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Microsoft edge AI kit runs Linux on i.MX8M and adds Myriad X and 8MP cam

Mar 10, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 560 views

Microsoft’s $349 “Azure Percept DK” edge AI kit runs Linux on an i.MX8M and works with Azure IoT services. The kit has a “Vision” module with a 0.7 TOPS Myriad X and an 8MP camera plus an an optional “Audio” module with a 4-mic array.

After Microsoft released its Linux-driven Azure Sphere secure IoT platform in 2018, the arrival of a new Linux-powered edge AI technology no longer elicits a “Whaa….?” but still causes a bit of rapid eye blinking among old timers. The not quite so evil empire has opened $349 pre-orders on a “pilot-ready” preview version of the i.MX8M and Intel Myriad X based Microsoft Azure Percept DK kit.

Like Azure Sphere, the Asus built Azure Percept DK provides a pre-certified, secure embedded system that interacts with Azure IoT services as part of an end-to-end edge-to-cloud platform. There was no formal Microsoft announcement of the kit, which was revealed last week by Hackster.io, reporting on Microsoft’s Ignite conference.



Azure Percept DK including main DK system (center), Azure Percept Vision module (right), and optional Azure Percept Audio module (left)
(click image to enlarge)

The Azure Percept DK taps Microsoft’s in-house CBL-Mariner, a lightweight Linux distro typically deployed on containers running on Azure (see farther below). There is also a library of pre-built Azure AI models and a no-code model builder for custom work.

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The platform supports Azure Cognitive Services, Azure Machine Learning, Azure Live Video Analytics, and other Azure services. The AI models include object detection, shelf analytics, vehicle analytics, and audio capabilities like voice control and anomaly detection.

Additional software offerings include a free Azure Percept Studio developer platform aimed at AI newbies. The Azure Percept platform also provides a hardware root-of-trust and a “Zero Trust” security model.

CBL-Mariner runs on NXP’s up to 1.5GHz, quad-core, Cortex-A53 i.MX8M, which includes a Cortex-M4 MCU and a Vivante GC7000 Lite GPU. The Azure Percept DK ships with 4GB RAM, 16GB flash, TPM 2.0, and a Realtek RTL882CE WiFi/BT module. Other features include 2x USB 3.0, USB Type-C, and Ethernet ports plus a 19V power supply and a wall-mount kit.



Azure Percept DK main system from two side views (render)
(click images to enlarge)

The other key component is a 42 x 42 x 40mm Azure Percept Vision module with a 0.7 TOPS Intel Myriad X VPU with integrated ISP. The module is integrated within its own external daughterboard, which adds an 8-megapixel (@30fps) Sony IMX219 sensor with 6P lens resolution. The Sony IMX219 has a 120-degree FOV and a fixed focus rolling shutter. The module supports dual cameras running simultaneously.

The Azure Percept Vision module has its own 2GB of LPDDR4, a USB Type-C port, and dual 4-lane MIPI-CSI interfaces. Other I/O includes 2x I2C, 2x SPI, 6x PWM, and 2x user-accessible GPIO. The module runs at 3.5W and supports 0 to 27°C temperatures.



Azure Percept DK with dual Azure Percept Vision modules on wall mount (left) and Azure Percept Studio
(click images to enlarge)

The Azure Percept DK also provides an optional Azure Percept Audio module with 4x MEM Sensing Microsystems microphones and a DAC with XMOS XUF208 Codec. The module enables a 180-degree, far-field mic array with 4-meter range and 63dB sensitivity. The 170 x 90 x 25mm module is integrated within its own external Interposer board, which provides a micro-USB port, an audio out jack, 3x LEDs, and 2x buttons.

Like the Azure Percept Vision module, the audio module is equipped with an ST-Microelectronics STM32L462CE crypto-controller. Like the Azure Percept DK in general, the module supports a 0 to 35°C range with 10% to 95% relative humidity tolerance.

 
More on CBL-Mariner

Late last year, Microsoft’s Linux Systems Group posted CBL-Mariner on GitHub. According to Mary Jo Foley, writing on ZDNet, Microsoft recently began using CBL-Mariner (for Common Base Linux) as the Linux distro for containers in the Azure Stack HCI implementation of Azure Kubernetes Service. The distro replaced Red Hat’s CoreOS.

CBL-Mariner joins other Microsoft Linux distributions including the Azure Sphere kernel and the Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2 (WSL2) inside Windows 10. There is also an Azure-tuned Linux kernel for Hyper-V guests and a proposed Integrity Policy Enforcement (IPE) Linux Security Module (LSM), says Foley.

 
Further information

The Azure Percept DK is available for pre-order at $349 including the Azure Percept Vision module/add-on board, with shipments starting Mar. 26. The optional, $79 Azure Percept Audio module is not yet ready for order. More information may be found on Microsoft’s shopping page, product page, and wiki.
 

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