The M5StickC+ Development Kit with Hat is such a darling little kit. It’s a mouthful to say, but the thing itself is frankly adorable.
The M5StickC+ is a boxy little bundle of possibilities, battery included, mounted on a wristwatch band so you bring it with you. This is maximum nerd cred. This thing is eye catching. It’s not beautiful. But it will do something functional, starting with one of the dozens of example programs. If you’re the kind of person who’ll wear a safety-orange box on your wrist out into the world, yeah, it’s a conversation starter. Maybe you leave the GPS readout running on the screen, or leave the dice-rolling program loaded for your next night playing Settlers of Catan. Maybe you plug in one of the expansion hats and use it as a compass and GPS.
Just what can you do with the M5StickC+? Well, in addition to the core chip, with its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, Espressif crammed an IMU in there, so the thing can feel how it’s moving and shaking. There’s an IR transmitter, so you could always turn it into a TV remote. It has a tiny screen, never a bad feature. There’s a microphone, and the core chip has enough horsepower to run some light voice-recognition programs, so you could trigger it by talking to it, if that’s your style. There’s a Grove port on one side, so you could plug in one of SEEED Studios many modules. On the opposite side there’s pinholes to slot in one of Espressif’s own “hats” for the M5Stick. The kit under review includes a speaker hat and an environmental sensor hat, for checking the temperature, humidity, air pressure, and magnetic north.
Like all my favorite maker boards, the M5Stick is quick to get started with and cleanly documented. Pop it off the watch mount to reveal the back of the case, and you’ll find each of the pins neatly labeled along with a parts list for everything Espressif crammed into the package. It checks off my other favorite feature of a maker board: Piles and piles of example programs to show off what it can do and give you a starting point to build off of.
But there are a few ways Espressif didn’t quite knock it out of the park. The quickstart page is necessary, but nowhere near the top link on your favorite search engines. Some of the examples in the collection need a tweak or two before they’ll compile, and it’s up to the user to explore and discover which examples assume you’ve plugged in one of the M5Stick’s expansion modules, and which work needing only the built-in hardware. A confident, experienced maker will have little trouble correcting for these minor slip-ups, but a beginner might find a few frustrations here.
In summary, this M5StickC+ kit is a beautifully ugly little gewgaw that will ride around the world strapped to your wrist. You can charge it up each night, load it with a new program each morning, and get your nerd on wherever you go.