Hardware category

ReRAM, Process Data Where They Are Stored

Because data storage and processor are separated from each other, moving data between the storage and the computation unit became a main factor in computing.
Many techniques were developed to speed up this process, such as pipelining, caching, and look-ahead execution, but “ReRAM” appears as a new technique to solve the root of the problem by merging memory and processor together.

Resistive RAM, which known as RRAM or RERAM, is the new generation of memories. Its cells are simpler than classic transistor-based memory cells, they are non-volatile, switch fast and can run from low voltages. Researchers now have managed to make RERAM cells store more than just a ‘0’ or a ‘1’, enabling in-place computations.

The first small memory devices based on this technology is the MB85AS4MT, that was developed by Fujitsu Semiconductor with Panasonic Semiconductor Solutions. MB85AS4MT is a 4 Mbit ReRAM chip that operates with a supply voltage in the range from 1.65 to 3.6 V and has an SPI interface. One of the stand-out features of this technology is its low operating current, just 0.2 mA, at a maximum read speed of 5 MHz.

Using so-called RERAM crossbar arrays, researchers have demonstrated the in-memory execution of binary matrix computations frequently encountered in high-performance computing, algebraic cryptanalysis, combinatorics and finite geometry data, and in general large scale data analysis. Although we are only at the beginning of this technology, the results are already promising.

More mathematical details can be found in this paper.

Source: elektor.

Easy ARM Programming With 1Bitsy & Black Magic Probe

1 Bit Squared executes hardware and software design, development and manufacturing for a wide range of micro to nano UAV systems available on the market: from quadcopters to multicopters as well as airplanes, helicopters and transitioning vehicles. A Kickstarter campaign was launched to unveil  the new Black Magic Probe V2.1 with its companion demo platform 1Bitsy V1.0.

The Black Magic Probe is a JTAG and SWD Adapter used for programming and debugging ARM Cortex MCUs. It’s the best friend of any ARM microcontroller developer. It works like a brain tap, it allows you to inspect and affect any aspect of the program you are running on your 1Bitsy without having to add special code. 1Bitsy is a user friendly open-source ARM Cortex-M4F Development Platform.

Check the campaign video to know more about the new products.

The Plug & Play JTAG/SWD ARM debugger features:

  • On board implementation of JTAG (Joint Test Access Group) protocol
  • On board implementation of the SWD (Serial Wire Debug) protocol
  • High speed data interface to the Device Under Test 4.5MBit
  • On board implementation of the GNU Debugger Server protocol (no need for OpenOCD) works with stock arm-none-eabi-gdb (no patches or plugins needed)
  • Automatic detection of the Device Under Test (no need for config files)
  • Frontend Level shifter. Usable with targets that run on voltages as low as 1.7V and as high as 5V.

In efforts to demystify ARM programming, you are now able to do the following applications while using a Black Magic Probe:

  • Interrupt program
  • Inspect and modify registers and variables
  • Watch variables (the program gets interrupted and reports a variable value change)
  • Breakpoints (you can set a point in your code that will cause the program to stop as soon as it is reached)
  • Call stack and backtrace (you can see what functions, with which parameters brought us to the current point and state of the program)
  • Disassembly (see the machine code and find out exactly what your program is doing)
  • Dump memory (download the RAM and/or flash content to a file)

1Betsy & Black Magic was available as an early bird combo for $65. The campaign has exceeded its $10,000 goal with $47,841 and should be delivering rewards now. More technical details can be reached at the campaign and the official website.

Arduino-Programmable ESP32 Development Board

Ezsbc, an American embedded control solutions retailer, had produced a new development board that simplifies working with ESP32 module and makes it programmable via USB using the Arduino IDE.

The ESP32 is a low cost, ultra low power microcontroller with integrated Wi-Fi & dual-mode Bluetooth, which employs a dual-core Tensilica Xtensa LX6 microprocessor. ESP32 is created and developed by Espressif Systems for mobile devices, wearable electronics and IoT applications. It is a successor to the ESP8266 microcontroller.

