Tessel is a relatively new microcontroller that started shipping earlier this year. It’s an open-source prototyping and development board, along the lines of Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Like these other boards, Tessel is designed to let people make electronic things quickly and easily. However, Tessel takes a different approach than other electronics prototyping tools.
Tessel is a development board for prototyping connected devices. Catering to an audience of software developers, Tessel has simple hardware interactions, and is used in a development environment familiar to web programmers and app developers.
Here are five things that make Tessel different from other development boards:
1. Tessel is programmed with Node.JS.
2. Adding hardware capabilities to Tessel is plug-and-play.
Tessel is designed to interact with modular pieces of hardware called “Tessel modules”. Each module encapsulates a specific ability, such as Bluetooth Low Energy, or Camera, or Servo Motor. This is analogous to “shields” on Arduino, but more modular, and with the associated drivers printed directly on the hardware for
3. Tessel comes with Wifi built in.
4. Tessel is cheap in time.
With Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards below $40, makers and hardware developers often wonder at the $75 price of a Tessel board. However, Tessel is designed to take as little time as possible to achieve results; where other boards prioritize educational purposes, Tessel prioritizes quick prototyping. Accounting for development time (not to mention onboard Wifi), the cost balances out fairly quickly. It takes a couple of minutes from unboxing to reading in climate data from a sensor. It’s only a few more minutes of effort to make it tweet the data out.
5. Tessel is designed for web developers.
Tessel was designed specifically for the use of web developers. Web developers are used to internet connection. They’re used to quick deployment, online interfaces, and the use of APIs from all over the web. They might not be familiar with electrical engineering at all. This fundamental design paradigm drives a lot of Tessel– from the programming language, to the hardware choices, to the very detailed documentation. Tessel is hardware the way software people expect it to work. That’s what sets it apart.