An Open Source IPad Display Adapter

Those fancy 2048×1536 pixel resolution displays found in the iPad 3 and 4 can be used for much more than high def Candy Crush and Netflix viewing. [Freddie] over in Southampton, UK built his own adapter to connect these high-resolution LCD panels to anything with a DisplayPort connection. It’s called OSCAR, and it’s the open source way to add a whole lot of pixels in a second (or third, or fourth….) monitor.

The LCD panels found in the iPad 3 and 4 don’t use the usual LVDS connection found in just about every other LCD panel ever made. It uses an extension of the DisplayPort protocol, meaning any graphics card with one of these ports already does the heavy lifting for this panel. The only other thing that’s needed is an adapter to control the power and backlight, which is easily handled by an ATMega32U4. This makes OSCAR Arduino compatible, making it easy to add sensors and USB playthings.

OSCAR is available on Kickstarter for £65 (~$100 USD) for the board itself. Adding to that, you’ll need to grab an iPad retina display through the usual channels for about $65. Not exactly cheap, but try finding another better-than-1080p display for that price.

45 thoughts on “An Open Source IPad Display Adapter

  1. Errr really?
    Firstly why the hell is the display port connector at the bottom instead of the side? It makes it difficult to build a thin case for the display if you have to run a DP cable through the middle.
    Secondly the price? $100USD, are they mad? For that I can buy three of these: which do the exact same thing and don’t force you to run the cables in a stupid location. This board (which I used in a project) has the connectors on the edge.

    The only thing it has going for it is that it takes 9-12V instead of the 5V for the Abusemark one but even that is personal preference, and I’m sure I can get a small regulator for less than the $65 price difference between them.

    Also I’m not sure why they think they need 15000GBP funding for something that has a BOM of about $20 + iPad screen. What a rip-off.

      1. You could never make even just the connector adapter for $5, that’s stupid. The FFC connector costs more than $5 on its own! Also, they do have way more stuff on the board compared to abusemark, Also KS take a cut and to produce them you would need a minimum quantity, hence the £15k goal for about 100 units by the looks of it

        1. you underestimate amount of free time available to a typical geek who would be interested in this stuff, heck, the old post on here showed the guy soldering dp wire directly to fpc or something. thats $0 plus lots of (worthless) time.

          remember this is HACK a day not ready to use product advertisement a day.

          1. “remember this is HACK a day not ready to use product advertisement a day.”

            And yet, HaD seems to be promoting products and not hacks. The spirit of the site seems to try to be DIY stuff, but they’re promoting people’s IndieGoGo and Kickstarter products.

        2. Oh they have more on the board than the abusemark? Lets see, both have voltage regulators, both have high current LED drivers, both have USB for computer access, both have a microcontroller on board, both have the option to program the microcontroller with whatever firmware you want.

          Yep sounds like way more to me…

    1. Agreed this falls into the niche of consumers not knowing any better what other more practical and cheaper options are available. The money they want for this kickstarter is grossly inflated.

    2. @Garbz ,

      Thanks a lot for the heads up and link to the Abusemark adapter. The guy replied to my messages asking for some details about his adapter within a couple of minutes. I just ordered myself a couple of Abusemark adapters!

      1. Hey, you are the dude that wrote ‘Getting Started with the StarterKit’ post on xmos forum. Thank you!
        How retarded a company can be to release a dev board and not bother mentioning MHz or other basic info :/ I was about to troll hardcore about them ignoring engineers and targeting arduidiots. Then I found your post and calmed a little :)
        You did better job documenting starterkit than their shitty employees. xmos should pay you, or at least send a big gift.

        1. Thanks! It was really frustrating to see their response to my post. They have a really awesome piece of silicon but their documentation is a mess, and the attitudes of the many mods is even worse. Its a shame they spent all that money giving those StarterKits and then let people’s interest die because of all the confusion in the documentation and lack of community support.

