Intel challenges Raspberry Pi 3 with tricked out Joule board

Intel packs superior technology into its new developer board, but it costs 10 times more than Raspberry Pi 3

Intel has unleashed a new competitor to Raspberry Pi 3 with its new Joule development board, which packs in superior graphics and wireless connectivity.

The chipmaker has loaded the development board with technology found in regular PCs: a 64-bit quad-core Atom processor, 4K graphics, 802.11ac connectivity, and DDR4 memory features.

However, Joule doesn't compete on price with the Raspberry Pi, which sells for US$35. A high-end version of the Joule board is on sale at the Intel Developer Forum this week for $369.99.

The Joule will provide big-time computing power for robots, drones, smart devices, and wearables. Like Raspberry Pi, Joule supports flavors of Linux and the Windows 10 IoT Core operating systems.

Joule also supports Intel's 3D RealSense camera, which is being used in drones and robots, as well as virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. The camera can recognize gestures, track objects, measure distances, and if programmed correctly, recognize human emotions. The camera helps drones and robots avoid collisions.

Price aside, the challenge for Intel is to get developers to accept the board. Intel's previous boards haven't been widely accepted, and many projects using Intel boards have been driven by the chipmaker. The Raspberry Pi has sold in the millions, and it has a thriving software development ecosystem around it.

At IDF Tuesday, Intel showed the Joule chipset being used in a bartending robot and motorcycle helmet. But an interesting use was in a pair of smart glasses, helping a quality control worker conduct real-time analysis, with the glasses buzzing when there were problems with products. 

This is by far the fastest of Intel's development boards, including Galileo Gen2 and Edison, which haven't been upgraded for years. Intel also offers the tiny Curie system used in wearables. Curie is also used in BMX bikes and in skateboards, providing real-time statistics to TV audiences.

The Joule boards are available in two configurations. The Joule 570x has a 1.7GHz Atom T5700 processor, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 16GB of storage. The Joule 550x will have a 1.5GHz Atom T5500 CPU, 3GB of LPDDR4 memory, and 8GB of storage.

The Joule systems will support 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and USB 3.0. Like many developer boards, they will have standard GPIO, I2C and UART interfaces.

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