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Mycroft Mark II Smart Speaker / Voice Assistant Works with Open Source Software (Crowdfunding)

January 27th, 2018 3 comments

Smart speakers have gain a lot of traction over the last few years, but many of the solutions are based on Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice services, with both companies likely tracking your voice searches the same way they track your online searches to provide a “personalized experience” and sell you products or server ads that match your interests.

If you don’t like being tracked that way, a solution is to use an open source voice assistant such as Mycroft, and install it on a Linux computer, Raspberry Pi 3 board, or Android device. The company also introduced Mark I reference hardware platform based on Raspberry Pi 2 in 2015, and while all those hardware options should be fine for the technically inclined, but not really suited to the typical end user, and AFAIK they all lack a microphone array for better hot word detection. So Mycroft has come up with Mark II smart speaker that should work out of the box with a 6-mic array, a speaker, and 4″ touchscreen.

Mycroft Mark II specifications:

  • SoC – Xilinx quad-core processor
  • Audio
    • Far-field 6-microphone array
    • Hardware AEC, beamforming and noise reduction
    • Stereo sound with dual 2″ drivers (10W)
    • 3.5mm audio out
  • Display – 4″ IPS LCD touchscreen
  • USB – 1x USB Type A port
  • Storage – MicroSD card slot
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Power Supply – 18W power supply with international adapters
  • Dimensions – 196 mm (H) x 105 mm (Ø)

The company did not name the Xilinx processor, but considering Mycroft normally runs on Linux. this can only be one of the Xilinx Ultrascale+ MPSoCs combining four Cortex A53 cores, a dual Cortex-R5 cores, and Ultrascale FPGA.

The device supports many of the same features as other smart speaker with for example built-in support for 140 different skills working with Roku, Twitter, Pandora, Wikipedia, Facebook, Philips Hue, and more. The language is however limited to English for now, although Mycroft community has been working on Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and German language. The principle is also the same as for other smart speakers, with Mark II listening for a custom wake word (aka hot word), and once detected, the device sends the voice command to the cloud in order to process the audio, and send back the answer data. The company claims they do not store any data, contrary to what Google, Amazon, Apple (Siri) or Microsoft (Cortana) do, and only use open source software.

Click to Enlarge

Source code can be found on Github with 5 main components involved in the process:

  • PocketSphinx (and soon Precise) for wake-word detection
  • Mozilla DeepSpeech for speech to text (starting in March 2018)
  • Adapt and Padatious for natural language understanding
  • Mimic for text-to-speech
  • Python API for the skills framework

Mycroft Mark II smart speaker has recently launched on Kickstarter, and they’ll already surpassed their funding goal ($50,000) by raising close to $100,000 with 28 days to go. Rewards start with a $99 Mark II dev kit comes with all electronics but no housing, which you’ll be able to print using CAD files. If you want the complete assembled system with enclosure, a $129 pledge or greater is required. Shipping adds $15 to the US, and $35 to the rest of the world, with delivery for both the development kit, and smart speaker expected by December 2018. Visit Mycroft.ai for more details about the A.I solution and speaker.

Via LinuxGizmos

Quokka IoT FPGA Board is Programmable with C# Language (Crowdfunding)

January 12th, 2018 1 comment

Quokka IoT (preliminary) hardware specifications:

  • FPGA – Intel Altera Cyclone IV, 6K logic elements, EP4CE6E22C8
  • Clock – 50MHz
  • Connectivity – WiFi via WiPy module
  • Expansion
    • 40x GPIO (3 banks by 8 pins, with direction and voltage (3.3V or 5V) configuration, 16 raw IO pins 3.3V)
    • 2x Dual Channel 10 bit ADC (3.3V)
    • 2x Dual Channel 10 bit DAC (3.3V)
    • H-Bridge for DC motors with support for external power
  • Power Supply – 5-24V DC input

The specifications are preliminary, because the FPGA may be replaced by one with more logic cells (e.g. 20K) depending on the popularity of the project. Drivers are available for each hardware component on the board including ADC and DAC drivers, UART, JSON serializer\deserializer and much more.

As mentioned in the introduction, C# programming is possible with QDT, and it’s not limited to Quokka IoT board, so you should be able to use it with other FPGA boards, although a license may be required as we’ll see below.

You can watch a short demo of the board in action while attached to a robotic chassis.

The project has launched on Kickstarter with a $30.000 AUD funding goal (~$23,600 US). Rewards start at 150 AUD ($118 US) for Quokka IoT board only, but if you want to use the board with QDT, you’d need to add 50 AUD extra for a total of 200 AUD (~$158 US). Shipping adds 25 AUD ($19.7 US), and delivery is scheduled for May 2018.

Thanks to TLS for the tip

Obniz ESP32 Board is Programmable in JavaScript from the Cloud (Crowdfunding)

December 21st, 2017 No comments

ESP32 WiFi / Bluetooth boards are now commonly supported by the Arduino IDE, and alternative firmwares are also available to program them using JavaScript (e.g. Espruino), or MicroPython. But if are familiar with JavaScript / Node.js, and don’t want to flash your own firmware, Obniz board could be an option.

The board exposes 12 I/Os programmable from the company’s Cloud service, and features a OLED display used to show your program information, or a QR code to easily program the board from your smartphone’s browse once a WiFi connection has been setup.

Obniz hardware specifications:

  • Wireless Module – ESP-WROOM-ESP32 based on  ESP32 dual core 802.11 b/n/g WiFi + Bluetooth LE WiSoC
  • Display – 128×64 OLED display
  • I/Os
    • 12x I/O pins each configurable as GPIO, ADC, UART, SPI or I2C (no specialized pin, each can handle those functions)
    • Up to 1A drive per I/O to control motors
    • 3.3 or 5V selectable for each I/O
    • Short protection
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port

You’d program the board directly inside your web browser using JavsScript in Obniz cloud, and the company also provide a parts library in JavaScript. A REST or Websocket APIs are also provided, so you could control or program the board with curl, Switch or Node.js.

Tokyo based CambrianRobotics has launched the solution on Kickstarter with the goal of raising 1.5 million JPY (~$13,200 US). A super early bird pledge of ~$26 should get your Obniz board in March 2018. If you’ve miss all early bird rewards, the required pledge amount rises to about $42. Other rewards include a robot kit, basic & ultra kits. Shipping adds about $4.40 to Japan, and up to $17.60 to the rest of the world.

Arduino & Grove Compatible StitchKit Mixes Fashion & Technology (Crowdfunding)

December 16th, 2017 No comments

I don’t really get fashion. For example, I don’t understand why somebody would spend $100 on a pair of “Jean-Patrick Coultier” trousers, while you could get pretty much the same for about $20. My clothes just need to keep me warm and comfortable. And now I can see people starting to attach blinking lights to their clothes. Heresy!!!

But others have a different opinions, and people interested in fashion, may not be interested in electronics, but still want those shiny things on their clothes. StitchKit is an Arduino compatible board that can also take Seeed Studio Grove module designed for those kids, teachers, designers, and cosplayers who want to easily add LEDs and other electronics to clothes or other wearable pieces without having to dig into the technical details.

The system works around MakeFashion board powered by an Arduino compatible Microchip / Atmel ATMega32U4 AVR micro-controller with two rows of 6 pin headers, and holes to lock the wires to modules. The board will be powered through a USB type C port (photos look like micro USB), usually via a power bank for this type of application. You can then connect Grove module like RGB LED strip, and other sensor modules. It’s unclear whether they use the Arduino IDE for programming, or a simple-to-use visual programming tools, but sample code is coming soon, and instructions are included in the various kits. The next step is to fit the electronics under or on your clothes, and you could end up with results as shown below.

The project has launched on Kickstarter with a funding goal of $10,000 CAD, and nearly $8,000 CAD raised so far with 42 days to go. Rewards start with $49 CAD ($38 US) FashionTech Starter kit including MakeFashion board, a full color LED pixel string, Grove button and connector, plastic case, a USB type C cable, and instructions. You could go up to $199 CAD (~$155 US) for the FashionTech Creator kit with everything from the Start kit plus a one meter sewable RGB LED strip, RGB LED halo rings, 5 meter waterproof RGB LED strip with 300 LEDs, more Grove modules (Vibration, Light sensor, Loudness sensors…), 50cm long Grove cables, and more. Bundles for educations and collectors are also offered. Rewards are expected to ship in April 2018. More details nay also be found on StitchKit.io website.

 

 

LattePanda Alpha/Delta Kaby Lake & Gemini Lake Development Boards Support Windows 10 Pro or Linux (Crowdfunding)

December 8th, 2017 5 comments

LattePanda development board based on Intel Atom x5-Z8300 “Cherry Trail” processor was launched nearly exactly two years ago on Kickstarter. The board also included an Atmel MCU for Arduino compatibility, and contrary to most development boards on the market, focused on Windows 10 support instead of Linux. The crowdfunding campaign was very successful having raised over 440,000 GBP from around 4,000 backers, and now you an still buy the board and accessories on DF Robot or Amazon.

