Qualcomm launched a new robotics platform, the RB3 at the mobile world congress 2019, in Barcelona. The platform is its first offering targeted at robotics developers. The company claims that the RB3 system consists of optimized hardware and software tools that can assist robot developers and system manufacturers to develop new robots in the ever competitive industrial, enterprise, and commercial markets. Qualcomm isn’t new in the field of robotics. In CES 2016, the company used its chips and demonstrated Snapdragon embedded powered drones, coupled with advanced features like autopilot and various combinations of WiFi, Bluetooth, and LTE among other connectivity options.
The RB3 platform boasts of DragonBoard 845c development board, that uses the SDM845 System on a chip. It supports Linux and Robot operating system. It works with the 96Boards open hardware specification, which provides compatibility with a variety of mezzanine-board expansions. Mezzanine board expansions enable the developer to expand standard edition boards with new interfaces for IoT, industrial control, and other embedded applications. This provides the possibility to completely customize the robotic product as per use case. The system offers 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. Qualcomm also plans to introduce 5G connectivity in the coming months to ensure low latency and high throughput in industrial applications.
The flexible options for development and commercialization of robot systems on the RB3 will enable many commercial robotics companies to reduce the time to market while increasing the possibilities of advanced connectivity and AI-based applications on a single platform.
As industry moves towards connected and AI enabled robotic devices, Qualcomm follows suit. The RB3 platform focuses on machine learning, vision systems and connectivity.
RB3 platform can help in the rapid development of commercial robots with advanced capabilities integrated by the robotics developers using the on-board hardware. New age unmanned drones or ground-based robots require not just accurate vision systems but also advanced AI capabilities and connectivity to take better decisions while being connected real time.
Qualcomm although late to the party, has come up with a very high technically capable product. Its major competitors like Intel and NVIDIA already have a platform targeting robotics but it is majorly focused on the vision systems to drive autonomy. Qualcomm with its advanced connectivity and on-board AI hardware provide larger capabilities. This may spark a competition of new robotics platforms from other semiconductor majors which is good news for the commercial robotics industry.
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