You are on page 1of 1

Live Demonstration: Event-driven Serial

Communication on Optical Fiber

Andrea De Marcellis4 , Guido Di Patrizio Stanchieri4 , Marco Faccio4 , Elia Palange4 ,
Paolo Motto Ros2 , Maurizio Martina3 , Danilo Demarchi3 , Chiara Bartolozzi1

Abstract—This demonstration presents the first implementa-

tion of “event-driven” serial asynchronous communication on
optical fiber. “event-driven” communication is used by neuro-
morphic sensors, that sample the sensory signal when the signal
itself changes of a given amount. This type of sensing adapts
to the dynamics of the input itself, achieving at the same time

extremely high temporal resolution (when needed), low latency
and signal compression. To apply this technology in robotics,
optical communication will greatly improve the resilience to T
electric disturbances.
Robots are equipped with increasingly more sensors to Clock-driven Events Event-driven Event-driven
gather as much information from the external world as pos- sensing generation optical processing
sible. Handling such a large quantity of data by optimizing communication
acquisition of information, robustness, and at the same time
bandwidth, power consumption and latency poses hard engi- Fig. 1. Demonstrator: pressure sensors are integrated on robot’s fingertips or
skin patches, each is interfaced to capacitance-to-digital converters (T) and
neering challenges. One possible solution is the use of event- to a tactile hub (H), where the pressure value is converted in event-driven
driven sensing [1], whereby the sensory signal is sampled only encoding. AER voltage pulses are then converted into current pulses that
when there is a variation of the signal itself, and sampling rate, drive the optical fiber communication. The receiver (RH) converts back the
signal to voltage pulses that are then acquired in the main processing unit
data transfer and processing depend on stimulus dynamics. (RH).
We developed an asynchronous serial protocol [2] to integrate
event-driven sensors on the iCub humanoid platform, including
tactile sensors [3] and accelerometers. This solution maintains Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL, OPV314AT by TT
low-latency and high speed, while sensibly reducing the wiring Electronics) having an emitting power at λ= 850 nm and a re-
cost associated to the standard parallel implementation of the sponse time lower than 100 ps. The VCSEL is coupled to a 1 m
Address Event Representation (AER) protocol [4]. In this length fiber optic (multi-mode 50/125 μm, Duplex, FOPC-F2-
work, we aimed at improving electromagnetic compatibility M5-DX-FCU-STU-010). Then, a high-speed Si-based fiber-
and signal integrity to reduce issues related to interferences coupled photodiode (PD, DET025AFC/M by Thorlabs), with
and disturbances – e.g. due to switching motors – as well rise/fall times of about 150 ps, detects the laser pulses so gener-
as to improve the data rate, BER and power consumption. ating a pulsed photocurrent. Finally, the PD is interfaced with a
We developed a prototype system that transmits asynchronous conditioning circuit, based on a transimpedance amplifier, that
serial AER data over optical fiber. In this demo, we will converts current pulses into voltage pulses to be decoded by
showcase a prototype implementation, as shown in Fig. 1, the receiver. Visitors will interact with the tactile sensors and
comprising one skin patch, connected to a local board that accelerometers, while observing the output event stream on a
hosts an FPGA and an IMU1 . The FPGA acquires the ca- monitor in real time. Together with the raw stream of data,
pacitance values via I2C interface to an off-the-shelf analog quantitative performance indicators such as number of bits
to digital converter and implements an event-driven encoding transferred and errors in communications will be displayed.
of the acquired data, sending sequences of digital pulses. R EFERENCES
The local board is then connected to a main acquisition
[1] S.-C. Liu and T. Delbruck, “Neuromorphic sensory systems,” Current
board (ZynQ XilinX FPGA) by optical fiber. The optical Opinion in Neurobiology, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 288–295, 2010.
communication platform is composed by a biasing circuit, [2] P. Motto Ros, M. Crepaldi, C. Bartolozzi, and D. Demarchi, “Asyn-
based on a current mirrors architecture, that converts voltage chronous DC-free serial protocol for event-based AER systems,” in 2015
IEEE International Conference on Electronics, Circuits, and Systems
pulses into current pulses. This controls and drives a Vertical (ICECS), Dec 2015, pp. 248–251.
[3] C. Bartolozzi, P. Motto Ros, F. Diotalevi, N. Jamali, and L. Natale,
1 iCub Facility, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genova, Italy “Event-driven encoding of off-the-shelf tactile sensors for compression
2 Electronic Design Lab, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genova, Italy and latency optimisation for robotic skin,” in 2017 IEEE/RSJ Interna-
3 Dipartimento di Elettronica, Politecnico di Torino, Torino, Italy
tional Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Nov 2017.
4 Università de L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy
[4] A. Mortara, “A pulsed communication/computation framework for ana-
1 Xilinx Artix XC7A50T FPGA; 9-axis absolute orientation sensor BNO055 log VLSI perceptive systems,” in Neuromorphic Systems Engineering,
Bosch T. Lande, Ed. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic, 1998, pp. 217–228.