The company is now back with not only one, but two new LattePanda “hackable computers”, namely LattePanda Alpha powered by an Intel Core m3-7Y30 dual core “Kaby Lake” processor, and LattePanda Delta based on Intel Celeron N4100 quad core Gemini Lake processor. This time beside offering Windows 10 Pro, they are also committed to support Linux.

Beside processor, memory capacity, and storage options, LattePanda Alpha/Delta boards share most of the same specifications:

  • SoC
    • AlphaIntel Core m3-7Y30 dual core / quad thread Kaby Lake processor @ 1.6/2.6 GHz with Intel HD Graphics 615 @ 300/900 MHz; 4.5W TDP
    • DeltaIntel Celeron N4100 quad core Gemini Lake processor @ 1.1/2.4 GHz with Intel UHD Graphics 600 @ 200/700 MHz; TBD TDP
  • System Memory / Storage
    • Alpha – 8GB LPDDR3-1866 dual-channel, 64GB eMMC 5.0 flash, 1x M.2 M-key slot for SATA or NVMe SSD, micro SD slot
    • Delta – 4GB LPDDR4-2400 dual-channel, 32GB eMMC 5.0 flash, 1x M.2 B-key slot for SATA SSD, micro SD slot
  • MCU – “Arduino Leonardo” compatible MCU, so it should be Microchip/Atmel ATmega32u4 AVR MCU
  • Video Output & Display I/F – HDMI port, DisplayPort via USB-C port, eDP connector for external displays, touch panel
  • Audio – Via HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet,dual band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – 3x USB 3.0 type A port, 1x USB 3.0 type C port with support for PD (Power Delivery), DP (DisplayPort)
  • Expansion
    • 1x M.2 E-key slot with PCIe ×2, USB 2.0, I2C, SDIO, UART and PCM
    • 2x 50-pin headers with I2C, I2S, USB, RS232, system control pin, Arduino pins, and EC (BIOS) pins
  • Misc – RTC header, adjustable cooling fan header
  • Power Supply – USB type C port or 12V DC via header
  • Dimensions – 13.5mm thick

The design is similar to having a Windows 10 or Linux computer with an embedded Arduino board, so it might be convenient as an all-in-one Arduino development platform, or for project where you both need the processing power from an Intel processor, and the real-time and I/O capabilities of a micro-controller.

Both versions of the board are based on low power processors, but they still need to be cooled, so a large heatsink and/or a case with a fan can be provided.

Several variant of the boards will the available:

  • Delta 432 with or without Windows 10 Pro, and optional 7″ touch display and “titan” case.
  • Alpha 800 without eMMC flash
  • Alpha 864 with 64GB eMMC flash, optional Windows 10 Pro, 7″ touch display and “titan” case

Just like the first boards, LattePanda Alpha & Delta have been launched on Kickstarter, with a funding target of 125,000 CAD (Canadian Dollars) equivalent to roughly $97,000 US. I’ll use the US dollar equivalent prices for the pledges which start at $129 for LattePanda Delta 432 board, and $269 for LattePanda Alpha 800 board. The complete Alpha 864 bundle with Windows 10 Pro and all accessories requires a $419 pledge. They also have rewards with 10 units. Shipping adds around $17 worldwide, and backers should expect to receive their rewards in May 2018.

LattePanda Alpha is the very first Gemini Lake hardware I’ve seen so far on Crowdfunding websites, and the price bodes well for upcoming Gemini Lake mini PCs which should not be that much more expensive than Apollo Lake ones.

Via Time4EE

Detect Lightning with Those AMS AS3935 “Thunder” Boards

November 24th, 2017 1 comment

Launched in 2012, AMS AS3935 Franklin lightning sensor  is – at its name implies – a lightning sensing IC. The chip was designed for low power, portable or fixed wire-line applications, and beside detecting electrical emissions from lightning activity, it can also provide an estimation of the distance to the head of the storm from 40km away down to 1km, while filtering out other signals from motors, microwave ovens, etc…

Click to Enlarge

The chip interfaces via SPI or I2C to the host processor / micro-controller, and comes in a small MLPW-16 (4x4mm) package. Price is $3.55 per unit for 1k orders. Applications include wearables, golf carts, pool safety, portable GPS, bike computers, weather stations, uninterruptible power supplies, smart grid systems, environmental monitoring systems, etc… Basically, AS3935 can be used either for weather monitoring, or safety applications.

