FPGA Innovation Day: A Master Class in Design Competitions

The word "masterpiece" is usually reserved for great paintings, literature, sculptures, and even architecture. You don't usually hear it used related to technology.

Based on what I saw at last week's FPGA Innovation Day—the grand finale of Terasic’s 2018 Innovate FPGA design contest held at the Intel San Jose campus—the top 10 finalists of this global competition to invent the future of embedded compute delivered a master class in FPGA-inspired technology innovation.
A total of 441 teams made up of students, professors, and makers from outside of Intel competed in this design contest using the Terasic DE10-Nano development board, based on the Intel® Cyclone® V SoC FPGA.

Here are the top four inventions that were my favorites—and one of them took home the $5,000 top prize!

Flex Force Smart Glove

Flex Force Smart Glove
Award Winners: Lloyd Emokpae, Roland Emokpae Jr., Brady Emokpae
LASARRUS Clinic and Research Center

This top-award winning design—created by a family of two brothers and a cousin—allows for acquiring sensory and motor function information from the human hand. The novel design is powered by the FPGA and incorporates the sensors needed to measure the force and rotation of the human wrist and fingers and will allow for both conventional and robotic-assisted rehabilitation. This incredible design won the $5,000 Grand Champion Award!

Brain Texting

Brain Texting
Award Winners: Sivakumar Chidambaram, Arna Shosh, Ajin Jiji
McGill University, Ecole Plytechnique de Montreal
Instructor: Jean-Pierre David

Brain Texting—or BreXting—is the brilliant idea of using Electroencephalography (EEG) to decode motor tasks thought by the user to move an on-screen pointer to enable typing or drawing using a stand-alone system with just an FPGA and a custom, portable EEG headset. This would be particularly useful for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. The team demonstrated how this could work, and through a series of commands, were able to show movement on a screen based on a simulated Brexting drawing example. This team was awarded the $1,000 Iron Award for their design.

Automatic Guitar Tuner

Auto guitar tuning
Award winners: Lian Jiarui, He Linlin, Tang Xue
Chongquing University
Instructor: He Wei

This team was trying to solve the tedious problem of manually tuning a guitar string to the perfect pitch. Through a system using fundamental frequency detection and motor rotation planning—extracting peak sequences in a defined period of time and other techniques to sort sound waves and cycles—this team created an FPGA-based system design to deliver automatic tuning and custom metronome performance. This team also won the $1,000 Iron Award.

VR/AR Sensor Hub

AR/VR Sensor Hub
Award winners: Chong Kwang Lilang, Lim Jia Zhi, Yong Kah Men
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR)
Instructor: Dr. Khaw Mei Kum, Dr. Lo Fook Loong

In this project, the team created an FPGA-based sensor hub for AR/VR headsets that preprocesses data for better immersive experiences in AR/VR applications. They used head and eye position tracking data and depth maps in their design. The technology allows users to visualize an artificial space as if they are actually there. This team won an Award of Excellence for their innovation.

All of designs entered in this competition are open source; so you can go buy a board of your own, download a reference design, and create your own FPGA-based masterpiece. All the info you need to get started is here.