Chip Pro is a $16 computer empowering makers to build IoT gadgets

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Say you want to create the next generation of voice recognition-enabled, AI-ensmartened, buzzword-laden gadget. The fist thing you need to do is pick a platform. Arduino isn’t powerful enough. The Raspberry Pi works great for prototyping, but going from Pi to production is a many-step process. Next Thing‘s Chip Pro is stepping up to fill the gap with a smart development kit for IoT creators.

The heart and brains of the operation is a Chip Pro, which is easily machine-placeable into a larger circuit board for mass production.

The dev kit is a clever combination of just the core chip needed to build your applications, and a slighty bigger development board that enables all the features of the chip. The idea is that you use the development board (which includes an USB host port, power controllers, battery and mains power sockets, an audio jack, a couple of microphones, servo controllers, LEDs, and more) to quickly prototype and build a version of the product. Once you have a working product, you can take the chip off the debug board and start building your own products from there.

An example projects built on the Chip Pro is the Trntbl internet-enabled record player, which now is available for pre-order for $425. It’s a normal record player, except the team added some IoT magic: It’s possible to stream your turntablist magic straight to Spotify for the world to enjoy. Useful? Who knows. Awesome? Hell yes.

“The gadget renaissance is happening right now, stemming from the creativity we’ve seen from our community’s projects over the past year,” says Dave Rauchwerk, CEO and co-founder of Next Thing Co. The community he is referring to is the 60,000 people who have already been working with the company’s previous product, the $9 Chip. “I am very excited to see all the things people are building with our products. We have people inventing hit gadgets, including
smart home devices, robots, AI powered audio, children’s toys and in-car infotainment systems.”

When placed into the dev board, rapidly prototyping becomes much easier.

The real magic with Chip Pro is that it’s a predictable constant. The company sources the 100 or so components that make up a Chip Pro, before assembling and testing it, taking a huge chunk out of the supply chain challenge for makers. The company has a pretty simple pricing, too: $16 per unit. It doesn’t matter if you order one or a million; the cost is $16. As someone who’s built electronics for mass manufacture in the past, let me just say this: I wish this thing had been around when I did. It would have made mass manufacturing a whole lot easier.

The company started in 2013 with a Kickstarted, hackable GIF camera called OTTO. The team ran into some interesting challenges along the way, and it made the company realize that there would be a market for a simple, low-cost computer platform for makers to use. That, too, received a warm welcome on Kickstarter, raising more than $2m from almost 40,000 backers.

I can’t wait to see what impact the current generation of Chip Pro will have on the next generation of gadget inventors.

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