Sipeed has become the first to launch a device built around the unusual Sophgo SG2002 system-on-chip, which offers a combination of RISC-V, Arm, and Intel 8051 processor cores alongside a proprietary tensor accelerator: the LicheeRV Nano, designed for edge AI smart camera workloads.
Described by the company as a "RISC-V full-featured mini monster" in a product listing brought to our attention by CNX Software, the Sipeed LincheeRV Nano is a compact development board that includes MIPI Display Serial Interface and Camera Serial Interface (DSI and CSI) connectivity, a choice of wired Fast Ethernet or wireless Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.4 connectivity, and a USB Type-C connector on a tiny breadboard-friendly module with castellated pins.
It's the system-on-chip at the boards' heart which makes them stand out, though: the Sophgo SG2002, the higher-end of two models recently unveiled by the company and its first to use an unusual four-architecture design. At the chip's heart are Linux-capable 64-bit application-class processors, selectable at boot: one built around the free and open source RISC-V instruction set architecture, and the other around the proprietary Arm Cortex-A53.
Having two completely distinct central processors is odd enough, but the chip's design goes further by adding a second RISC-V core for running a real-time operating system (RTOS), a proprietary neural processing unit (NPU) coprocessor for accelerating on-device machine learning and edge artificial intelligence workloads, and — most unusually of all — a microcontroller core based on Intel's 8051 architecture, first launch in 1980 and long-since discontinued by the company itself.
This is being used in the LicheeRV Nano for smart camera work, which explains why the company has plumped for the higher-end SG2002 with its one tera-operations per second (TOPS) NPU instead of the SG2000 which offers half the INT8 performance. Elsewhere on the board are a 1W power amplifier and built-in analog microphone, a user-addressable LED, and 256MB of DDR3 memory.
More information on the board is available on the Sipeed wiki, while the company has listed a "beta version" for sale on its AliExpress store starting at $8.90 for the base model with no network connectivity, $9.90 for a version with Fast Ethernet port, $12.90 for one with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.4 radios, and $13.90 for a model with both the radios and Ethernet port. All models are supplied without display or camera sensor, which can be added on at an additional cost.