We’ve already covered LicheePi One board powered by Allwinner A13 processor, but it was not for sale out of China, and the developers are now back with LicheePi Zero board/module, slightly bigger than an SD card, featuring Allwinner V3s processor, and offered for as low as $6, or $8 with WiFi via an Indiegogo campaign.
LicheePi Zero specifications:
SoC – Allwinner V3s ARM Cortex A7 processor @ up to 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400 GPU, 512Mbit (64MB) DDR2 on-chip
Storage – micro SD card slot, SPI flash (not 100% clear if it will be populated when shipped to backers)
Display – FPC40 RGB Connector with support for 800×480 RGB LCD
Audio – Audio codec
USB – micro USB OTG port
2x 15 headers with 2.54mm pitch, breadboard friendly with GPIOs, 2x UART, 1x SPI, 2x I2C,ADC, 1x PWM
2x 30 half-holes with 1.27mm pitch with OTG USB，MIPI CSI，EPHY，RGB LCD, more GPIOs
RGB connector can take add-on boards for GPIO, LVDS, HDMI, VGA, etc…
Misc – RGB LED
Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port, or 5V/GND header
Dimensions – 44.6×25.5mm
Most development board come with SDK using older version of Linux, but LicheePi Zero supports the latest Linux 4.10 kernel, as well as buildroot, Debian, and Raspbian Jessie with Pixel (experimental). The source code and hardware documentation can be found on Github.
Another selling point of this tiny board is the number of add-boards, with a WiFi board that be either plugged into the micro SDcard slot, or soldered along some of the 2.54mm pitch header, several converter using the RGB interface for VGA, LVDS, HDMI, DVP camera) or even some extra GPIOs.
The developer also provides a baseboard for LicheePi Zero module giving access to a 3.5mm audio jack, a built-in microphone, and Ethernet, as well as I/O ports for even more add-ons such as cameras, OLED or TFT displays, speakers, LoRa modules, and so on.
The modularity and options of Lichee Pi Zero is well summarized in the diagram below.
To get started easier, the developers also worked on some projects or bundles like a portable Linux handheld computer, a mini DIY laptop, VGA or HDMI computer bundles, “LoRa Netgate”, wireless speakers, etc… You can watch the demo of some of those, and more details about the board and modules in the video below.
While LicheePi Zero and ZeroW models are respectively $6 and $8 per unit, you can’t buy one only at price, as the minimum order is two, so $12 for Zero, and $16 for ZeroW, except for the developer edition (shipped ASAP) that’s $12 for one ZeroW. ZeroW mini laptop DIY suit rewards with a LicheePi Zero, a micro SD wifi card, an OTG adapter, a 5″ 800×480 LCD, a wireless keyboard, a LiPo battery, and other accessories as shown at the start of the video above is just $39, while the LoRa Netgate suite with 2 A.I Thinker LoRa modules and a custom protocol (not LoRaWAN) goes for $40. There are many other rewards that you can checked in the Indiegogo page. Shipping is not included by only adds $5, and delivery is planned for May to June 2017 depending on perks. You can ask your question on on Indiegogo, as well as iLichee Forums.
GOLE has designed GOLE 360 video camera to connect to your smartphone via its micro USB, or USB type C port, and let you shot 360 degrees videos or photos. The company has sent me a review sample with a USB type C port in order to test it with Vernee Apollo Lite Android smartphone. I’ve spent about two days playing with it, so I’ll report my experience with the 360° camera, and my attempts at playing the videos back on my computer.
GOLE 360 Unboxing
The camera is sent in a white retail box with “Micro USB” or “Type C” option, and as requested I got the latter.
The camera comes with a pouch, a useful user’s manual in English, and a USB to USB type C cable. I did not use the latter since I instead charge the camera with my phone’s power adapter and cable.
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One side of device comes with a wide angle camera and the power button, while the other includes another wide angle camera, two LEDs: blue for recording status, orange & green for power & charging status, a small microphone opening on another side, and on the bottom: a reset button, a USB type C port for charging, and a micro SD slot.
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If you have ordered the micro USB port version, you’ll get a micro USB port for the phone connector, and the same USB Type-C port shown above for charging.
