Sipeed Unveils the LicheeRV Nano Range, Tiny Edge AI Camera Boards Built Atop the Sophgo SG2002

Designed for low-power on-device computer vision work, these compact boards come with optional Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet connectivity.

Gareth Halfacree
4 months ago β€’ HW101 / Machine Learning & AI

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 β€” most unusually of all β€” 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.

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