Users can connect via a built-in composite output or with a VGA or HDMI adapter. According to Gizmag’s Heidi Hoopes, “If you can use a GUI Linux interface (Debian-based), then you can use the pre-installed applications, add peripherals, play games, and compute in a manner you’re used to.”
Smaller than a credit card, CHIP is the creation of Next Thing Co., which is based in Oakland, California, and was started by friends Dave Rauchwerk, Gustavo Huber, and Thomas Deckert. The group raised more than $2 million from over 39,500 backers through a May Kickstarter campaign, far exceeding its initial $50,000 goal.
“If you’re wondering how CHIP could be this inexpensive, you can thank cheap Chinese tablets,” said David Scheltema of Make:. “The system on chip (SoC) used in the development board is based on an A13 processor by Allwinner, a Shenzhen-based semiconductor company. As recently as 2013, Allwinner was the second-largest tablet manufacturer in the world, and the A13 was the most successful processor in Allwinner’s lineup.”
CHIP comes preinstalled with dozens of applications, tools, and games. The Chromium browser makes Web surfing possible. LibreOffice can be used to create word documents and presentations and also edit spreadsheets. Scratch is a free basic programming language that allows users to create interactive stories, games, and animations. In addition, CHIP can run thousands of free applications from the open source community. Several tutorials are available on topics that include powering on the device, flashing the board, and setting up Bluetooth.
PocketCHIP, a much anticipated peripheral, is a moulded case containing a 4.3-inch touchscreen, keyboard, and five-hour battery that makes CHIP portable and also resemble an original-style Nintendo Game Boy. Priced at $49 (plus shipping), PocketCHIP is expected to launch in May 2016.
“Alpha” CHIPs, targeted at enthusiast hackers — Kickstarter backers who pledged at the “kernal hacker” reward level — have already started shipping. According to a July Make: article, “Releasing the boards to developers allows for any potential operating system level issues that might arise on a new board to get sorted out before the majority of backers even get CHIP.”
The company is currently focused on fulfilling orders from the Kickstarter campaign, but the system is expected to be available for direct purchase at a later date; the venture’s site says June 2016.
CHIP joins another Kickstarter offering from Next Thing — OTTO, a customisable “hackable GIF” camera powered by Raspberry Pi, was introduced in May 2014 and has a starting price of $199. It is able to synchronise with the owner’s smartphone using a companion iPhone app. The camera’s built-in modes, including GIF capture, time-lapse, and photo booth filters, are provided with detailed settings that can be adjusted from the app. User-generated modes are also available in a community library, and changes are automatically synced to OTTO.