Andrew McPherson of the Augmented Instruments Laboratory, C4DM let us know that they have launched a new Kickstarter project to fund the development of Bela – a high-performance, ultra-low-latency (< 1ms) platform for audio and sensor processing based on the BeagleBone Black. The project has already met its funding goal, with about a month left in its campaign.
The BeagleBone Black is a community-supported, open-hardware computing platform. Bela provides stereo audio, analogue and digital I/O in a single self-contained package. It combines the processing power of the BeagleBone Black embedded computer with the timing precision and connectivity of a microcontroller.
“I think this might interest Synthtopia (readers) for a variety of reasons,” says McPherson. “The submillisecond latency and audio-rate sensor processing means that digital instruments made with Bela can be faster and more responsive than instruments made on other embedded platforms. Also, the DC-coupled 16-bit analog inputs and outputs could be useful for CV controls.”
Here’s the official intro video:
Here’s what McPherson told us about the Bela’s technology:
Hardware-wise, Bela has stereo audio I/O with onboard speaker amplifiers, 8 channels each of 16-bit analog I/O, and 16 GPIO pins. Every analog and digital channel is automatically sampled at audio rate for precise jitter-free alignment between sensors and audio.
But most important unique feature of Bela is that it has extremely low latency between action and sound, down to 1.0ms round-trip for audio and even down to 100 microseconds from analog input to analog output.
This is much faster than any laptop or embedded Linux board can achieve. We do this by using the Xenomai real-time Linux extensions to run the audio code at essentially bare metal priority, bypassing the kernel drivers to go straight to the hardware. This means we can get audio buffer sizes as small as 2 samples without dropouts, and performance is unaffected by other system load.
Other notable features include an on-board browser-based IDE and an in-browser oscilloscope for visualising audio and sensors. It can be programmed with a lightweight C++ API, or Pd patches can be compiled into optimised C code for the board using the Heavy Audio Tools (http://enzienaudio.com).
The Bela is available to project backers starting at £45. See the project site for details.