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Raspberry Pi releases its first official AI accessory

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Raspberry Pi has created a hat board for the Raspberry Pi Model 5 incorporating the Hailo-8L AI accelerator, making it the company’s first-ever official AI accessory for the credit-card-sized computer. The aim is to provide AI workload-capable hardware for well below the cost of an NPU-equipped SoC.

The Hailo-8L is a smaller version of the Hailo-8 chip announced in January 2024. While the full-sized Hailo-8 has 26 TOPs of compute power, the smaller Hailo-8L comes in around 13 TOPs. It’s not remotely near the more powerful 45, 50, and 48 TOPs SoCs from Qualcomm, AMD, and Intel, respectively, but it’s a huge performance gain for the Raspberry Pi 5, which doesn’t come with an integrated NPU.

The hat is priced at $70, and adding around $80 for the Raspberry Pi 5, the total comes out to $150 for a small computer capable of running AI models and AI-powered projects locally. Far less than what an AI-capable SoC will run you in the market, not to mention the added complication around using such a chip.

The new AI hat features the Hailo-8L AI accelerator. | Source: Raspberry Pi

At $70, an additional NPU add-on for the Raspberry Pi might seem expensive. Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton told The Register that not integrating an NPU in the baseboard is an intentional choice. by offering the AI hat as a separate accessory, the company can keep the price of the base Raspberry Pi down, while still offering the added computational power to those in need.

Besides the added computational power, the Hailo-8L chip is also incredibly power efficient. It only needs one watt for three TOPs of power, capping out at five watts for a theoretical total of 15 TOPs. Typical workloads like processing a 60FPS video in real time consume only a couple of watts of power. The plug-and-play approach also allowed for much faster development, with Upton revealing that the AI has moved from a concept to a final product in only six months.

While AI and ML loads aren’t anything new to the Raspberry Pi computers, most such projects relied on cloud computing to handle more complex tasks. With the added power that the AI hat brings, users can run more of their code locally, reducing reliance on internet connectivity and expanding the small computer’s use cases. Upton expects the new board, combined with the low entry price of a Raspberry Pi 5, to create an “exponential increase” in AI applications and solutions.

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: