Tingbot Wants To Embody Your Pi Projects

Another U.K.-based team is gunning to build a business out of simplifying using the Raspberry Pi single board computer. (Let’s call it ‘slicing the Pi’…) Following on from the likes of Kano, design and technology studio Nord has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to fund a Pi hardware add-on, plus simplifying software platform built atop the Pi’s Raspbian OS.

The device-in-the-making is called Tingbot. It’s designed to embody Pi apps in a neat form factor that can sit on your desk or bedside table, with a built-in touchscreen and programmable buttons enabling the user to view and interact with Tingbot Pi apps (without having to first faff around combining Pi hardware with a display accessory or other hardware themselves). The Tingbot hardware will come in kit form but again, super simplified so you don’t need any special skills to assemble it.

And because the Tingbot is always on, so is whatever app you’re running on the screen. “We like the idea of glanceable experiences, in finding calmer ways to bring meaningful information into our lives,” explains Nord on its crowdfunding page.

Unlike Kano, Tingbot is not being targeted at kids. Rather the team is making a general pitch for creative technologists who like the idea of tinkering with or getting more out of the Pi but have perhaps been frustrated by how tricky it can be to use.

The Pi Foundation intentionally designed the Pi to be a bit difficult, rather than creating a really simple plug-and-play device. Intentional because they wanted kids to learn about coding and calculated that a degree of difficulty and challenge was necessary to get children engaged and learning about computing.

But that design decision has had the side-effect of spinning up a cottage industry of Pi simplifying add-ons that aim to turn the platform into something a bit more plug and play. We’ve seen Pi-powered console kits before, for instance. And even an entire Pi-powered laptop. Tingbot is aimed more generally at app developers and/or app users, but again it’s all about making it easier to get something out of Pi.

The team suggests Tingbot could be used to display a video live feed of a particular place, or for weather notifications. Or to show the next buses arriving at your local stop. Apps for Tingbot will be written in Python. And the team is building a simplified dev environment (called Tide) plus libraries to make it easier for people to build software for the Tingbot.

The plan, should the device make it to market, is also to have an app store where users can ultimately share their own apps and discover whatever others have built.

Nord is looking to raise £40,000 in crowdfunds to finish development work and get the Tingbot to market, with a slated delivery schedule of May 2016. At the time of writing they have less than £5,000 of their funding goal left to be pledged so it’s looking likely the Kickstarter will succeed.

Whether that turns into a successfully shipping product is of course another matter. Hardware projects have an especially bad record for delays and failed delivery — so it’s always a case of buyer beware when you’re thinking about pledging money to pre-order any crowdfunded gizmo.

If you’re comfortable to take the risk, the Tingbot is currently priced at £50 ($75) to Kickstarter backers.