A Few Tidbits from ESC 2012

I spent Tuesday afternoon strolling the expo floor at the Embedded Systems Conference (now one of several concurrent events under the “DESIGN West” banner). It’s a big industry show for component electronics and test equipment…mostly out of my league, to be honest…but nonetheless interesting to drop in and see what’s new and where things may be headed.

In one corner of the Texas Instruments booth, the BeagleBone and a number of add-ons were being showcased. A certain acrylic enclosure caught my eye.

From the Pure Whimsy department: Intel’s build of the “Pipe Dream” ball machine from Animusic consistently drew big crowds. I’m really hoping they’ll bring this to Maker Faire where impressionable kids will have a chance to see it! The attendees at ESC are already engineers.

What’s all this then?

Oh! Only a production Raspberry Pi board in the wild! (Only one at the show, to the best of my knowledge.)

With many robotics projects building around a small PC platform, these Oak USB Sensors from Toradex had a certain littleBits-like appeal…as a way for software people to get a quick prototype working without the whole microcontroller learning curve. Each sensor appears as a USB HID device, so no special drivers are required.

(Stock photo) FTDI’s new FT-X chips are cost-reduced versions of their USB bridge devices…the new chips are about $2 in single-unit quantities. Many Arduino derivatives still rely on FTDI chips in their designs, so this may have good implications for the hobbyist to save a few bucks.

I was originally just trying to get a photo of this sign to show off some nice LED pr0n, but while sorting out exposure times realized this botched pic might be insightful for folks writing alternate drivers for our 16×32 and 32×32 RGB LED matrices. A common question is whether to handle the PWM for each row before advancing to the next, or to cycle through each row on each PWM interval? The photo makes it abundantly clear that the big time pros handle the PWM on each row. I’m not sure of the bit depth (looks like it could be 8 bits x RGB), but this is a 1/160th second exposure, from which one could probably derive the overall refresh rate and throughput requirements. Have at it!

And just two blocks away, interesting things were afoot at the newly-opened downtown San Jose TechShop. It’s been a few years since I dropped by the original Menlo Park shop, and the variety and scale of tools that members have access to now is just mind-blowing!

Also just outside the show…the local alternative paper has a cover story on 3D printing! The article is available online.

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  1. Thanks for the great post! I’ve been curious as to whats going on out there. This midwesterner really wishes ESC and Maker Faire were closer together.

  2. Renesas was giving away RL78 demo kits for their RL78 “green energy” contest (http://am.renesas.com/press/news/2012/news20120326a.jsp ) It’s a neat-looking board, but it’s got an awful lot of stuff on it to be the basis for a “low power” design…

    ST was giving away STM F0 (Cortex M0 based) Discovery boards. This seems to be nearly identical to the M4-based boards that they were spreading around at various other recent events. (This should make for an interesting comparison.)

    Microchip was giving away USB AAA battery chargers (based on their chips), and microcontroller-controlled manual razors. (!)

    FTDI had sample demo boards of several of their X-series (new) USB products. I’d already ordered some of their “simple rs232” chips, but I scored a demo of their “full” rs232 chip. (Three cheers for these being actually available so soon after their announcement, BTW!)

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