Today we’re announcing a new version of Tessel designed with all your feedback in mind. We hope you’re as excited about it as we are.
A series of blog posts will explain the technical details and features in more detail, but I wanted to post an overview and open a forum thread for questions and discussion.
We will, of course, continue to support the current Tessel hardware. We’ll continue to fix bugs and review pull requests, but as you may have noticed over the past few months, we’re no longer putting significant resources into major features for the existing Tessel firmware or runtime.
The core of Tessel 2 is the MediaTek MT7620n, a system-on-chip designed for WiFi routers. That means it has fast, reliable 802.11b/g/n and supports all the features you’ve been requesting like access point mode and WPA2-Enterprise. There’s also a 100Mbit Ethernet port, because sometimes WiFi isn’t enough.
The other major connectivity change is the addition of two USB host ports. We felt a bit silly designing custom modules where off-the-shelf parts would be both cheaper and have better specs. The Audio, Camera, BLE, GPRS, and MicroSD modules are going to be replaced by USB peripherals. We’re going to sell devices in our store that we’ve tested and ensured drivers support, but you can also add your own USB devices if the drivers are compatible.
Module ports are still the answer for slower sensors and lower-level IO. An ARM-based Atmel SAMD21 on the board controls two 10-pin module ports. With the exception of Audio and Camera, your existing modules will be forward-compatible with Tessel 2. All 8 digital pins of each port now work as GPIO. The module ports can be powered off individually, to make it safer to experiment without unplugging and rebooting the whole board. We’re also excited to explore possibilities in real-time IO enabled by having the module ports managed by a dedicated microcontroller.
For those of you who want to take your Tessel prototype to production, we’re planning to offer customization options to help you embed Tessel 2 inside your device.
If that wasn’t enough technical detail on the hardware, we’ve also published preliminary schematics.
Tessel 2 runs Linux, based on OpenWrt. That doesn’t mean you have to be a Linux sysadmin to use a Tessel, though. Just like the current Tessel, you’ll deploy code, configuration, and updates with
tessel update. If you do want access to the Linux system underneath,
tessel root will get you root access.
Linux also makes it much easier to support other languages. We’ve already run Python and Rust on the board. In the direction of Fractal, we’re researching cross-language abstractions for communicating with hardware via the module port coprocessor and via USB.
All code in writable memory on Tessel 2 is open source, starting with the coprocessor firmware and OpenWrt packages and build scripts. (On the current Tessel, the only closed-source component was the CC3000 WiFi firmware, but if we had that code, we might have gotten further debugging and fixing WiFi). We’re leveraging a lot of existing open source code on Tessel 2, and we plan to work closely with the upstream projects we depend on.
Preorder your Tessel 2 for $35 at tessel.io, and discuss below!