I’ve found two maker boards with the chip: MikroElectronika Thunder Click board compatible with MikroBUS socket (available now), and SwitchDoc Labs Thunder Board recently launched on Kickstarter, but that may be easier to use since Raspberry Pi and Arduino kits are offered.

MikroElectronika Thunder Click Board

Specifications:

  • On-board modules – AS3935 lightning sensor IC; MA5532 coil antenna
  • Detection – Distance to the head of the storm from 40 km down to 1 km in 14 steps; Detects both cloud-to-ground and intra-cloud (cloud-to-cloud) flashes
  • I/Os –  GPIOs, and SPI
  • Supply Voltage – 3.3V or 5V
  • mikroBUS socket compatible
  • Dimensions – 42.9 x 25.4 mm

You’ll find documentation and examples on the product page, where you can also purchase it for $35.  The board is ideal if you own a board with a mikroBus socket such as Hummingboard Gate, or Microchip Curiosity, although MikroElectronika sells MikroBus adapters for Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards. Note that the sample are for Microchip PIC32, so you’d have to adapt the code to your own platform.

SwitchDoc Labs Thunder Board and Kits

Specifications are basically the same as for Thunder Click boards, except it exposes two Grove connectors for Seeed Studio modules, and it interfaces to the host processor via I2C instead of SPI, and include 3 I/Os for interrupt and 2 analog inputs on the header.

But if you want something really easy to get started, the IoT Kits for Arduino or Raspberry Pi Zero W are the way to go. They are plug-and-play with an LCD display showing lightning info and a buzzer sound the alarm when lightning is detected, customizable thanks to open source software, and can be connected to the Internet over WiFi.

The Arduino kit includes:

  • The Thunder Board
  • Grove Mini Pro LP Arduino @ 16MHz
  • Grove WiFi Interface, LCD Display, and Buzzer
  • Grove cables
  • USB cable for power
  • FTDI cable for Programming
  • 3D printed enclosure or files depending on selected perk

The Raspberry pi kit includes:

  • The Thunder Board
  • Grove Temperature and Humidity Sensor, LCD Display, and Buzzer
  • Pi2Grover for Raspberry Pi
  • Grove Cables
  • 3D printed case or files  depending on reward

You’ll need to add your own Raspberry Pi board to the second kit, preferably Raspberry Pi Zero W.

The kits can transmit data to Pubnub over MQTT, which then displayed on Freeboard Internet dashboard as shown below.

Since lightning only occurs during thunderstorms, it would make testing problematic, or at least very slow, if you just had to wait for natural occurrences. So the company also made the Thunder Lightning Simulator board based on Arduino.

The Kickstarter campaign has already surpassed it funding target with over  $5,000 raised, and 12 days to go. A pledge of $23 should get your the Thunder Board, a $75 pledge is asked for respectively the Arduino and Raspberry Pi kits with 3D printed file, while $170 is needed if you want a complete Arduino kit with case and simulator. Shipping adds $3 to $30 depending on rewards and destination. Delivery is scheduled for next month.

Bolt IoT Platform Combines ESP8266, Mobile Apps, Cloud, and Machine Learning (Crowdfunding)

November 22nd, 2017 4 comments

There are plenty of hardware to implemented IoT projects now, but in many cases a full integration to get data from sensors to the cloud requires going though a long list of instructions. Bolt IoT, an Indian and US based startup, has taken up the task to simplify IoT projects with their IoT platform comprised of ESP8266 Bolt WiFi module, a cloud service with machine learning capabilities, and mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Bolt IoT module hardware specifications:

  • Wireless Module – A.I Thinker ESP12 module based on ESP8266 WiSoC
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi secured by WPA2
  • USB – 1x micro USB for power and programming
  • Expansion – 4-pin female header and 7-pin female header with 5 digital I/Os, 1x analog I/O, and UART
  • Misc – Cloud connection LED

The hardware is not the most interesting part of Bolt IoT, since it offers similar functionalities as other ESP8266 boards. But what may make the project worthwhile is built-in support for the company’s cloud service (lifetime access to backers) that simplifies node and data management, as well as Bolt IoT mobile app to control the board with your smartphone (Android or iOS)

Some other noticeable features of the Bolt IoT cloud platform include:

  • Remote configuration of the pins on Bolt WiFi module from the dashboard
  • Built-in code editor, and code deployment to all your Bolt based IoT devices with a single click.
  • Data Visualization
  • Machine learning for future data prediction and anomaly detection with just a few clicks.
  • Notifications over SMS and E-Mail.
  • Integration with systems like IFTTT and Zapier
  • Integration with smart home devices like Alexa and Google Home

The whole ecosystem supposedly allows developers to work 10 times faster, and use 80% less code than other methods.  The company will also provide an API that let you manage notifications, select third party visualization tools, and control devices from your own app.

