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Neural computing kit combines Atomic Pi SBC with Intel’s NCS2

Sep 30, 2019 — by Eric Brown 1,860 views

Team IoT has Kickstartered a $99 and up “Neural Computing Development Kit” that combines its Intel Cherry Trail based Atomic Pi SBC pre-loaded with Ubuntu and OpenVINO with Intel’s Neural Compute Stick 2 AI accelerator.

Last December, Team IoT, a project from Digital Loggers, Inc., announced the Atomic Pi SBC at an amazingly low price of $34 — low, that is, for an Intel x86-based board. The open-spec, Intel Atom x5-Z8350 based SBC shipped in the spring, quickly sold out, and then returned in time for our catalog of 125 Linux hacker boards.

Now, Team IoT has returned with a successful Kickstarter project for a Neural Computing Development Kit that combines an Atomic Pi with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC — now available for $33 at Amazon — with Intel’s Neural Compute Stick 2 (NCS2), a USB dongle with an Intel/Movidius Myriad X VPU that sells for $69 on Amazon.

Neural Computing Development Kit
(click image to enlarge)

The kit also adds an unnamed machine vision camera, a small breakout board, cables, and a 5V 5A power supply. The kit saves you some prep work by preloading Ubuntu and Intel’s free OpenVINO deep learning tookit along with patches and code samples with “select pre-downloaded and pre-optimized models.”


This is clearly a bargain, especially with the $99 early bird package that ships on Oct. 22. The $125 standard package ships by Oct. 31 and throws in free Fed-Ex ground shipping in the continental U.S.

The Atomic Pi is a modified version of Aaeon’s MF-001 SBC, which was used by Mayfield Robotics for its failed Kuri robot. According to a very negative Hackaday review, the Atomic Pi represents a sell-off of old stock, although at 28,000 units, it might take a while. The customer reviews on Amazon — 3.5 stars average — give you a gist of the good, the bad, and the ugly, including some troubles with power and heat buildup. But many of the difficulties appear to stem from loading Windows 10 rather than Linux, and the price is very, very good indeed.

Atomic Pi and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

The 130 x 100 x 50mm SBC — the high profile is due to the heatsink – is built around an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 with 4x 14nm-fabricated cores clocked at 1.91GHz. This Cherry Trail generation SoC might also be considered a “sell-off” product as Intel made a lot of them for an x86 smartphone wave that never hit. The same SoC was used on Aaeon’s original, $99 UP board and DFRobot’s original $119 LattePanda SBC. An x5-Z8300 family SoC is also used in Radxa’s new Rock Pi X SBC, which is expected to ship soon for $39.

The Atomic Pi is equipped with GbE, WiFi-ac, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, micro-USB 3.0 OTG, and an HD-only HDMI port with audio output. There’s also a 9-axis IMU and a debug interface.

The 26-pin GPIO connector hooks up with the optional breakout boards. The breakout board tossed in for free here appears to be the smaller, $7 model. The standard version of the Atomic Pi is pre-installed with Kubuntu (Linux Kernel 4.15) but can also run Windows 10.

Intel Neural Compute Stick 2
(click image to enlarge)

Intel is assisting Team IoT with support for the Neural Compute Stick 2 USB stick computer, which Intel launched last December as a follow-up to its NCS1. The NCS2 features the latest, 1TOP (trillion operations per second) Myriad X VPU. This neural compute engine offers up to 10X higher performance than the original version’s Myriad 2 VPU “for applications requiring multiple neural networks running simultaneously,” said Intel. The NCS2 stick also offers up to 8x higher performance “on deep neural networks.”

The 72.5 x 27 x 14mm NCS2 device is designed to offload video processing for deep learning, freeing up the CPU for other tasks. The device plugs into the Atomic Pi via a USB 3.0 port. It’s typically paired with Intel’s OpenVINO toolkit, which is preloaded here along with GStreamer and samples.

Intel has previously worked with Aaeon to market Myriad X chips built into Aaeon AI Core X modules. The AI Core X is available in various form factors for several UP boards, including the Whiskey Lake based UP Xtreme SBC. In addition, Aaeon recently announced several Boxer-8300AI embedded computers with built-in AI Core X modules. The main competition in AI accelerator USB stick computers is Google’s Edge TPU Accelerator, which is equipped with its Edge TPU neural network coprocessor.

Further information

The Neural Computing Development Kit is available on Kickstarter starting at $99 with shipments in later October or November. More information may be found on Team IoT’s Kickstarter page.


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