Once thought of as Raspberry Pi clones, Banana Pi single-board computers continue to push low budget AI computing limits.
Banana Pi is back, and this time the company is pushing things right to the edge. With artificial intelligence in the spotlight and devices for edge-computing getting smaller and cheaper, the BPI-EAI 80 development board from Banana Pi is a long way from your average Rasberry Pi clone.
A powerful Arm-based processor with AI capabilities comes with connectors for an LCD screen, camera, GPIO peripherals, and dual onboard microphones. Placing this squarely in the smart device developers toolkit.
Creators Sinovoip put the new single-board computer (SBC) on sale via AliExpress for only $16. It features the EIA80, a new system chip from Edgeless. This contains a Dual Arm Cortex-M4F running up to 200MHz alongside a CNN-NPU AI accelerator capable of up to 300 Giga operations per second (GOPS).
The board also features onboard WiFi from an ESP8266 module, a microcontroller in its own right, which powers the Arduino killing NodeMCU development boards.
Alongside the 385KB of SRAM and 8MB of SDRAM in the EIA80 core, the new SBC also features an as-yet-unnamed SPI Flash chip for further storage along with a multitude of options for attaching peripherals for interacting with the physical world.
The board alone is available on AliExpress for $16, though it also comes as part of a kit featuring a camera, touch screen, and power supply for $80.
What Does $16 Get You?
Since the EAI80 is a relatively new chipset, it’s hard to make a judgment call on the price. Given everything else available on the development board, it seems like a cheap and fully featured option for professional and hobby developers alike.
The EAI80 Chipset has a separate datasheet, but the Banana Pi development board it is based on comes with these specifications:
- Chipset: Edgeless EIA80 dual-core Cortex-M4F microcontroller @ 200MHz with 300GOPS AI accelerator (CNN-NPU), 384KB of SRAM including 256KB for CNN-NPU, and 8MB SDRAM
- Storage: SPI flash
- Display: LCD connector supporting up to 1024×768 (shared with GPIO pins)
- Camera: 1 DVP camera interface
- Audio: 2 onboard microphones
- Connectivity: 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n WiFI 4 via ESP8266 module
- USB: 1 USB 2.0 Type-C port
- I/O: 40-pin GPIO header (shared with LCD interface)
- CAN: CANBUS 2.0 A/B header
- Debugging / Programming: UART header, SWD header, and ESP8266 programming header
- Extra: Reset and Wake buttons
- Power: 5V via USB-C port
- Battery: 3.7V Li-ion battery via 2-pin header
- Dimensions: 86x54mm
Who Is the New Banana Pi For?
As exciting as this SBC seems, it will be a while until anyone knows for sure how useful it will be. It’s certainly affordable enough to be bought in bulk for professional industry use, but the cheap price tag will undoubtedly attract some hobby and maker developers too.
Unfortunately there is little in the way of easy-to-follow getting started guides at this stage, and the BPI-EAI80 wiki page is written for those already familiar with this type of architecture.
Given that Edgeless is the chip-making subsidiary of Gree Electric Appliances (which just happens to be among the largest air conditioning manufacturers in the world), it seems clear this is aimed at those developing AI-powered consumer smart devices.
Watch this space. It’ll have a Banana Pi in it soon enough.
Let’s set the record straight on some common falsehoods surrounding AI.
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