Tessel: hardware that speaks the language of the web.
Use your web development skills to make hardware devices with Tessel.
Tessel is optimized for the creation of new experiences and internet-connected devices. That’s why Tessel features built in WiFi support and “plug and play” modules that can be installed with one line to the Node package manager (npm). By enabling rapid prototyping and iteration, Tessel gives hardware development the speed and flexibility of web development.
If our campaign reaches its goal, we’ll begin building out Tessel's ecosystem with processes to take a Tesselation from prototype to a beta-testable device, and first-party services for aggregating usage data, firmware deployment and management, and enterprise-class security.
Extend Your Skills to the Physical World
We know innovation doesn’t come from managing drivers and configuration, but from how fast you can develop new experiences. We built Tessel around Node.js’s huge and growing community of modules, so support for web APIs and services; realtime communication; and robotics comes right out of the box.
Tessel’s custom runtime is optimized for low level chips. It only takes up 256k of flash and RAM, so you’re free to push the limits of Tessel’s 32MB for whatever project you dream up.
Add Capabilities Faster Than Ever Before
Tessel’s module system makes it easy to add capabilities to any project without soldering. Just like Node’s module system, each Tessel module encapsulates a specific functionality that can be added to the board, such as RFID, microSD, or a servo.
Simply plug one of our modules into any of the four module ports on the board, then use the node package manager to install the matching library—which is printed right on the module. Check out this video for an example of how easy installing a module can be.
We have two tiers of modules for this crowdfunding campaign, Class A and Class B. Although these are all of the modules we’re currently releasing, more are in development!
Class A modules:
- Relay — turn devices on and off (up to 5 amps)
- Temperature/Humidity sensor — get information about the climate
- Servo Driver – make up to 16 little motors move. Includes one servo. (Additional power supply included for US backers)
- Accelerometer — get realtime movement data
- MicroSD Storage — add extra storage to your Tessel (includes a 1GB microSD card)
- Ambient - light and sound sensor
- nRF24 - wireless communication without WiFi
Class B modules:
- RFID (13.56MHz) — read RFID tags
- Bluetooth Low Energy — send data to other devices, i.e. smartphones
- GPS — get location information
- Audio Output — decode and output sound files / raw audio
- GPRS/SIM (add a SIM card to connect Tessel to the cell network. Low-bandwidth SMS/Voice/Internet for global connectivity without WiFi)
If you want a bit more extensibility to play with other peripherals, we’ve placed a GPIO bank at the end of the board. The GPIO bank includes SPI, I2C, and UART capability as well as 6 General Purpose Input/Output pins, 6 Analog to Digital Converters, a 5V pin, a 3.3V pin, and a ground pin: everything you need to plug in your custom sensors and actuators.
Program over WiFi
Modern smart devices are internet connected—that’s why WiFi is baked into Tessel.
The days of disassembling projects to reprogram them are over: with Tessel, you can push code completely wirelessly, with just a single command.
Tessel features Texas Instruments’ CC3000 WiFi chip which introduces SmartConfig technology: a way to connect your local Tessel device to a WiFi network in seconds simply by entering your network credentials into your smartphone.
Using the WiFi chip to send and retrieve data from the web will feel familiar to any web developer. Connecting to a server with Tessel is dead easy, and has exactly the same workflow as Node.js:
Remotely Control Tessel through our Mobile Application
We’re providing a mobile application for both Android and iOS to let you control Tessel devices wirelessly. The app will let you connect a Tessel to any wireless network, without needing to hardcode credentials onto your device. From there, manipulate local devices by directly controlling their pins and output, or even serve up your own HTML interface directly from the device!
Tessel was made to be embedded in projects, which is why it’s smaller than a credit card. It doesn’t have a microprocessor; it uses an extremely low-energy ARM Cortex-M microcontroller, which means it uses much less battery power. In tests without software power management and a high frequency of wireless transmission, Tessel used 175mAH. That means Tessel will be able to run for a full day with a 3500mAH, 3.7V LiPo battery even when polling WiFi constantly. When smartly controlling when your CPU runs, expect to run Tessel even longer.
Tessel can be powered off of a standard USB battery supply. If you really want to use a standard LiPo connector, let us know and we’ll see what we can do. Tessel modules can also be extended past the core Tessel unit with ribbon cables. We’re working on finding a manufacturer of ribbons cables specifically for Tessel modules and we will let you know as soon as they’re available.
Scale Your Project with Tessel
Tessel was created with the future in mind. We know that our users are an innovative and entrepreneurial crowd. That’s why we’re creating a beta test program where you can take your project to the next level when people start expressing interest in your devices.
We’ll let you upload your code and list of modules, and we’ll send you back a batch of 10–100 assembled Tesselations with your firmware preloaded. You can hand out these betas to potential users. We’re going to start working on libraries to gather aggregate usage data, automated crash reports, and update firmware wirelessly so that for the first time ever, hardware can be beta tested—just like you would with a website.
If you already have validation and are ready to launch a full production run, we’re working hard to ensure our firmware is as efficient and flexible as software. Contact us if you’re interested in seeing Tessel’s firmware and runtime run on your device or chipset.
- 180mHz ARM Cortex-M3 LPC1830
- 32MB SDRAM
- 32MB Flash
- TI CC3000 Wifi Radio
- Up to 18 GPIOs
- 6 ADCs
- Micro USB or battery power
- 40mm x 65mm (without headers)
- 3.48V-6V supply Voltage
- Can be programmed and powered with USB Micro (included)
Technical Machine was founded by three computer engineers from Olin College of Engineering: Tim Ryan, Jia Huang, and Jon McKay. During their time at college, they worked on coilguns, IMDB clones, custom OSes, and GPUs embedded on FPGAs, just to name a few. Tim and Jia have co-taught a 30-person class in Node.js and web development, and all three worked together on their senior capstone project making web-enabled physical devices.
It was during this project that they discovered how much the hardware prototyping space could benefit from a strong software community and environment. They got to work on making a microcontroller for web developers from the ground up. Eric joined the team to help make the board as inexpensive and small as possible. Kelsey soon followed, and she makes sure the team doesn’t overlook small details like paying taxes or having a marketing plan.
Talk to us!
We love to hear your project plans and aspirations for Tessel. Reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or email.
We’d like to give a special thanks to some fantastic folks that helped us go from a vague, inkling of an idea to launching with Tessel: Michael and Josh Maloney, Drew Volpe, the Phyre team, the Skillbridge team, Amon Millner, Scott Harris, The Marra-Thomson brothers, Margaret-Ann Seger, Paul Booth, Shane Moon, Peter X. Deng, Sean Dalton and the team at Highland Capital Partners, DC Denison, our friends at Rough Draft Ventures, Tim Raymond, Cypress Frankenfeld, Shilei Zheng, Kendall Pletcher, Ben Kroop, Aaron Greenberg, Iñigo Beitia, Cory Dolphin, Slater Victoroff, Juliana Nazaré, Adam Hyland, all of our friends at One Mighty Roar, Dragon Innovation (except Thos), and, most importantly, our moms (and dads), and probably Mark Chang.