It's a pretty quiet Weekly Roundup, but there's still some cool stuff and yes… I need another haircut.
Before we get stuck into the video, I thought I'd mention something really cool. A while back YouTube stopped supporting annotations in videos… that wasn't cool… This was a real pain in the neck for me and also my viewers, because I lost the ability to be able to provide annotation links as the video progressed.
So, I wrote a simple WordPress plugin for my website that provides all the missing annotations and allows you to skip forwards and backwards through the video. It's only in beta at the moment, so let me know if you come across any issues.
but you're gonna love it.
Crowd Sourcing sites are pretty quiet at the moment… you can almost hear the crickets.
At first glance the RetroStone looked like just another gaming case wrapped around an ordinary Pi3. However, it's a custom SBC running an AllWinner H3 with 1G DDR3 RAM, USB ports, 100MbE, SD, HDMI, all the usual stuff you might find on an SBC, but also has speaker connectors, LiPo management, power switch, LCD driver IC, on-board buttons and vias providing a bunch of GPIOs. It also supports EnergySquare wireless charging, which is a much cheaper way of charging devices. Seems to tick all the boxes for portable gaming.
SODAQ have just published their 5th campaign on Kickstarter with a bunch of new IoT specific boards.
Three boards are based on an Arduino form factor and provide a mix of GPS, LTE-M, 2G and NB-IoT and another three with the same line-up mix but smaller. All of the boards are based on the well-known uBlox modules and come with LiPo battery management and a SAMD21 core.
This next Kickstarter just might be too late in the game considering you can get high quality PCBs made very cheaply these days. However, there might be a niche market here for people wanting ultra-fast PCB turn-around. It's essentially an ink printer that can be used as an etching mask for PCBs with a resolution of 8mils. Great idea, but once again, the hassle and mess of DIY PCBs… and the price tag of US$1000, you'd have to be desperate.
We've seen a couple of these keyboard ideas in the past. Most of them aimed at a consumer market, but this one aims for the Maker. It's essentially a 6 by 6 capacitive touch grid running an ATmega32U4 and USB HID chip. You can re-program using the Arduino IDE and print out special overlays allowing you to change the function of each button. Cool.
And then there's IndieGoGo… crickets
Over at Crowd Supply there's …
… another Nixie Tube clock in pre-launch called the Nixie Tap. Runs off an ESP8266 syncing to an Internet clock source with a capacitive touch sensor for control contained in a steam punk style Walnut case.
Over at GroupGets there's a group buy for a remote presence sensor. Runs a SAMD21 MCU, SD for logging, UBlox SARA module for cellular connectivity and PIR motion sensor. It's housed in an IP67 rated enclosure so can live outdoors without issue.
This is something to get excited about. If you're in Nuremburg, Germany next week I'd suggest checking out Embedded World 2018, where you'll see the latest in cool embedded stuff, like the STMicro discovery kit.
Hopefully there won't be any power outages.
Technologic Systems have created a new low powered SBC based on the i.MX6 UltraLite SoC with 1G RAM, 4G eMMC, SD slot, dual 100MbE and USB. All the usual stuff you see on an SBC, but this one also packs in a Lattice Semiconductor MachX02 FPGA with 62 accessible GPIOs.
They have also added in an open-source based ZPU soft core allowing you to easily offload tasks to the FPGA using a typical GCC based build chain.
The board also has a header designed to connect into this base-board giving you GbE, M.2 SATA and a whole lot more GPIOs.
Emtrion is jumping on the SBC band-wagon with a new board based on the dual-core Renesas SoC. Comes with 2G RAM, 64G eMMC, CAN transceiver, RTC and unusually 5 GbE ports.
The unusually named Neutis company have a small SBC aimed at Pro-Makers to be shipped in April. The tiny 42mm by 30mm board contains the quad-core AllWinner H5 with 512MB RAM, 8GB eMMC, HDMI, WiFi, Bluetooth, on-board crypto chip and 38 GPIOs pushed out running off a 3.3v supply.
What makes it a Pro-Maker SBC is the fact that it's a module that plugs into a baseboard. Still pretty good for a US$49 price tag.
STMicro will be releasing a new MCU targetting wireless communications in competition with Espressif's ESP32.
The new chip will have 256KB RAM, 1MB flash and support for USB, audio, LCD, up to 72 GPIOs, embedded crypto-engine, Bluetooth 5 with mesh support and also an 802.15.5 radio that provides OpenThread, ZigBee and other protocols.
Looks like a promising chip.
The SAMA5D2 from MicroChip is a System-in-Package running a 500MHz Cortex-A5 with on-board 128M RAM and other cool features allowing you to run mainline Linux in the same way as the MediaTek SiPs.
MicroChip have now released a cheap US$39 module with this SiP at the core as well as a PMIC, 64Mb SPI flash, 2Kb EEPROM, 100MbE transceiver and all the GPIOs broken out.
After being scoffed at for years, the Raspberry Pi is finally being seen as a platform of choice in areas where, traditionally, you'd have seen products selling for 10x the price.
