Alorium rolled out a new product late last year that caught our attention. The Sno (pronounced like “snow”) board is a tiny footprint Arduino board that you can see in the video below. By itself that isn’t that interesting, but the Sno also has an Altera/Intel Max 10 FPGA onboard. If you aren’t an FPGA user, don’t tune out yet, though, because while you can customize the FPGA in several ways, you don’t have to.
Like Alorium’s XLR8 product, the FPGA comes with preprogrammed functions and a matching Arduino API to use them. In particular, there are modules to do analog to digital conversion, servo control, operate NeoPixels, and do floating point math.
However, you can reprogram the FPGA to have other functions — known as XBs or Xcelerator Blocks — if you like. The only problem we see is that, so far, there aren’t many of them. In addition to the stock XBs, there is one that will do quadrature decoding for dealing with things like shaft encoders. There are a few others you can find on their GitHub page. You can get an idea for the workflow by looking at this tutorial for the XLR8 board.
Of course, you can write your own FPGA configurations as you see fit, but they also provide a standard workflow — OpenXLR8 — that lets you build your own blocks that operate just like their blocks. It would be easy to imagine an “app store” concept where people develop custom blocks and make them available.
We really like the idea of this device and it is certainly inexpensive. You can prototype on the XLR8 which looks like a UNO or you can put headers in the Sno. They also sell a breakout board that will make the Sno physically more like an UNO. We are surprised, though, that there are not more XBs created over the last two years.
The FPGA onboard is similar to the one on the Arrow board we looked at earlier this year, although that has some additional components like SDRAM. If you are looking for a project, it might be interesting to convert our PWM code into an XB.
Thanks to [K5STV] for showing us one of these.