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13 Jul 2017, 13:16

The Latest Topping For Your Raspberry Pi

What do bright-green low-cost educational computers, flappy birds, snakes and Amazon Alexa services have in common? Well, they all come together in the latest release from pi-top, called the pi-top Pulse.

Meet Pi-Top Pulse

This little (67mm x 60.5mm) white rectangle can be used as a HAT on your existing Raspberry Pi 3 (using the included mounting kit) or slotted straight into a pi-top laptop or pi-top CEED and packs in a whole stack of goodies:

  • 7x7 programmable RGB LED Matrix
    • Fully configurable and easy to program: use Python example games like Flappy birds and Snake or make your own patterns and pictures
    • High refresh-rate allow animations to synchronise to incoming sounds
  • 7 other ambient lighting LEDs are concealed around the board
    • 3 on the bottom and 4 under the speaker grill
  • 2W, 4Ω high-quality speaker with I2S amplifier
    • Listen to music or other recorded sounds
    • Use Sonic pi to code music or develop your own game sounds
  • 200Hz – 11kHz Automatic Gain Control (AGC) microphone
    • Integrate with Amazon Alexa services, for fully interactive ’smart’ cloud-based voice apps.

All of this functionality is supported by worksheets in pi-topCODER to teach users how to get all of it working using Python as part of a built-in, worksheet-based programming course. So not only do you get incredible functionality, you have a fast track to using it like a pro!


Out of the box, it looks like this:


Getting Started with the Pulse

Getting going on a pi-top system is pretty easy for anyone familiar with Raspberry Pi:

  1. Download the latest pi-topOS image from the pi-top site, extract it from the zip file and flash it to a microSD card.
  2. Put the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi in your pi-top or pi-top CEED and turn on the power.
  3. Go through the configuration walkthrough (to set up your keyboard and timezone etc.)
  4. Put your Pulse onto the magnetic rail, line up with the connector on the pi-top’s hub and slide the Pulse into place:
  5. Once the I2S software has identified the presence of the Pulse, you will be prompted to reboot.
  6. Once you have rebooted, you are set to go!

Begin Your Pulse Adventures

From the pi-topDASHBOARD, which is the overlay you are presented with first thing after booting, you can launch pi-topCODER. Once inside pi-topCODER, if you hit the [Search All] button, you will see a list of all the worksheets available, which will include various worksheets for the Pulse module. These will appear in the centre column.

To get the most out of these worksheets you should click on the [Log In] button at the top left and then hit [Create Account] to set yourself up with a pi-top account. This will allow you to track your stats and progress through the Python worksheets. You will also need to map your Amazon account to this account if you want to make use of all those great Alexa services. Once done you can ask Alexa questions to your heart’s content!


The pi-top Pulse is probably the most fun item to hit the Raspberry Pi universe since the pi-top itself. It is a great way to not only get Alexa, but to learn how to build cloud applications for yourself. You can get your own Pulse, exclusively from RS Components.

Mark completed his Electronic Engineering degree in 1991 and went on to work in real-time digital signal processing applications engineering, later moving into technical marketing.

13 Jul 2017, 13:16