Gole 360 Initial Setup
The camera’s battery should have some charge, but you may still want to fully charge it before using it. The LED will blink with orange color during charging, and blink with green color once it is fully charged.
My phone is up to 1 cm thick in the area around the USB type C port, and the camera does not fit perfectly, but it still usable.
You can scan the QR code in the user’s manual, or download it directly in order to install GOLE 360 Android app. I used Gole%C2%A0360_1.0.2.apk & HiGole_1.0.6.apk (from the previous link) for this review, but I did not see any obvious differences. You’ll also want to insert a micro SD card formatted with FAT32, as the app cannot record photos or videos directly into your phone’s storage.
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As soon as you start Gole 360 app, the screen with rotate upside down, and you should see a blue screen showing no file. This will be fine for most phones, but in case your manufacturer decided to put the USB port on the top of the phone, it might not be convenient to use. Now we can press the power button for five seconds in order to start the camera and use it. The green LED should be on at this stage. Note that the LEDs are not very bright, and while that’s good enough indoors, they are very difficult to see outdoors. The user’s manual also explains how to use the camera in standalone mode. i.e. without smartphone, but I don’t think it would be very convenient so I skipped that part.
Gole 360 App and 360° Photo Shots and Video Recording
We now need to press the top right “camera” icon to connect to the camera by enabling USB Tethering. I had to do that each time I started the app, except for the middle step after selection “Do not prompt”.
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Once USB tethering is enabled go back and you should see the camera output in sphere mode (left), but you can also switch to planet mode (center), or flat mode (right) using the bottom left icon in the main zone. You can pinch to zoom in/out, ad swipe to move up/down and/or left/right in all three views.
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The battery level is shown on the top right together with the remaining number of photos or video time based on the free space on the micro SD card. I had not installed a micro SD card at that time thinking I could record to the phone’s storage, and that’s why it shows “0”. Another option is “virtual reality mode”, but it can only be used during live preview or playback, as this mode is designed to be used with virtual reality headsets while watching the video.
Virtual Reality Mode
The bottom bar of the app has three icons for file manager, shot photo/record video, and switch between photo/video mode. At first I recorded videos in sphere, planet , and flat modes, but I soon felt stupid, as I discovered it does not change the output format of the photo or the video, only the way it is shown.
You may also want to change the settings by pressing the bottom right button.
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I did not change anything, and tested with the default options: 1920×960@30fps, 5MP, and normal recording. Once you’ve recorded a few video, you can access the file manager to watch your videos or check out your photo using the four modes: sphere, planet, flat or VR. There’s also a “download” icon to transfer the videos / photos to the internal storage of your phone.
I’ll include some raw samples if you want to check it out by yourself. You just need to install Gole 360 app to watch them on your Android phone, TV box, or VR headset.
You could also watch the short demo below to more clearly understand how some of the features.
Attempts at Playing GOLE 360 videos on Laptop / Desktop Computer
The easiest way to watch the 360° videos or photos recorded by the camera on a big screen is by using GOLE 360 app on a TV box, your phone with a VR headset, or a standalone Android VR headset. But I wanted to try to play the videos on my (Ubuntu 16.04) computer. So I took out the micro SD card, and browse to DCIM/100CVR directory with two more subdirectory for “Video” and “Photo”. I clicked on one of of the MP4 videos in the Video folder, and it started Totem video player with the video looking like the screenshot below.
So obviously , we need a special 360° video player to play those files, and I found GoPro VR Player, that very easy to install on Linux as a Deb package is provided. If you prefer an open source program, VLC 360 (beta) can be used but the developers only release binaries for Windows or Mac in binary format. Source code is available for Linux, which means you’d have to built it from source, until your distribution packages it, or somebody offers a ppa or equivalent. Anyway for a quick test, I played the video in GoPro VR player, and it “worked” , well sort of, as the stichting job is awful.
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So far my main experiebce with 360° videos is through YouTube, so I directly uploaded a video, and it looked like the first Totem screenshot. After further research I found the videos need to be processed before upload. YouTube also explains:
YouTube currently supports 360° videos with 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, or 60 frames per second. We recommend uploading 360 videos (equirectangular format with a 2:1 aspect ratio) at a resolution of 7168×3584 or higher, up to 8192×4096.
