Making AI Projects Become Easier With NVIDIA Jetson

Hardware development boards became a key enabler for many of recent hardware projects. Such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi, these boards are great for beginners and hobbyists to kick start and bring ideas to reality.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are the technologies of the future. So it is important to know how the process goes, and what type of hardware to use. But with the limited computing capabilities of current boards, developers need a powerful and easy to use tools.

Nvidia provides a good solution with its Jetson boards, which are siblings to NVIDIA’s Drive PX boards for autonomous driving. The first board TX1 was released in November, 2015, and now Nvidia has just released the more powerful and power-efficient Jetson TX2 board.

Image credit: Android central

The TX2 is a complete supercomputer. It is a development tool and a field-ready module to power any AI-based equipment. Developers can use it to build equipment around, and also use it itself to run demos and simulations.

Jetson TX2 comes with NVIDIA’s Pascal™ architecture, which boasts 150 billion transistors built on 16 nanometer FinFET fabrication technology.

Some of technical specifications

  • NVIDIA Parker series Tegra X2: 256-core Pascal GPU and two 64-bit Denver CPU cores paired with four Cortex-A57 CPUs in an HMP configuration
  • 8GB of 128-bit LPDDR4 RAM
  • 32GB eMMC 5.1 onboard storage
  • 802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • USB 3.0 and USB 2.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • SD card slot for external storage
  • SATA 2.0
  • Complete multi-channel PMIC
  • 400 pin high-speed and low-speed industry standard I/O connector
Nvidia Jetson TX1 and TX2 comparision

TX2 has two performance operating modes: Max-Q and Max-P. Max-Q is the TX2’s energy efficiency mode, at 7.5W, this mode clocks the Parker SoC for efficiency over performance (essentially placing it right before the bend in the power/performance curve) with NVIDIA claiming that this mode offers 2x the energy efficiency of the Jetson TX1. In this mode, TX2 should have similar performance to TX1 in the latter’s max performance mode.

Meanwhile the board’s Max-P mode is its maximum performance mode. In this mode NVIDIA sets the board TDP to 15W, allowing the TX2 to hit higher performance at the cost of some energy efficiency. NVIDIA claims that Max-P offers up to 2x the performance of the Jetson TX1, though as GPU clock speeds aren’t double TX1’s, it’s going to be a bit more sensitive on an application-by-application basis.

Image credit: anandtech

Devices such as robots, drones, 360 cameras, medical, etc., can use Jetson for “edge” machine learning. The ability to process data locally and with limited power is useful when connectivity bandwidth is limited or spotty (like in remote locations), latency is critical (real-time control), or where privacy and security is a concern.

Jetson TX2 is available as a developer kit for $500 at arrow.com. In fact, this kit comes with design guides and documentation, and is pre-flashed with a Linux development environment. It also supports the NVIDIA Jetpack SDK, which includes the BSP, libraries for deep learning, computer vision, GPU computing, multimedia processing, and more.

Finally, this video compares Jetson TX1 and TX2 boards:

PCB Prototyping Is Much Easier Than Before With This PCB Printer

3D printers and other prototyping tools are making it easier and simpler to build prototypes and test ideas. Building circuit boards is fun but difficult. While you could do it at home with  some etchant and some clear plastic, PCB printer hopes to make the entire process much faster and easier.  The success of these tools make them necessary through the different domains of manufacturing.

A desktop PCB printer?

Voltera V-One is a desktop PCB printer that can make two layer circuit boards. It can print onto the standard FR4 boards, and also place small components on the board.

In fact, the Voltera V-One uses a gantry system, similar to a 3D printer or CNC mill, to move accurately in the X, Y, and Z dimensions. The base of the V-One also heats up like a skillet to bake the conductive ink into place and to reflow SMD parts.

V-One has three tool heads that attach magnetically:

  1. a probe to measure the blank PCB and feature locations
  2. a conductive ink dispenser that draws the circuit traces and part pads
  3. a solder paste dispenser that applies solder to pads for surface-mount devices (SMD)

This video shows a brief about how Voltera works, it produced a printed circuit board of a prototype GPS module in about  half an hour.

Voltera V-One is available for $3,500. You can get more information about V-One and its specifications by visiting the official website.

More IoT with Compute Module 3 and Ubuntu Core OS

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, announced recently that its IoT OS, Ubuntu Core, is available on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 – the general-purpose compute product from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. This OS, the smallest Ubuntu ever, is the perfect host operating system for IoT devices and large-scale cloud container deployments. Actually, the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 (CM3), is a micro-version of the Raspberry Pi 3. With its new features, it provides a simple and affordable single board computer.

