I am constantly blown away by the creativity of Jack Gassett over at the Gadget Factory. As you may recall, Jack is famous for creating the Papilio -- an open-source FPGA development board intended for education, hobbyists, engineers.
One key aspect to the Papilio is the fact that it supports add-on application modules called "Wings" (equivalent to Arduino "Shields"). Another really clever idea was to provide users with the ability to load the FPGA with one of two Arduino-compatible soft processors -- an AVR8 (an 8-bit clone of the AtMega103 chip with standard AVR peripherals) or an ZPUino (a 32-bit Arduino on steroids). The really cool thing is that users can work with the familiar and easy-to-use Arduino IDE to run their existing Arduino sketches (programs) on the soft processor core on the FPGA. Alternatively, they can implement designs in the FPGA in the regular way.
Well, now Jack is taking things to the next level. He's just launched a Kickstarter project for something he calls the Papilio DUO. This little scamp features the combination of a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA along with an Arduino-Compatible MCU (the same chip as found on an Arduino Leonardo).
You really need to check out this video. The way Jack describes this is "Like having an Arduino with a full circuit laboratory connected to it!"
The really cool thing is that when it comes to using the FPGA, users don't need to understand hardware description languages (HDLs) like Verilog and VHDL. Instead, there's an easy-to-use graphical schematic interface that allows you to drag-and-drop functional units and wire them together. These functional units can be as simple as digital gates and counters linked by virtual wires, all the way up to soft processor cores and peripherals linked using a virtual Wishbone Bus. All of this logic is then implemented in the FPGA, which can "talk" to the Arduino-Compatible MCU.
There is so much here that it's difficult to wrap one's brain around all the possibilities. In fact, I'm about to bounce back over to Jack's Kickstarter project to have another read. In the meantime, one of the most important things about Kickstarter projects is to get the message out, so anything you can do to spread the good word would be very much appreciated.
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting