7 Capes You Can Add to the BeagleBone

By Rui Santos, Luis Miguel Costa Perestrelo

Capes are plug-in boards that you can plug on top of the BeagleBone computer to add extended capabilities to it in a simple manner. Capes give you quick access to some easy-to-use systems such as LCD screens, GPS modules, and motor controllers. Some of these are introduced here; if you’re interested in checking out the enormous list of capes, visit BeagleBoard: BeagleBone Capes.

Some capes aren’t compatible with both the Original BeagleBone and the BeagleBone Black. Always check ahead or ask the manufacturer before making a purchase.

1BeagleBone Proto Cape

The BeagleBone Proto Cape is a simple cape that fits atop your BeagleBone. It contains through-hold solder points and two 46-pin headers that connect directly to the BeagleBone. Its simplicity and accessibility make it a great workspace for creating prototypes after the breadboard phase.

Some Proto Capes, such as the ones from Tigal KG, also exhibit extra useful circuitry such as LEDs and switches.

2BeagleBone Power Cape

You can use the Power Cape to supply power in a flexible way. When the Power Cape is plugged in to your BeagleBone, if the BeagleBone isn’t being fed by any other source (such as an USB cable), the Power Cape supplies the necessary power through its lithium battery. Conversely, if 4.5V or higher DC power is available from other sources, the lithium battery recharges, even if the BeagleBone is off.

The Power Cape provides two interesting features: an onboard power monitor (INA219), which allows you to monitor the voltage of the battery and the current it supplies; a scheduling feature that enables you to designate when to turn your BeagleBone on. You can schedule your BeagleBone to start feeding off the battery at a desired time, which may be interesting for automation projects.

3BeagleBone Motor Cape

Motor Capes make the whole deal of using motors much easier and straightforward. Because the BeagleBone’s GPIO pins can drive a current of only 6 milliamps (mA) maximum, they don’t have the kick to get powerful motors running without some external help.

By using a Motor Cape, you can drive up to eight DC brush motors going at 500 mA per motor — quite the power-up!

The vendors of this cape sell it with NXT connectors or screw terminal blocks. The latter type usually are the easiest to work with in most standard electrical projects.

4BeagleBone mikroBUS Cape

The BeagleBone mikroBUS Cape is a plug-in board that enables you to connect up to four MikroElektronika Click Boards to the BeagleBone in the easiest way possible.

Click Boards are tiny plug-and-play devices that require minimal settings. The idea is simple: Create small boards that have the same pinout standard, which allows boards with completely different functionalities to be connected in the same fashion. A microSD slot, an MP3 board, and a Bluetooth module are all connected in the same way, and all of them can easily fit on the BeagleBone mikroBUS cape.

Currently, more than 70 Click Boards are available, and the list keeps growing.

5BeagleBone GPS/GPRS Cape

As its name suggests, this cape adds GPS (Global Positioning System) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) functionality to the BeagleBone, allowing you to track your position and use the GPRS for straightforward machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.

It’s a good idea to buy an external antenna with this cape, because the board doesn’t feature one.

6BeagleBone LCD Cape

Plenty of LCD capes are available for the BeagleBone. These caps sit nicely atop your board while adding touchscreen capability to it. Resolution varies from 480×272 pixels to 800×480 pixels.

With this cape, you can interact directly with the BeagleBone through touch and through the buttons located in positions that enable easy use. The cape also feature expansion connectors so that you can easily access the GPIO that are still free after the cape has been plugged in.

7BeagleBone HD Camera Cape

RadiumBoard’s HD Camera Cape provides an easy way to use your BeagleBone Black with a high-resolution mobile camera. This cape is divided into two parts: an expansion board that manages the data and a board with the necessary sensors for imaging and optics.

This cape isn’t compatible with the Original BeagleBone!

If you’re a camera enthusiast, a rundown of the cape’s key features may be important for you.