Electronic Design

NI Week Of Technology

NI Week is always a big deal for the LabView faithful (see LabView: Graphical Programming) and this year is no different although it is clear that its importance will reverberate well outside National Instruments' typical sphere of influence. As usual, Dr. James Truchard, NI's CEO, president, and cofounder, kicked off the opening keynote presentation. The big announcement, courtesy of Tim Dehne, Senior Vice President of R&D, was LabView 8.5. It has a host of new features but the highlight was multicore support: not because LabView supports it, but the way it is supported. LabView is a graphical programming language that uses a dataflow semantics that naturally lends itself to parallel programming. It also maps nicely to other computational platforms like FPGAs. Most product introductions were done at the keynote speeches in a well- choreographed, show-and-tell manner. One of the more impressive demos was the co-simulation support that links LabView to SolidWorks’ CAD system. LabView has often been used to control applications, and SolidWorks is often used to design the physical systems. Now designers can tie the two together and control a virtual system prior to building anything. It is ideal for things like estimating and presenting proposals for complex assembly lines. I’ll be covering more of this later in Electronic Design so stay tuned. Fast Instruments Instruments and testing are part of NI’s product line and it was not left out of the dog-and-pony show. CompactRIO, PXI and PXIe (the PCI Express version) modules and systems are shown off on the floor and on stage. Software radio, audio processing and video processing were front and center. One thing these often have in common is lots of data. To that end, National Instruments presented their PXI-based RAID disk system (see PXI RAID). Storage unit can sustain transfers at 600 Mbytes/s for up to 3 terabytes of data. Seeing More LabView’s video toolkit has made it popular for vision applications but cameras are sometimes temperamental and vision software is a computational hog. Melding a single camera into an application is often a major hassle especially when LabView needs to run on the computational platform. While it is not quite an announced product yet National Instruments was showing off an interesting camera (see LabView In Smart Video) with an integrated Power processor capable of running LabView. This new camera includes its own LED lighting and a Gigabit Ethernet interface. Adding a camera to a system is now significantly easier especially given the ability to interact and run applications using LabView. It will likely find its way into a range of applications from product line inspection to robotics. More Robots LabView winds up being a part of almost vendor or display at NI Week. For example, the group from the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) at Virginia Tech was showing off its collection of robots including its MARS (Multi Appendage Robotic System), the STriDER (Self-excited Tripedal Dynamic Experimental Robot), and DARwIn (Dynamic Anthromorphic Robot with Intelligence). They love acronyms and LabView at Virginia Tech. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) students made use of CompactRIO and the NI 9505 motor drive module with this unicycle-styled version of Segway’s Human Transporter (see What's Hot Today: Robotics). Of course, CompactRIO is programmed using LabView. There were also a few Segways outside the convention center. They seem to be popular in Austin. Of course, there was the usual complement of Lego Mindstorms (Real Robots: Lego Mindstorm)and FIRST (Students And Robots Rumble In Atlanta) robotics demos on the floor as well. Related Links FIRST Lego National Instruments SolidWorks Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) at Virginia Tech

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