Vicharak's Vaaman, the "Reconfigurable Edge Computer," Targets On-Device AI and ML with an FPGA

Open-hardware board looks to accelerate on-device machine learning and artificial intelligence via an on-board FPGA.

Indian reconfigurable computing specialist Vicharak is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign for a single-board computer designed to deliver acceleration at the edge — by combining a six-core Arm-based CPU and a 112k-cell field-programmable gate array (FPGA): the Vaaman.

"Vaaman stands at the forefront of edge AI and ML [Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning] acceleration, providing a dynamic platform for groundbreaking applications," Vicharak's Akshar Vastarpara writes of the company's design. "We are currently developing a custom platform called 'Gati,' which will enable custom end-to-end solutions, and enable convolutional neural networks (CNN) exclusively on Vaaman. By mapping these advanced algorithms to the FPGA, the CPU is left free to handle other critical tasks, which improves overall performance."

The Vaaman board is powered by a Rockchip RK3399 system-on-chip, which has two high-performance Arm Cortex-A72 cores running at up to 2GHz and four lower-power Cortex-A53 cores running at up to 1.5GHz plus an Arm Mali-T864 graphics processor. To this, Vicharak has added a choice of 2GB or 4GB of LPDDR4 memory and an Efinix Trion T120 FPGA — offering 112,128 logic elements, 5,407kB of embedded memory in 1,056 blocks, 320 18×18 multipliers, and either 512MB of 1GB of dedicated DDR3L memory.

The single-board computer itself boasts gigabit Ethernet connectivity, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, a micro-HDMI video output with up to 4k60 display support plus a MIPI Display Serial Interface (DSI) port, a USB Type-C connector with DisplayPort alternate mode again supporting a 4k60 display, a two-lane MIPI Camera Serial Interface (CSI) connector, and a 3.5mm analog audio jack with mic input. There's on-board dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0, 64GB of eMMC storage plus microSD expansion, and a four-lane PCI Express Gen. 2.1 port.

For experimenting with electronics there's a pair of 40-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) headers, one each for the RK3399 and the FPGA, providing buses including one UART, two SPI, one I2C, one I2S, and one S/PDIF, along with one pulse-width modulation (PWM) and one analog to digital converter (ADC) channels. The board itself, Vicharak promises, will be open source — though the schematics will only be released after completion of the crowdfunding campaign and delivery of hardware to backers.

More information on the Vaaman is available on the Vicharak website; interested parties can sign up on Crowd Supply to be notified when the campaign goes live.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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