In fact, this module is based on the Raspberry Pi 3 hardware, providing twice the RAM and roughly 10x the CPU performance of the original Module, launched in 2014. Even though CM3 is replacing the original Compute Module, but CM1 is still compatible with the new Compute Module IO Board V3, and remains available for sale.

CM3 takes care of the complexity of routing out the pins, the high speed RAM interface and core power supply. Also, it allows a simple carrier board to provide what is necessary for external interfaces and form factor. The module uses a standard DDR2 SODIMM form factor, sockets by several manufacturers, are easily available, and are inexpensive.

Software Defined Everything?

As a vision for Canonical, The CM3 with Ubuntu Core allows developers to create new IoT products and devices. As well as offering a potentially smaller and more efficient replacement for some devices that contain larger Raspberry Pi boards.

“Gaining official support for Ubuntu Core is highly significant for our Compute Module 3. It opens up a huge community of developers keen to leverage Ubuntu’s particular advantages in the IoT world; its resource-efficient footprint, versatility, and industry leading security benefits,” says Eben Upton, CEO at Raspberry Pi.

Finally, more comprehensive information on the Compute Modules is available in the this hardware documentation, and includes a datasheet and schematics. In addition, you can check this step-by-step tutorial to install Core OS on your Compute Module 3 by Ubuntu Developer.

Turn Your iPad Into A Second Screen with Luna

It is possible now to turn your iPad into a second display using Luna Display! Luna Display is a hardware solution that extends your Mac desktop to your iPad, creating a wireless second monitor maintaining high resolution.

In fact, Luna is one of Astro HQ products, a startup working on delivering tools for designers and animation creators. It is originally  founded by two ex-Apple engineers, a reason to understand the loyalty for Apple products!

With no complicated settings, you can set up Luna in seconds using your already available Wi-Fi. This feature is Powered by Astro HQ LIQUID technology. Anyway if Wi-Fi is not available, USB can be the alternative.

 LIQUID technology provides:

  • Uncompromised image quality
  • Lightning fast speeds
  • Lag-free performance at 60 frames per second
  • GPU acceleration, so your Mac stays fast and optimized
  • Hand optimized ARM assembly to maximize battery life
  • Velocity Control, which analyzes network conditions dozens of times per second

System Requirements

Works with any modern Mac – Luna requires a Mac running macOS 10.10, Yosemite (or later). Recommended configurations: MacBook Air (2012 and later), MacBook Pro (2012 and later), Mac mini (2012 and later), iMac (2012 and later), Mac Pro (Late 2013).

Works with any modern iPad – Luna requires an iPad running iOS 9.1 (or later): iPad 2 (or later), any iPad Mini and any iPad Pro.

 

You can perfectly use Luna Display with the software Astropad, a software that allows you to draw directly into your Mac apps using your iPad and it works over wifi or USB.

“Luna extends both Astropad Standard and Astropad Studio to provide the ultimate drawing experience with the best second screen solution for iPad. If you are a creative professional, Luna has been designed with you in mind.”
Unlike other solutions, Luna uses the raw power of your graphics card, and harnesses it in order to allow you have the full potential of graphics acceleration. Check this video about the technology used in Luna Display, battery use and energy.

To know more about Luna, you can check the Kickstarter campaign they launched earlier.
Fortunately, the 1,450% funded campaign is still running and still has 39 days to go. You can pre-order your Luna Display gadget for 65$, or the Artist bundle for $99, including 1 Luna Display and 1 year Astropad Studio.

For more information and details, you can check the official website of Astropad and Astro HQ. Also, take a look at the campaign video here.

Graphene Electronic Circuits with Atomic Precision

Essential electronic components, such as diodes and tunnel barriers, can be incorporated in single graphene wires (nanoribbons) with atomic precision. The result is a working electronic device that could be used in Graphene-based electronic switches with extremely fast operational speeds. Chemists at Utrecht University made this discovery together with their colleagues at TU Delft and the Aalto University in Finland.

Metal-semiconductor-metal junction (tunnel barrier) incorporated into a single graphene nanoribbon

The ‘wonder material’ graphene has many interesting characteristics, and researchers around the world are hard at work looking for new ways to utilise them. Graphene itself does not have the characteristics  to switch electrical currents on and off, however, so smart solutions must be found for that particular problem.

“The great thing about our solution is its atomic precision. By selecting certain precursor substances (molecules), we can code the structure of the electrical circuit with extreme accuracy”, explains research leader Ingmar Swart from Utrecht University.

