Highly-Modular Handheld Gadget Project PocKit Gets a Major Upgrade, Courtesy of a Raspberry Pi CM4

Impressive upgrade offers a dual-processor design with an STM32 for real-time work and a Raspberry Pi CM4 for a full Linux stack.

Project PocKit has released a new demo, showcasing a revised prototype which offers support for running Linux atop a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 system-on-module — and which retains the incredible magnetic modular grid for its peripherals and accessories.

Last seen a year ago, the PocKit project was envisioned as a microcontroller platform with a difference: The central unit housed a grid of magnetic contact points onto which a range of accessories, from displays to buttons and LEDs, could be dropped — and immediately be detected and available for use.

The project was impressive enough as-was, but its latest incarnation goes considerably further. The renewed PocKit prototype retains the Arduino-compatible STMicro STM32 microcontroller of the original design, but now also offers Linux compatibility through the inclusion of a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4.

The latest Project PocKit design packs a Raspberry Pi CM4 for a full Linux desktop experience. (📹: Project PocKit)

"So when plugged in," its pseudonymous creator Solder_Man explains, "this allows a co-processor situation. The STM32+Arduino firmware handles most of the normal Blocks. And the Broadcom (ARM Cortex-A53) CPU allows running Linux (a bunch of Python scripts on it specifically) to manage everything, and enable much heavier computation."

The project hasn't lost its modularity, either: The upper surface of the new PocKit prototype includes the same pop-anything-anywhere modularity of the original design, for the vast majority of components - dubbed Blocks. "Since the earliest days of the project, an important goal has been freedom of placement, to maximize arrangement freedom," Solder_Man says.

The project was originally designed for microcontroller projects, but its latest upgrade offers a full Linux desktop. (📹: Project PocKit)

"So far, after a lot of layout permutations and number-crunching, I've been able to achieve the goal for a majority of Blocks. The exception is ultra-high-speed ones like HDMI, whose signals are more vulnerable in a very dense board (due to crosstalk/capacitive coupling). The full-video shows how crazy the PCB layout gets as it is, even with 6 layers. So, for now, I'm happy with free-placement for 90% of the Blocks, until I can tolerate the fabrication-delay (and cost) of an 8-layer PCB."

More information on the project is available on the official website; no pricing or availability for a commercial version has yet been discussed.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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