Intel’s tiny Curie chip powers new Arduino board
Intel Corporation To Use Pint-Sized Curie Module In New Arduino 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 is the latest addition to Arduino’s line-up of budget-friendly development boards, and it uses Intel’s cute-as-a-button Curie chip to power itself along.
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. 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. In fact, the Intel chip’s not far off the size of a button, either, yet somehow it manages to squeeze Bluetooth and a six-axis sensor with gyroscope and accelerometer into its frame, along with the 32-bit Quark micro-controller that actually make it run. 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. Intel is looking to offer an alternative to the tasty-sounding British company, with its new Arduino platform known as Arduino 101 (also known as Genuino 101 outside the United States).
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. According to Jay Melican, Intel’s Maker Czar (yes, that’s a thing), those features mean that anything built on the new Arduino 1010 platform could include connectivity, as well as mobile awareness and interactivity. As Mike Bell, head of Intel’s new devices group told me in January, it gets you “pretty far along towards a product, you really just have to add your secret sauce on top of this and you’d have a pretty great wearable product.” Arduino, an Italian company, has spent most of the last decade making the go-to product for anyone looking to get started with programming, coding, or electronics, particularly in the DIY and maker communities. However in recent years it’s made much more effort, announcing platforms like Edison, Galileo, and Curie, all designed to offer high-power in small packages.
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). The board isn’t really small enough to build a decent wearable—it’s 7cm long and 5.5cm wide—but it’s OK for prototypes and getting familiar with Curie’s capabilities. For both sides, it’s a no-brainer of a match. “[Curie] 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,” says Jay Melican, a senior research scientist at Intel. Arduino 101 builds off of the latter of that trio, sticking to a credit card-sized PCB and adding a load of sensors and extra features for people to play with. 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.
Adding Curie to the mix makes it easier to do things like control projects with your phone over Bluetooth, and access to accelerometer and gyroscope data adds totally new possibilities. 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. Unless you’re a tinkerer yourself, chances are the first time you’ll bump into one of these micro-systems is when your child starts working on them. 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.”
Over 300 schools that signed up to the Creative Technologies in the Classroom scheme will be using them as part of their physical computing course, to help teach children about hardware hacking and basic programming. Arduino 101 is physically smaller and less than half the price, and it runs a small real-time operating system that makes it more suitable for young students to work with, said Jay Melican, whose title at Intel is “maker czar.” He said Arduino 101 is comparable to the Arduino Uno, which is based on a microcontroller from Atmel, except the Curie board includes Bluetooth and the six-axis sensor. 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.
We believe Curie should not just be seen as a low-powered module board on the basis of Arduino 101, as it has a 128 node neural network that wont be exposed until future software releases. Curie could very well drive an array of next-gen wearable products that can integrate with our fashions, similar to the jacket button showed off at CES 2015.
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