• 12
    Apr - 2019

    MicroPython, Product Reviews
    5 min | 715

    #MAiX Dock & MicroPython: Hands-On with low power AI at the edge

    MicroPython, Product Reviews | 5 min | 715

    edge device
    low port ai
    low power ai
    maix dock
    object classifier

    This week, I received from Seeed Studio a MAiX Dock to review it. The main board of the kit includes a Sipeed M1w which is a compact module like the ESP32 but based on the Kendryte K210 dual core RISC-V processor. It is designed for low power artificial intelligence workloads, such as face detection, object recognition, or audio processing. There are two type of modules: the Sipeed M1 and M1w, the last one includes WIFI connectivity.

    The main features of the MAiX Dock boards are:

    1. Display I/F – An FPC24P socket for 8-bit MCU LCD
    2. Camera I/F- An FPC24P socket for DVP camera
    3. Storage – micro SD slot
    4. Audio – Power amplifier IC for use with speakers, built-in microphone
    5. USB – USB Type-C interface
    6. Connectivity:
      • WiFi
      • I/Os
      • On-board high speed DAC
      • Access to all 72-pin full pin lead-out, freely mapable

    The "Sipeed M1w Dock suit" (see Fig. 1) includes in the box: a 2.4 inch LCD, a OV2640 camera, two pinheaders, a USB Type C - Micro USB adapter and a WIFI antena. This means, you can start directly with the demos, which are e.g. image recording, face detection etc. I almost forgot to mention: the board can be programmed using MicroPython! This means, the included demos are "python" based examples.

    sipeed m1w.png
    Fig. 1: Sipeed M1w Dock suit (MAiX Dock)

    Hardware & Software

    On the following list, I included links to the hardware kits and the software needed. The company "Orgmar" located in ShenZhen (China) has launched several MAiX boards based on M1 module. Sipeed MAIX Bit is the cheapest one, while Sipeed MAiX Go Suit is the most expensive. There are multiple modules and camera and mic accessories that you can find on the Seeed Studio website or the closed Indiegogo campaign. Here a small list, and the related repositories:

    Sipeed MAiX GO Suit
    • Sipeed MAiX GO Suit
    • Sipeed M1w Dock Suit (*)
    Sipeed GitHub
    • Sipeed GitHub
    • Kendryte

    (*) There are two versions of this suit. The M1 and M1w, the last one supports WIFI.

    MAiXPy: Upload files and run scripts

    As I mentioned before, the board is MicroPython compatible, which means, it has MicroPython installed out of the box. Unfortunately, the PyMakr plugin is not 100% compatible yet. They are making some changes on the file-system, and there are still problems when uploading the files to the board. This means, you can use Visual Studio Code (VSC) with the PyMakr plugin to run MicroPython files on the board, but not to upload them. Download files is also possible.

    If you need some help with MicroPython, a tutorial is available here. This also includes information about the PyMakr plugin. Visual Studio Code (VSC) can be also used to program the boards.

    To upload the files, you can use uPyLoader. uPyLoader (see Fig. 2) is an open source software that allows you to easily connect to the MAiXPy and upload, download, and execute files. However, the connection with the MAiXPy is far away from stable. The upload is usually interrupted several times, and you need to retry a lot.

    Fig. 2: uPyLoader connected to the MaixPy

    After downloading the application and executing it, you need to follow this steps to upload a file:

    1. Select the serial port and click the Connect button to connect the board.
    2. The first time you run the software, you need to initialize it:
      • Go to File->Init transfer files to complete the initialization. This creates two files in the board, __upload.py and __download.py.
    3. Select the file that you want to upload, and Click on Transfer.

    but as I said, you need to retry a lot.

    Upgrade the FW.

    The upload tool is python3 compatible, so you need the following:


    If you are in Linux, you need to have Python3 and pip3 installed, if you don't have them, type the following:

    sudo apt update
    sudo apt install git python3 python3-pip
    pip3 install pyserial


    On windows, you need also to have Python3 with pip3 installed (tutorial A, tutorial B) and the pyserial package as well:

    python3 -m pip install pyserial

    Upgrade tool

    The tool can be cloned using git:

    git clone https://github.com/sipeed/kflash.py

    The kflash tool allows you to upgrate the firmware of the MAiXPy.

    This GitHub repository includes some pre-compiled releases. There are two versions available (minimum & full), which are extended with the face detection model (_with_model...):

    • maixpy_v0.2.4_full.bin: includes full features,
    • maixpy_v0.2.4_minimum.bin: includes the base modules and leaves more space for AI or other applications
    • maixpy_v0.2.4_*_with_model_at_0x300000.kfpkg: integrates the face detection model at 0x300000 of the flash, which can be loaded using kpu.load(0x300000) (see next section).

    For the face detection example on this post, you need at least the maixpy_v0.2.4_minimum_with_model_at_0x300000.kfpkg firmware. This can be deployed typing the following:

    # linux
    ./kflash.py -p /dev/ttyUSB0 -b 2000000 maixpy_v0.2.4_minimum_with_model_at_0x300000.kfpkg 
    # windows
    python3 kflash.py -p COM13 -b 2000000 maixpy_v0.2.4_minimum_with_model_at_0x300000.kfpkg 

    Face detection

    After upgrading the firmware, you can use VSC to run the following face detection algorithm:

    import sensor,image,lcd
    import KPU as kpu
    task = kpu.load(0x00300000) 
    anchor = (1.889, 2.5245, 2.9465, 3.94056, 3.99987, 5.3658, 5.155437, 6.92275, 6.718375, 9.01025)
    a = kpu.init_yolo2(task, 0.5, 0.3, 5, anchor)
        img = sensor.snapshot()
        code = kpu.run_yolo2(task, img)
        if code:
            for i in code:
                a = img.draw_rectangle(i.rect())
        a = lcd.display(img)
    a = kpu.deinit(task)

    Just copy the above code inside a file on VSC, and press the Run button of the PyMakr plugin. The result can be seen on Fig. 3.

    Sipeed MAiX face recognition application.png
    Fig. 3: Sipeed MAiX running a face recognition application (the display still has the protection)

    Seeed Studio

    Here, I spend some words about the Seeed Studio. I am positive impressed about the bazaar. They are getting always the newest technology to sell. They are an excellent IoT enabler. Now, they are partners with Coral, Nvidia and Sipeed. That's very impressive! You should take a look at its bazaar: Seeed Studio. It is very simple to buy things there, they accept PayPal and the shipping time is very short (in this case, just 7 working days with standard mail - faster options are also available).


    The MAiXPy is a "nice to have" board. It can be programmed using MicroPython and it allows you to do some low power AI at the edge. The camera to display data-transfer works really fast, and almost no delay can be perceived on the face recognition application. The documentation is available here, and in the last months, it has been really improved.


    1. the filesystem problems need to be resolved. The file upload functionality is not working at all, and makes very difficult to use the board for developments. It should be compatible with PyMakr, then it will be possible to program the board using either VSC or Atom.io.
    2. I didn't find any information about wi-fi. There is neither a network package nor a machine.WLAN class. I am a little bit confused.

    I will be "playing" with the MAiX Dock during the next days, and upload some extra results.

    Last but not least, I want to thank Elaine from Seeed Studio for the support when I contacted her to evaluate these boards. Thank you!