Other than the ESP32 module, the board has an FTDI FT231XS USB to Serial converter, a 3.3V LDO, reset and flash switches and a multi color LED. The module can be programmed directly from the Arduino environment with 921600 bps upload speed.

It supports auto-download and will automatically be set in download mode by the downloader. Once the download is complete the board will be reset, just like a normal Arduino board.

Features of the ESP32 board:

  • 240 MHz dual core Tensilica LX6 microcontroller with 600 DMIPS
  • Integrated 520 KB SRAM
  • Integrated 802.11BGN HT40 Wi-Fi transceiver, baseband, stack and LWIP
  • Integrated dual mode Bluetooth (classic and BLE)
  • 16 MByte flash
  • 2.2V to 3.6V operating voltage
  • On-board PCB antenna
  • 3 x UARTs, including hardware flow control
  • 3 x SPI
  • 2 x I2S
  • 12 x ADC input channels
  • 2 x DAC
  • 2 x I2C
  • PWM/timer input/output available on every GPIO pin
  • SDIO master/slave 50 MHz
  • Supports external SPI flash up to 16 MB
  • SD-card interface support

The board is available for $17 on tindie store. Datasheet, documentation, and schematics are also available there.

Meet BeagleBone Blue by Beagleboard

A new development board by BeagleBoard has been just unveiled: BeagleBone® Blue! The new board is dedicated for designers, hobbyists and professional featuring a Linux-enabled robotics controller complete with an extensive set of peripherals for building mobile robots quickly and affordably.

It is easier today to build your robot using BeagleBone Blue since it has onboard 2 cell (2S) LiPo battery management with charger and battery level LEDs, 8 real-time software controlled PWM/PPM outputs for 6V servo motors or electronic-speed-controllers (ESCs), 4 PWM-enabled DC motor drivers, 4 quadrature encoder inputs, on-board sensors including a 9-axis IMU and barometer, a wide array of GPIO and serial protocol connectors including CAN,4 ADC inputs, a PC USB interface, a USB 2.0 host port, a reset button, a power button, two user configurable buttons and eleven user configurable LED indicators.

BeagleBone Blue also has a pre-configured Wi-Fi access point that enables the process of connecting a battery and coding through a web browser. The board is compatible with Debian, ROS, and ArduPilot software, in addition to Cloud9 IDE on Node.js and other graphical programming options.

Key Features

  • Processor: Octavo Systems OSD3358 1GHz ARM® Cortex-A8
    • 512MB DDR3 RAM
    • 2×32-bit 200-MHz programmable real-time units (PRUs)
    • 4GB 8-bit on-board flash storage programmed with Debian Linux distribution
  • Connectivity and Sensors:
    • Battery: 2-cell LiPo support with balancing, 9-18V charger input
    • Wireless: 802.11bgn, Bluetooth 4.1 and BLE
    • Motor control: 8 6V servo out, 4 DC motor out, 4 quadrature encoder in
    • Sensors: 9 axis IMU, barometer
    • Connectivity: HighSpeed USB 2.0 client and host
    • Other easy connect interfaces: GPS, DSM2 radio, UARTs, SPI, I2C, analog, buttons, LEDs
  • Software Compatibility
    • Debian, ROS, Ardupilot, …
    • Graphical programming, Cloud9 IDE on Node.js
    • plus much more

Designed and developed in coordination with the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab, BeagleBone Blue will the best board to use  for your next robot!

BeagleBone Blue is available today from Arrow, Element14 and Mouser for around $80. For more details, visit https://beagleboard.org/blue.

tinyTILE, An Intel Development Board Based on Intel Curie Module

In the past year, Intel announced the low power development board “tinyTILE” which was built based on Intel Curie Module, offering quick and easy identification of actions and motions, features needed by always-on applications.

tinyTile was designed for use in wearable devices and rapid prototyping. It is a 35 x 26 mm board and has an Intel Curie Module on the top and a flat reverse side. There are 20 general purpose I/O pins (four of them are PWM output pins) operate at 3.3V with a maximum of 20 mA current.

