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Nvidia launches simulation platform for robots

CES 2020 will be crawling with robots, thanks to Nvidia’s robotics platform that serves as the brains behind the wide variety of robots at the big tech trade show in Las Vegas.

Toyota will show off its humanoid robot, T-HR3, which is based on Nvidia’s Isaac software development kit for robots. Rob Csongor, vice president of autonomous machines at Nvidia, said in a press briefing that the robots at CES will use a wide variety of Nvidia tech, which includes Isaac software, Jetson chips, and reference designs, or models that customers can use to create products.

At the show, Nvidia is announcing Isaac Sim, which lets developers train on simulated robots and deploy their lessons to the real thing. This promises to greatly accelerate robotic development, especially for environments such as large logistics operations. Isaac Simulation will add early-access availability for manipulation later this month.

“We span multiple vertical markets that we target,” Csongor said. “One of the things that all of these autonomous machines have in common is they all have to be able to detect, see, hear, and touch. They have to detect things in the world, they have to be able to learn and plan, and then they have to be able to act. And this fundamental flow is reflected in the number of different platforms that we apply into a variety of different machines.”

Some of the robots are based on Carter, a navigation robot reference platform that is the basis for many designs. Others are based on Leonardo, which is for interaction with or manipulation of objects in the world.

The graphics processing unit (GPU) technology that powers games is also driving AI, accelerating the development of a host of autonomous vehicles and robots at CES 2020.

With Toyota’s T-HR3 humanoid partner robot, a human operator wearing a VR headset controls the system using augmented video and perception data fed from a Nvidia Jetson AGX Xavier computer in the robot.

Attendees can try out the autonomous wheelchair from Whill, powered by a Jetson TX2. Sunflower Labs will demo its new home security robot, also packing a Jetson TX2. Other Nvidia-powered systems at CES include a delivery robot from PostMates and an inspection snake robot from Sarcos.

The Isaac SDK lets robot developers create simulations. Isaac is an open environment for mapping, model training, simulation, and computing. It includes a variety of camera-based perception deep neural networks for functions such as object detection, 3D pose estimation, and 2D human pose estimation.

Nvidia provides pretrained deep neural network tech that developers can use to test their robots and modify them as needed.

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