          Was thinking about tipping HaD about it, but haven’t had time lately to add to the series :\

  2. The price for the Kickstarter looks to be more because it comes with a panel. Personally, the option to purchase a complete working setup that I can just plug in is worth more to me than saving a few bucks.

    Overall, the Kickerstarter page looks looks legit and the team appears to have put in a lot of effort. If I was in the market for buying a Retina display, this seems like a great option.

    1. EDIT: You’re right, the base level is just for the Oscar board itself. More expensive than the option from abusemark, but it appears to have more features such as expansion headers, ATMEGA controller, status LED, etc.

      I agree the case is ugly on Kickstarter.

      1. really, you mean the same RGB status led that’s on the one he linked to? And I’m not sure if mentioning atmega as a feature in 2014 makes sense. It’s unlikely that people who can afford $100 for the bare board will care about the fact that its opensource, avr, or has expansion headers.

        Also, pretty much same thing (in an ugly case, too) is already available, right now, from adafruit:

        1. Who knows, maybe it’s a nicer LED!

          I don’t quite get all the negativity associated with the Kickstarter. True, there are cheaper options out there, but the project team looks to have put in a fair amount of effort to develop their own solution. It has some expansion capabilities that the Abusemark option does not, and they’re contributing to the Open Source Hardware side of things.

          What I don’t see is just a quick cash grab using Kickstarter as the means for it. I personally like to support projects like this one where the project team looks to be taking development seriously.

        2. The abusemark board uses an STM32. It’s pretty nice, except the button placement is a bit goofy if you’re powering it over USB. If you’re doing it properly with a 5v supply, no problem.

  3. The issue of price being inflated or not aside, what would this actually be good for?

    I personally cannot think about a good use for a high-res 9″ LCD panel that requires a PC to drive. For building something like a Oculus Rift clone it is too big, for embedding it into a fridge or picture frame it is too expensive, massive overkill and requiring a DisplayPort equipped computer. And to use it as a standalone monitor it is way too tiny, while having higher resolution than my 26″ LCD one -> problems with DPI settings and font sizes.

    Apart from being a nice hack, what is it actually good for?

    1. It would be great for a Car PC’s display, add a touchscreen panel to it and connect it to an Intel NUC or other similar micro PC and it would be the perfect Car PC that doesn’t have to be built into the vehicle itself (although it would probably be better if it was completely built in), so one could take it with them in multiple vehicles, such as a secondary car, boat etc… Small, high quality, high resolution displays are VERY rare and are usually very expensive (well over $200 for any decent one, but the resolution and panel quality tend to be, well, terrible), the price may be on the high side, but it’s still cheaper and FAR better than what’s currently available on the market… It’s a niche product, so obviously, it isn’t for mainstream users, these displays are better suited for makers / hackers who prefer custom built devices / projects over off the shelf products.

    2. I use one as an extra display for datasheets, etc. when I’m doing electronics work. I have it angled on my desk below the main displays. It’s a lot easier to glance down to see a pinout while working on a schematic or PCB layout on my main screens. Otherwise I’m constantly switching windows back and forth.

      TL;DR lots more pixels without much desk space.

    3. Aside from the uses already mentioned such as a small additional display for a main PC, these displays are also IPS displays have have great colour reproduction as a result (how many other sub $100 IPS displays are there?)

      But personally I combine mine with a FitPC for automation of a telescope. This has some applications in the slightly larger than embedded market like in any case where you need a full PC to drive equipment (think large CNC machine)

  4. The story is different elsewhere, but buying from Adafruit may be better for US buyers.

    165 Euro (complete screen, case, power supply, etc) & shipping makes US$230. Most international payment systems add an extra 3%, so $237, and the ETA is July.

    Adafruit’s complete kit comes out to $225, ships now, and they throw in free basic shipping at $200. It doesn’t seem to be Open Hardware though.

