Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. unveiled its latest and most advanced developments in 5G and AI-enabled robotics on May 10 and the company’s annual 5G Summit.
“We’re announcing our next-generation robotics platform – the RB6 Robotics Platform,” said Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon. “We’re very excited to see traction in industrial IoT. We’re already on our sixth-generation robotics platform where you can see all those things we talk about really come to life with connectivity, advanced processing at the edge and AI. And we’re very happy with the broad collaboration .. with the number of companies that are partnering with Qualcomm across software applications and use cases.”
The Qualcomm Robotics RB6 Platform and the Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design will support evolving applications for OEMs and robot manufacturers looking to integrate ground robots in industrial use cases across sectors including government service applications, logistics, healthcare, retail, warehousing, agriculture, construction and utilities as well as power autonomous robots and drones for uses like delivery and monitoring.
“Building on the successful growth and traction of Qualcomm Technologies’ leading robotics solutions, our expanded roadmap of solutions will help bring enhanced AI and 5G technologies to support smarter, safer, and more advanced innovations across robotics, drones and intelligent machines,” said Dev Singh, senior director of business development and head of autonomous robotics, drones and intelligent machines at Qualcomm.
“We are fueling robotics innovations with 5G connectivity and premium edge-AI that will transform how we think and approach challenges and ever-evolving industry expectations in the digital economy,” Singh added.
Singh said the challenges for robotics device as they become more “mission critical” include more computing, more AI, seamless connectivity and robust communication.
To meet those challenges, Qualcomm unveiled its premium tier Qualcomm Robotics RB6 platform that is a scalable roadmap to address various needs and advanced AI and 5G that make devices “smarter, safer and more autonomous,” Singh said.
“As you see these devices integrated into unstructured environments like busy city streets, urban air or in lights out manufacturing use cases in factories, you need a lot of AI or machine learning for making those applications happen,” he added.
Some of the key features of the RB6 Platform include:
• 5G connectivity with support for global sub-6GHz and mmWave bands in mainstream, enterprise, and private networks.
• Flexible architecture with expansion cards to support evolving connectivity features allowing the RB6 platform to deliver support for 3GPP Release 15, and Releases 16, 17 and 18 features as cards become available in the future.
• AI and video processing capabilities through the enhanced Qualcomm AI Engine, with support for 70 – 200 Trillion-Operations-Per-Second (TOPS) (INT8)
• Ability to run up to 24 cameras for added edge intelligence in inferencing and cognition.
• End-to-end deployable software support for ease of deployment.
“It’s a turnkey solution for deployment of these kind of premium segments,” Singh said.
Tools for Developers
Along with the RB6 platform, Qualcomm also unveiled the RB5 AMR Reference design – the “world’s first autonomous mobile robot reference design with integrated enhanced AI and 5G-capabilities,” Singh said.
This design solution accelerates development for commercial, enterprise and industrial robots. For people building robotic for applications like security or retail the “out-of-the-box” reference design platform will allow them to “focus on their IP, their differentiation that will work on their business case rather than them take care of the nuts and bolts of putting a robot together,” Singh said.
The Qualcomm Robotics RB6 platform is also designed with the developer in mind. It is comprised of an extensive set of hardware and software development tools that are comprehensive, customizable, and easy-to-use.
Developers have flexible software capabilities with a fully integrated, premium AI Software Development Kit (SDK), the Qualcomm Intelligent Multimedia SDK. This SDK brings together multimedia, AI and ML, computer vision (CV), and networking building blocks to support end to end deployment of robotic applications.
Key Growth Area
“Within the IoT division [of Qualcomm], the robotics space is one of the key growth areas and we do anticipate a lot of investment in this space,” Singh said. “Robotics is a huge market.”
Qualcomm is already a major player in the robotics market, powering well known devices from iRobot Roomba cleaning devices to Amazon’s Astro home monitoring robot.
Qualcomm’s robotics division even partnered with NASA in developing the Ingenuity helicopter that operates on Mars.
“We at Qualcomm deliver the technology that is the heart and brain of all these cutting edge devices, be it robots, drones, intelligent machines and we are seeing it more and more we are becoming de facto choice for all kinds of robots,” Singh said.
Qualcomm is constantly seeing robotics evolving with use cases now including devices like quad-pedal “dog” delivery robots and “urban air mobility” devices designed to be flying taxis.
“That is a bit futuristic but is already happening,” Singh said.
As the needs evolve in robotics, Singh emphasized that Qualcomm collaborates with “leading robotics, drones, and intelligent machines ecosystem leaders.”
Qualcomm lists ADLINK, Akasha Imaging (an Alphabet company), Cyngn, ForwardX, FutureMind, Hyundai Robotics, inVia Robotics, LG Electronics, Microsoft Azure private MEC, ModalAI, Naver Labs, Pudu Robotics, Samsung Electronics, Teledyne Flir and Thundercomm as collaborative companies in the robotics space.
Qualcomm also has a special collaboration with TDK to further enhance the capabilities of the Qualcomm Robotics roadmap of cutting-edge solutions. TDK has added their enhanced sensor technologies for premium robotics applications as part of Qualcomm Technologies’ latest robotics product offerings.