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NVIDIA's credit card-sized Jetson TX1 module will make robots and drones smarter

By Chester Labaco & Koh Wanzi - on 18 Nov 2015, 11:52am

NVIDIA's credit card-sized Jetson TX1 module will make robots and drones smarter

Image Source: NVIDIA

Drones are still pretty cool, but it’d be nice to have one that you don’t have to babysit all day. As it turns out, that may just be possible thanks to the NVIDIA Jetson TX1, a credit card-sized module that fits onto robots and drones and enables them to take advantage of the powerful capabilities of machine learning.

This means that drones could become more than a convenient eye-in-the-sky and potentially carry out vital functions like aerial search-and-rescue and the flagging of suspicious activity from their own surveillance footage. The Jetson TX1 could even allow robots to tailor their tasks to individual persons and learn their preferences.

NVIDIA says that the Jetson TX1 is the first embedded computer designed to incorporate deep neural networks, which mimic the neuron layouts in biological brains to make machines better at things like pattern recognition and improve their ability to respond intelligently to their surroundings. NVIDIA isn't the only one that is investing in deep learning – just last week, Google announced TensorFlow, its second-generation machine learning system that allows anyone from researchers to hobbyists to contribute and take advantage of its capabilities.

The Jetson TX1 is actually powered by the Tegra X1 SoC that NVIDIA announced at CES 2015, bringing the full capabilities of its 64-bit ARMv8 A57 CPUs and 256-core Maxwell GPU with 1 teraflops of performance to bear. The TX1 compute module is a full working system in its own right and is also equipped with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 16GB of eMMC flash storage.

NVIDIA partners are already in full swing with the Jetson TX1. San Francisco-based startup StereoLabs just showed how the TX1 could enable its ZED camera on drones to create detailed, 3D maps by simply tossing the drone in the air.

While the StereoLabs team previously relied on their laptops for processing, they found that they could now do it on their embedded platform thanks to the TX1 module. This also meant that they could create real-time 3D maps of the ground as the TX1’s powerful Maxwell GPU enabled it to incorporate capabilities like machine learning, computer vision, and navigation.

The Jetson TX1 Developer Kit has been available for pre-order since November 12 in the US at US$599. The standalone TX1 module will be available in early 2016 at around US$299 – in quantities of 1,000 or more – from global distributors.

Source: NVIDIA (1), (2)