NUREMBERG, Germany — In a bid to make development of consumer, enterprise and industrial robots easier for manufacturers and developers, Qualcomm has launched its first integrated, comprehensive offering designed specifically for robotics.
Launching its Robotics RB3 platform in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm’s Dev Singh, a product line manager for robotics, drones and intelligent machines, immediately flew to Nuremberg to talk at Embedded World about the thinking behind the new platform. He said they’d been working on this for over two years under the radar and already have more than 20 products with early customers (a developer from Samsung enthused at the show how they liked working with the platform).
Singh said robots are entering all aspects of life, from home entertainment and home care robots, to retail, warehousing and logistics as well as factory robots.
“A robot basically does three things – sense, think and act,” Singh told EE Times. “We already had the thinking part, so we added sensors, which is an important part of the equation. For robotics, you also need a heterogenous computing platform.”
Singh added, “With RB3, we’re giving users the building blocks for any robot platform, which is also scalable for high end mass robots and enable 5G integration.”
The company’s technologies are used in robotics products available today from companion robots including Anki Vector, Elli Q and Sony Aibo, to multimedia robots like Cerevo Tripon and Keecker, to labor-saving machines such as robotic vacuum cleaners from iRobot, Ecovacs and Panasonic.
“With the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform, we aim to bring our cutting-edge AI, edge compute and connectivity technologies into the hands of many more robotics innovators to help spur the fast development and commercialization of a new generation of useful and intelligent robots in agriculture, consumer, delivery, inspection, service, smart manufacturing/Industry 4.0, warehousing and logistics, and other applications,” Singh said.
The purpose-built platform features an optimized set of hardware, software and tools. Based on the Qualcomm SDA/SDM845 system-on-chip (SoC), the platform integrates capabilities such as high-performance heterogeneous computing, 4G/LTE connectivity including CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) support for private LTE networks, a Qualcomm AI Engine for on-device machine learning and computer vision, hi-fidelity sensor processing for perception, odometry for localization, mapping, and navigation, vault-like security, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Qualcomm Robotics RB3 platform also plans to introduce 5G connectivity support later this year to further enable low-latency and high-throughput industrial robotics applications.
The platform allows flexible design options for development and commercialization, from development board offerings for prototyping, to off-the-shelf system-on-module solutions for faster commercialization, to the flexibility for chip-on-board designs for cost optimization at scale. The platform currently supports Linux and Robot Operating System (ROS), while also including support for the Qualcomm Neural Processing software development kit (SDK) for advanced on-device AI, the Qualcomm Computer Vision Suite, the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP SDK, and Amazon’s AWS RoboMaker, with plans for Ubuntu Linux support.
The platform’s hardware development kit contains the new purpose-built robotics-focused DragonBoard 845c development board, based on the Qualcomm SDA/SDM845 SoC and compliant with the 96Boards open hardware specification to support a broad range of mezzanine-board expansions. Optional elements for the kit include a connectivity board; an image camera for hi-res photo, 4K video capture and AI-assisted detection and recognition of people and objects; a tracking camera for path planning and obstacle avoidance using visual simultaneous localization and mapping (vSLAM); a stereo camera for navigation; and a time-of-flight camera for people, gesture and object detection even in low light conditions.