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Thread: Android miniPC into BMW E9x

  1. #1
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    Android miniPC into BMW E9x



    I put together a Windows-based CarPC for my old Acura Legend a few years ago, and the infotainment center of the M3 left me desiring more to say the least. But I wanted something Android-based this time around, and something light (i.e., low power consumption and not so large).

    Everything Android works, including the Microsoft webcam as well as Google maps and Google voice. There are a few other things I'm working on (such as rooting it, settling on a launcher and increasing the font size), so I'll post up more as the week progresses. Everything is powered through cigarette adapter USB ports for now, which is pretty awesome, and everything functions well, but I think I'm going to get a small inverter as I want everything to continue running when the car is off.

    A little background....as I mentioned earlier, I put together a Windows-based carPC in my Acura Legend, complete with a 7" HD touch screen and navigation. Later I used a Samsung Galaxy Tab in the same fashion for my VehiCROSS. At some point and time I knew I was going to do the same for the M3, it was just a matter of finding what I wanted. One of the key criteria to my mods, as always, is to keep the interior looking as stock as possible, with the exception of the P3 vent gauge I installed a few weeks ago. I also wanted to integrate a multi-camera DVR setup some how. And everyone knows that the best navigation is Google navigation, so I wanted that, too. The thought of having to pay for a DVD to upgrade navi is ludicrous, and with a once yearly update, you run a chance of getting incorrect directions.

    Even though it is the low point of the system, I had to use the OEM screen. After I took apart the dash a bit ago, I determined that the best way to pass a signal was the modmynav (www.modmynav.com) box, so I picked up a used one. With Kris' (the guy that sells them) help and patience (that dude is AWESOME, thanks for all the help, my man!), it was determined the harness was damaged, and subsequently it was replaced. Part 1 was complete.

    Next came identifying a source. I pretty quickly eliminated having another traditional CarPC as I couldn't really find any place to hide it, and I knew I wanted something Android-based. I contemplated using a Samsung Yelp, or a decommissioned Android phone, but passed on those as they both had a screen, and I'd have to come up with a mount for them. A bit of searching around and a little passage of time, and AndroidTVs, aka MiniPCs, were introducted. Basically, the Android OS is loaded on a memory stick w/an HDMI output, so you can plug it straight into the TV, log into your Android/Google account, and go. There are dual cores and quad cores available, play @ 30FPS, have bluetooth, b/g/n wireless, and offer U2G, or USB to go. I was unsure about getting a USB video camera to work through it, so I did a little research and found out that through the U2G functionality of the main unit, there were people that were running webcams. SCHWEET! My setup is comprised of the following:

    a) After comparing a few of the units, I settled on this one http://www.geekbuying.com/item/iMito...ck-312720.html You can read the specs from the page, no sense in regurgitating it to y'all.

    b) Since the car doesn't have a touchscreen, an input method was needed, and conveniently, they also offer this http://www.geekbuying.com/item/RC11-...ox-306420.html which is pretty spiffy.

    c) I purchased this USB hub from them http://www.geekbuying.com/item/High-...er-300706.html

    d) I had this Microsoft HD webcam http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Life...soft+hd+webcam lying around, and eBayed this Logitech unit http://www.mydigitallife.info/new-lo...rl-zeiss-lens/ so I can play around with both of them. Key thing about both units is that they have built in mics, critical for using Google voice.

    e) HDMI to Composite conversion is handled by http://www.geekbuying.com/item/MINI-...ok-305475.html These units are sold on Amazon, and the feedback is glowing.

    f) The hard part was GPS. I have a USB GPS receiver from my previous carPC setup, but I was hesitant about using it in as no one has tried it. A few days of research and I came across a BT GPS receiver http://www.amazon.com/Dual-Electroni...&qid=136138107 I found a used one on eBay for $80 and picked it up.

    g) Audio is passed via BT using the Samsung HS3000 headset I mentioned in this thread.

    At this point, not including the modmynav, I have invested $260 for everything. All the components, minus cables:



    After looking at mounting options for the cameras, I've decided to stick with the Logitech. I'll be purchasing the 8MP of the version I have now, as it records excellently, and it'll be more easily mounted. When the new one comes in, I'll fab up a mount to connect to the rearview mirror. Here's a still of the pic it produces on the screen when in use by the app Dailyroads Voyager (more on that below).


    Here's a shot of future camera placement:


    In both my other carPC setups, I made sure I had DVR capabilities. This setup won't be any different. I'm going to use an app that I had for my tablet, Dailyroads Voyager http://www.appbrain.com/app/dailyroa...m.dailyroads.v The features are phenomenal, and it's free. The interface is slick, and it ties in w/the GPS. Great for day to day use. Even better for track use.

    Here are a couple shots of the OEM launcher that comes with the Android unit. You can really see how the large icons are optimized for the small BMW screen, although it could use some work.





    I managed to get the miniPC, the converter, and the USB hub installed in out of the way places. If you looked in the interior and tried to find them, I doubt you would. They're all within reach of the driver. Their diminutive sizes certainly helped.

    More to come....
    Last edited by whats77inaname; 02-21-2013 at 01:13 PM.

  2. #2
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    Total awesomeness! I've been trying to decide what to do with my Z4, and had actually resigned myself to removing the stock screen altogether to install a tablet cradle. This will do perfectly though! I had never even heard of modmynav. I now have a new shopping list.

  3. #3
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    Glad to be of service My original post was on m3post.com/forums so if you're a member of Bimmerpost, you might want to clue in the other guys on the Z4 forum by linking to my original post http://www.m3post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=806078

    Trying to keep things centralized to 2 posts, here and the original.
    Last edited by whats77inaname; 02-21-2013 at 01:25 PM.

  4. #4
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    Awesome! Nice to see someone using one of these! I'm considering using an Arndale or Ambrix, or maybe an Odroid board for my car so it's nice to see what you've done so far. So USB gps receivers do work? Do they need to be of a certain protocol. I've been mostly focusing on how I can get the best audio out which I think I've found so far.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hdale85 View Post
    Awesome! Nice to see someone using one of these! I'm considering using an Arndale or Ambrix, or maybe an Odroid board for my car so it's nice to see what you've done so far. So USB gps receivers do work? Do they need to be of a certain protocol. I've been mostly focusing on how I can get the best audio out which I think I've found so far.
    I have to find the USB GPS receiver to verify if it works or not....lots of boxes to dig through *lol*. Honestly, I think I'm set on the BT receiver. I'm debating at some point about disassembling the shark fin on top of the car and mounting the GPS receiver inside of it.

  6. #6
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    Yeah part of the reason I'd like to use an external GPS receiver is to be able to hook up the MP3car sharkfin that has the GPS antenna inside.

    So you have a bluetooth GPS receiver working with it?
    Last edited by Hdale85; 02-21-2013 at 04:18 PM.

  7. #7
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    This is the unit I'm currently using: http://www.amazon.com/Dual-Electroni...&qid=136138107

  8. #8
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    Hmm a little in the pricey side. That's what makes me want to go for the Arndale board, has GPS, WiFi, and all that stuff built in for 249 lol.

  9. #9
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    It is, not going to argue with you there, but I have 2 vehicles, so depending on what I decide to do about mounting it, I can just bring it over from one to the next after I finish my truck setup.

  10. #10
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    So your primary control for navigating the android unit is going to be the gyro remote? I have that same remote, I use it with my android media center and it works great.....however, I don't see it being too convenient for in car use.

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