Google has promised us new hardware products for machine learning at the edge, and now it’s finally out. The thing you’re going to take away from this is that Google built a Raspberry Pi with machine learning. This is Google’s Coral, with an Edge TPU platform, a custom-made ASIC that is designed to run machine learning algorithms ‘at the edge’. Here is the link to the board that looks like a Raspberry Pi.
This new hardware was launched ahead of the TensorFlow Dev Summit, revolving around machine learning and ‘AI’ in embedded applications, specifically power- and computationally-limited environments. This is ‘the edge’ in marketing speak, and already we’ve seen a few products designed from the ground up to run ML algorithms and inference in embedded applications. There are RISC-V microcontrollers with machine learning accelerators available now, and Nvidia has been working on this for years. Now Google is throwing their hat into the ring with a custom-designed ASIC that accelerates TensorFlow. It just so happens that the board looks like a Raspberry Pi.
What’s On The Board
On board the Coral dev board is an NXP i.MX 8M SOC with a quad-core Cortex-A53 and a Cortex-M4F. The GPU is listed as ‘Integrated GC7000 Lite Graphics’. RAM is 1 GB of LPDDR4, Flash is provided with 8GB of eMMC, and WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 are included. Connectivity is provided through USB, with Type-C OTG, a Type-C power connection, a Type-A 3.0 host, and a micro-B serial console. Gigabit Ethernet, a 3.5mm audio jack, a microphone, full-size HDMI, 4-lane MIPI-DSI, and 4-lane MIPI-CSI2 camera support. The GPIO pins are exactly — and I mean exactly — like the Raspberry Pi GPIO pins. The GPIO pins provide the same signals in the same places, although due to the different SOCs, you will need to change a line or two of code defining the pin numbers.
You might be asking why Google would build a Raspberry Pi clone. That answer comes in the form of a machine learning accelerator chip implanted on the board. Machine learning and AI chips were popular in the 80s and everything old is new again, I guess. The Google Edge TPU coprocessor has support for TensorFlow Lite, or ‘machine learning at the edge’. The point of TensorFlow Lite isn’t to train a system, but to run an existing model. It’ll do facial recognition.
The Coral dev board is available for $149.00, and you can order it on Mouser. As of this writing, there are 1320 units on order at Mouser, with a delivery date of March 6th (search for Mouser part number 212-193575000077).
Also In Dongle Form
There’s also another device in the hardware portfolio, called a USB accelerator, which we can only assume is the Edge TPU connected to a USB cable. This USB accelerator will work with the Raspberry Pi — that’s from Google’s product copy, by the way — and will get you started on machine learning inferencing with the Edge TPU designed by Google. The price for this USB accelerator is $75 USD.
We would like to congratulate the Raspberry Pi foundation for creating something so ubiquitous even Google feels the need to ride the coat tails.