Robotics & Automation News

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Analysis: Qualcomm’s new robotics platform raises a few questions

By Rian Whitton, principal analyst at tech market advisory firm ABI Research

Qualcomm last week launched its next step in its bid to power the next generation of commercial 5G-enabled robots, with the release of its RB5 platform.

Bringing high-compute power and a significant degree of modularity to the energy-constrained robotic platform market, the RB5 is an evolution on the company’s RB3 platform released in 2019, and a potential game-changer in the development of smart robotic fleets.

RB5 is advertised as a premium platform, with an emphasis on sophistication over cost-efficiency, supporting high-performance heterogeneous computing with built-in 5G capability and 4K HDR video streaming.

The platform is a highly integrated, multi-featured, and customizable environment aiming to address the most sophisticated functions of advanced mobile robots from motion control to high-degree of autonomy, data monitoring, and intelligence, with the ability to interact with their own environment in real-time.

RB5 should not be seen as simple hardware but as a rich development kit with the potential to address many end-robot types from $200 social robots to autonomous haulage trucks.

Providing a comprehensive development environment to support the integration of robotics chipset platforms is not unique to Qualcomm as we have seen other players, such as Nvidia with their ISAAC SDK, adopting the same approach.

However, there are many new capabilities that differentiate RB5 from competing solutions, including the very feature-rich and highly integrated connected chipset design approach Qualcomm has traditionally used to generate scale in many markets, including smartphones, the home robots, and other IoT applications.

From this perspective, RB5 represents a major addition in the toolbox for those developing the next fleet of smart robots.

However, some questions need to be answered by those who utilize the RB5:

  • Is the market ready for adopting such sophisticated robots?
  • Will those developing with the RB5 be able to demonstrate its worth in reducing autonomy exceptions for mobile robots?
  • Will the 5G value proposition be a key differentiator?
  • Could RB5 lower the design barriers for smaller robot developers or will the price benefit those larger manufacturers who already deploy thousands of systems?
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