The Intel Curie Module is a low-power compute module featuring the low-power 32-bit Intel Quark microcontroller with 384kB flash memory and 80kB SRAM, low-power integrated DSP sensor hub and pattern matching technology, Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE), and 6-axis combo sensor with accelerometer and gyroscope.

Intel Curie Module Block Diagram

Features of the tinyTILE include:

  • Intel® Curie™ module dual-core (Intel® Quark* processor core and ARC* core)
  • Bluetooth® low energy, 6-axis combo sensor and pattern matching engine
  • 14 digital input/output pins (four can be used as PWM output pins)
  • Four PWM output pins
  • Six analog input pins
  • Strictly 3.3 V I/Os only
  • 20 mA DC current per I/O pin
  • 196 kB Flash memory
  • 24 kB SRAM
  • 32 MHz clock speed
  • USB connector for serial communication and firmware updates (DFU protocol)
  • 35 mm length and 26 mm width

tinyTILE can be powered using the USB connection or by an external battery, and it is compatible with three development environments:

The board is available for around $40 on element14. All related documents, specifications, BOM, BSP and other needed information are available at the official page.

You can view this project that invades your dog’s privacy with impressive ease while you’re at work!

Make Your Own Laser Scanning Microscope

A laser scanning microscope (LSM) is an optical imaging technique for increasing optical resolution and contrast of micrographs. It permits a wide range of qualitative and quantitative measurements on difficult samples, including topography mapping, extended depth of focus, and 3D visualization.

A laser microscope works by shining a beam of light on a subject in an X-Y plane. The intensity of the reflected light is then detected by a photoresistor (LDR) and recorded. When the various points of light are combined, you get an image.

Venkes had built his own DIY laser scanning microscope with a DVD pick-up, an Arduino Uno, a laser, and a LDR. He had also published an A-Z tutorial about making a similar device.

The result image consists of 256×256 pixels with resolution of 200 nm, about 1300 time enlargement, and it will not cost you a lot because you may have most of the parts. However, the scanning process is a bit slow, it may need half an hour for one image, and it is not crispy sharp.

The parts needed for this DIT LSM are:

  • 2 lens/coil parts of a laser pick-up (DVD and/or CD)
  • a bit of PCB
  • a piece if UTP cable (approx 15cm)
  • An Arduino UNO
  • An LDR
  • 2 x 10uF capacitors
  • 1 x 220 Ohm resistor
  • 1 x 10k resistor
  • 1 x 10k pot
  • 1 x 200 Ohm trim potentiometer
  • 1 breadboard
  • 1 switch
  • 1 3,5 mm jack plug
  • 1 audio amplifier
  • 1 laser with a good collimating lens
  • 1 piece of glass, a quarter of a microscope object glass or so to act as a semipermeable mirror
  • The under part of a ballpoint casing to put the LDR in

For the software side, an Arduino sketch is used to steer the lens, to read the LDR values, and to send information to a Processing sketch which will receive the data and translate it into an image.

You can find more details of this project with the source files at the project’s Instructables page. This video shows the device in action:

Building A Tiny Portable Time-lapse Camera

Using a mini spy camera module, Ruiz Brothers had built a tiny portable camera that is used to take time-lapse videos and for all sorts of photo based projects.

This project consists of these parts with an estimated cost of $39:

The mini spy camera module has an integrated driver and is easy to use without an Arduino or Raspberry Pi. The camera sensor can take 1280×960 photos and captures video at 480p. The module uses a microSD card to store data and it has a maximum support of 32GB. For a higher image quality and adjustable settings, you can use other camera modules such as the Wearable Raspberry Pi Zero Camera.

To take a time-lapse, an intervalometer remote control is needed to trigger the camera for capturing a photo within a constant interval. The Adafruit Trinket microcontroller is used here, and you can also make your own following this guide.

