Building custom controllers using the now iconic Arduino open source computer platform is no longer the province of uber-geeks given you can now buy an Arduino Uno kit from RadioShack for $35. And it's this kind of ubiquity that has created all sorts of variations on the Arduino platform.
The problem that some people have found with many of the Arduino board designs is that they are too big (pretty funny when you consider that the Uno, for example, is only 2.7 inches by 2.1 inches). But the fact is when you're trying to squeeze a computer inside a toy or build a flight control system for a quadcopter, the standard Arduino may be a bit large.
To solve this pressing technical challenge TinyCircuits, a firm that designs and markets, as its name suggests, tiny electronics, has just announced TinyDuino, a Kickstarter project to create "an Arduino compatible board in an ultra compact package. Imagine the possibilities of having the full power of an Arduino Uno in a size less than a quarter!"
At $19.95 this minute open source computer is a steal and the company also offers a number of similarly tiny "shields," daughterboards that provide additional functionality such as USB and LED displays. As of this writing the project has raised $33,368 on a goal of $10,000 and there's still 14 days to go!
That board too big? TinyCircuits also has the TinyLily, which is the size of a dime and tough enough to be washed! It's designed for "e-textile" and wearable applications. Again, this computer is a steal at $9.95!
Oh, you'd rather build a more powerful computer? How about your own supercomputer? For cheap? If so, I have just the thing you're looking for: the Parallella, a Kickstarter project from chip-maker Adepteva.
If the Kickstarter project raises its target of $750,000 Adapteva will develop and sell the Parallella board ("A Supercomputer for Everyone"), which, at 3.4 inches by 2.1 inches, is slightly larger than the standard Arduino board, with a 16-core Epiphany-III running at 13GHz to produce 26 GFLOPS at a price of ... wait for it ... $99 each!
Considering that just 12 years ago $1,000 per GFLOPS was a breakthrough, it's pretty amazing to think that the cost has dropped to 26 cents per GFLOPS!
And as to whether the company can deliver, its street cred is good: Adapteva has been in the chip business for more than four years and reckons it has something like $4 million invested in the design of its Epiphany chips. Even better, the company's Epiphany-III 16-core 65nm processor has been in the field for almost a year.
The Parallella board will ship with a Dual-core ARM A9 CPU running Ubuntu, 1GB RAM, a MicroSD Card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, two general purpose expansion connectors, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, and an HDMI port as well as the entire tool chain which Adapteva currently sells for several thousand dollars.
But wait! There's more! If Adapteva reaches its Kickstarter "stretch goal" of $3 million the company plans to offer a board based on its Epiphany-IV chip with 64 cores that will run at 45GHz and deliver 90 GFLOPS for ... gasp ... $199! What is also really impressive is the Epiphany architecture achieves 72 GFLOPS per watt, exceeding the performance goal set by DARPA of 50 GFLOPS per watt by 2018.
So far the Parallella project has raised $141,786 and it has 25 days to go. Just imagine what you might be able to build with this system! I've become a backer and you should too, because this is the sort of technology that will make a lot of tough computing problems much, much easier. Plus, I like the idea of having enormous power under my control.