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Galactic Unicorn (Pico W Aboard)

by Pimoroni

A programmable 53 x 11 LED matrix / sign with wireless connectivity and oodles of extras! 🦄

Galactic Unicorn is a very beautiful, all-in-one, RP2040 powered LED matrix perfect for conveying information fabulously (or for sprucing up your desktop, makingspace or imaginarium). There's a ton of features aboard this one, here are some of our favourites!

🌈 583 RGB LEDs lovingly arranged in a 53 x 11 grid, all with individual colour and brightness control.

📷 Looks great on video - invoking RP2040 magic means we can update the LEDs really quickly (we measured around 300 fps at 14-bit precision). This means there's no nasty strobing, artifacting or brightness stepping when it's filmed, so it's perfect for adding to the background of your streaming setup.

🌍 2.4GHz wireless connectivity (courtesy of the Raspberry Pi Pico W) so you can use it to display all sorts of interesting data from the internet.

There's also an onboard amp and little speaker for bleepy alerts and *futuristic noises* and a battery connector so you can power it without it having to be tethered to a USB portEvery Galactic Unicorn comes with a pair of sleek little metal legs so it can stand up on its own (and has a selection of mounting holes if you'd prefer to do something else). 

Use it to make a very fancy clock, a very fancy weather display or a very fancy output for sensors (other very fancy use cases are available).

⚠️ Note that the LEDs on our current batch of Galactic Unicorn have a slightly more rounded aperture than the ones pictured. 🟢🔵🟣

What's new? 🕶

We first teased Galactic Unicorn at the Raspberry Pico W launch, but it's had quite the glow up since then. The big change is that we've switched to a new kind of LEDs that are bigger, brighter and have built in diffusion and they look absolutely *chefs kiss*. 

We've also moved the buttons onto the back for a sleeker look, added a grille in front of where the speaker sits, and made a bunch of other little changes that means the release version of GalUni is really super nice.

Features

  • Raspberry Pi Pico W Aboard
    • Dual Arm Cortex M0+ running at up to 133Mhz with 264kB of SRAM
    • 2MB of QSPI flash supporting XiP
    • Powered and programmable by USB micro-B
    • 2.4GHz wireless
  • 583 RGB LEDs in a 53 x 11 grid
    • 3.5mm LEDs with rounded square apertures
    • 6mm LED spacing
    • Driven by 10 FM6047 constant current LED drivers
  • MAX98357 3.2W I2S Mono Amplifier (with 30mm 1W speaker)
  • Phototransistor for light sensing
  • 9 tactile user buttons
  • Reset button
  • 2x Qw/ST (Qwiic/STEMMA QT) connectors
  • JST-PH connector for attaching a battery (5.5V max)
  • Fully assembled
  • No soldering required.
  • C/C++ and MicroPython libraries
  • Schematic

Kit includes

  • Galactic Unicorn (with speaker attached)
  • 2 x metal legs
  • USB A to micro-B cable

Software

To make it easy to get started, Galactic Unicorn comes pre-loaded with MicroPython and a demo reel of examples.

If you're using C/C++ or pirate-brand MicroPython to program your Unicorn, you'll have access to our PicoGraphics library, which includes handy functions for displaying text, shapes and images. You can also control the colour and brightness of each pixel individually, of course!

MicroPython

C/C++

Not your everyday RGB LEDs

In our software, we use the Pico W's PIOs (Programmable IOs) to drive the LEDs. Internally, Galactic Unicorn applies gamma correction to the supplied image data and updates the display with 14-bit precision resulting in extremely linear visual output - including at the low end.

The display is refreshed around 300 times per second (300fps!) allowing for rock solid stability even when being filmed, no smearing or flickering even when in motion.

Connecting Breakouts

The Qw/ST connectors on Galactic Unicorn make it super easy to connect up Qwiic or STEMMA QT breakouts. If your breakout has a QW/ST connector on board, you can plug it straight in with a JST-SH to JST-SH cable

Breakout Garden breakouts that don't have a Qw/ST connector can be connected using a JST-SH to JST-SH cable plus a Qw/ST to Breakout Garden adaptor. Want to use >2 breakouts at the same time? Try this adaptor!

Notes

  • Measurements: 330 x 78 x 10.3 mm (L x H x D, approx)
  • The 8 mounting holes are M2, 3mm in from the edge, and equally spaced 108mm horizontally and 72mm vertically. The leg holes are M2.5.
  • Want to laser cut your own diffuser or design a case? Here are some .dxf files for the board outline:
  • Power consumption stats! ⚡ We measured Galactic Unicorn as consuming just over 1A at maximum brightness, full white. When choosing a battery, consider that the LEDs will look their absolute best when they have access to at least 3.6V of power. At lower voltage levels you will start to see the blue elements of the LEDs fading out - this starts to become very noticeable at 2.9V and below. For best results when running on battery, we'd suggest powering this one with a chunky LiPo.
  • Note that Galactic Unicorn has no battery charging hardware onboard, so you'll need to charge up your LiPo battery with a separate battery charger (like a LiPo Amigo).

About Pico W Aboard

Our new Pico W Aboard products come with a built in Raspberry Pi Pico W. This means you get all the advantages of a RP2040 microcontroller - a speedy fast dual-core ARM processor, a dynamic, growing ecosystem and a choice of different programming methods to experiment with. Most excitingly though, Pico W has wireless connectivity, so your Pico/RP2040 devices can communicate with each other, and the internet! 🌍

View all Pico W Aboard!