The company launched their platform on Kickstarter at the beginning of November, and they’ve now surpassed their $10,000 funding target, having raised close to $30,000 from about 700 backers. Bolt IoT module with lifetime access to Bolt Cloud requires a $12 pledge, but they also have kits with Arduino baseboard and sensors starting with a $37 Starter Kit to the $650 Legendary kit with multiple Bolt board, and a very long list of modules. For some reasons that I may have missed all kits also include $10 credit with DigitalOcean VPS provider. Bolt Cloud will be free to all backers for life, but after the KS campaign Bolt IoT will charge a fee for commercial projects, and potentially for hobbyist projects too. Shipping adds $5 to $100 depending on the selected reward, and delivery is scheduled for February 2018.

$9+ Libre Computer Tritium Allwinner H2+/H3/H5 SBCs Leverage Raspberry Pi 3 Form Factor (Crowdfunding)

November 15th, 2017 17 comments

A few months ago, Libre Computer introduced Le Potato board (aka AML-S905X-CC) powered by Amlogic S905X processor plus up to 2GB RAM, and using Raspberry Pi 3 form factor.

The company is now back with three Tritium boards, using the same form factor, but instead powered by Allwinner H2+, H3, or H5 processors, with a lower price point as the Tritium IoT board (H2+ / 512 MB RAM) goes for $9 only.

Tritium 1GB and Tritium 2GB Boards

Tritium boards (ALL-H3-CC) specifications:

  • SoC and Memory
    • Tritium IoT – Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor with Mali-400MP2, 512MB DDR3
    • Tritium 1GB – Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 processor with Mali-400MP2, 1GB DDR3
    • Tritium 2GB – Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 processor with Mali-450MP4, 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 1x micro SD Card slot, eMMC module connector
  • Video & Audio Output
    • Tritium IoT – HDMI up to 1080p60, AV port
    • Tritium 1GB & 2GB – HDMI 1.4 up to 4K30, AV port
  • Camera – Parallel camera interface
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 4x USB 2.0 host ports
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi header with I2C, SPI, PWM, UART, 5V, 3.3V, and GPIO
  • Debugging –  UART via header for access to the serial console
  • Misc – IR Receiver, u-boot button
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – Raspberry Pi 3 form factor

The boards do not perform as fast as the Amlogic S905X one, and the I2S and S/PDIF header are gone, but a camera connector has been added to connect a camera. Tritium IoT board runs Linux only (e.g. Ubuntu 16.04), but Tritium 1GB can run also Android 7.0, and Tritium 2GB Android 7.1, beside the listed Linux distributions:

  • Ubuntu 16.04 by Libre Computer Project
  • Debian 9 Stretch by Libre Computer Project
  • Ubuntu 16.04 by Armbian

The Linux source will be released on Github as they’ve done for Le Potato, for which they’ve also released the PDF schematics, and CE/FCC certifications.

Tritium Board in Case made for Raspberry Pi 3

The project has been launched on Kickstarter with a $10,000 goal. The bare boards are available for respectively $9 (IoT), $19 (1GB), and $29 (2GB), but you can also get kits with all accessories such as the $59 “Tritium IoT Kit Special” with comes with:

  • Tritium IoT Board
  • 8GB eMMC 4.x Module
  • Push-Pin Heatsink with Thermal Tape
  • 5.1V/2.5A MicroUSB Power Supply
  • Active Cooling Media Center Polycarbonate Case
  • 1m HDMI Cable
  • 8GB MicrorSD Card
  • Wireless RF Remote with Mini Keyboard and Touchpad

Shipping is not included and depends on the selected reward, but for example it adds $7 to $9 to Tritium IoT board, and $10 to $14 to the kit listed above. Delivery is planned for January 2018, and general availability (outside the KS campaign) in February 2018. Hardware customizations are accepted for orders of 500 units or more.

The market is starting to get crowded with Allwinner H development boards thanks to the Orange Pi and NanoPi board families, but that also means software support should be good, and AFAIK, Tritium boards are the first to be compatible (HW + Mech) to Raspberry Pi 3, excluding NanoPi Duo + mini Shield which does not come with HDMI, and is limited to Allwinner H2+ with 512MB RAM. That means you could reuse or purchase RPi 3 accessories and they should work either out of the box (enclosures), or with some SW development efforts (add-on boards). RPi MIPI camera and display modules won’t work.