With our 1920×960 camera we are quite far from the recommend upload settings, but I tried anyway, and downloaded and installed Spatial Meta Data Injector for Windows. Selected one of the MP4 videos on the micro SD card, made sure “My video is spherical (360), and clicked on Inject Metadata, which will save the video with the suffix _injected.
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I uploaded the videos on YouTube, and it “worked” but with the ugly stitching job.
So I have not found a proper way to play videos in my computer, or upload them to YouTube. There’s probably no standard for 360° videos so everybody is doing their own method, but it would probably be a good idea to make it compatible with YouTube…
If you don’t mind playing the videos with GOLE 360 Android app, and you can purchase GOLE 360 for $104.81 shipped and up on GearBest or Banggood.
The first Raspberry Pi was launched 5 years ago on February 29, 2012, and the Raspberry Pi foundation has made an habit of announcing new products on the anniversary of the board. This year is no exception, as the foundation has just announced Raspberry Pi Zero W, based on the popular Raspberry Pi Zero, but potentially much more useful, as they added a WiFi and Bluetooth LE module to the board.
Raspberry Pi Zero W specifications:
SoC – Broadcom BCM2835 ARM11 processor @ 1GHz with VideoCore IV GPU
System Memory – 512MB RAM
Storage – microSD slot
Video Output – mini HDMI port and composite video (via 2 unpopulated pins)
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (same Cypress CYW43438 wireless chip as Raspberry Pi 3 Model B)
USB – 1x micro USB OTG port, 1x micro USB port for power only
You’ll get the same operating support as Raspberry Pi Zero, and other Raspberry Pi boards with distributions such as Rasbian.
They’ve also launched a case for RPI 0 / RPi0 W boards with three interchangeable lids:
One with an aperture and mounting point for a camera
One with an aperture to let you access the GPIOs
A blank one
You can purchased Raspberry Pi Zero W (Wireless) for $10 via one of the global distributors (Pimoroni, Adafruit, The Pit Hut, and Canakit), as well as some local distributors. Many are selling starter kits instead of the board only.
Smartphones allow you to zoom in when taking a picture, but most of the time it’s achieved using a software based digital zoom, and quality suffers greatly as a results. Oppo has however designed a new smartphone camera module with a 3x optical zoom, and “image fusion” technology to bring the level of “lossless” zoom to 5 times. Some phones such as Asus Zenfone Zoom come with a 3x optical zoom, and you can purchase detachable zoom for your smartphone, but none of those are as quite as compact as Oppo solution, which from the outside looks like a standard dual camera since it’s so thin (5.7 mm).
They’ve managed to keep the module compact by designing a periscope-style structure that divert light through a prism and into a telephoto lens nested inside the smartphone, set at a 90° angle to a rear-facing wide-angle lens.
The camera also comes with an “all-new optical image stabilization” in order to shoot clear pictures even when in motion, as vibrations are an even large effect when the zoom is active. Oppo OIS solution is said to improve the compensation by 40% compared to previous generation cameras. The prism is also part of the stabilization as it can adjust its angle by 0.0025° increments.
OPPO has introduced the camera module at Mobile World Congress 2017, but did not announce any phone with the module, nor mention when we can expect the camera to be found in consumer devices.
Next Thing introduced Dashbot Car Dashboard Assistant based on CHIP Pro module late last year, and it will get some competition with Dride, a driving assistant powered by Raspberry Pi, that can also be voice controlled like Dashbot, but includes a Pi camera to record videos, and alert the users of dangers using computer vision, for example when they drive too close to the car in front.
The system leverages Raspberry Pi board and Pi Camera, and adds an outer shell, Dride’s Raspberry Pi HAT, and a car charger & cable. Some of the key features listed for the Dride include:
Cloud support – Upload and store driving videos to your Dride profile
ADAS – Safety alerts in case of lane deviation or frontal collision
Voice – Voice commands for navigation & messaging
Connectivity – Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS
The developers also provide “Dride – Passenger Seat Driver” app for Android & iOS in order to easily share videos, and use third party services like Google Maps, Alexa Assistant, or Spotify. The video below will give you a good idea of what Dride is capable of.