    Adafruit sells just the board too, $80. Oscar bare board is 70 Euro incl. shipping, making it about $100 for the US all said.

    I guess the next question is, is using this as a computer display worthwhile beyond a novelty item?

    1. It’s halfway Open Hardware… they share the schematic and the firmware, at least.

      I have one of the Adafruit units. It works well, although I’m not a huge fan of the buttons being on the back of the unit and that the whole thing is made of static generating acrylic (and there are no standoffs to keep the board from directly contacting the acrylic surface). But the design is simple and effective.

      I’ve been working on my own version of this since the original Hackaday article; it’s high time I actually get around to finishing it… it appears as though there is a healthy enough market, in order to support so many commercial implementations (Adafruit, this Kickstarter, Abusemark, Rosznyo, etc).

      1. Yeah, I kept looking at the Adafruit board looking for a button header to relocate the buttons to somewhere more usable. I mean I suppose running tag wires to a daughterboard is hackishly suitable, but it seems like the sort of thing that should be baked into the design. But I think the biggest thing holding me back is that I’d really like a frame that integrates a standard VESA mount – I wouldn’t mind a nice high res secondary display, but so far all the stands have been kind of laptop inspired and ergonomically kind of a mess.

  5. It’s cool to see someone bringing this to market in their own way but the price difference between the abusemark piece and theirs is dramatic. At least you get the warm fuzzy feeling of helping aspiring engineers grow their own business and skills. It would be nice if their version incorporated the touch screen as in input device, that would make this a much more interesting product for me.

    1. I just thought of another great way you could use this. If you could get the touchscreen and a displayport to HDMI adaptor working with the screen you could connect it to a Raspberry Pi. Then all you would need is a 3d printed case to mount it in and you would have your own DIY tablet.

        1. _simple HDMI to displayport adapters won’t work_
          Nick, Yes you are correct. *Simple* won’t work as teardowns show there overly complex cables to be small computers themselves (wired article).

          The HDMI splinters and Displayport splinters work perfectly well.

          A quick search for HDMI 1 in 3 spliter teardown will give a bunch of results. A few reviewed are “compliant” and adhere to the standards (by omission), others are accidentally are non compliant and forget to encrypt the end signal, and others are just land-waste filler.

          But if you want the shortest route and just one source to decode/make compatible with everything “HD” Nick “Fury”, look up. Yeah, it’s about $170 but they have been at it since 2007.

          Also, we have some awesome people here.

          (see the comment section and read slowly)

    2. Worst thing about Kickstarter is they are not technically selling anything, it’s just donations and backers get perks. Donating money vs buying things, if I want something I just buy it, I don’t need to feed group of UK uni students. If everthing goes south they might not EVER deliver anything. It’s a possibility with kickstarter.

  6. With that pricetag I literally EXPECT a decent quality HDMI/Dual-link DVI adapter to Displayport is part of the base bundle.
    Don’t know about everyone else, but the reason I make or modify my own things is because of lack of money.
    That is the exact opposite of that gouging pricetag.

  7. Problem with kickstarter is that they literally jack up the price and goal alot of times to amounts that are obscene. Really it costs that much for this feeling insues. You just can’t help feeling like they are pocketing the majority for profit when you realistically know how much it should really cost to manufacture and sell said idea. This isn’t a new idea that hasn’t been thought of before and at 100 bucks i’m gonna have to pass

    But hey good luck finding suckers who don’t know better

    1. Crowdfunding goes a lot of different ways. Most of them have no experience in business, or in supporting a complicated product with hundreds or thousands of users. And many of them don’t build in a contingency margin for when they run into a problem they didn’t bother to work their way to.

      Others, like this one, try to pitch a product that’s more expensive, all told, than all the other options on the market right now. The goal on this one isn’t as exorbitant as others though.

      And yes, there are a lot of suckers. It helps to look and see what else is out there. In this case, most of the competitors are pretty obscure, and that only helps this particular venture.

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