The chemical pathway to graphene electronic circuits

Seamless Integration

The switch structureded on the principle of graphene nanoribbons. Previous research has shown that the ribbon’s electronic characteristics are dependent on its atomic width. A ribbon that is five atoms wide is an ordinary electric wire with extremely good conduction characteristics, but adding two atoms makes the ribbon a semiconductor.

“We are now able to seamlessly integrate a five-atom wide ribbon together with one that is seven atoms wide. That gives you a metal-semiconductor junction, which works as a diode”, according to Swart.

The work is published in Nature Communications, you can check it out on this link.

Diamond-Based MOSFETs Are Now Real

A research group at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) has developed logic circuits equipped with diamond-based metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect-transistors (MOSFETs) at two different operation modes – a first step toward the development of diamond integrated circuits operational under extreme environments.

Is Diamond Suitable for this?

In fact, diamond has high carrier mobility, a high breakdown electric field and high thermal conductivity. Therefore, it is a promising material to use in the development of current switches and integrated circuits. Specifically to operate stably at high-temperature, high-frequency, and high-power. However, it had been difficult to enable diamond-based MOSFETs to control the polarity of the threshold voltage. In addition, fabricating MOSFETs of two different modes on the same substrate was a challenge. The modes are:  a depletion mode (D mode) and an enhancement mode (E mode).

Thus, the research group has successfully developed a logic circuit equipped with modes. Thanks to threshold control technique that allowed them create hydrogenated diamond NOT and NOR logic circuits composed of D-mode and E-mode MOSFETs.

Micrograph of a fabricated logic circuit equipped with diamond-based transistors

This study was published in the online version of IEEE Electron Device Letters and it is available at the IEEE Electron Digital Library website. Also, check the official announcement for more details.

Meet Spritzer, Sony New Arduino

Sony has recently launched one of its new products, Spritzer! Spritzer is an Arduino-compatible board for IoT applications that has built-in GPS, audio codec, and low power consumption.

While it is Arduino-compatible, the board allows any developer to easily start app development using the free Arduino IDE and an ordinary USB cable. In fact, the board features a processing chip with a unique combination of low power consumption and a rapid clock speed of 156MHz. Thus, it is extremely versatile and it can be deployed for a vast range of use cases.

For the first time, the company demonstrated the board at Tokyo Maker Faire last month with a drone utilizing the GPS and the 6-axis sensor support, a smart speaker utilizing the audio functions, a self-driving line-tracing miniature car, and a low-power smart sensing IoT camera using the camera interface of Spritzer.

Sony Spritzer specifications

  • MCU – Sony CDX5602 ARM Cortex-M4F ×6 micro-controller clocked at up to 156 MHz with 1.5MB SRAM
  • Storage – 8MB Flash Memory, micro SD card
  • GNSS – GPS, GLONASS, supported
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio jack
  • Expansion I/Os
    • Digital I/O Pins – SPI, I2C, UART, PWM ×4 (3.3V)
    • Analog Pins – 6ch (3.3V range)
    • Audio I/O – 8ch Digital MICs or 4ch Analog MICs, Stereo Speaker, I2S, CXD5247 audio codec with 192 kHz/24bit High-Resolution audio
    • 2x camera interfaces
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for programming
Spritzer Block Diagram

“You’ll have to connect external module to get Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE, a display up to 360×240 resolution can be used via SPI, all sort of sensors can be connected via the expansion header, the board is suitable for microphone arrays, and it can be powered by batteries thanks to a charger circuit and fuel gauge inside CXD5247 audio codec / PMU chip.” – CNXSoft

More details about the board will be available by 2018. Until then, check this Japanese official page about Spritzer, or this translated page.

Learn Arduino Easily with The Arduino Inventor’s Guide

Are you looking for Arduino tutorials? Already over-whelmed by the guides and videos available on the internet? Sparkfun is making Arduino and electronics easier for you with its new book ” The Arduino Inventor’s Guide”!

First of all, the authors of this book , Brian Huang and Derek Runberg, are both working in the department of Education at SparkFun Electronics. Since they are experienced in electronics and educating engineering in schools, they are working towards making electronics easy and fun.

In fact, this 10-project guide is a project-packed introduction to building and coding with Arduino microcontroller. With each hands-on project, total beginners learn useful electronics and coding skills while building an interactive gadgets. Accordingly, this guide is within the introductory-level educational series introduced by No Starch Press and Sparkfun.

“We wanted to share the magic that happens when you build something interactive with electronics,” says Huang. “The goal is to teach real, valuable hardware skills, one project at a time,” adds Runberg.

