FPGAs give robotics exciting possibilities

The information in the above blog highlights the importance of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) in our technological future.


The information in the above blog highlights the importance of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) in our technological future. I’ve blogged a few times this year on the influence FPGAs have had on the robotics world, but as you can see it is only the tip of the iceberg in the cutting edge of technology today.

The importance of FPGA products is shown in the vast range of applications including artificial intelligence, machine learning, wireless networking, drone advancement as well as my current favorite category — healthcare products. Healthcare is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. I’m particularly impressed how machines are now built to provide various diagnoses that could save patients the time and money of obtaining a second opinion.

Exciting New Robot from Boston Dynamics

Handle2Boston Dynamics has developed an exciting new robot named Handle. As an article on ElectronicsWeekly.com  describes it as “It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Continue reading “Exciting New Robot from Boston Dynamics”

Field-Programmable Gate Arrays and Green Technology

I find this blog on FPGAs (Field-programmable Gate Arrays) (http://blog.earthtron.com/5-intriguing-uses-of-fpga-in-green-technology) most intriguing based on the evolutionary progress of FPGAs.  I am not surprised at some of the applications in green technology because, as illustrated in a 2012 National Instruments white paper, the following benefits continue to propel the growth of FPGAs in electronic component testing industry.

  1. Performance-Utilizing the similarities between FPGAs and other hardware, FPGAs have increased their performance to outperform digital signal processors (DSPs). This is done by allowing for simultaneous procedures and increasing the output per a given amount of time.  All of this can be done at a lower cost than in DSPs*.  This is done by altering the hardware to allow increased control of the inputs and outputs (I/O).  In turn, this creates the ability to more closely match the constraints of the systems and decrease the systems’ response times.
  2. Time to market-The improved FPGAs drastically improve prototyping capability and speed. For example, the hardware allows for concepts to be analyzed prior to fabrication.  This lets the iterative design process be reduced to mere hours.  Different types of I/O hardware can also be purchased commercially (COTS) with an imbedded FPGA chip for user-programming.  This, along with prebuilt functions (IP cores) and higher-level software and teaching tools make advanced control and signal processing more accessible to less experienced users.
  3. Cost-Using FPGA hardware is much cheaper than using custom ASIC (Application-specific Integrated Circuit) designs. The ASIC expenses are unjustifiable for companies that use them for testing systems currently in development.  Using programmable silicone reduces costs to almost nil.  The FPGA is also cheaper than ASIC when used in systems with changing requirements.
  4. Reliability-FPGAs do not use operating systems. This reduces the layers of abstraction and issues with multitasking that occur in processor-based systems as well as removing the imbedded control of the memory and bandwidth.  FPGAs ultimately reduce the necessity of driver layers – who control hardware resources, – which in turn decreases the risk when trying to run several time critical tasks at once.  FPGAs, instead, run multiple tasks simultaneously with dedicated hardware for each task.
  5. Long-term maintenance-FPGA chips are also superior with respect to ASIC when it comes to forward compatibility and maintenance. FPGAs are field-upgradable, which can be beneficial in use with systems, like digital communications, whose protocols can change.  This allows the chips’ functions to be enhanced without needing to change the layout or hardware of the board.

*FPGAs for DSP (BDTI Industry Report), 2nd ed. (Berkeley Design Technology Inc., 2006)

A New Generation of Field Programmable Gate Arrays

I just read this post on the Earthtron blog about Xilinx’s new Field Programmable Gate Arrays.  I strongly believe Xilinx has made great strides to improve the Kintex-7 Line.

Reducing power consumption by 40% will strengthen applications from long distance WAN support to improving live events such as radio and satellite feeds. These are paramount improvements in actual real time applications to move toward an Internet-of-Things.

LEDs Light Path to Map the Brain

Researchers at the University of Michigan are using mice to determine how neural networks really work.

According to the Earthtron Blog ( http://blog.earthtron.com/tiny-leds-allow-researchers-to-map-the-brain),  researchers placed  light-emitting diodes (LEDs) into mice brains, “allowing researchers to determine how stimuli to one neuron affects other neurons in the area. Each LED is less than a tenth of a millimeter wide, approximately the same size as a neuron.” Continue reading “LEDs Light Path to Map the Brain”

Virtual Reality Athletic Training

I found this really interesting blog on how the NFL is using technology to improve training.   I personally like the idea of how they are embracing new ways to enhance the viewer’s experience of the game but more importantly of how it will enhance the performance of each team member by virtual reality training.

This is the beginning of a revolution sure to grow into all aspects of the sporting world.

Augmented Reality Glasses to Help the Legally Blind

There is a terrific article in the MIT Technology Review about a prototype for a new device to help the near-blind see and navigate their surroundings. Read it here.

I truly believe that these new wearable electronic glasses that allow people with little sight or who are legally blind to actually see is revolutionizing the industry at amazing speed.

It is a gift from science that these glasses can help legally blind people see people’s faces from up close and afar as well as TV, entertainment, newspapers, books, menus, signs and other reading materials from any distance.  There are a series of these glasses in particular that address all types of vision loss from diabetic retinal disease to ocular and macular degeneration.

I applaud the engineering and development implemented in this revolutionary discovery.