A good example of this is the BASpi from a Building Automation company. It's a Pi hat with BACNet comms allowing control over A/C equipment, lighting, elevators and other things you'd find in a building. It has 12 BACnet points with another 24 virtual points and a Sedona Virtual Machine.
If you're in to cheap building management devices this one will probably excite you.
There's a number of embedded O/S around. Most of you would have heard about FreeRTOS, Contiki, mbed, NuttX and at least a couple of others on this list.
One that isn't on here is TockOS. This one claims to be Extensible, Reliable and low powered.
The core is written in Rust and contains all the usual RTOS line-up, but there's also the concept of Capsules, which are sort of like Kernel modules but run co-operatively, as well as user space processes which run pre-emptively.
MCU support is minimal at the moment with only the Atmel SAM4L and Nordic nRF52 MCUs supported.
This next one will interest a couple of my Patreons.
Particle have released three new modules designed for mesh networks.
The Particle Xenon runs an nRF52840 MCU supporting Bluetooth 5 mesh networks,
The Particle Boron with an nRF52840 as well as a uBlox LTE-M module.
and the Particle Argon with nRF52 as well as an ESP32.
All the boards are otherwise identical with 20 GPIOs, 2MB SPI flash, USB, JTAG and LiPo battery management.
If you look at them closer, you'll see they are also identical to AdaFruit's Feather.
ARM is jumping on the AI bandwagon with an announcement of their ARM ML and OD processors. The ML is short for Machine Learning and OD for Object Detection.
These processors will allow you to detect objects in complicated orientations at 1080p at up to 60fps.
They are also claiming to play nice with other neural network software like TensorFlow and Caffe by providing a translation stack called ARM NN without any code modification.
And over at Tindie it's unusually quiet as well.
If you've ever been hacking around with your own OBD software you'll know how much of a pain it is to develop. I've found myself on several occasions stuck out in the car coding away late at night.
One way to avoid this is to get one of these OBD simulators. It's a little expensive, but worth it.
Another one from Dave Darko industries called the LameBoy. It's a gameboy style DIY kit running an ESP8266, SD slot, RGB backlit Nokia LCD screen and a couple of buttons.
And, Dave, I expect a snazzy trailer video for this one!
This is another nRF52832 based board, but it's the smallest I've seen so far. Measuring only 10mm by 7mm with 30 GPIOs pushed out. Nice.
In need of controlling a bucket load of servos? This board has two PCA9685 PWM drivers giving you control over 32 servos. It also has 5v buck converter allowing a DC input from 6 to 28v, reverse polarity protection and MOSFET controlled servo power.
One of the limitations of some USB based SDRs is the small tuning range. This board will allow you to increase the range to 10kHz to 1.7GHz. Of course, you'll need to be using the correct antenna for the different frequencies.
If you have ever bulk-programmed a lot of boards, then you'll know all about pogo-pins. This one is about the right size to hold and also has a reset button to make programming and testing so much faster.
AdaFruit, Seeed, SparkFun, DFRobot, DigiKey
Over at AdaFruit they have their RGB Matrix Pi bonnet. This makes it easier to interface to these 64 by 64 RGB LED displays. This is certainly a much easier way to do it than my bit-bashing Christmas Tree Game.
While over at SparkFun, they have the Walabot Starter in. What's a Walabot Starter? I'm glad you asked.
It's a board that has a three antenna array that act as a two-dimensional radar. This allows you to detect breathing movements, tracking objects both visible and behind a wall. They have an API supporting Windows, Linux and Raspberry Pi.
This is an unusual and pretty cool little device.
The BNO080 is a pretty interesting IMU. Not only does it have on-board accelerometer, gyro and magnetometer, but packs in a Cortex-M0 allowing you to generate Fusion data and other complex algorithms such as activity classification.
Over at Newark they have the Cloudio Pi hat which comes from India based GraspIO. It's a fairly simple board giving you temperature and light sensors, buzzer, OLED and buttons, but they also provide a cloud service based off IFTTT with a simple drag and drop programming interface.
Over at DigiKey they are selling three new Renesas Electroncs boards. All three boards have either an RX65N, RX130 or RX231 as the core MCU and then contain two 50 pin headers with most of the GPIOs broken out, USB, PMOD connector and a couple of user buttons. Pretty decent board for only US$28.
Over at Pimoroni they have their simple DC buck converted Pi shim. Which allows you to power your Pi from a 3 to 16v DC input. Great for in-vehicle use.
A few bits and pieces that I didn't include in my video.
Affordable, High Resolution, High Performance Prototyping, Castable, and Ceramic Resin for 3D Printing
Educational Arduino shield. Shield supports simple exercises with no external power and no extra components required.
An all-in-one handheld device that can turn into a gamepad, a Mini PC, an external monitor, a power supply and more
Mr. Robotics aims to provide a simple solution to empower curiosity in robotics with an evolving and powerful robot: Robby.