I like gadgets, neat designs, and ideas, so I was intrigued when I received a box from Mouser Electronics. It was obviously an ad targeting editors like myself, but this looked a bit different than ones that typically roll across my desk. It included a compact box that turned out to be a video player (see figure).
Grant Imahara hosts Mouser’s Engineering Big Ideas series, which was hightlighted on this compact video display.
It played the promo video when the cover was opened to reveal the display:
This promo video played when I opened the box with the video player inside.
The video shows Grant Imahara, who hosts Mouser’s Engineering Big Ideas series. You might remember Grant from his stint on Mythbusters or as Sulu on Star Trek Continues. The Mouser series, which includes four parts, is just the latest for Mouser and Grant. You can actually buy the custom video greeting cards from a number of sources for about $20.
So how does this get us to Qt (pronounced cute)?
Well, it turns out that the video greeting card had a USB connector on the side. I figured it might be to recharge the display’s battery, but it was a flash drive that stored the video file. Of course, being a hacker at heart, I replaced the video with one of Penn and Teller explaining how to perform a card trick so I could show my grandson. He thought the original video was kind of cool.
The video greeting card is an interesting example of an embedded device with a small physical and electronic footprint. This example didn’t have a user interface, but if it did, it would need to have a small memory footprint.
For those unfamiliar with Qt, it’s a cross-platform, open-source, widget toolkit that’s normally used to build graphical user interfaces (GUIs). It runs on platforms like Windows, MacOS, and Android, and is used to support graphical desktop interfaces like KDE Plasma and Lumina. Most of these platforms have heavy hardware requirements compared to microcontrollers and compact SoCs.
Qt for MCUs targets these smaller platforms. Qt has a scripting language called Qt Modeling Language or QML that’s supported by Qt for MCUs. It can provide a fluid GUI application running on microcontrollers.
“While Qt is extensively used by organizations and developers in embedded systems, there has been a growing appetite amongst our customers to be able to scale down to lower-end hardware,” says Petteri Holländer, SVP of Product Management, The Qt Company. “With the introduction of Qt for MCUs, customers can now use Qt for almost any software project they’re working on, regardless of target, with the added convenience of using just one technology framework and toolset. This means that both existing and new Qt customers can pursue the many business growth opportunities offered by connected devices—across a wide and diverse range of industries.”
Qt for MCUs will be quite handy for Qt experts that need to move applications onto smaller platforms. It also provides an upgrade path for moving embedded interfaces to other platforms, allowing the same interface code to be used for a smartphone app, a PC program, or on an embedded device.
The platform works on demo kits like NXP’s i.MX RT 1050-EVKB or STMicroelectronics’ STM32F769i-DISCO. It can also be ported to other RTS platforms. QT for MCUs can support hardware graphics acceleration as well as drive displays from those on compact wearables to large screen HDTVs.
So, if you want to get my attention these days, you’re going to have to do better than put Grant Imahara on a compact video player. It has already been done.