Make a Wi-Fi gadget with a $9.99 Orange Pi development board

With Orange Pi i96, makers can create gadgets and robots on the cheap

If you want to fashion a smart gadget, robot, or drone with wireless capabilities on the cheap, a US$9.99 development board from Orange Pi will help you reach that goal.

The Orange Pi i96 shouldn't be confused with the $35 Raspberry Pi 3, which is much more powerful and can be a full-fledged Linux PC. The smaller Orange Pi has limited horsepower and is targeted at smart gadgets, drones, and internet of things devices.

If you want to create a gadget to show off at a Maker Faire event, the Orange Pi i96 is the kind of board you'll rely on. The board was first announced at the Linaro Connect conference, happening this week in Las Vegas.

For its price and target market, the Orange Pi has features not found on competitive boards. It includes Wi-Fi, 4GB of flash storage, and 2GB of RAM. It also has a micro-SD slot, a micro-USB connection, and includes the Linux-based Ubuntu OS.

Compare the board to the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero or Intel's $15 Quark Microcontroller Developer Kit D2000, which have no Wi-Fi or internal storage. Storage slots aren't a common feature on Arduino microcontroller boards, which are also used to make basic electronics.

The Orange Pi i96 also has a camera interface and low-end 32-bit Cortex-A5 processor. Cameras are important to give computer vision to robots and drones.

"We can't wait to see what developers are going do with this in the areas of vision and recognition systems and robotics," said George Grey, CEO of Linaro.

The board is based on specifications set by 96boards, an organization encouraging the development of ARM-based board computers.

The exact shipment date for Orange Pi i96 wasn't available.

Linaro is also encouraging the development of other IoT boards. In the near future, there will be billions of IoT devices collecting and sending information, and more boards will be used to support this growing ecosystem, Grey said.

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