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Thread: FPGA Development Board

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    FPGA Development Board

    I was luck enough to get a Altera De2 Devlopment board and was wondering if FPGA are used in robotics, if so what are they used for?

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    Re: FPGA Development Board

    Sure! It can be used for almost anything you want it to be. That's the beauty of FPGAs. You could make it into one or more microprocessors. You have an 8-128bit DMA bus. It can control a tremendous number of slave devices... Sky/imagination/Verilog or VHDL knowledge is the limit. And the latter is the "tough part". Learning Verilog/VHDL.

    You can arrange those flipflops in a countless number of ways - you just need to design your hardware now.
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    Re: FPGA Development Board

    I just received my MaxII development kit, which is actually a CPLD device but is somewhat similar to an FPGA, and can also be programmed in VHDL.

    The possibilities with these things are endless, but I've only worked with them in school so I ordered a small kit to check out some more possibilities relating to robotics.

    Servo magazine had an article on servo control, but that's just a basic intro to fpga's really.

    The point is, you can make it do pretty much anything you want, with the main advantage being parallel 'processing'.
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    Re: FPGA Development Board

    Agreed - that's what I was getting at with "one or more microprocessors".

    To give you an idea, I designed a 16 input video capture card with four FPGAs. I can change codecs for compression nearly on the fly (reset the card) even out in the field, and I'm doing 480fps realtime encoding in all the "tough" codecs with zero host CPU load. Want mpeg4? click the button. H.264? Click the button. Wavlet? Click the button - it's all hardware compressed with no ties to a dedicated mpeg4 or h.264 chip. And given that the h.264 standard was changing more often than most people change their underware - it was absolutely key. I have an early prototype here (hand soldered Xilinx, ouch!) that has six video inputs with realtime 180fps compression on an old Xilinx XES40XL tied to a Zoran NTSC/PAL chip and an SMSC ethernet chip. Only a small handful of components, completely stand-alone compression system.

    Extraordinarly powerful devices on the plus side, but like anything else, with that power comes great difficulty. VHDL is a PITA.
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    Re: FPGA Development Board

    That's a lot of horsepower. Is that standard def or high-def? It sounds like something I'd want to buy for my PVR machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrenalynn View Post
    Agreed - that's what I was getting at with "one or more microprocessors".

    To give you an idea, I designed a 16 input video capture card with four FPGAs. I can change codecs for compression nearly on the fly (reset the card) even out in the field, and I'm doing 480fps realtime encoding in all the "tough" codecs with zero host CPU load. Want mpeg4? click the button. H.264? Click the button. Wavlet? Click the button - it's all hardware compressed with no ties to a dedicated mpeg4 or h.264 chip. And given that the h.264 standard was changing more often than most people change their underware - it was absolutely key. I have an early prototype here (hand soldered Xilinx, ouch!) that has six video inputs with realtime 180fps compression on an old Xilinx XES40XL tied to a Zoran NTSC/PAL chip and an SMSC ethernet chip. Only a small handful of components, completely stand-alone compression system.

    Extraordinarly powerful devices on the plus side, but like anything else, with that power comes great difficulty. VHDL is a PITA.

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    Re: FPGA Development Board

    Standard def, 480line security camera stuff.
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    Re: FPGA Development Board

    Wow Adrenalynn, that sounds like a hefty piece of work!

    I was in a group desing project in the final year of my masters were we had to design a hard disk tester. It had to read raw HDD data at 6GHz and process it in real time. For this we had to use an FPGA running at about 400MHz and used massively parallel filter architectures to be able to process the data so quickly. As obviosuly using normal processors would be too slow and couldnt achive real time results.
    FPGA's are very very powerfull bits of kit. They are also very flexiable, so you can design your system and worrie about coding the controller later. It would deffinatly be a good thing to have as your robot controller.

    If you want to see FPGA relevance to robotics, have a look at the QWERK board by charmed labs. This is what I'm using to develop on. It has an ARM9 core running linux and an FPGA on board also!! The FPGA is setup to controll the servos and motors and a bunch of other ADCs and IO.

    This effectivly takes the strain off the linux core + provides room for expansion by re-writting the FPGA code. So you could have more motor controllers and less servo controllers (with a few more external H-bridges). It has also been sugested that it would be possible todo some camera processing in the FPGA generating stereo depth maps or object recognition in real time too!!!

    Hope that helps a bit and good luck building a robot with that dev board

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