Crowdfunding is now more popular than ever, creating a straightforward way for startups to achieve validation from customers directly. Wearables, microcomputers and sports cameras are some examples of success stories in the world of crowd-sourced funding.
There is a lot of innovation brewing inside the web pages of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Pozible so in this article I will be highlighting inventions and projects using MIPS CPUs; all of them have already been big hits across several funding platforms. In some cases, these projects greatly exceeded their initial goals – a testament of how smart product design can also translate into financial success if done right.
Most of the devices included on this list come from the maker community. This is the same community that we are trying to continue stimulating with our Creator programme. For example, the recently announced Creator Ci20 development board is great for enabling crowd funded-type startups and entrepreneurial projects; we have already seen some fantastic ideas from the many hundreds of developers we sent the first batch of boards to at no cost.
So without further ado, here are my top picks of crowdfunded projects using MIPS processors:
Black Swift: A tiny wireless microcomputer
Black Swift is a computer with a 32-bit MIPS CPU, 64 MB DDR2 of RAM memory, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, USB 2.0, and other interfaces. It offers an affordable and easy to use computing and communication board for modern connected devices, but also the great tool for anyone interested in electronics. Black Swift is also a great platform for the Internet of Things era.
Black Swift runs OpenWrt and can be programmed in a number of languages — from C/C++ to PHP, Python, Perl, and Bash scripting. Its creators reached their funding goal in a few days using Kickstarter and are now working on releasing the board worldwide.
VoCore: A coin-sized Linux computer with Wi-Fi
VoCore is a coin-sized Linux single-board microcomputer with wireless connectivity; on top of that, it can also function as standalone router. It includes a MIPS-based processor from MediaTek clocked at 360 MHz and runs OpenWrt (a very popular distribution of Linux); memory specs include 32 MB of SDRAM and 8 MB of SPI serial flash.
It provides many interfaces such as 10/100M Ethernet, USB, UART, I2C, I2S, PCM, JTAG and over 20 GPIOs; in terms of size, it comes in at an incredible one square inch (25mm x 25mm).
VoCore is built from the ground-up to be hackable both in terms of hardware and software. Its creators have uploaded the full hardware schematics and PCB design and the board runs only free and open source code (including the boot loader, the operating systems, and applications).
The project reached 1937% of its initial funding goal on Indiegogo; you can find more on what you can do using VoCore on the company’s page, including a history of its design lifecycle.
WeIO: A platform for the Internet of Things
WeIO is an innovative, open source hardware and software platform for rapid prototyping of wireless devices using popular Web languages such as HTML5 or Python.
Developers can visualize sensor data in real-time by accessing a browser-based UI from their mobile devices. Programming can also be done inside a browser window and code can be deployed instantly and intuitively thanks to an HTML5-based IDE.
The WeIO board includes a 400 MHz MIPS32-based CPU designed by Qualcomm Atheros and offers integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. Similarly to VoCore, the board can be used as an access point and its developers assure us configuration is super-easy.
WeIO raised $37,437 on Indiegogo, exceeding its funding goal by 374%. You can follow the project on Twitter (@WeIOnet) – the latest post from the company announces that the board will be shipping at the start of February!
DPT-Board: Linux and Wi-Fi made easy
DPTechnics is a company from Belgium creating IoT and robotics solutions for makers, tinkerers, education and industry professionals. Their most recent project is the DPT-Board, a miniature Linux computer based on the Qualcomm Atheros AR9331 SoC with a 400 MHz MIPS processor. The design includes a module that attaches to a development board; the board contains all the peripherals needed for development: two Ethernet ports, I/O drivers, a switching power supply and an USB port.
Its creators have also designed DPT-Robot, a robot platform for use in schools; you can control it via WiFi and a custom HTML5 GUI.
The DPT-Board was announced on Indiegogo in different configurations and raised funding in record time; the various platforms are now shipping to their supporters and we’re very excited to see what interesting projects they will develop.
GEAK Watch II Pro: Round and round
GEAK is a company known for bringing to market one of the first Android-based smartwatches from China – and it ran on MIPS too! Last year the Shanghai-based technology powerhouse also announced it is working on a follow-up to their initial design.
Soon after, they officially announced GEAK Watch 2 which features a revolutionary design (an E Ink/LCD dual-screen, circular display) and packs a high-performance, dual-core MIPS CPU clocked at 1 GHz. This report filed by TechNode states the watch also sports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity and 2 GB of storage, as well as a heart rate monitor and voice control functionality.
ZANO: An autonomous, intelligent nano drone
ZANO is an ultra-portable drone designed for personal photography and HD video capture. It is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and intelligent enough to fly all by itself. ZANO can be monitored directly from a mobile device running iOS or Android and features Wi-Fi connectivity.
ZANO is the world’s most intelligent nano drone
It runs on a MIPS-based Microchip 32-bit MCU and enables users to instantly capture and share moments like never before. Released on Kickstarter, it raised over £2,000,000 from over 12,000 backers and was covered by BBC, TechCrunch, Huffington Post and many other high-profile publications.
Geek Wave: A no-compromise portable music player
LH Labs is a company on a mission: they are dead-set on reinventing the portable music player by designing devices that make no compromises in audio quality.
The latest gadget to come out of their labs is Geek Wave – you can track its progress here. It is a USB-powered media player that provides high-quality sound playback, while also focusing on the portability, functionality, top specs and features LH Labs is known for. Geek Wave plays PCM formats natively at up to 384 kHz sample rates and pure 32-bit depth. Beyond PCM, it plays DSD formats at up to 128 times the sample rate of a standard CD.
Geek Wave uses a MIPS32-based MCU from Microchip and supports all major lossless and lossy music formats. Introduced on Indiegogo, its finances shot up by almost $1,500,000 and the original campaign goal was exceeded by 3,479%.
GCW-Zero: An open-source, handheld game console
GCW-Zero is a handheld console built around a MIPS-based Ingenic processor. It is powerful enough to run arcade PC games, emulate the game consoles we all grew up with (especially since some of them like Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation were also MIPS-based) and run casual games seamlessly at high frame rates.
GCW-Zero runs Linux so a huge library of existing open source software can run on it. The company has also assembled a core development team that is focused on porting popular applications to continue providing a strong line-up of games.
The project was first announced on Kickstarter and raised $238,498; a few months later, the first GCW-Zero game consoles shipped and there is now a strong community formed around this platform. Have a look at their website and check out their forums for more details.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of crowdfunded projects built around MIPS processors. If you have an idea that you believe can turn into a great product, websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and many others offer you a quick way to go from concept to manufacturing in no-time.
What is your favorite project from the list above? How would you use Creator Ci20 for a new product? Leave us a comment below.