Blog: The Kanzi Connection

March 03, 2015 – HMI & UI Development

Hacking the Car Dashboard

Here at Rightware, we like challenges. We enjoy pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve even with a limited set of resources at our disposal. Many of us have backgrounds in the demoscene, where we’ve learned to squeeze out every last bit of performance from both software and hardware.

That’s why when our partner Imagination (the guys who make the graphics processors that are inside your iPhone and iPad) asked us if we’d collaborate in a car interface hackathon, we were quick to say yes!

The two-day hackathon was to take place at the University of Southampton in co-operation with their Electronics and Computer Sciences department. Located in southern UK, ranked as one of the leading academic research units in the world, and with more than 23 000 students, University of Southampton has produced notable alumni such as Tim Berners-Lee, Brian Eno and Adrian Newey.

Munir from Imagination rallying the troops
Munir from Imagination rallying the troops

The objective of the hackathon would be to provide student teams an opportunity to design and engineer digital automotive user interfaces and HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) with real-life tools. Teams would have 24 hours to create a concept – designing a digital dashboard with and integrating it with a variety of sensors, simulating data in automotive use cases.

Imagination’s new CI20 Creator microcomputer would be used as the target hardware. Rightware Kanzi would be used for user interface design and engineering – students would be able to use the same tools Audi uses for creating their dashboards!

The CI20 Creator microcomputer.
The CI20 Creator microcomputer.

Rightware’s engineers were quick to port Kanzi for the CI20 on Debian Linux, and we found it a nice piece of kit to work with. The CI20 comes with the PowerVR SGX540 GPU, which is OpenGL ES 2.0 compatible. We were impressed how much PowerVR graphics performance and MIPS CPU horsepower Kanzi had to play with on such a low cost board!

Rightware Kanzi dashboard project running on CI20.
Rightware Kanzi dashboard project running on CI20.

We arrived at the university on Saturday morning. After a short mission briefing (with a bit of Mission Impossible thrown in for motivation=)), we assigned the students to groups, gathered in the ECS computer lab and started hacking.

Quick scrum and then more hacking
Quick scrum and then more hacking

During the first hour, students already started coming up with innovative ideas for hacks. Some groups started by designing visuals with Kanzi, while others experimented with hardware, with ideas for wearables and even ADAS features. Imagination and Rightware provided support (and the necessary food and drinks to keep the students going=).

At the end of the second day it was time for the student teams to present their projects to the judges from Imagination and Rightware. It was a tough decision, but there was a clear winner. Two teams had decided to combine their efforts – one had created an impressive, responsive car dashboard UI with Kanzi and the other a fully functional CAN BUS interface controlling feeding the Kanzi dashboard on the CI20. Their joint project was the winner.

All in all – a successful event with some highly innovative automotive projects! Our thanks to the guys and girls at ECS Southampton, all students and faculty involved.

Interested in hosting a car hackathon for your school/institution? Contact us.

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