The circuit will be powered by a 3.7V 100mAh Lithium Ion battery via JST connection. The battery plugs directly into the Trinket Backpack, which allows the recharging over the microUSB port on the Trinket.

The circuit is connected as shown in the diagram; the slide switch to Lipoly backpack, VCC from camera to 5V on Trinket, GND from camera to GND on Trinket, BAT from Lipo backpack to BAT on Trinket, G from Lipo backpack to GND on Trinket, and 5V from Lipo backpack to USB.

The code is very simple and can be uploaded to the controller using the Arduino IDE. The setup loop will initialize the pins, and the loop will turn on and off the trigger with a chosen delay.

int trig = 0;
int led = 1;
 
void setup() {                
  // initialize the digital pins as output.
  pinMode(led, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(trig, OUTPUT);         
 
  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);  
  digitalWrite(trig, HIGH); 
}
 
// Hold HIGH and trigger quick (<250ms) LOW to take a photo. Holding LOW and trigger HIGH starts/stops video recording
 
void loop() {
  digitalWrite(trig, LOW);   
  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
  
  delay(50);               
 
  digitalWrite(trig, HIGH);    
  digitalWrite(led, LOW);   
  
  delay(5000);               
}

The case in 3d printed, the design with a detailed description and the full making guide is available here. This video is showing how to make this tiny camera and how it works.

Low-Cost FPGA With Reconfigurable Electronics Feature

Iolinker is a cheap 64 FPGA board with a MachXO FPGA that functions as a dynamically configurable IO matrix. Its main functionality, besides IO extension, is to dynamically set up a matrix of GPIO connections, that allow direct pass-through of high-frequency signals. Circuits can thereby be configured and programmed on the fly. There are UART / SPI / I2C connections that allow for easy integration of up to 127 chips connected in parallel.

Thanks to the open source library, Iolinker allows developers to create reconfigurable, easy to self test electronics within minutes. It can be used to be an IO extender and can output PWM signals. In addition, its revolutionary “IO linking” feature allows to dynamically pass through high-speed signals between IOs, better than any microprocessor ever could.

Check this teaser about the new board:

Iolinker has the following specifications:

  • Reprogrammable FPGA board with Lattice LCMXO3L-4300E-5UWG81CTR50
  • Preprogrammed and usable out of the box as your IO interface of choice.
  • 49 GPIOs for PWM or IO extension usage, VCCIO is 3.3V.
  • Boards can be connected in parallel, to create endless IO extension.
  • IOs can be linked to each other, i.e. you tell the FPGA to connect them, and it forwards the input signal from one pin to another. (Read more about the iolinker chip function.)
  • UART, SPI or I2C interfaces are available.

In order to make the ultimate IO interface for users, the team are accepting feature requests at the contact page.

In short, the Iolinker board is easy to use and can reconfigure schematics on the fly, what makes it ideal to reduce prototyping time and jumper cable mess, and to maximize the ability of using IO extensions.

More technical details about Iolinker and its price will be announced soon at the Kickstarter campaign at Feb 14. Some special offers are for everyone who register in the website’s newsletter, so register now and stay tuned!

 

Puck.js - A JavaScript powered button

Puck.js – The Ground-Breaking Bluetooth Low Energy Beacon

Puck.js is a low energy smart device which can be programmed and debugged wirelessly with JavaScript. It is both multi-functional and easy to use.  This beacon uses a custom circuit board with the latest Nordic chip, Bluetooth LE, Infrared transmitter, NFC, magnetometer, temperature sensor, RGB LEDs, and much more. Unlike other beacons, Puck.js comes with the open source JavaScript interpreter Espruino pre-installed, which makes it incredibly easy to use. Anyone without any prior programming experience can get started in seconds.

