Slice – a media player using the Raspberry Pi Compute Module

We revealed the Raspberry Pi Compute Module back in April, and released the Compute Module Development Kit in the middle of June. Since then we’ve had a lot of interest and will shortly start shipping the Compute Module in volume to a variety of manufacturers who have already designed it into their products.

One of our goals with the Compute Module was to enable a generation of “Kickstarter consumer electronics” startups to develop commercial-quality products at relatively low volume. We’ve already we’ve seen the OTTO point-and-shoot camera, which was the first ever Kickstarter using the Compute module, and today marks the launch of another campaign which we hope will be even more successful.

Slice media player and remote

Slice media player and remote

Slice is an XBMC media player built around the Compute Module, with simple custom skin, a shiny milled-aluminium case, and a cute ring of 25 RGB LEDs for (and I quote) “visual feedback and wow factor”. It’s been developed by Mo Volans, our old friends Paul Beech and Jon Williamson from Pimoroni, and our very own Gordon Hollingworth and James Adams; they’ve been burning the candle at both ends to get Slice to where it is now, and the prototypes are looking pretty drool-worthy.

Head on over to Kickstarter to see for yourself why we’re excited about Slice!

49 comments

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

Damm that is one nice product!

The Raspberry Pi Guy

john avatar

slice? awesome, can this device support installed lihattv plugins from lihattv.com? so i can watch live online tv streaming over it

Nick avatar

it would be cool if there was a “QUERTY” Keyboard on the back side of the remote

Gordon avatar

Unfortunately that doubles the cost of the remote…

Gordon

Martijn avatar

I have an excelent idea with the compute module. I need however access to the camera and display interfaces hidden from use by the fact that the raspberry pi uses a Broadcom soc which is not fully open.

Nice to see that there are now 100001 xbmc capable devices, but what is the actual benefit of another one?

Things would really hit the road when the pi and all of its components/ports/hardware can be used freely. Broadcom should open up this outdated soc, period.

guru avatar

Thanks guys! It’s odd to do something not made from layers of acrylic, but we thought this was a great opportunity to spread shinies and show how far the Pi has come :-)

We couldn’t have done it without the sterling work of the XBMC/OpenElec crew and the Foundation’s dedication to doing more with less by doing things right. The software is leaps ahead of where it was 2 years ago which makes Slice a really nice experience.

Sven avatar

Am I the only one who cannot find “the video below”…?

Ton van Overbeek avatar

I suppose it is the video on the Kickstarter page.

toby1kenobi avatar

I like this idea, and it looks nice, it seems pricey though.

I think a hard drive-less version would make also sense – I’m sure there are lots of people who’d like this but already have their media on something like a NAS. Alternatively, you might want a few of these in your home, but only need one to have a drive.

Gordon avatar

Check out the Preview pledge level

elParaguayo avatar

At what point do we have to stop calling it XBMC and use its new name, Kodi?

Whatever happens it will always be XBMC to me!

guru avatar

Release 14 (Helix) will have the Kodi name on it. I know someone who still runs it on an actual XBox :-)

clive avatar

I run an original Xbox XBMC in the garage on an insanely huge Loewe 32″ CRT TV. Best set up ever (until Slice arrives of course ;))

Jason Bramwell avatar

Since this is built from the ground up to be a media player I wonder if it will include the additional codecs or whether these will still be needed.

Gordon avatar

Codecs will be shipped as standard

simon avatar

Do you mean the ability to actually play ALL Mp4 videos? I have numerous which play audio but not video.

Tom Chiverton avatar

That’s ‘Kodi’ in a box, no such thing as XBMC any more, because they are idiots…

guru avatar

It’s still XBMC until the version 14 release. You should spend more time reading before commenting :-)

Jason Bramwell avatar

I wonder if you can turn on/off just with the remote or whether you still have to pull power and replug.

Matt avatar

No built-in WiFi from the outset? Why? :-/

It better be as good as the Roku… no, *seriously*, as they are dirt cheap and have tried, tested and loved functionality. If it isn’t, it’s just going to be another tiny box plugged into a TV – disco LEDs or not. I hope that you’ve designed a UX better than XBMC, or you’re going to find Google images of your device in dustbins.

I hope I am not being mean – I just hope you sort out the WiFi (it needs to be built in – this isn’t 2003).

Well done :)

guru avatar

It’s 2014, yet transferring large files over WiFi is still a dicey, slow process. I love streaming, but it’s actually getting worse because everyone is clogging up the pipes, and ISPs aren’t keeping up with demand. Nobody is doing a worthy hard-drive media player, so we made one.

And yes, we’re keeping an eye on WiFi, but it’s mainly useful for low-bandwidth streaming and getting meta-data for Slice :-)

Dave Jones avatar

I’d have to agree with this; I’ve currently got a NAS-like media store up in the loft and several little media players (including a Pi) attached to TVs around the house. I’ve experimented with wifi for streaming and found it’s okay for SD … until I start doing something else like chucking large files onto my netbook, at which point I get yelled at for ruining the movie my wife is trying to watch! Cue the delivery of some powerline ethernet plugs and now everything’s fine (yeah, they’re too expensive for what they are but dammit they just work – and they’re happy streaming HD too).

Personally, I’ve plumped for the preview pledge level because of all the TV media players I’ve tried (PS3, XBox360, Cyclone Nano/Pivos XIOS-DS, RPi), the Pi is the best all-rounder but had one glaring problem: accessing the XBMC database (which in my case is several gig big once all the art is included) is *awfully* slow due to the SD card I/O limitations. I’m vaguely hoping the SATA interface on the Slice is going to sort that out (to some extent), but I’m not interested in having a terabyte of storage on board (or burning the power required to keep those slivers of rust spinning around all the time). I only need a few gig for the OS, XBMC, and its database, and nowadays one can pick up a 40Gb SSD on Amazon for somewhere between 20 and 30 quid (unsurprisingly given I doubt many people are seriously interested in that size anymore).

