During my 20 year stint as a software engineer at Qualcomm, I’ve witnessed a lot of “firsts”. I remember when Qualcomm introduced the PDQ-880, the first smartphone to combine the functionality of a cell phone and personal digital assistant (PDA). The device was larger than the slim smartphones we know and love today, but was monumental in sparking the smartphone evolution. OEMs raced to create the next generation of all-in-one smartphones that integrated several more capabilities and components into smaller form factors. One of the most notable examples of this was Steve Job’s famous 2007 keynote of the first iPhone which integrated an iPod, a phone and internet communicator in one handheld device. ModalAI’s newest product, the VOXL CAM™ all-in-one compute and perception engine, will help drones and robots achieve a similar evolution to become smaller, smarter and safer.
VOXL CAM - smarter perception, safer navigation, all in one small package
As the drone and robotics industry grows, a key development that has been missing is the fusion of advanced computing and artificial intelligence (AI) along with smart perception. Currently, if developers want to integrate a perception unit in their robot, they have to purchase and assemble separate printed circuit boards (PCBs) such as a companion computer, GPS receiver, image sensors, connectivity modem, video transmitter, and flight controller (if building a drone). Taking a “Frankenstein” approach and building a robot with individual components can hinder the size and weight of your build (think first generation Motorola cell phone). The individual PCBs may be bulky, require different ports and cables, and may not fit on your robot in the most optimized form.
To meet this need, we are unveiling the VOXL CAM, an all-in-one compute and perception engine that makes it easier to develop smaller, smarter, and safer drones, robots, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With Blue UAS Framework components, VOXL and Flight Core onboard, the VOXL CAM condenses the computing power of seven PCBs and four concurrent image sensors into one single board solution starting at 57.5g. With advanced onboard computer vision, AI, and perception from VOXL, developers can achieve autonomous capabilities such as BVLOS GPS-denied (indoor) navigation, depth mapping, object detection and recognition, UAS flight control, and cellular connectivity. VOXL CAM's Time of Flight (ToF), Stereo Pair, and tracking image sensor concurrency enables GPS-denied navigation, which, when paired with a drone, can enable seamless indoor to outdoor autonomous navigation - critical for precise flight. Designed with modularity in mind, the VOXL CAM can mount onto any ground robot, drone, stationary fixture, or wearable IoT device, enabling various industries with perception and autonomy.
The Seeker micro-development drone is ModalAI’s smallest development drone to date. Weighing in at 550g, the Seeker is designed to navigate through small spaces. The Seeker is the first open, micro-development drone powered. It is by VOXL CAM with SWAP-optimized sensors and payloads optimized for indoor and outdoor autonomous navigation. Enabled by the VOXL SDK, developers can achieve BVLOS GPS-denied navigation, depth mapping, obstacle avoidance, object detection, and SLAM.
Asset Inspection: One of the most popular use cases for commercial drones is asset inspection. Drones can fly in hard to reach places and visually scan assets for anomalies or inventory. In potentially hazardous environments, such as scaffolding or water towers, drones can be deployed in place of humans and reduce the risk of workplace injury. VOXL CAM-enabled drones are equipped for GPS-denied navigation, and can navigate in both indoor and outdoor environments, making it easy for a commercial distribution company to inspect their indoor warehouse and outdoor loading docks with a drone. Industries such as agriculture, real estate, construction, mining, and first responders can benefit from smaller, smarter, and safer drones.
IoT devices are becoming more and more popular. The smart watch, for example, is a ubiquitous wearable that combines a smart computer, GPS, and clock into a single device that fits on your wrist. The VOXL CAM’s small modular design means that it is easy to mount onto clothing such as vests, helmets, or belts, making it a wearable smart device. It’s onboard VOXL computer and image sensors can process and analyze data in real time and stream video feed back to the ground control station.
Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance: In a government use case for wearable technology, first responders or military personnel can don a VOXL CAM-mounted vest and commence search and rescue or reconnaissance missions. VOXL CAM’s four concurrent image sensors can conduct indoor and outdoor depth mapping, real-time 4K streaming, and object detection, which can be helpful to enable a constant stream of communication between ground soldiers and HQ in mission critical scenarios. Onboard advanced computer vision capabilities can be easily deployed to aid in complicated tasks like identifying a threat or mapping enemy territory.
Ground robots can autonomously maneuver on land, and can be used by several different industries. VOXL CAM is as small as an average business card, making it attractive to developers looking to create smaller robots. With a companion computer and image sensors combined into one package, the VOXL CAM makes it possible to activate autonomy and perception to even the smallest ground robots.
Delivery: One example of ground robots being used in day to day scenarios is for delivery. Popular food delivery companies such as GrubHub and Postmates have employed small ground robots to deliver food from restaurants to their customers. (This isn’t the first time delivery companies have used robots to simplify their operations - see how ModalAI helped UberEats test their delivery drone system in 2019) A ground robot with VOXL CAM onboard can map out a delivery zone and complete missions from the restaurant to a customer’s door autonomously and safely.
Because the VOXL CAM is both a computer and perception unit, it can operate as a standalone device without a mode of transportation (drone propellers, human legs, robot wheels). VOXL CAM can still be used to achieve computer vision and artificial intelligence capabilities with real-time streaming data for different use cases.
Public Safety: VOXL CAM can be mounted onto stationary mounts such as stop signs or buildings and help survey public areas. In a COVID-19 world, where limited capacity in public spaces prevails, VOXL CAM’s heterogeneous computing and computer vision capabilities can quickly count individuals in a crowded area so that social distancing can be enforced.
Activate Autonomy Now
The VOXL CAM offers smarter perception, safer navigation, all in one small package and is ready to accelerate autonomy for several different industries. The VOXL CAM and VOXL CAM-powered Seeker micro-development drone are available now for purchase starting at $999, and $2999, respectively.