Xilinx FPGAs Help Power ‘Bio Wall’

Helping to make more of a connection between man and machine, chipmaker Xilinx said it was chosen this week by the Swiss government to develop the “BioWall.”

The interactive display is made up of self-regenerating electronic tissue and is designed to demonstrate the features of “Embryonics” (Embryonic Electronics). The idea is to create an electronic touch screens with chameleon-like qualities that can be used in thousands of ways including extreme environments such as space exploration. The technology is also expected to pave the way for even more intelligent automated machines such as ATMs, gas pumps, and ticket, food, and drink vending machines.

The Logic Systems Laboratory (LSL) of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) used 5,700 Xilinx Spartan field-programmable gate arrays FPGA to develop the 20-foot wide concave wall currently on display at the Villa Reuge museum in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland.

The San Jose, Calif.-based Xilinx, says it was chosen because its technology is reprogrammable, meaning they act much like those in human skin, with the ability to “heal” or change in response to stimuli from the outside world — such as touch.

The new class of 90nm Spartan chips — the Spartan-3 platform — debuted earlier this year and range from 50K to 5M system gates.

“We quickly realized that the capabilities of such a platform were not limited to a single application. In fact, the flexible architecture enabled by Xilinx FPGAs, provided the ideal platform to prototype many different kinds of two-dimensional cellular systems,” said Dr. Christof Teuscher, researcher at EPFL. “The applications that correspond to this description are numerous, particularly in the domain of bio-inspired systems.”

The EPFL said its researchers have only begun to explore the possibilities of the BioWall as a research tool. Going forward, the group says it will work to prototype in different form factors.

The wall will be on display at the ITU Telecom World 2003 exhibition in Geneva starting October 12.

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