Qualcomm launches its first platform made for robots

RB3 is built for always-connected bots and drones.

Qualcomm's interest in robots is definitely more than a passing fancy. It just unveiled RB3, its first all-encompassing platform for robotics. The part is based on last year's Snapdragon 845 system-on-a-chip but is "highly optimized" for drones and other automatons, including AI and sensor processing, support for private LTE networks and tight security. More importantly, it's flexible. Companies can customize it to their heart's content if they're not happy with the off-the-shelf hardware, and choose an OS like Linux or Robot Operating System.

You can expect to see RB3-based bots sometime in 2019, with big names like LG and South Korea's Naver on the short list alongside the likes of Anki, JD and OrionStar. Development kits are available now, and a 5G version of RB3 will be available later in the year.

It's too soon to know how well this will work, but Qualcomm has good reason to dive deeper into robotics. Rival chip makers like Intel and NVIDIA already have a head start on supplying robots with AI-powered guts. If Qualcomm didn't step in, it risked ceding ground at a time when it can't depend solely on phones to pad its bottom line.