New RB3 platform from Qualcomm designed to help robotics developers

Qualcomm made its RB3 announcement at the 2019 Mobile World Congress. Source: Fira Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain — Qualcomm Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Inc., today announced at the Mobile World Congress here its Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform – the company’s first integrated, comprehensive offering designed specifically for robotics. Building on Qualcomm Technologies’ success in robotics and drone products, this purpose-built platform features a highly optimized set of hardware, software and tools designed to help manufacturers and developers create the next generation of advanced consumer, enterprise, and industrial robotics products.

Based on the Qualcomm SDA/SDM845 system-on-chip (SoC), the platform integrates key capabilities such as high-performance heterogeneous computing, 4G/LTE connectivity including CBRS support for private LTE networks, and a Qualcomm AI Engine for on-device machine learning and computer vision. It also includes high-fidelity sensor processing for perception; odometry for localization, mapping, and navigation; vault-like security; and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform will also introduce 5G connectivity support later this year to further enable low-latency and high-throughput industrial robotics applications.

“Our technologies are at the heart of a wide array of robotics products available today, from companion robots including Anki Vector, ElliQ, 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,” said Dev Singh, director of business development and head of autonomous robotics, drones and intelligent machines at Qualcomm Technologies.

Editor’s note: Qualcomm’s Dev Singh and Amazon Web Services’ Roger Barga will be delivering keynotes at the Robotics Summit & Expo in Boston in June. Register now to attend.

“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,” he added.

The Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform is designed to allow for 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.

RB3 SDK plus optional elements

The platform currently supports Linux and the Robot Operating System (ROS). It also supports 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. The company said it has plans for Ubuntu Linux support.

The Qualcomm Robotics development kit is based on the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 platform.

The Qualcomm Robotics development kit is based on the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 platform.

The platform’s hardware development kit contains the new purpose-built robotics-focused DragonBoard 845c development board. It is based on the Qualcomm SDA/SDM845 SoC and is compliant with the 96Boards open hardware specification. As a result, it can support a broad range of mezzanine-board expansions.

Optional elements for the kit include a connectivity board, as well as an image camera for superb hi-res photo, 4K video capture, and AI-assisted detection and recognition of people and objects. It also offers 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.

Key Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform technical features include:

  • Heterogeneous computing architecture: For superior performance and power-efficiency, the Qualcomm SDA845/SDM845 SoC powering the platform is built on 10-nanometer (nm) LPP FinFET process technology. The SoC integrates an Octa Core Qualcomm Kryo CPU with performance up to 2.8GHz, a Qualcomm Adreno 630 Visual Processing Subsystem (including GPU, VPU, and DPU), and a Qualcomm Hexagon 685 DSP with Hexagon Vector Extensions (HVX). This delivers sophisticated, on-device AI processing and mobile-optimized computer vision (CV) capabilities for perception, navigation, and manipulation.
  • Qualcomm AI Engine: Deep learning performance across the Qualcomm AI engine (CPU, GPU, and DSP) delivers up to three tera-operations-per-second (TOPS) performance, with the DSP itself delivering 1.2 TOPS at one watt with hardware acceleration. The Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK encompasses analysis, optimization, and debugging tools. They can enable developers and manufacturers to port trained deep learning networks on the various heterogeneous compute blocks offered by the platform.
  • Camera and video: Dual 14-bit Qualcomm Spectra 280 ISP supports up to 32 MP single camera. Support is provided for up to 4K HDR video capture at 60 frames per second (fps).
  • Security: The Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit (SPU) offers a high level of security and robustness, while also providing high performance while maintaining power efficiency. The SPU includes the following key components: secure boot, cryptographic accelerators, Qualcomm Trusted Execution Environment (QTEE), and camera security. To address advanced AI, ML, and biometrics, Qualcomm SDA/SDM845 supports porting of virtualization software.
  • Robust sensor and microphone support: The platform includes support for sensors like a six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) consisting of a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer, capacitive barometric pressure sensor, multi-mode digital microphones, and additional ports for supplementary sensors from TDK-InvenSense.
  • Connectivity: The product supports integrated 4G/LTE and CBRS, with 5G support planned to be enabled late this year. It also supports Wi-Fi integrated 802.11ac 2×2 with MU-MIMO, Tri-band Wi-Fi: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz with Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS), and Qualcomm TrueWireless Bluetooth 5.0.

Partners, users look forward to Qualcomm robotics platform

“We are delighted to be working with Qualcomm Technologies to help developers easily build intelligent robotics functions using AWS cloud services and then deploy their application onto a commercial grade, scalable hardware platform,” said Roger Barga, general manager of AWS Robotics and Automation Services at Amazon Web Services Inc. “Our collaboration is designed to give robotics developers a complete cloud-to-the-edge solution, accelerating development, providing intelligence out of the box, and easing robotic lifecycle management.”

Qualcomm's RB3 can help developers push compute to the edge.

Qualcomm is helping robotics developers push processing to the edge in industrial IoT. Source: Qualcomm

“As the creators of BrainOS, the leading solution for the development, deployment, and management of mobile robots, we’re excited to see Qualcomm Technologies get involved in the space in a major way,” said Dr. Jean Baptiste Passot, vice president of platform and AI at Brain Corp. “We’ve expanded BrainOS to be optimized with the Qualcomm SDM845 and look forward to exploring the potential of the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform for our future products.”

“ believes that the combination of industry and technology can create infinite possibilities for digitalization,” said Yazhuo Wang, general manager of the Innovation Product Department, IoT Business Group. “We look forward to the new generation of Qualcomm Technologies’ Robotics Platform, which will help us develop more efficient and intelligent service robots through advanced technologies such as deep learning algorithms.”

“OrionStar is excited to see Qualcomm Technologies launch the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform with cutting-edge AI, edge computing and connectivity technologies, which enables robots to benefit from the latest innovations in mobile technology,” said Fu Sheng, Chairman and CEO of Cheetah Mobile Inc. and founder of OrionStar. “Based on previous successful cooperation with Qualcomm Technologies on our service robotics, OrionStar looks forward to continuing to work with Qualcomm Technologies to provide consumers with a new wave of innovative, smart, and power-efficient useful robots.”

“Contributing high-performance sensors to the next wave of robotics innovations on the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform is a collaboration made in heaven,” explained Nicolas Sauvage, senior director, ecosystem, at TDK-InvenSense. “Working together, Qualcomm Technologies and TDK-InvenSense have helped reduce the barrier to entry for both consumer and industrial makers, while maximizing their opportunities to innovate with a wide range of sensor solutions.”

Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform available this year

Qualcomm said it expects commercial products based on the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform to be available in 2019. Both NAVER and LG are evaluating the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform. They plan to showcase select robotics products based on the platform early next year.

Additional early users are expected to be Anki, Brain Corp., JD, Misty Robotics, OrionStar, Robotis, and others. A development kit based on the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform is available for purchase now from Thundercomm.

For more information and to start developing products based on the platform, please visit Qualcomm Technologies’ product webpage.

About Qualcomm

Qualcomm invents breakthrough technologies that transform how the world connects, computes, and communicates. When we connected the phone to the Internet, the mobile revolution was born. Today, our inventions are the foundation for life-changing products, experiences, and industries.

As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables.

Qualcomm Inc. includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Inc., operates, along with its subsidiaries, all of our engineering, research and development functions, and all of our products and services businesses, including, the QCT semiconductor business. For more information, visit Qualcomm’s website, OnQ blog, Twitter and Facebook pages.

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