I’d be really interested to know if, once the Slice hits production (assuming, as seems likely, that it gets funded), diskless options would still be available? Assuming my little experiment with a Slice+SSD works as well as I hope, I’d really like a few more :)

Matt Bilker avatar

The Pi Compute Module has 4GB of EMMC storage built in. Probably for the OS and the database. Though you can probably replace the hard drive with a small SSD for XBMC/Kodi database storage.

gordon77 avatar

When it says the model without the HD is for ‘developers, hackers and the tech savvy’ does that mean they need to know how to plug in a HD or more than that ?

guru avatar

You need to be able to unscrew the Slice (4 screws) and remove the PCB (5 screws). Then you plug in a (9.5mm or slimmer) 2.5″ SATA drive and screw it to the PCB.

If you can do that without knocking any components off or scratch the PCB, then you’re capable.

The only thing we can’t guarantee is that every hard drive on the market will work flawlessly, but we will let you know which ones are known to work and work well :-)

gordon77 avatar

Cheers

Steve avatar

Looks great,
I like the user friendly skin, will the skin be available for download??

Tom S avatar

Yeah, I need the skin too! Where can you download anything it said on the kickstarter page?

dimitrie avatar

At first, I said it just another XBMC player build.
But then I realise this is a custom PI module board with sata build in.
Does this card shares the same USB line with USB ports, Ethernet and SATA like the traditional PI board ?

Matt avatar

@dimitrie

The Pi doesn’t have SATA, and never did.

dimitrie avatar

Exactly my point !
How did they wired up that Hard drive ?
Behind a USB HUB ?

Llion avatar

Excuse my ignorance, but what benefit does running XBMC with a compute module have over the ‘Rpi only’ setup most of us are already running? What exactly is offloaded to it, what improvements are seen by the user?

Gordon avatar

The advantage to using a compute module is the physical layout of the device… One of the original complaints about the Pi is the fact that the connectors aren’t on one side (obviously to reduce the size of the Pi)

It also allows us to add a SATA USB hard drive inside the box without making it huge.

Finally it allows us to add extra cool stuff you don’t get on a Pi like the RTC, audio codec and IR sensor…

Gordon

Nico_GH2 avatar

Already funded (200k+ euro) Kickstarter using the Compute module;

Homey

Darren Townsend avatar

Good work guys! It looks like a really nice product, although 3 things occurred to me;

1/ I wondered why wi-fi was not installed as standard, as surely if would only add a couple of quid to the production cost, with no real downside

2/ While the aluminium case looks lovely, and the wooden ones even lovelier, how about going the other way (ie. cheaper) and making a Pi-bow style case?

3/ It would be nice to see (maybe as an add-on) a dvd drive, so that you can feed it cd’s or dvd’s and it will rip them automatically to the hard drive.

Domenico Lamberti avatar

No.3 is what i’ve been looking for , for yonks! the idea of having a DVD player , you shove the DVD in, it says “do you want to watch it or store it” and there is an internal HDD that it rips to straight away, that’d be perfect

Gordon avatar

Shame that’s illegal eh?

AndrewS avatar

As long as you don’t remove any encryption (i.e. you still can’t legally do it for commercial DVDs) private copies *are* (finally!) now legal in the UK https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2014/victory-format-shifting-and-parody-clear-last-hurdle

Domenico Lamberti avatar

If it could still be encrypted and never leave the device, i dont see why an ammendment to the law couldnt be made, physical copies are just asking to get damaged and streaming isnt always viable, a locally stored (encrypted) copy would be great

API avatar

How does the SATA work on this then? Does it just converted back down to the USB 2.0 pipe?

Gordon avatar

Yes

Jonny avatar

I love this. It’s great to see how flexible a Pi is and I think the Open Compute Module is brilliant for enabling things like this.
In a few years (assuming it’s updated) will I be able drop a new Compute Module in?

Dexter avatar

Hi Guys

For the preview version in Kickstarter, does it comes fully assembled or I need to ensemble and load the OS?

Thx

Mol avatar

Is it also possible to get digital (hi-res) audio files out from eather one of the two usb connectors situated on the backside of the unit, so you can connect it to an externel DAC like the hifiberry or ifi DAC’s?

Elie avatar

I have pledged the project on KS, but, as i am a newbie in the RPi / XBMC / … community, i’m wondering if i can download directly to the box if i connect it to my internet box (via ethernet).
To be more specific, i’d like to be able, when on my laptop (at home, on my wifi network), to download movies (torrent for example). BUT, i would like them to be stored on my slicebox directly, not on my laptop.
Maybe i’m asking something stupid, but i can’t find any answer about this…

mifasol avatar

It looks good. It would be nice to also have some rubber kit to prevent/lessen hdd vibrations.

raspi avatar

Actually that’s a good idea, you should write in the kickstarter comments section so they can put the idea in the list.

chrisyboy avatar

This is cool, but to make it an ultimate bit of kit will it have an interface to use (for example) netflix or amazon prime?

Kameron avatar

One big question I want answered is the possibility of a slightly cheaper retail model in January/February 2015. Somehow $280 seems a little high and I already missed the ‘preview’ version. I would be willing to pay $200 for a 1 TB used or new Slice off Ebay or Amazon in 2015.

Thanks,
~Kam

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