Send in your ideas. Deadline June 1, 2024
Theme fund: NGI0 Entrust
Start: 2023-02
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Hardware accelerated 2D graphics

Design hardware accelerated 2D graphics using C to Verilog

This project is to develop a hardware accelerated 2D video controller for easily adding user interfaces to industrial and commercial machines. Besides offering a useful product and fulfilling a long-standing need for embedded systems development, it will also encourage people to engage in FPGA-based hardware development by using more friendly tools.Traditionally, to make stand-alone machines and systems (i.e. not based on PCs but on custom computing boards), if developers need to add graphical user interfaces (GUI) they are offered only two inconvenient options: use a complex system like a Linux-capable board, or limit performance to low resolutions that are unsuitable for medium to large displays. The latter case simply prevents successfully marketing those products, while the former requires a high degree of qualifications in embedded systems development, to build simple products like signage systems or vending machines. This project is somewhat inspired by the success of the Arduino project, a product and ecosystem that greatly simplified the design of not too complex machines, and encouraged a lot of people to do their own designs. Currently, with the easier Arduino and similar systems, there's no way to control professional user interfaces, so many developers keep outside of the field. With the proposed system, instead, it is easy: you can send drawing commands to the board right from the Arduino system, through a provided library. The board then loads previously stored images and fonts to render the GUI at a high resolution. The drawing commands are implemented with hardware acceleration to meet speed needs, and the cores for achieving that (FPGA gateware) will be written in the widely known C language. This is solved with a custom tool for conversion to Verilog, that offers fast graphical simulations too. This will encourage people who know the language from software development, to enter the hardware design field. Also, the widely known and easy to learn Micropython language will be offered, to further ease implementing devices.

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 Entrust Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 101069594.