About this project
The Rho Board is a fully capable Android based media player with an optional Digital TV tuner. The powerful hardware of the Rho Board supports hardware decoding and output of video up to 4k HEVC. The digital TV tuner handles any DVB cable or terrestrial TV signal. If you have ideas for DIY development that requires additional hardware, we also incorporated a Raspberry Pi 2 compatible extension connector to unleash your creativity.
Tapping into the Android universe means you get access to all existing media apps and games. Android is pre-installed, so no need to purchase a separate SD card and download anything before you can get started - just plug it in and start playing.
The Android operating system has been tailored for TV use. This means the app launcher and home screen has been customized for TV display and the navigation is optimized for the included remote control, which also has a pointer feature for legacy applications.
To support the optional TV tuner, we have added a full version of our Android TV app, AuroraTV. You can watch live broadcasts from any DVB-T2 or DVB-C network with all the features you need for a full TV experience. If you’d rather watch something later, you can timeshift and record on SD or USB media. Never miss your favourite show again!
If you’d like to try out AuroraTV right now, it is available on the Google Play store. To try it now, you will need a network tuner to get a signal - we currently support Sat>IP or HDHomeRun standards. If you don’t have one, wait for your Rho Board to arrive and use the built-in tuner.
A Rho Boards can also use the tuner of another Rho Board on the same network, so you don’t necessarily need a TV cable signal where you want to watch TV. If you would rather roam around your house, AuroraTV also runs on your Android tablet or phone using the tuner from your Rho Board.
If you are like us, you are rarely satisfied with the way products function out of the box. You want to add or change features. You want to expand and have control of how the product behaves - it’s YOUR product now, right? Fortunately the Rho Board is built by people like you and therefore we have added the possibility to hack away as you please. The same way Android opens up for existing apps, the Raspberry Pi 2 compatible extension connector allows using existing hardware modules:
The Rho Board comes with an example app to control the pins and busses of the RPi I/O connector. Libraries, example code and documentation are also available to help you make your own apps. Multiple apps using the expansions connector can run at the same time, and if you make a project you'd like to share with others you can use any Android distribution method - source, apk files or even publish to the Google Play store. Perhaps your project is so great people will pay to get it?
Are you a tech savvy enthusiast? An IT professional? A school teacher, how wants to make a small project with the class? Or maybe you have no idea about all of this, but want to learn about it? In any case, we have the perfect tool for you!
On the outside, we have exposed all of the main chip’s expansion features as industry standard connectors. Internally we strive for compatibility too, as with the RaspberryPi 2 expansion connector.
Many media players have an underpowered GPU, compared to their main processor. The Rho Board sports a 6 core Mali 450, which matches up nicely with the quad core ARM A7 CPU. If you run out of storage with the included 4 GB Flash, the Micro SD slot is there for up to 128 GB expansion.
Ok, so maybe it will not make it to the catwalk, but we designed a plastic casing for models with or without tuner. And as Henry Ford said, you can have it in any color as long as it’s black. Seriously, if we get enough orders we can of course order any color, but we'll start with black.
If your primary use is for DIY projects, maybe you prefer the clear acrylic case, which allow easier access to your external hardware project.
The 3D model files of our casing will be available online if you’d like to print it yourself or modify it to suit your project’s needs.
When we designed the Rho Board, we wanted to build a cost efficient, but high performance product. We used all the cost-saving tricks in the book to provide you with the best price/performance ratio. If you prefer low price over anything else, the raw board without any add-ons can be yours for 35 USD. Even in this basic form, the Rho Board includes 4GB flash - you don’t have to spend extra to boot your board.
We have been working on this project for over a year now, and are probably a bit further along the way than most Kickstarter projects. We hope you don't mind the reduced risk.
We divided the rewards into two major categories: Tinkerer and Media. If you are the electronics enthusiast, who prefer low cost and high flexibility, go with one of the Tinkerer models. If you plan on using the Rho Board as a media player or maybe even for watching TV, you will prefer the Media model, which has black casing for the board and a remote control. So, which do you prefer?
This is not a sketchy idea or a project that will take years to implement. As you can see from the timeline, the hardware design is done and software is almost finished with no major unknowns. What we do need, however, is to ensure a sufficient interest to justify ordering the minimum batches of electronics and plastic casings etc. We count on your support to make this awesome device to go into production.
Futarque was founded in 2001, but many employees have worked in consumer electronics before that. Some call us old - we'd prefer experienced, thank you very much! How experienced, you ask? In average, slightly over 16 years in digital TV electronics and software.
Risks and challenges
We have partnered with a very large manufacturer, who assisted in hardware design optimization and promptly manufactured a sample series (10 boards) and pilot series (80 boards). The final version does not differ from the pilot version, and we have full confidence they can deliver any number requested.
The acrylic casing has been made in pilot series by a local manufacturer, and we can order batches - they look quite nice, by the way. The black plastic casing at the moment exist as a CAD model, which we have 3D printed to ensure physical fit with the hardware. For real products in large volumes we have chosen a manufacturer, which we have been recommended by local business contacts.
Distribution is always a subject of risk, but again we have teamed up with a logistics partners, who have never let us down in the past.
We have set up a Rho Board support site at http://rhoboard.com where you can see exactly what is possible programmatically, and how to do it. Furthermore there is a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Rho-Board-1532864110339796/ and a user’s forum at http://rhoboard.proboards.com/ where you can ask any related question. The board’s HW and SW developers will be around to answer.
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