Seven Deadly Synths, Real-time ASL, and Hercules Autopilot
Gather 'round makers, it’s innovation time! In this week’s Fish Fry, we’re checking out the Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge North America Design Contest with Steve Lyle from TI. Steve introduces us to this year’s super cool winning entries including an advanced new synthesizer that will change how the physically disabled create music, a new wearable that will help the hearing impaired communicate with others, and a full flight control system designed for quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicles that could change how unmanned search and rescue missions are carried out. Also this week, we look into a new IoT product launched by Project Overlord (yes, really).
Community is the Mother of Invention
The paper supply place down the block from my apartment may be the happiest retail store in all of Manhattan.
Every time I walk in there, the workers inside brighten and start asking questions: “Oooh! Poster board? What are you going to make?” They want to know all about the project and whether I’ve considered the merits of hot glue over tape. Their enthusiasm is enough to make a person feel a little self-conscious about the rather basic, uninspiring plans they have for their card stock purchase.
These paper enthusiasts, much like the friendly people in a quilt store who would love to hear all about what you’re going to do with those colorful fabric scraps, or an excited Maker Faire veteran checking out each and every booth under the tent, are exemplifying an attitude essential to the maker movement: they view creativity as a team sport.
Twenty-two die in a single package?
The semiconductor business is a lot like selling real estate. It’s not the dirt you’re paying for; it’s the location. A square acre in the middle of Manhattan will cost you a lot more than an acre in the desert (provided it’s not in the middle of a Saudi oil field). Likewise, a square millimeter of 28-nanometer silicon can cost a lot or a little, depending on who made it and what they did with it.
To stretch the analogy a bit further, the cost of the real estate also depends on what “improvements” you’ve made to the property. An empty field isn’t worth as much as a developed lot with a four-story apartment building on it (again, assuming your field isn’t atop a gold mine).
eASIC Chips Break the Mold
Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. eASIC does not make FPGAs. As their name implies, they make ASICs (sort of). But their ASICs might just be the best solution for your next FPGA design. They’ll do what you were probably wanting your FPGA to do, only faster, with less power, and at lower unit cost.
The catch is, they are not “field programmable” or reprogrammable. Just like regular old ASICs, they come from the factory all configured with your custom design. Unlike ASICs, however, they don’t cost an arm and a leg in NRE and mask charges, they don’t take months-to-years and a small army of engineers to produce, and they can be customized in extremely small quantities. So, if your FPGA is really an “ASIC replacement,” you might want to see what eASIC can do for you.
Transforming the Family Business
You know that old Italian restaurant down the road a ways? Mamma – that’s what we called her; no one knew her actual name – ran that place for longer than anyone can remember. The recipes were secret. The books were… well, we don’t ask about the books. Money comes in, money goes out, shuddup and eat yer gnocchis, okay? Somehow, the bills got paid and the employees got paid and the customers kept coming.
And then something happened to Mamma. And the one person holding the whole thing together was no longer there to hold everything together. And now what happens? Folks know how to go on autopilot, so the plates of pasta keep coming, but sooner or later either Mamma’s secrets must all be unearthed or everyone simply has to find a new way. And that new way should learn from the challenges that arise when too much of the business is transacted inside the mind of one individual.
Standards, Challenges, and Dynamics of USB Type C
It slices, it dices, it juliennes, and it doesn't care which way you plug it in - it's USB type C. Coming soon to a consumer electronic design near you, this new interface is bound to take the electronics world by storm. Well, that might be overstating things a bit. USB type C may not be the electronics equivalent of sliced bread, and it may not revolutionize the world of CE, but it will be pretty darn cool to start using in our designs (and our everyday lives). This week we're taking a closer look at the design challenges surrounding USB type C and how you can get it up and running in your next design. My guest is Gervais Fong and we're discussing all of this... and the wonder of BBQ too.