BeagleBoard.org Pledges to "Make Computers Open Again" with the New BeagleY-AI Single-Board Computer

Released under a Creative Commons license, the new BeagleBoard.org aims to prove you don't have to go closed source to get high performance.

Gareth Halfacree
23 days ago β€’ HW101 / Machine Learning & AI

Open hardware specialist BeagleBoard.org has announced a new entry in the doghouse: a single-board computer dubbed the BeagleY-AI, which promises to "make computers open again" while delivering four tera-operations per second (TOPS) of compute for edge artificial intelligence (edge AI) workloads.

"Computers are the primary driver of technology and BeagleBoard.org Foundation is bringing back the open nature of early computers with BeagleY-AI, a move critical to innovation, business and education," says BeagleBoard.org's Jason Kridner of the launch.

"BeagleY-AI is about the size of a business card and is compatible with popular accessories, add-on hardware and enclosures available for similar sized computers, but it is open source hardware, runs well without a fan and includes programmable processors capable of running 4 trillion operations per second (4 TOPS) suitable for executing deep learning algorithms."

Looking not dissimilar to a Raspberry Pi, complete with a 40-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header, the BeagleY-AI is powered by a Texas Instruments AM67A processor with four 64-bit Cortex-A53 processor cores running at up to 1.4GHz, a Cortex-R5 subsystem for low-latency workloads, and accelerators including a GPU, video codec, and machine vision coprocessor, plus 4GB of LPDDR4 memory and a microSD slot for storage.

In-keeping with the promise of support for edge AI workloads, the AM67A also includes a dual C7x digital signal processor (DSP) coprocessor with matrix multiply accelerator (MMA) hardware β€” delivering, BeagleBoard.org says, four tera-operations per second (TOPS) of compute for machine learning and artificial intelligence workloads, on top of the capabilities of the CPU and GPU. For more, there's a lane of PCI Express Gen. 3 connectivity for external hardware, along with a USB 3.1 Gen. 1 port in addition to four USB 3.0 Type-A ports and a USB 2.0 Type-C port that doubles as the board's power input.

For network connectivity the board includes a single gigabit Ethernet port and a BeagleBoard BM3301 module, which is built around the Texas Instruments CC3301 and offers Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.4 with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support. There's a micro-HDMI connector, which can be used alongside OLDI LVDS and MIPI Display Serial Interface (DSI) connectors for up to three simultaneous displays β€” with both LVDS and DSI supporting touchscreen devices.

"In the earliest days of computers, details about both the physical hardware design and provided software were given to owners, enabling them to understand and even repair the systems they purchased," Kridner recalls.

"Although we've recently seen rapid growth in computers running open source software, the designs of the computers themselves have typically remained wrapped in mystery and available only to a select few. BeagleBoard.org Foundation seeks to enable researchers, engineers and educators to be more empowered by the computing platforms upon which they rely, to the point of putting them in control of reaching their own goals, and BeagleY-AI is a critical step along that path."

More information on the BeagleY-AI, which has been granted Open Source Hardware certification and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, is available on the official website; orders are open now at $70, with hardware expected to begin shipping this June.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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