Crystal Board Combines Rockchip RK3188 ARM SoC with Xilinx FPGA and Arduino Compatible Board (Crowdfunding)

Red Crystal, a German startup, has just introduced the Crystal Board, a 3-in-1 development board with Rockchip RK3188 SoC running Linux or Android, an Arduino UNO compatible board, and a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA. The concept is a similar to the UDOO board, but adds an FPGA. The company has launched a Kickstarter campaign to gather funds to manufacture the Lite and Pro versions of the board for respectively $149 and $179.

Crystal Board - Top: RK3188, Bottom Left: Arduino, Bottom Right: Xilinx FPGA
Crystal Board Prototype – Top: Rockchip RK3188, Bottom Left: Arduino, Bottom Right: Xilinx FPGA

Crystal Board specifications (Lite and Pro versions):

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3188 ARM Cortex-A9 quad core up to 1.8Ghz + Mali-400 MP4 GPU
  • MCU – Atmel Atmega328 SMD
  • FPGA – Xilinx Spartan6 XC6SLX9 with 9152 logic cells
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 @ 1066MHz (1GB DDR3 @ 1066MHz for Lite version)
  • Storage – micro SD card slot, SPI flash
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4
  • Connectivity:
    • 10/100M Ethernet port
    • Wi-Fi  802.11b/g/n with antenna. Dual band for Pro version, 2.4GHz band for Lite version
    • Bluetooth – Bluetooth 4.0 (Pro version only)
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x USB OTG
  • Debugging – Serial, JTAG
  • Misc
    • 8 programmable LEDs and reset button for FPGA.
    • Pro version only: RTC, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, FM radio, 3-axis orientation/motion detection
  • I/Os
    • Rockchip RK3188 – 20 I/O pins including I2C, SPI, and UART
    • Atmel Atmega328 – 14 digital I/Os including 6 PWM output , and 6 analog input
    • Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA – 40 GPIO pins
Crystal Board Block Diagram
Crystal Board Block Diagram

The Arduino part communicates to RK3188 SoC via UART, and the FPGA port can be access from RK3188 via SPI. An FT2232D USB UART/FIFO chip allows you to flash the MCU or FPGA via USB port, and remove the need for external programming tools as Xilinx Platform Cable USB II which costs over $200.

The company will provide support for Android and Ubuntu for the board, as well as an optional premium software package with the following packages:

  • Crystal Web Server – Web server with graphical user interface (See video demo)
  • Crystal Cloud – Software that helps managing and controlling multiple boards remotely
  • Smart Control – Software we developed specifically for the FPGA

The premium software package cost $20, plus $30 if you need the source code, and includes a license, APIs and libraries (Java, JavaScript) to program and design your own controller. Remote FPGA reconfiguration and Arduino Flash are supported in this package too.

You can see what a few things you can do with the board in the kickstarter video. The robot arm in the video is controlled in real time via a WebGL 3D robot arm representation. When the arm is rotated in the web browser, Crystal Web Server will receive a signal, send a command to “Smart Control” in the FPGA, and the actual robot arm will rotate.

Hardware development seems mostly completed, and the kickstarter campaign is just there to lower cost for mass production. Software status, such as Android and Ubuntu support, is not as clear although they mention both OS could continuously run 5 days without issues. My main concern is the poor documentation from Rockchip, which could be an issue for low level programming. Having said that, I’d expect support to be equivalent to Radxa Rock development board, and it also appears Alok Sinha, who has been involved in RK3066/RK3188 open source development, is also part of the project, or least, has been contributing.

Crystal Board Lite is available for $149 and Crystal Board Pro for $179, but other pledges with accessories (cables, power supply, micro SD card…) are also available. Delivery is expected for April 2014. Beside the Kickstarter page, more information should eventually show up on Red Crystal website.

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