Many wonderful things can be and have been said about the Raspberry Pi — it's adroitness as a programming learning tool, its remarkably low cost-of-entry, the strong and varied community that has developed around it, the user creativity it inspires, its oh-so-oh-so-cool factor — but one thing never said is that it provides a clean, well-contained user computing experience. That's because, well, it doesn't.
The truth is that the typical Raspberry Pi system is precisely the opposite, presenting as a chaotic jumble of cables, cords, wires, USB hubs, peripheral devices, and various power supplies. It is still marvelously useful, though, and provides a ton of techy fun for boys and girls and adults alike, provided all of the pieces are rightly connected at the same time and nobody...touches...anything.
Enter the tragically-named PiKasa*, a RaspBerry Pi housing kit that promises to turn your tiny credit-card computer into a standalone and portable, underpowered laptop-ish device for just $75-$99 (the price depending on whether you opt to jump aboard the PiKasa Indiegogo project in the hopes it gets funded by April 15th, or wait instead for full-tilt production). And for your money you get an ABS plastic shell with a small footprint (roughly the size of an A5 booklet) that you can plug your Raspberry Pi into, which includes everything needed to transform it into a fully operational computer system, including:
- 7-inch 800 x 480 resolution LCD panel
- HDMI interface circuitry to drive the LCD
- built-in keyboard with splash-proof silicon rubber keymat overlay and 4 hotkeys aligned to the screen
- audio amplifier
- power supply
- Five (5) USB ports
- Ethernet port
- 2-volt DC power converter
- Li-ion battery charger
- carrier bracket to hold your Raspberry Pi in place
Naturally, a PiKasa-housed Raspberry Pi is never going to compete with the Apple MacBooks, Dell XPS 13s, or Microsoft Surfaces of the world (or even the new super-low-priced Chromebooks announced this week for that matter, considering the total cost with Raspberry Pi and battery and $25 shipping included comes in at $150-$175). In fact, you cannot even close the lid on a fully assembled PiKasa-RPi system, as with a standard laptop. No, but what the PiKasa will do is allow you to more easily employ a Raspberry Pi (Type 1 and Type 2, and all versions of same, are supported). And it could hardly be easier to do so, as users need only connect their Pi to the carrier board inside the PiKasa housing, refit the back panel, and turn on the device via the integrated power switch to get the system going, ready to run whichever applications are loaded on the RPi's SD card.
“Imagine your Raspberry Pi almost as an appliance, standing on a desktop or counter. It’s beautiful and neat in white and grey with a brilliant 7” (800 x 480) HDMI LCD display angled perfectly for viewing.” says Ian Harrison, CEO of The Content Company (the South African company behind the PiKasa project). “It’s your energy monitor or your home automation system, your internet of things manager or your ZX Spectrum, your media player or games console, the instant messaging device that you give to your parents, or your weather station, or pretty much everything else that a Pi can be. And now on top of it – it’s really nicely packaged too.”
* PiKasa = Pi, plus Kasa, for Casa, meaning 'house' (which is quite the cute moniker, but is also one that is sure to bump up against Google's ubiquitous Picasa software...and lose).