Ask Hackaday: Why Make Modular Hardware?

Ask Hackaday: Why Make Modular Hardware?

In the movies, everything is modular. Some big gun fell off the spaceship when it crashed? Good thing you can just pick it up and fire it as-is (looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy 2). Hyperdrive dead? No problem, because in the Star Wars universe you can just drop a new one in and be on your way.

Of course, things just aren’t that simple in the real world. Most systems, be they spaceships or cell phones, are enormously complicated and contain hundreds or thousands of interconnected parts. If the camera in my Samsung phone breaks, I can’t exactly steal the one from my girlfriend’s iPhone. They’re simply not interchangeable because the systems were designed differently. Even if we had the same phone and the cameras were interchangeable, they wouldn’t be easy to swap. We’d have to crack open the phones and carefully perform the switch. Speaking of switches, the Nintendo Switch is a good counterexample here. Joycon break? Just buy a new one and pop it on.

What if more products were like the Nintendo Switch? Is its modularity just the tip of the iceberg?

PocKit-Sized Modularity

The PocKit project tackles this question by diving whole-hog into modularity. This impressive platform consists of a central “brain” block that contains an ESP32 and an STM32, as well as ~24 other blocks that can just snap onto it. These blocks include a screen, a keyboard, a speaker, and a wide variety of sensors and other neat bits. The brain module even has a DDR connector that lets you throw a Raspberry Pi Compute Module into the mix for greater ..

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