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    Developer Kits with MIPI Camera And Display Support Provide a Fast Track for Designs

    Advanced high-resolution cameras and displays are at the core of many new electronic devices, enabling continuously more sophisticated vision-based services and enhanced user experiences. Integrated cameras and displays can now be found in a wide array of devices, from traditional devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs, to a new wave of connected devices within the “Internet of Things,” encompassing every type of connected device imaginable.

    MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 Ecosystems

    MIPI Alliance’s Camera Serial Interface 2 (CSI-2SM) and Display Serial Interface 2 (DSI-2SM) specifications have become de facto industry standards for connecting cameras and displays within mobile devices. The key driving factors behind the use of these specifications are their high-bandwidth performance, low power consumption and low electromagnetic interference. 

    The adoption of MIPI specifications by the mobile industry has fostered interoperability between component vendors and resulted in a huge vendor community, which in turn has significantly lowered costs, widened choice, and reduced complexity for developing and integrating advanced cameras and displays within electronic devices.

    Developer communities have also built up around MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2, providing developers with software tools and other resources such as example code and drivers to help developers get started with the interfaces. 

    This vibrant ecosystem is evident in the number of different single-board developer kits that support MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces. Leveraging the interoperability provided by these specifications, an ecosystem of specialist camera and display vendors has also emerged, offering a range of camera and display modules that developers can connect to the developer kits. 

    Common Kits Supporting MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2

    The array of available MIPI compatible camera modules is staggering and includes low-, medium- and high-resolution standard cameras, monochrome infrared cameras, stereoscopic cameras and 3D time-of-flight cameras. A similarly impressive range of DSI-2 compatible displays is also available, with multiple screen sizes and resolutions. With such a range of modules to choose from, developers can easily match the perfect camera and display modules to meet their specific target use cases.

    Here is a brief overview of some commonly available developer kits that support both MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces:

    • Raspberry Pi (All generations except Pi Zero)
      The hugely popular Raspberry Pi single-board computer, which has sold 30 million units since its inception in 2012, has proved to be an ideal general-purpose, low-cost computing platform for students and developers alike. With all generations of the Raspberry Pi (except Pi Zero) supporting both MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2, the Raspberry Pi can connect to a large number of different state-of-the-art cameras and displays. The current official Raspberry Pi cameras, which support 8MP and 12MP sensors, are connected via MIPI CSI-2 interfaces, while the official Raspberry Pi 7-inch, 800 x 480 pixel display is connected via a MIPI DSI-2 interface. An ecosystem of specialist camera and display retailers has been built around Raspberry Pi, supplying a range of different camera and display modules and providing reference software drivers and helpful developer forums.

    • NVIDIA Jetson TX2 and Jetson Nano
      Manufactured by NVIDIA, Jetson TX2 and Jetson Nano are two single-board computers that support both MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces. With powerful GPU and application CPU, these kits are targeted at application developers interested in AI and machine vision applications. Both kits support four or more CSI-2 interfaces and at least one DSI-2 interface, providing an ideal platform to test and exploit their capabilities. NVIDIA’s Jetson Wiki, Embedded Developer Zone and Developer Forum provide a comprehensive set of developer resources to support the integration and use of CSI-2 compatible cameras and DSI-2 compatible display modules from different vendors. 

    • NXP i.MX Developer Kits
      NXP’s comprehensive range of i.MX application processors are targeted at advanced multimedia applications with high-performance and low-power consumption requirements. Their application processors are supported by a great number of i.MX developer kits, provided directly by NXP as well as a variety of other third-party vendors such as Avnet, Digi, iWave and Variscite.

      Focusing purely on the evaluation kits provided by NXP, we see that all the i.MX8 and i.MX7 based developer kits support at least one MIPI CSI-2 and one DSI-2 interface. To help developers, NXP provides accessory boards for its i.MX8 kits, including CSI-2 camera modules and a DSI-2 1080p OLED display. Supported by the NXP Community, the i.MX developer kits provide versatile platforms to develop multimedia applications that leverage the advantages of the CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces.

