4.4 – Hardware Improvements and Ideas

I will not touch that PCB design anymore. It works and that’s good. Enclosure improvements are okay.

One could easily hook up an RFID reader to an ESP32, add a battery and speak to the Alexa or Sonos API in order to play a song as soon as a specific tag has been recognized. But that’s not what I had in mind when designing the toy. It was always supposed to be some kind of self-contained device. That means, I would not sacrifice the speaker setup in favor of a bluetooth only solution. We’d trade a little space for a more complex setup and that’s something I don’t like. The device should work all by itself.

But just like the software, the hardware is not completed. It can always be optimized. Here are few ideas I have in mind:

  • I added two general purpose connectors on the PCB. They both consist of +5V, +3.3V, GND and 5 unused GPIO pins. It would be nice, if the enclosure had appropriate connectors, too. I ordered two 8 pin GX16 aviation plugs which should work out. The box has enough space left to include these on one of the shorter sites.

  • The Raspberry Pi’s USB connector is not available from the outside. I find that inconvenient as it would allow us to plug in USB thumb drives and synchronize files or use keyboards, mice and all the USB devices you have at home. It’s a micro USB port and wouldn’t impact the outer appearance in a negative way.
  • The same is true for an external audio jack. In rare occasions I don’t like the kid’s music around me, so I would like to just give her the headphones and have a little quite time.
  • My kids and their friends like to hear their own voices. A simple microphone and an adequate software improvement could extend the functionality and fun of Marta.
  • The Raspberry Pi already contains a Bluetooth adapter. It is unused which is really unfortunate. That interface could connect to a smartphone, game controller, another loudspeaker, quiz buzzers and so much more.
  • To push alliterations even further, I would really like to see a Micro Marta Musik Maschine. The same PCB would be employed in a much smaller enclosure. Maybe 4 AA batteries could go under the board, a few LEDs around it, a little speaker and a few tiny colorful push buttons. The RFID reader on top and we’d have a cute and little cube which is ultra portable and would still offer all of the loved functionality.