Content of the book

  • Introduction
  • Electronics Primer
    101 electronics
  • Project 1: Getting Started with Arduino
    Blinking an LED
  • Project 2: A Stoplight for Your House
    A miniature traffic light
  • Project 3: The Nine-Pixel Animation Machine
    An LED screen that displays animated patterns and shapes
  • Project 4: Reaction Timer
    A fast-paced button-smashing game to test your reflexes
  • Project 5: A Color-Mixing Night-Light
    A light-sensitive, color-changing night-light
  • Project 6: Balance Beam
    A challenging ball-balancing game
  • Project 7: Tiny Desktop Greenhouse
    A temperature-sensing mini greenhouse with an automated fan and vent
  • Project 8: Drawbot, the Robotic Artist
    A motorized robot that you can control
  • Project 9: Drag Race Timer
    A racing timer for toy cars
  • Project 10: Tiny Electric Piano
    A tiny electric piano that you can actually play!
  • Appendix: More Electronics Know-How

Reviews

The Arduino Inventor’s Guide will appeal to the gadget freak as well as those who like to put their own spin on things.” —Microcontroller Tips

“This is probably the best Arduino starter book out there! I highly recommend it for every library and classroom.” —Sequential Tart

To sum up, the book is available for $30 on No Starch Press as a printed book and for $25 as an Ebook. In addition, you can check this page for more insights. Also download Project 2: A Stoplight for Your House, and the sketches, templates, and diagrams used in this book.

Water Splitting With Solar Energy

Using solar energy to split water provides an efficient way for large scale renewable energy conversion and storage. A group of researchers from TUDelft and AMOLF have successfully developed an efficient and stable photo-electrode that could improve water splitting with solar energy.

Decomposition of water using solar energy

This photoelectrode absorbs light and directly decomposes water into hydrogen and oxygen. In addition to the efficiency, the system is also cheap because of using silicon wafers as the light absorbing material.

The Process

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) splitting of water is a direct conversion of solar to chemical energy to produce renewable and clean fuel. The hydrogen, for example, can be used directly in fuel cells, or combined with other molecules to create durable materials.

Together with colleagues from AMOLF (Amsterdam), we have engineered a photo-electrode, a material that absorbs light and directly splits water, that has a very high efficiency and over 200 hours of stability’, says Wilson Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at TU Delft. ‘This is remarkable in a field where people normally show only a few hours of stability.  We use silicon wafers as the light absorbing material, so the photoelectrode is also very cheap.

Researchers had also designed a new insulator layer to stabilize the semiconductor (Si) photo-electrode, while keeping the high efficiency of water splitting by using two metals. This approach known as making a metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) junction. It is a simple system that combines the stability and catalysis bottlenecks in photoelectrochemical water splitting.

For more information, the researchers had published this research in Nature Communications.

Smallest Satellite Ever Sent & Operated in Orbit By Breakthrough Starshot

Breakthrough Starshot is a research and engineering project by Breakthrough Initiatives to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to the Alpha Centauri star system, 4.37 light-years away, at speeds between 15% and 20% of the speed of light, taking between 30 and 20 years to get there, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

The project was announced on 12 April 2016 in an event in New York City by physicist and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and cosmologist Stephen Hawking who is serving as board member of the initiatives. Other board members include Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The project has an initial funding of US$100 million to start research. Milner places the final mission cost at $5–10 billion, and estimates the first craft could launch around 2036.

It is now in orbit!

On June 23, the initiative sent the tiniest-ever satellites into orbit. Thanks to an Indian rocket, 6 of these satellites, as named as Sprites, went to space. Some of them were attached to larger satellites: : the Latvian Venta satellite and the Italian Max Valier satellite which will release the other four Sprites to orbit once communications are achieved.

In fact, each Sprite contains a computer processor, solar panels, a magnetometer, a gyroscope, and a radio for communicating with researchers on Earth and all in a size of  3.5×3.5 cm circuit board.
Until now, only one signal came from on of the 2 Sprites. Since the Max Valier hasn’t established a connection yet, the remaining Sprites didn’t detach. Usually the satellite should receive a command to release its cargo, and this is not possible without a functioning antenna.
Despite the humble results, the team is feeling victorious. Having these small and cheap satellites hovering over the space and doing part of the job is an achievement.
These tiny satellites can go along on a planetary exploration mission and start deployment once they get there. By using these satellites, the risk of sending large spacecrafts will diminish.
 To find more details about the Breakthrough Starshot, check out this official website.