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Raspberry Pi mic array kit features AI enabled DSP

Sep 23, 2021 — by Eric Brown 835 views

The “Knowles AISonic IA8201 Raspberry Pi Development Kit” is based on a homegrown IA8201 DSP with wake-on-voice processing for low latency voice UI and ML inferencing. The kit offers a choice of mic array boards with 2x or 3x mics.

Knowles, a leader in microphone and audio processing technology, has launched a development kit for the Raspberry Pi for prototyping products based on its new IA8201 DSP. The Knowles AISonic IA8201 Raspberry Pi Development Kit supports wake-on-voice processing for low latency voice UI with noise reduction, context awareness, and accelerated machine learning inferencing.

AISonic IA8201 Raspberry Pi Development Kit with Raspberry Pi and 2-mic array
(click image to enlarge)

The platform supports “high bandwidth processing of advanced, always-on contextually aware ML use-cases and memory for multiple algorithms,” says Knowles. Applications include smart home and building voice hubs, home entertainment systems, proximity detection, security systems with glass break sensors, wireless earbuds, and inference engines for various industrial and commercial applications.

There is no price and few details about the kit but plenty on the DSP, which was announced in June. The kit comprises an adapter board that fits on the Raspberry Pi, a processing board with the IA8201 DSP, and a choice of two mic arrays with 2x or 3x mics, respectively.

AISonic IA8201 Raspberry Pi Development Kit components (left) and AISonic White Goods Standard Solution Package
(click images to enlarge)

The AISonic IA8201 Raspberry Pi Development Kit follows an AISonic White Goods Standard Solution Package, which was announced on May 27 and similarly features the IA8201 DSP. Aimed at voice UIs built into household appliances, the solution has been adopted by Samsung for its FamilyHub smart appliance hubs.


The White Goods kit has a larger “Kona Board” development board and is available in two versions: one with MCU support and the other for higher-end appliances running Android. For some reason, a Raspberry Pi make an appearance in the image above, but since there is no mention of the Pi, it is likely a teaser for the new Pi-based dev kit.

IA8201 DSP

Knowles’ AISonic IA8201 Audio Edge Processor OpenDSP is a sibling to the company’s similarly 28nm fabricated IA8508 but aimed at lower-power AI processing. The DSP comprises a Cortex-M4 chip along with two Tensilica-based, audio-centric DSP cores with a total clock rate of 175MHz. A 128-bit, 4-way floating-point SIMD “DeltaMax” Tensilica Xtensa LX5 core offers high-power compute and AI/ML while a 64-bit, 2-way “HemiDelta” Xtensa LX5 core provides very low-power, always-on processing of sensor inputs.

The IA8201 is further equipped with 1.44MB RAM on-chip, with 1MB available to the user. The DSP supports up to 4x PDM digital mics, 2x PDM outputs, and up to 3x I2S/TDM ports supporting 8x 32-bit audio channels. Peripheral support includes multiple SPI, I2C, UART, and GPIO interfaces.

IA8201 DSP architecture
Source: AudioExpress
(click image to enlarge)

By comparison, the earlier IA8508 has a third “SSP” core, but the DSP is clocked at a lower 150MHz rate. The IA8508 supplies 4MB user RAM and supports 8x PDM mics and 6x I2S/TDM interfaces.

Like the IA8508, the IA8201 is referred to as an “open” DSP (or OpenDSP) in that it provides an open, Linux-compatible SDK that enables plugin development. The product ships with a library of audio algorithms and AI/ML libraries that support farfield audio applications with ultra-low power voice wake, beamforming, custom keywords, and background noise elimination technology.

The IA8201 SDK supports Amazon Alexa, Sensory, Retune, and Alango voice platforms. It also includes a TensorFlow Lite-Micro SDK for prototyping AI/ML applications that allows for porting models developed in larger cloud-based Tensor Flow frameworks to an embedded platform. The Raspberry Pi kit provides access to Knowles Solutions Portal for IA8201 configuration tools, firmware, and algorithms.

Further information

The Knowles AISonic IA8201 Raspberry Pi Development Kit appears to be available for order at an undisclosed price. More information may be found on the RPi Kit product page and IA8201 DSP datasheet (PDF).

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