Introducing the first version of our Creator Ci20 microcomputer during a dedicated event in London was a historic moment for Imagination – and a lot of fun for me! For the first time in the history of mobile and embedded computing, two of our most recognized brands (MIPS and PowerVR) came together in an accessible, high-performance development board.
In an interview published right after our launch, I said the following:
When you look at the development boards that are out there, you have to make compromises [in terms of processing capabilities, power consumption, connectivity, etc]. We wanted to create a board that offers everything out of the box. The idea was to create a device that includes everything developers’ wanted at an affordable price.
Since then, there have been a number of exciting partnerships to emerge around our Creator program:
- Open Arena (a Quake III mod) was shown running at 30 fps and under 2.5 watts at CES 2015
- Chukong Technologies ported the Cocos2d-x game engine for Android and are working on a version for Linux
- The new VLC player for Android added support for MIPS CPUs (available on Google Play and directly from the VideoLan website)
- Rigthware organized a hackaton at the University of Southampton for the automotive-focused Kanzi UI
Today we are announcing a new version of the Creator Ci20 board featuring an improved form factor.
New PCB design improves wireless connectivity
From the start, one of the unique selling points for the Creator Ci20 microcomputer was built-in connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth). Based on very productive conversations on our forums, social media and many other channels, we’ve designed a new PCB (printed circuit board) layout that has been engineered to improve wireless connectivity performance and signal strength.
In addition, the new shape offers more mounting holes to make it easier for hackers to attach the board to different platforms – this is vital for applications like robotics or IoT where the microcomputer is usually hooked on a larger base.
The rest of the hardware specifications remain unchanged – here is a recap of the major features:
- Processor: 1.2 GHz dual-core, MIPS32-based Ingenic JZ4780 SoC, 32kB L1 I- and D-cache, 512kB L2 cache
- FPU/SIMD: IEEE754 Floating Point Unit, XBurst MXU
- Multimedia: PowerVR SGX540 GPU, hardware-accelerated video playback up to 1080p at 60 fps
- Memory: 1 GB DDR3 SDRAM, 8 GB flash memory, 1 x SD card
- Audio: AC97 audio, via 4-pin input/output jack and HDMI connector
- Camera interface: ITU-R BT.645 controller
- Connectivity: 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
- Display: 1 x HDMI up to 2K resolution
- USB: 1 x USB host, 1 x USB OTG device
- I/O peripherals: 2 x UART, 25 x GPIO, 2 x SPI, I2C, ADC, expansion headers, 14-pin EJTAG connector
Finally, the new rectangular shape is easier to place inside 3D printed cases; you can download the new reference design for a 3D case from the Creator Ci20 dedicated projects page or directly from here. Here is the first look at a pre-rendered version of the case:
Software updates and new features
When it comes to the software package, we’ve added out of the box support for FlowCloud on the standard Debian 7 distribution. Developers who download Debian from our eLinux micro-site will find the latest FlowCloud IoT framework pre-packaged for free.
This includes everything needed (SDK, services, free starter app for iOS and Android, etc.) to start connecting devices to the cloud – no strings attached.
FlowCloud is already up and running on other MIPS-based development boards, including chipKIT™ Wi-FIRE from Digilent (powered by a MIPS-based Microchip PIC32MZ). For more information on FlowCloud and how to get started writing code, check out our dedicated micro-site.
The diagram below shows an example application that we’ve built which incorporates multiple MIPS-based boards, sensors and control mechanisms; the chipKIT Wi-FIRE board collects ambient temperature and humidity and sends the data to the cloud.
The Creator Ci20 microcomputer then collects that information from the cloud server and checks to see if the values have passed a certain threshold; if the temperature and humidity are beyond a pre-configured value, Ci20 transmits a series of commands back to the cloud. Finally, the other chipKIT Wi-FIRE board monitors for commands from the cloud – once it receives the information that temperature is too high, it will instruct the fan to start spinning. All this real-time cloud connectivity is easily handled by the various frameworks inside the FlowCloud API.
Linux and Android
We’ve also pushed several updates to the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system to add new features:
- Audio over HDMI and Bluetooth
- New built-in Ethernet settings
- Audio jack auto-detection (easily switch audio output from HDMI to headphones and vice versa)
- Audio recording
- USB storage support (in progress, coming soon)
On the Linux front, we’re working hard to update to kernel version 3.18 which will deliver significant improvements in memory and graphics performance. For example, the new NAND flash memory driver should deliver 30% faster boot and application launch time.
In the meantime, if you already own a Creator Ci20 microcomputer, you can download the latest Android and Linux distributions from our dedicated OS page and try out the new features.
Considering these new changes, I’m very excited to see how developers will use the new board and the updated software. If you are attending Maker Faire in the Bay Area, visit our tent for a $10 discount on any Creator Ci20 boards purchased on the spot.