Part 1: Introduction

(Click here for Part 2).

Thanks so much to doctorcdf and nlarson at element14 for always inspiring me and others, I was very proud to receive two free RIoTboards for a couple of projects. The RIoTboardRIoTboard is one of the latest very low cost single board computers (SBC) with a decent processor capable of running Android or Linux.


This first project is to connect it up to a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LCD display as found on old laptops, with a view to eventually converting it all into a microscope viewer. The RIoTboad has two video output options; HDMI video output for connecting to a TV or monitor, and an interface with low-voltage differential signalling (LVDS) for connecting to TFT LCD panels (i.e. laptop LCD panels!).


When I received the RIoTboard, I immediately plugged it into a TV using the HDMI video connector, an Ethernet connector into my router, and then powered up the board. It straight away displayed the Android startup screen and was instantly usable. I was browsing the web immediately, and BBC news website and videos played out-of-the-box. Android runs quite fast on the RIoTboard.


After some discussions with the amazing all-round Guru/Oracle (agrahambell ) it was clear the RIoTboard should in theory work with many old laptop LCD displays, and so this project was conceived.


For those not wishing to construct their own, there is a pre-built display available that is designed for the RIoTboard. The project described here takes quite some effort (not hard, just some time/patience) and is likely to be no cheaper than a pre-built display. Nevertheless the build-it-yourself approach is documented here. The resultant image quality is good. A 1024x768 display was used, here is a photo of a video being played:



Here is an example video, showing general snappiness of response and high video quality. Video output was smooth in real life:


This is what the mock-up looks like! It's not pretty. It is supported by wood and adhesive tape. I just taped the RIoTboard and other parts onto the back of the LCD panel (using the yellow card that you can see for insulation), for verifying functionality. Eventually it will be disassembled and fitted in a nice case. The wood supports and tape are just for testing purposes so that I can access both sides.


Here it is from the front, displaying an Android home screen. The coke can is for size comparison:


Another video - I think it would make a great music and video player:


Full construction details and circuit diagrams will be in the next post (in the next day or so [part 2 now available by clicking here]). In the meantime, this is what the RIoTboard looks like, it is about half the size of a compact disk case. It is about 120x75mm.