We are currently in talks with a number of hardware vendors regarding a Nokia N900-style, slide-out-design keyboard for the PinePhone. They’ll have to produce mock-ups or prototypes for us to consider in the next few weeks. The requirements specify that the new device needs to:
- Interface with the PinePhone’s rear pogo pin expansion connector
- Fit the PinePhone’s form factor
- Seamlessly replace the current back cover and snap onto the phone
- Be similar, mechanically and functionally, to the Nokia N900 keyboard
We are simultaneously also exploring a gamepad for the PinePhone. The criteria we’re seeking in a gamepad are much vaguer than those of the keyboard:
- The gamepad must use the PinePhone’s pogo pins (at least for power)
- It must attach mechanically to the phone. Preferably in an elegant way — velcro or adhesive are not an option.
This add-on project is at an earlier exploratory stage than the keyboard, and therefore there is also some leeway regarding the general direction and shape it can take.
Now, we’d like to invite you to play along. While we’re waiting to see what the commissioned vendors will come up with, we’d also like to give you a chance to go at it. For the keyboard, we have settled on a 5-row key-arrangement design – a STP of the layout can be downloaded here. If you’ll have a go at creating a keyboard then do keep in mind the general guiding points outlined above, but at the same time do not take them as commandments carved in stone. I guess what I am trying to say is – don’t let the criteria restrict your creative vision.
Suggested keyboard layout (filled in by hand)
Regarding the game controller; since we’re at a very early exploratory stage, you’re welcome to explore a variety of approaches to creating such an add-on for the PinePhone. In other words, ‘anything goes’ as far as the controller’s design is concerned. Functionality wise, the controller will have to be powered via the pogo pins but I think it’s just fair to investigate the feasibility of alternative interfaces (BT/ USB) for the actual input.
In terms of other restrictions – keep in mind that this is something we’d potentially want to manufacture, so it has to have a sensible mechanical and electrical design, which cannot be a plagiarized copy of an existing device.
If you decide to have a go at it then be aware of the following: there is a very cool reward for the project – or projects – which will be chosen, but there is no financial compensation for the design(s). If you submit your design to us then you automatically acknowledge that we may choose to proceed and manufacture it. You will be fully credited on the Wiki and elsewhere (where appropriate) for your design and we will – as we always do with our community – work with you to deliver the end product.
We are most keen on functional prototypes, so that it will be possible to evaluate the feasibility of the design. Something may look cool but be unergonomic or simply dysfunctional when applied to reality, not to mention that certain designs may cost too much to mold and manufacture.
I’ve been thinking about the best way for submissions and after some asking around I’ve been advised to just use the forum for this purpose. This way people can also discuss and offer feedback to others.
If you have any further questions then do not hesitate to ask in the comments section or on the forum. Lastly, while there is a cool reward involved in this challenge to entice you to give this a go, please consider this a fun community hacking activity.