Qualcomm Brings 5G and AI to Next-Gen Robotics

Article By : Nitin Dahad

Qualcomm launched a premium 5G and AI robotics platform with advanced high-performance edge computing and computer vision capability...

Qualcomm Technologies launched Wednesday a premium 5G and AI-enabled robotics platform with advanced high-performance edge computing and computer vision capability. The move follows the company’s launch of its entry-level robotics platform just over a year ago

The new Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform is its most advanced, integrated, comprehensive offering designed specifically for robotics. Building on the Qualcomm Robotics RB3 platform and its broad adoption in a wide array of robotics and drone products, the RB5 platform is comprised of hardware, software and development tools, which can be configured with multiple options for vision, sensors, communications, and motor control to address a wide range of industrial grade and commercial robotics applications.

Explaining the new platform, Dev Singh, senior director at Qualcomm Technologies, said, “In the age of 5G and AI, robotics will be a key beneficiary. In particular, 5G will take Industry 4.0 to the next level, not overnight but progressively in phases. Our Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform will be game changing for this industry.” Singh is responsible for business development and Qualcomm’s autonomous robotics, drones and intelligent machines.

He said by applying its deep-rooted mobile systems expertise to the robotics industry, Qualcomm is enabling the creation of more powerful, secure, and intelligent robots than ever before. “We will help accelerate growth in a wide array of robotics segments such as autonomous mobile robots (AMR), delivery, inspection, inventory, industrial, collaborative robots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), enabling Industry 4.0 robotics use cases, and laying the foundation for the UAV traffic management (UTM) space,” Dev added.

The RB5 platform is the first to bring together the company’s expertise in 5G and AI to enable developers and manufacturers to create the next generation of high-compute, low-power robots and drones for the consumer, enterprise, defense, industrial and professional service sectors. In addition, the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit will help ensure developers the customization and flexibility they need to make their visions a commercial reality. To date, Qualcomm has engaged many companies that have endorsed the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform, including over 20 early adopters in the process of evaluating the platform, the company claimed.

At the heart of the platform, there is Qualcomm QRB5165 processor system on chip (SoC) customized for robotics applications. It offers a heterogeneous computing architecture coupled with the fifth-generation Qualcomm AI engine delivering 15 tera operations per second (TOPS) of AI performance for running complex AI and deep learning workloads.

The processor also offers machine learning (ML) inferencing at the edge under restricted power budgets using the new Qualcomm Hexagon Tensor Accelerator (HTA), a powerful image signal processor (ISP) with support for seven concurrent cameras, and a dedicated computer vision engine for enhanced video analytics (EVA). With support for 4G and 5G connectivity speeds via a companion module, the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform helps pave the way for the proliferation of 5G in robotics and intelligent systems.

With the RB5 platform and its QRB5165 processor, the company enables various design offerings including off-the-shelf system-on-module solutions and flexible chip-on-board designs. The solution is available in multiple options, including commercial and industrial-grade temperature ranges and an option for extended life-cycle until 2029. Singh said a key part of the proposition of the RB5 platform is the ease with which sophisticated robotics systems can be built. “The platform removes the efforts of having to piece together lots of cameras, sensors and so on. Customers don’t need to worry about the nuts and bolts of the building blocks, and instead can focus on creating their own intellectual property. It’s a great starting point for development, and customers can pick and choose the options they need.”

As part of its mission to enable the next generation of robotics solutions and designs, Qualcomm Technologies has entered into a strategic collaboration with TDK, with its latest state of the art sensor technologies and motor control hardware for enhanced robotics applications integrated within the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform.

AI engine, advanced imaging and connectivity
Since it is targeting high-end robotics applications, the compute capabilities, the AI engine and advanced imaging are key features; connectivity for long-range Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1, 4G and 5G are also all supported.

5G and AI Robotics Platform
The Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform can be configured with multiple options for vision, sensors, communications, and motor control to address a wide range of industrial grade and commercial robotics applications. Click the image to enlarge. (Image: Qualcomm)

The high power heterogenous computing is enabled by the Qualcomm QRB5165 processor which integrates the Octa Core Qualcomm Kryo 585 CPU, Qualcomm Adreno 650 GPU, multiple DSPs (compute, audio and sensor) and ISPs. It also contains a dedicated, powerful AI engine, which includes the Hexagon Tensor Accelerator (HTA), and dedicated computer vision hardware block (enhanced video analytics engine). The dedicated HTA is based on its fifth-generation Qualcomm artificial intelligence engine, delivering 15 TOPS of AI performance with high AI and ML inferencing.

For advanced imaging, the Qualcomm Spectra 480 image signal processor (ISP) captures fast, professional-quality photos and videos, and can process 2 Gigapixels per second. This Gigapixel speed supports superior camera features, including Dolby Vision video capture, 8K video recording (at 30 FPS) and 200-megapixel photos, and simultaneously captures 4K HDR video (at 120 FPS) and 64 MP photos with zero shutter lag.

The hardware accelerator utilizes the engine for video analytics (EVA) to handle all computer vision  tasks. Additional ISP features include HEIF photo capture, slow motion video capture, and advanced video capture formats (including Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HEVC and HLG). Seven concurrent cameras facilitate simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), object detection and classification, autonomous navigation and path planning to efficiently and safely perform tasks in complex indoor and outdoor settings.

Security is also a key consideration. The Qualcomm secure processing unit includes secure boot, cryptographic accelerators, Qualcomm trusted execution environment (TEE) and camera security and is FIPS 140-2 certified. Additional security features include key provisioning security, malware protection, Qualcomm content protection, Qualcomm mobile security, Qualcomm processor security, and secure token to support remote attestation and secure device provisioning. For advanced AI and ML security, the platform supports biometric authentication (including fingerprint, iris, voice, and face).

Singh said the RB5 platform is 96Boards compatible. Yang Zhang, director of 96Boards, said, “Qualcomm Robotics RB5 featuring QRB5165 robotics processor is the first 96Boards compliant platform offering 5G, AI, heterogeneous computing, computer vision engine, advanced ISP multi-camera concurrency for a large range of applications. We believe this product will revolutionize the robotic and drone market as we know today. We are pleased to see our member Qualcomm Technologies continue to deliver its commitment to the wider developer ecosystem, with a clear path for production.”

The Qualcomm Robotics RB5 development kit (Image: Qualcomm Technologies)

Siasun, a leading robotic manufacturer in China, said it was one of the first in the industry to adopt the RB5 platform. The company’s vice president, Luo Yang, said, “5G and AI technologies have demonstrated its powerful driving force as industry transitions to a new era. The Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform will give Siasun Pongbot ping-pong robot system more possibilities including light-weight mobility, remote real-time interaction of multiple devices, real-time AI computing and feedback on cloud.”

The U.S.-based manufacturer of autonomous drones, Skydio, said the RB5 platform offers promise for the small unmanned air vehicle (sUAV) industry. Abe Bachrach, its chief technology officer and co-founder, noted, “The cutting edge 4G/LTE, 5G, heterogeneous compute, AI, camera, and security technologies integrated into the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform will enable us to create the next generation autonomous drones.”

Commercial products based on the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform are expected to be available in 2020. A development kit for is available for pre-order now from Thundercomm. Hiro Cai, chief executive officer of Thundercomm, said, “We have empowered our customers to design and manufacture intelligent robots in different industries. Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform, as an advanced 5G and AI-based robotics platform, meets the high demand of industry transformation, and promotes industrial upgrading. We are excited to cooperate with Qualcomm Technologies to create a wide array of robotics products for next generation.”

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