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Digi-Key at Embedded World 2022 with Imagination Technologies

29th June 2022
Paige West

At embedded world 2022, on the Digi-Key booth, Paige West speaks with Robert Owen, Principal Consultant: Worldwide University Programme, Imagination Technologies about the Imagination University Programme.

Imagination Technologies is a medium-sized company, well-known for its GPUs. It designs processors, principally graphics processors, that find their way into many mobile phones and tablets, and also into data-centres and automotive applications. It’s a British-based company with branches all around the world.

The aim of the Imagination University Programme is to enable teachers to use the company’s products and resources in their classrooms. Owen notes: “The challenge always is, how do you take new technology and package it in a way which teachers can pick-up and use, that’s affordable for them?

“It sounds simple, but the kind of technology that’s used in new designs, that’s used in design labs, is often very expensive. The tools around it are often difficult to use as they are very specialised, so translating that into an undergraduate classroom, particularly for electronic engineering students and computer science students, that’s the challenge.”

The programme provides a full suite of teaching materials and support. There’s three pillars to these materials:

Edge AI: Principles and Practices

Imagination’s ‘EdgeAI: Principles and Practices’ is an under-graduate course that provides a solid foundation in this subject. It addresses the definition of ‘AI’ and the differences at the Edge.

It explores the popular algorithms, the mathematics behind them, and has hands-on labs to illustrate how they work. Application examples include Security Camera, Image Classification, Speech and Natural Language Processing, Speech Recognition. To be released end September 2022.

RVfpga: Understanding Computer Architecture

The RISC-V FPGA programme (RVfpga) offers two courses: ‘RVfpga: Understanding Computer Architecture’ and ‘RVfpga-SoC: Introduction to SoC Design’.

The first course, RVfpga: Understanding Computer Architecture, is an undergraduate course that provides the foundation knowledge and hands-on experience that the next generation of programmers and engineers need to harness the potential of RISC-V.

‘RVfpga: Introduction to SoC Design’ is a masters-level course that builds on the knowledge from the RVfpga architecture course. This SoC course includes five labs that show how to build a system-on-chip (SoC) around the core, install an operating system on the SoC, and run programs on the SoC, including TensorFlow.

Imagination also teamed-up with Digi-Key to write the ‘Guide to RISC-V’, which describes the RISC-V story and gives three implementation examples: an MCU, an MPU, and a soft-core (RVfpga).

Introduction to Mobile Graphics

The 2020 edition of Introduction to Mobile Graphics explains mobile graphics technologies and their architectures, the PowerVR framework for development, texturing, transformations, and example shader code including lighting models. There is also an introduction to Vulkan.

A range of hardware platforms are supported: the Simulator, Acer Chromebook, and the Beagle Bone Black. The BeagleBoneBlack is one of the most common development boards on the market today. Millions have been sold and users range from Hobbyists to Students to Industrial Developers. The TI Sitara SoC at the heart of this board contains an Imagination SX530 GPU. ‘Fun with Beagle: Exploring the GPU’ shows that there is more you can do with this GPU than just graphics!

Owen points out that current academic materials contain a wealth of information but seem to lack the vital ‘start here’ materials. This is the foundation needed by teachers to bring the fundamentals of computer architecture to life. “It’s very important for students to be taught real world examples,” Owen notes.

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