The Age of Robotics is Nearly Here

Nvidia Jetson Xavier chip

Image credit: Nvidia

By Michael Spencer  |  July 3, 2018

The Jetson Xavier chip by Nvidia signals specialized computers, chips and software tools for robots are here. Why is this important? It’s because in the 2020s we are going to see an explosion of smarter robotics. Designed for this future, the chip, Jetson Xavier, is for robots. The Isaac platform will also help accelerate robot development.

When NVIDIA unveiled its line of new products and announced a ten-year collaboration with the Taiwanese government at Computex 2018 pre-show press conference, it didn’t get much press in the West. However, as a futurist this is noteworthy news.

As major tech companies scramble to build their own AI-chips in house, Nvidia’s Jetson Xavier claims to be ‘world’s first’ computer for robotics and as there is rumor of an Amazon home robot in 2019, I think what we are seeing are the first signs that robotics as a rising industry is coming in a significant wave. This isn’t the kind of hype behind speculative technologies such as VR, AR glasses, or Bitcoin taking over the world, this is robots, something we are starting to get used to more each year with drones, robo-taxis and viral videos.

For young engineers who've dreampt of building robots, the tech is getting closer. ‘Jetson Xavier,’ essentially a computer, will allow individuals and companies to develop and train their own robots. This has the potential of stimulating an ecosystem of robot creators, startups, engineers and so forth.

To power the new generation of autonomous machines is what this is all about. The age of the internet of things isn’t just connected devices and seamless communication, it’s the rise of full-blown automation. Many suspect this means there will be billions of intelligent machines in manufacturing, home delivery, warehouse logistics and possibly many human facing settings as well. Robots will do jobs so humans can focus on what they prefer and what they are good at.

Jetson Xavier has 9 Billion Transistors

So just how good is this Jetson Xavier computer? It embodies an incredibly compact piece of hardware that’s comprised of a number of processing components. These include a Volta Tensor Core GPU, an eight-core ARM64 CPU, two NVDLA deep learning accelerators, and processors for static images and video. In total, Jetson Xavier contains more than 9 billion transistors and delivers over 30 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of compute. And it consumes just 30 watts of power, which is half of the electricity used by the average light bulb.

That’s arguably enough power to help humans figure how how to make smarter machines out of the dumb robots that we are used to seeing. Until deep learning can self-code and robots learn to learn, let’s face it robotics could be painfully slow. However with rapid progress in the Voice-AI interface, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, there’s a new ecosystem of apps that can intersect with all drones, robotics, all devices essentially.

Jetson Xavier
Image credit: Nvidia. Specialized chips and computers for robot builders are here.

“Robots that drive, that fly, that swim, [a robot] that goes underground, that picks strawberries, picks lettuce, picks apples, helps you in the lab, like Jarvis handing you your screwdriver — this little computer is the brains of future intelligent machines,” CEO of Nvidia, Jenson Huang said.

Jetson Xavier, which is said to be the world’s first intelligent machine processor designed for robotics, is not much bigger in size than the palm, Jetson Xavier will be priced at $1299.

The bottom line here is that the new Jetson Xavier hardware will make it easier for companies, enterprises and stealth mode startups, all to develop robots that navigate the real world and accelerate how automation will take place. There are robotics companies yet to be born that will change the world, in the way that Amazon, Microsoft or Google are doing today. If Google put Deep Mind into a robot with enough processing power, what would actually occur?

The future itself is plastic to how robots themselves might experience and learn in the real world. Chip designer Nvidia has been an integral part of the recent AI renaissance, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, we are only at the beginning. Nvidia’s Jetson announcement, is a milestone in the history of robots, where automation will enable humans to focus less on tasks and more on relationships. How we see robots will change as they become more ubiquitous and helpful.

Manufacturing robots can work safely alongside humans and adapt to changes. Logistics robots can efficiently move and manage inventory and deliver products to homes. Service robots can improve the retail experience and assist the sick and elderly. The future of robots, will change the future of humanity.

This article originally appeared on Medium recently.