Puck.js Has a Very Small Form Factor
Puck.js Has a Very Small Form Factor

Specifications:

  • Espruino JavaScript interpreter pre-installed
  • nRF52832 SoC – Cortex M4, 64kB RAM, 512kB Flash
  • 8 × 0.1″ GPIO (capable of PWM, SPI, I2C, UART, Analog Input)
  • 9 × SMD GPIO (capable of PWM, SPI, I2C, UART)
  • Compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 – giving Quadruple the range, and double the speed of Bluetooth 4.2
  • Built-in Near Field Communications (NFC)
  • 12 bit ADC, timers, SPI, I2C, and Serial
  • MAG3110 Magnetometer
  • IR Transmitter
  • Red, Green and Blue LEDs
  • Pin capable of capacitive sensing
  • Built-in temperature sensor, light sensor, and battery level sensor
  • ABS plastic rear case and silicone cover with tactile button
  • CR2032 210mAh battery

Features:

Puck.js has various sensors for different purposes and various kinds of output components. It can measure light, temperature, magnetic fields, and capacitance. This beacon also can control Infrared remote devices, produce any color light using RGB LED, and has a tactile switch that turns the Puck into one big button.

The Magnetometer on Puck.js is a digital compass. You can measure its orientation about the earth’s magnetic field in 3 dimensions. It can also detect a magnet nearby and measures the magnetic field.

Detailed View of Puck.js Bluetooth Beacon
Detailed View of Puck.js Bluetooth Beacon

Puck also has the Web Bluetooth feature that enables controlling it from a web page wirelessly. The website simply sends the JavaScript code directly to the Puck, and it’ll be executed. Another excellent feature of Puck.js is internet accessibility. Espruino contains TCP/IP and HTTP client and servers (including WebSockets). With a suitable Bluetooth LE to the Internet Gateway, you’ll be able to put your Puck on the web!

The story doesn’t end here. Compared to other smart beacons, Puck.js has much more features that make it unbeatable. Open Source hardware and software is one of them. Go here to get a complete list of all features.

Conclusion:

Puck is an outstanding product. It has tons of booming features in a small package, yet easy to program. Anyone can get started with this amazing device within seconds. You can get it at £28 from this Kickstarter link. Also watch this video from Kickstarter campaign or the below video by Adafruit.com for a better understanding.

OpenScope, An Open Source Multi-function Board

In order to make learning and using electronics accessible to all, Digilent Inc., an electrical engineering products company, had created a new powerful and affordable tool for  beginners and enthusiasts. ‘OpenScope’ is an instrumentation device that empowers makers, hobbyists, engineers, and new learners to design and debug their most innovative products.

OpenScope is a portable multi-function programmable instrumentation module, that connects with computer through WiFi or USB to allow acquiring, analysing, visualising, and controlling signals from circuits, sensors, and other electronic devices. It can also be programmed to work as a standalone development board, like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, with high-speed precision analog and digital I/O.

WaveForms Live is a free, open-source, JavaScript-based software that runs in a browser. It comes with OpenScope and is used for configuring it to work as an oscilloscope, a function generator, a logic analyzer, a power supply, or a data logger.

OpenScope can be used to make real time monitoring and troubleshooting projects, to build long-term capturing and calculating IoT devices, and also to gain a deeper understanding of electronics through visualizing what’s happening inside of the circuit.

The core of OpenScope is the Microchip PIC32MZ Processor, a 32-bit MCU based on the MIPS processor, clocked at 200MHz with 2 MB flash memory and up to 512KB high-speed SRAM. It is placed on OpenScope’s top face with a WiFi module, MicroUSB port for power and programming, programming headers, 30 pins, two input channels, gain select multiplexers, with led and buttons.

 

OpenScope Features:

  • 2 12-bit scope channels at 2 MHz bandwidth and 6.25 MS/sec sampling rate.
  • 1 MHz function generator output with 10 MS/sec update rate.
  • 10 programmable digital I/O pins .
  • Up to 50 mA ±4 volts programmable power supply.
  • On-Board WiFi
  • Reprogrammable through Arduino IDE and Microchip MPLabX

$14,000 has been reached since launching the Kickstarter campaign yesterday. You can reserve your own OpenScope for $80 and also an optional 3D printed case is available for $25. According to the project timeline, early shipping will begins in April 2017.