be a modular computer in the same sense as this thing?

vanderZwan
It's a 25 dollar Raspberry Pi, not a 1000 dollar desktop.
xondono
So you are arguing this is better because you don’t have to throw it all together but then arguing throwing everything is not that bad?

At least USB has and will be supported for years. The next revision will likely be incompatible with this limited cross connector (which I admit is cool nonetheless).

vanderZwan
No, I'm saying the modularity has limits that are defined by the use-cases this is designed for. Which seems to be smart-home applications and/or quick prototyping. A 25 dollar compute module seems like a perfectly sensible compromise to me in that context.

If you need the modularity and power of a desktop computer so you can install a boat-load of RAM or upgrade the video card, get a desktop computer.

izzydata
My point was questioning the definition of a modular computer. Can it be a modular computer if the computer is not modular?
netspider
I would like to know the person behind this project?
tomlin
This is the stuff of future design. I love it.
adrianthedev
Wow. This is like a low-code arduino. Amazing!
wnolens
yes, cool way to think of it: low/no-code hardware.
therein
Amazing demo. Simply floored.
aqibgatoo
Wohoo! I am blown away!
matlo
Really impressive work
pjmlp
Quite impressive demo.
throwaway5486nv
This is mind blowing
morelish
some big company ought to buy him out right now...
BirAdam
I thought the same thing, but then I had a reality check. If this gets bought by a tech company it will likely be ruined or killed off, or first ruined and then killed off.
RTFM_PLEASE
"Been there, done that." - Google

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wwrIpv38nE

rapjr9
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.

syassami
Wow.
gswdh
None
lloydatkinson
I'm sure this will be killed off just like the CHIP computer
Uptrenda
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!

babagabooj
This comes across a paid promotion on HN...
Maraguy
Don't see any problem with that, if true or not. This a pretty amazing project with huge potential.
NhanH
Even self promotion (Show HN) is allow on HN, given that it satisfies the main criteria of the website
hasmatteam
Felt the same way. It's been a while since I've felt this way about any technology. Feels good!
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