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Hackable Lego robot runs ARM Linux on TI Sitara SoC

Sep 10, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Lego began shipping its hackable, Linux-based Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot for $350. Texas Instruments revealed that the robot is powered by its 300MHz ARM9-based Sitara AM1808 system-on-chip and CC2560 Bluetooth chipset.

As promised a month ago, Lego is now shipping its Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot kit for $350. In conjunction with the release of the hobbyist and educational robot kit, Texas Instruments (TI) revealed that the robot’s “brick” computer runs Linux on its Sitara AM1808 SoC, confirming earlier rumors. TI also noted the EV3 brick’s inclusion of its CC2560 Bluetooth module enables control of the robot via an Android or iOS app.



Lego Mindstorms EV3 and its Linux-powered “Brick”
(click image to enlarge)

 

The Mindstorms EV3 is also said to integrate TI’s TPS62590 and TPS40210 DC/DC converters, said to improve power management. Additional TI components in the EV3 include its ADS7957 16-channel SAR analog-to-digital converter, and the “space-saving” SN74LVC2G07 gate driver, says TI.

The Sitara AM1808 is an ARM9 SoC that can be clocked from 48MHz to 300MHz. The SoC is said to enable interactive touch screens, high-resolution displays, and the EV3′s new USB port, among other features. With the USB port, robots can be fitted with a WiFi dongle.



TI Sitara AM1808 SoC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

 

Like some other Sitara processors, including the BeagleBone’s 1GHz Sitara AM3359 SoC, the AM1808 includes a Programmable Real-Time Unit Subsystem (PRUSS) for customizing industrial interfaces. The PRUSS includes two independent, programmable 32-BIT RISC PRU cores. It’s unclear whether the EV3 supports this feature or disables the PRUSS to save power.

Up to four EV3 bricks can be stacked, each with a Sitara SoC, 64MB of RAM, 16MB of internal flash, and a 32GB microSD slot. On the robotics side, the Mindstorms EV3 has added a set of infrared sensor “eyes,” enabling the robot to detect objects up to six feet away and respond to visual events.

There’s also a new gyro and an improved color sensor. Additional functions include a speaker, ultrasonic sensor, two touch sensors, and multiple servo motors. A total of 594 Lego-style Technic parts are also said to be available. A number of open source designs can be downloaded ranging from a 16-inch tall humanoid to a bulldozer.

The Mindstorms EV3 is also available in an educational version, which offers more customizable curriculum and other tools aligned with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition guidelines. According to TI, the chipmaker is a strong supporter of STEM, and the company and its TI Foundation has contributed more than $150 million to education over the last five years.

Stated Miller Adair, general manager for Sitara processors, TI: “TI’s Sitara processors and Bluetooth connectivity power the new EV3 brick that lays the foundation for users to explore and learn about construction, engineering and programming through hands-on problem solving that is first and foremost fun.”

The Lego Mindstorms EV3 is available now for $350. More information may be found in our earlier EV3 coverage as well as at Lego’s Mindstorms EV3 product page.
 

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