    • Qualcomm RB3 and RB5 Robotics
      Qualcomm’s RB3 and soon-to-be-released RB5 development kits are targeted at developers who want to create smart, power-efficient and cost-effective robots and drones with particular emphasis on machine learning and advanced computer vision. Both kits, which adhere to the 96Boards Consumer Edition open hardware specification, support multiple MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces. The more powerful RB5 kit can connect up to seven concurrent high-resolution cameras using its CSI-2 interfaces. Qualcomm also provides a number of camera sensors for the kits, including medium- and high-resolution single camera sensors, and an advanced 3D time of flight camera. The company supports the kits with developer resources and tools, along with  additional developer support via a Thundercomm forum.

      Arduino Spartan Edge Accelerator Board
    • Arduino developer kits are popular among developers seeking a low-cost, easy-to-learn and simple-to-use development platform. Natively the Arduino developer kits lack the processing power to handle high-resolution cameras, which resulted in Seeed Studio developing its Spartan Edge Accelerator Board in the Arduino UNO shield form factor. The board, which is based around a powerful Xilinx Spartan-7 FPGA, supports a CSI-2 interface, allowing a multitude of CSI-2 compatible cameras to be connected and controlled by it. Developer resources are provided on Seeed Studio’s developer Wiki and Forum.

    Other Developer Kits

    The list above is not exhaustive -- there are many other developer kits that support MIPI camera and display interfaces. Other developer kits noted for supporting both CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces include the Asus Tinker Board, Digi ConnectCore 8M Nano, Mediatek X20, Microchip Polarfire FPGA Video and Imaging Kit, Rock960, ROCK Pi 4 and SolidRun HummingBoard Gate. It is worth noting that the Mediatek X20 and Rock960 kits, like the Qualcomm kits mentioned earlier, conform to the 96Boards Consumer Edition specification, which includes MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces as standard. (Review a full list of 96board Consumer Edition developer kits.).

    I3C Developer Kit

    While this blog focused on developer kits supporting the well-established CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces, MIPI I3C® will soon be supported by new developer kits coming to market. MIPI I3C is the faster, lower power, lower pin count successor of the I2C interface and is used to connect sensors and other ancillary components to an application processor.  One of the first kits supporting MIPI I3C is the NXP i.MX RT685 evaluation kit, which already supports the necessary MIPI I3C header connections.

    Conclusion

    It is clear that the high speed, lower power and low complexity MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces are widely supported by a range of different developer kits – from basic kits costing just a few dollars to powerful high-end kits supporting the very latest AI and machine vision capable hardware. 

    In addition, all the kits described in this article are supported with high-quality developer resources including tutorials, software tools, example code and developer forums, making the MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2 interfaces accessible to the developer community and easily leveraged for any application that requires a camera or display capability.

    Vendor

    Model

    CSI-2

    DSI-2

    GPU

    Application Processor

    Indicative Cost

    Raspberry Pi

    RPi 4 Model B

    1

    1

    -

    Quad Cortex A72

    $35+

    Raspberry Pi

    RPi 3 Model B+

    1

    1

    -

    Quad Cortex A53

    $35

    Raspberry Pi

    Zero W

    1

    0

    -

    Single ARM11

    $10

    NVIDIA

    Jetson TX2

    6

    2

    Yes

    Dual Denver-2 

    Quad Cortex A57

    $399

    NVIDIA

    Jetson Nano

    4

    1

    Yes

    Quad Cortex A57

    $99

    NXP

    i.MX 8M Nano

    1

    1

    Yes

    Quad Cortex A53

    Single Cortex M7

    $399

    NXP

    i.MX7 SABRE

    1

     1

     Yes

    Dual Cortex A7

    Single Cortex M4 

    $249

    Qualcomm

    RB5

    7

    2

    Yes

    Quad Cortex A77

    Quad Cortex A55

    $495

    Qualcomm

    RB3

    4

    2

    Yes

    Quad Cortex A75

    Quad Cortex A55

    $449

    Seeed

    Arduino Spartan Edge Accelerator Board

    1

    0

    -

    Xilinx Spartan-7 FPGA

    $35

    Example List of Developer Kits Supporting MIPI CSI-2 and/or DSI-2 Interfaces


    Please note:
    The inclusion of a product in this blog post does not represent an endorsement of the product by MIPI Alliance or guarantee the product’s compliance or conformance with MIPI specifications.

     

    Tags: Camera, Display