November 26, 2020

Qualcomm brings the Snapdragon 865 to the robotics world

The Robotics RB5 is Qualcomm's new robotics platform with industrial-grade temperature ranges from -40°C to 105°C.

RB5 developer kits different angles

Credit: Gary Sims / Android Authority

Qualcomm has announced a new robotics platform based around a variant of its Snapdragon 865 processor. The Robotics RB5 uses the QRB5165 processor with the same CPU, GPU, ISP, and DSP as the Snapdragon 865, but this time with support for industrial-grade temperate ranges from -40°C to 105°C, plus some nice enhancements around computer vision.

If you think Qualcomm only makes chips for smartphones, think again. Ingenuity, A.K.A. the Mars Helicopter, is a clever device that will be launched towards Mars this summer. At its heart is a Snapdragon 801 processor. Yes, you read that correctly, the Snapdragon 801. Just think how much things have improved since 2014 when that chip was released in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5.

If you think Qualcomm only makes chips for smartphones, think again.

NASAs Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

Fast forward five years, and the Snapdragon 865 is a beast compared to the Snapdragon 801. Now, if that older chip can be used for remotely flying a helicopter on a distant planet, imagine what designers, engineers, hobbyists, and makers could do with the Robotics RB5 platform.

At the heart of the RB5 is the new QRB5165 processor. It includes the Kryo 585 CPU (4x Cortex-A77 CPU cores in the 1+3 configuration, plus 4x Cortex-A55 cores), the Adreno 650 GPU, the Spectra 480 ISP plus the Hexagon DSP. Combined, these processors can be used for heavy compute tasks, advanced AI tasks (using the DSP and the GPU together), and for computer vision.

Qualcomm QRB5165 processor for robotics

The Spectra 480 can process 2 Gigapixels per second. On the RB5165, that means developers can connect up to seven cameras (great for fully autonomous robotics) as well as process 8K video and 4K HDR video. The Spectra 480 also includes the Engine for Video Analytics (EVA) to handle all Computer Vision and Robot Vision tasks.

Also read: Snapdragon SoC guide: All of Qualcomm’s smartphone processors explained

In a smartphone, a Snapdragon 865 would be running Android, but for the RB5 the software options are Ubuntu Linux, Yocto, and Robot Operating System (ROS) 2.0. There is even support for AWS RoboMaker. Software libraries from Qualcomm include the Neural Processing SDK, for advanced on-device AI; the Computer Vision SDK, for vision processing; and the Robotics Vision SDK, for feature recognition, obstacle detection, etc.

RB5 developer kits with Mezzanines

Qualcomm is offering the RB5 platform in a wide range of configurations depending on your hardware skills. For genius hardware designers, the system can be included directly onto a new board design. Qualcomm will even help check the layout and circuit design. For hardware hackers, the RB5 comes as a System-on-a-Module (SoM) which can be integrated into your design via an edge connector. For hobbyists and makers, Qualcomm offers a complete development kit including USB ports, HDMI, etc., and a range of optional modules (called Mezzanines) for computer vision, sensors, motor control, and 5G connectivity.

The developer kit is available for pre-order today. Qualcomm expects the kits to ship in the July/August timeframe.

Next: How to understand Kryo CPU numbering in Qualcomm Snapdragon processors