Intel’s itty-bitty Curie CPU for wearables is coming to Arduino early next year

16 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Intel Aims Wearable-Class Curie Module At Students With Arduino 101 Board.

The world first met Intel’s tiny Curie platform when it was a button on a sports jacket, but the reality of the tiny connected computer brain will, at least initially, be far more pedestrian and perhaps more tangible for millions of students around the world.This year at CES, Intel introduced Curie — a button-sized system-on-chip module made for low-power wearables — but the company was mum on what would be the first products to use it.

It might not be cute as a button, but Intel’s button-sized Curie Compute Module (just a fancy name for a new SoC) promises to greatly advance the low-power wearables market.Intel’s tiny Curie chip, introduced earlier this year as a module that would find its way into a range of wearable devices, will begin appearing next year in a new Arduino development board aimed at student and enthusiasts.First revealed almost a year ago at CES 2015, ‘s low-power Curie chip is finally becoming available on its first development board, the new Arduino 101.

On Friday at Maker Faire Rome, Intel and partner Arduino will unveil Arduino 101, the first credit-card-sized development platform (a microcontroller board) to feature Intel’s low-powered 32-bit, 32 MHz Core-based Curie. Intel has partnered with Arduino before, most notably on open-source boards for Intel’s Edison and Galileo platforms, but this is their first co-branded product. About a centimeter across, it includes a 32-bit microcontroller, Bluetooth Low Energy for connectivity, a small amount of RAM and Flash, and a six-axis sensor with a gyrometer and accelerometer.

The board, which will be available in the first quarter of 2016, can be used by a wide variety of people, from enthusiasts to embedded device developers, but Intel and Arduino are targeting it particularly at elementary and secondary school students who are interested in learning how to code and build systems, according to Jay Melican, who at Intel has the title of maker czar at the Makers and Innovators Group, which recently was spun out of the chip maker’s New Devices Group. The chip is built for wearable devices like a smart pendant or smart bracelet, but it could go into just about any small gadget that doesn’t need a lot of local processing power, such as a remote-controlled car. And while that may not be the flashy wearable technology that some expected — Intel CEO Brian Krzanich did bring the CEO of Oakley on stage when he announced Curie to tease an upcoming device — the new Curie-enabled Arduino board can still be a really important piece of technology. Unfortunately, Arduino 101 isn’t small enough to allow for a true wearable (it measures 7cm x 5.5cm) but it does open up a number of possibilities for those looking to tinker with electronics — especially in the education sector, where there is a big push to get students interested in programming. Arduino 101 is the latest effort by Intel to court the maker and do-it-yourself (DIY) community to get developers, enthusiasts and students working with the Intel Architecture.

During a conference call with journalists before the board was announced, Melican acknowledged that there are other boards on the market for about the same price—$30—but said Intel’s Curie module adds a level of connectivity that isn’t seen on those other entry-level offerings. It will be also available through catalog distributors and retailers selling other Intel maker and innovator products such as Amazon, Conrad Electronic, Farnell element14, Mouser, Radio Shack, RS Components and SparkFun.

Intel senior researcher Jay Melican comments that the Curie chip “adds this level of connected interactivity to a simple microcontroller board that, we think at least, is something that’s expected for kids and makers these days.” The company is also eager to see what hobbyists do with the more advanced features like Bluetooth and access to accelerometer and gyroscope data. Overall, it’s an eight-week course that Melican told me is “a great way for kids to learn to code through physical computing.” Arduino and Intel will sell the Arduino 101 kits directly to K-12 schools and in retail outlets, among them is Radio Shack, which Melican insisted is still in business (and it is, sort of). Not only will Arduino bundle the new board with an electronics and coding course full of projects for kids, but the price will remain right around the $30 mark associated with most (new) Arduino boards. After becoming CEO in 2013, Krzanich said the company would be aggressive in moving into new growth markets, including the Internet of things (IoT) and wearable devices. The Galileo Gen 2 board is larger and aimed at college students, makers and hobbyists, and sells for $60, while the Edison-based board is targeted at makers, embedded developers and entrepreneurs and sells for $90.

It’s announcing Arduino 101 at the Maker Faire in Rome on Friday, where Intel is a sponsor, and the board will be featured on an upcoming reality TV show, America’s Greatest Makers. Both of those boards use a Linux operating system, while the Curie-based Arduino 101 runs another OS that Melican said is easier for younger people to use.

Having missed out on the smartphone market, and with PC sales in decline, Intel wants to make sure it doesn’t miss the next wave in computing, which might turn out to be be wearables. Asked why this was the first project to use Curie, as opposed to something like a Curie-powered smartwatch or sunglasses, he says it wasn’t really a decision. “Our team was first to market,” he says. “Not that we’re racing.” Arduino’s founders have started a program for schools called Creative Technologies in the Classroom, which provides kits that include hardware and teaching materials for use in the classroom.

Arduino 101 will be included in those kits, Melican said, helping Intel get its technology in the hands of budding engineers at a young age. “If you compare it to other entry-level boards at that price point, the big thing it brings is connectivity,” he said. “Young folks who are building things are used to interacting with robots and cars through their cell phone, and this lets them do that.” Like other Arduino boards, it can be programmed and charged up by plugging it into a PC via the USB port.

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