The project has just launched on Kickstarter with the goal of raising $100,000 for mass production. If you already own a Raspberry Pi and Pi camera, a $99 pledge will get you the extra parts with the HAT, outer shell, and car charger. A complete system with the board, camera, and micro SD card pre-installed with DrideOS, requires a $139 pledge (Early bird). Shipping adds $20, and deliver is planned for September 2017.
Sony has announced what it claims to be the first 3-layer stacked CMOS image sensor with DRAM for smartphones, which allows for fast data readout speeds making possible still images capture of fast moving objects with minimal focal plane distortion, and recording of Full HD (1920×1080) slow motion movies at 1000 fps, which compares to current solutions capable of only 720p @ 240 fps such as Google Pixel phones.
Conventional 2-layer stacked CMOS image sensor vs Sony’s 3-layer stacked CMOS image sensor with DRAM
Sony CMOS camera key specifications as listed in the press release:
While the frame rate for movies is only listed up to 240 fps for full HD videos in the specs, the demo video included in the announcement clearly shows 1080p videos recording at 960p and played back at 15 fps, and the results are rather cool.
Sony did not say when we can expect smartphones based on the camera. The new solution was presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco, during a talk entitled “A 1/2.3inch 20Mpixel 3-Layer Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with DRAM”.
GOLE is better known for their mini PC tablet combos like GOLE1 and GOLE1 Plus, but the company is about to launch GOLE360 360 Degree Panorama VR Action Camera looking very similar to Insta360 Nano camera, but instead of being designed for iPhones, they made is for Android smartphones with either a micro USB port, or a USB type C port.
GOLE360 camera specifications:
SoC – InfoTM C23 32-bit processor @ up to 600MHz with 128MB RAM on-chip
Storage – micro SD slot up to 128GB
4 MP sensor
Camera lens: aperture F2.4, focuses: Efl 0.94, angle: 210o
Video – H.264/MOV up to 1920×960@30fps /1472×736@30fps
Photo – JPEG @ 3008×1504 /1920×960
USB – 1x micro USB 2.0 port, or 1x USB 2.0 type C port depending on model
Battery – 3.7V/800mAh
Dimensions – 11.68 x 3.7 x 2.2cm
The camera runs Linux 3.10. This is not the first 360 degree camera for Android smartphone, and we’ve covered Insta360 Air spherical camera, but GOLE360 offers a different form factor, and includes a battery which will allow you to use it in standalone mode. The Android app is currently only available as an apk, and is supposed to support photo and video recording and streaming using flash, sphere, VR and planet modes.
e-con Systems, an embedded camera solution company, has just announced the launch of e-CAM130_CUTX1 MIPI camera board for NVIDIA Jetson Tegra X1 development kit. The 13MP camera is based on On Semiconductor AR1820 CMOS image sensor, connects to TX1 board via its 4-lane MIPI CSI-2 connector, and supporting up to 3840 x 2160 @ 30fps/ 13MP@ 20 fps video streaming in uncompressed YUV format.
Jetson TX1 Board fitted with e-CAM130_CUTX1 camera module
e-CAM130_CUTX1 4K camera board features & specifications:
Sensor – 1/2.3″ Optical form factor AR1820HS sensor with on-board high performance ISP.
Focus Type – Fixed focus
Resolution: – 13MP on e-CAM130_CUTX1 (The sensor is capable of 18MP)
Pixel size – 1.25μm pixel with Aptina / ON Semiconductor A-PixHS with BSI technology and advanced pixel architecture
Dimensions – 75.03 mm x 40.18 mm x 25.6 mm (without lens)
Weight – 20 grams without lens, 26.5 grams with.
The board comes with an S-mount (M12) lens mount that enables customers to choose a lens of their choice.
The company provides a standard V4L2 driver for the camera board, which also supports Gstreamer 1.0 for video recording and networking streaming, and can be controlled with programs such GUVCViewer as demonstrated in Ubuntu 16.04 in the video below.
e-CAM130_CUTX1 4K camera module is available now for $249 via e-con Systems product page, where you’ll also find documentation (free email registration required) such as the datasheet, a getting started guide, various usage guide, and a developer’s guide.