EVB The Alternative for Your Mindstorms EV3 Intelligent Brick

EVB is a plug-in expansion board (cape) for the powerful BeagleBone Black single-board computer that aims to be a replacement for your Mindstorms EV3 intelligent brick. EVB is superior in several key aspects to the standard EV3 brick, such as processing power and expandability, while still retaining full compatibility with LEGO Mindstorms sensors and accessories. Third party or custom sensors are also supported providing great potential the EVB. The project has been fully funded on Kickstarter, and at the time of writing there are still 2 and a half days to go if you want to back it.

EVB and EV3 side by side

EVB and EV3 side by side | Photo: FatCatLab

The key to complete compatibility is that the EVB and EV3 units are very similar with respect to hardware architecture, and since EV3 is open source most design aspects and software are based on official designs. Both units are based on Texas Instruments Sitara series ARM MCUs, and both run different flavors of Linux. Below is a quick comparison chart between the two units.

EVB vs. EV3 comparison table

with BeagleBone Black rev C
EV3 Intelligent Brick
CPU ARM Cortex-A8 1GHz ARM9 300MHz
Memory 512MB DDR3 RAM, SD card 64MB RAM, 16MB Flash, SD card
I/0 4 inputs – UART/analog
4 outputs
4 inputs – UART/analog/I2C
4 outputs
OS Linux 3.12 Linux 2.6
Display 220×176 full color LED backlit 178×128 monochrome
Network Ethernet port, WiFi in development Optional WiFi dongle
Other TTL serial port, USB client/host, HDMI Bluetooth, USB
Power 6-10VDC, 6 AA battery cradle provided 6 AA batteries 7.2-9VDC

As we can see EVB offers several major improvements in terms of processing power, display and expansion possibilities but also lacks some features such as Bluetooth and I2C communication, which may or may not be shortcomings depending on the project, and there is not much information about how USB is implemented.

For a pledge of US $68 you can get a complete EVB cape kit which includes the expansion board, color LCD, pre-drilled acrylic case, wiring and battery packs. For the BeagleBone Black rev C board you will need to fork out an additional US $49.

The complete package including the EVB kit listed above, a BeagleBone Black board and the whole set of 7 sensors listed below will cost you US $288.

Along with the EVB cape a suite of 7 optional sensors, fully compatible with the standard EV3 brick, has been also introduced at a price of US $24 per sensor. The suite includes the following:

  • ADC module – for interfacing analog sensors for Arduino and such, it has two 0-3300mV input channels and 10 bit resolution;
  • Gesture sensor (APDS9660) – multiple functions: detects 6 hand gestures, determines RGB color value and proximity;
  • Light sensor (BH1750FVI datasheet) – measures light intensity from 0 to 65535 lux;
  • Barometric sensor (BMP180 datasheet) – determines pressure and altitude based on air pressure ranging from 300 to 1100hPa, with an accuracy of +/- 0.12hPa or 1 meter;
  • IR receiver sensor + remote – for remote controlling your robot;
  • 9DOF sensor (MPU-9250 datasheet) – 3-axes angular rate, accelerometer and compass
  • Temperature and humidity sensor (SHT20 datasheet) – measure ambient parameters with an accuracy of +/- 3 degrees or +/- 3% RH respectively.

EVB has been developed by FatCatLab, a startup created by a team of three robotics enthusiasts and engineers, led of course by their CEO Fat Cat. Find more information about EVB and the team by accessing the resources below.