Cosmic Unicorn Harnesses the Power of Raspberry Pi Pico W

Cosmic Unicorn
(Image credit: Pimoroni)

Not content with the measly 583 RGB LEDs provided by Galactic Unicorn, UK Raspberry Pi reseller Pimoroni has announced Cosmic Unicorn which sees 1,024 RGB LEDs in an 8 inch square grid. All of this is powered by our favorite microcontroller, the Raspberry Pi Pico W

Cosmic Unicorn differs from Galactic Unicorn in a few key areas. Firstly, the shape. Gone is the long "lozenge" shape in favor of an 8 x 8 inch square (204 x 204 x 10.2 mm) which packs a grid of 32 x 32 RGB LEDs. For those who know their Math, 32 x 32 is 1,024, and that is the number of RGB LEDs that we have at our command. That's an increase of 441 LEDs over Galactic Unicorn.

Powering the light show is a Raspberry Pi Pico W which is surface mount soldered to the rear of the board. Using the PIO (Programmable IO) of the Pico W, those LEDs are updated at 300 fps with 14-bit precision. What does that mean? Well now you can show off your Cosmic Unicorn in videos without any strobing or brightness issues. Other RGB LEDs can wreak havoc with your carefully choreographed videos. 

Spinning the board around and we are presented with a jaw dropping silkscreen of a whale. Dotted around the perimeter are buttons to control which program is run on the board, brightness, sleep and volume. Following on from Galactic Unicorn, Cosmic also has an onboard amp and speaker for basic beeps and chip tunes. Should you want to be on the bleeding edge, there is also some experimental firmware for Bluetooth functionality. With Blunicorn firmware, both Cosmic and Galactic Unicorns can become visualizers for your music.

If you want to use Cosmic Unicorn as part of an experiment, say collecting air quality or temperature data, then the onboard QW/ST (Stemma QT, Qwiic connector) is available for you to connect a plethora of sensors to.

Cosmic Unicorn has just gone on sale for £80 ($75) from Pimoroni and we will have a review coming soon.

Les Pounder

Les Pounder is an associate editor at Tom's Hardware. He is a creative technologist and for seven years has created projects to educate and inspire minds both young and old. He has worked with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to write and deliver their teacher training program "Picademy".