Tiny Joule computer platform packs a big punch

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Intel has big plans for the little Joule(Credit: Intel Corporation)

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Intel has used its 2016 Developer Forum in San Fransisco to launch its new Joule platform, a tiny computer designed to give life to a new wave of drones, robots and Internet of Things gadgets. Although it's small, the Joule can work with the brand's RealSense tech to rapidly prototype devices capable of analyzing and understanding the world around them.

Intel has focused heavily on making Joule communicate with its range of RealSense sensors and cameras. Because it's compact, but fully (wirelessly) compatible with a huge range of add-ons, the company sees it doing service in autonomous drone and robot projects.

There are two different models of Joule available, starting with the 550X. Power comes from a 1.5 GHz quad-core Atom T5500 processor, and 3 GB of LPDDR4 RAM is standard. Intel has fitted 8 GB of eMMC storage, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are included out of the box. The basic Joule runs a Linux-based operating system tailored for Internet of Things and smart devices, with support for the range of Intel RealSense cameras and accompanying libraries.

Moving up to the Joule 570X brings a more powerful 1.7-GHz quad-core Atom T5700 processor with burst up to 2.4 GHz, and there's an extra 1 GB of RAM. Storage has doubled to 16 GB, though both units use the same Wi-Fi and Bluetooth systems. The base software is the same IoT-optimized Linux system you get on the 550X, but Intel says there's "enhanced" support for its RealSense cameras and libraries.

Both units are capable of capturing and displaying 4K video, making use of Intel's integrated HD graphic.

The tech is already being used in a range of different applications, including the Microsoft Bamboo robot and a French AR motorbike helmet. In the Bamboo robot, the system uses a RealSense camera to build a picture of its surroundings. It can also translate and subsequently understand what's being said using cloud-based software.

Meanwhile, the helmet makes use of a camera to scan the road ahead, displaying information about numberplates on police officers' visors as it becomes available. Intel says the board's compact size makes it perfect for applications like this, where a bigger computer would be too impractical to get the job done.

Also launched at this year's Developer Forum was a range of RealSense developer kits. The first is a Robotic kit, made up of a compact AAEON board and a RealSense R200 camera. It's aimed at developers trying to build robots capable of recognizing people and navigating through its environment, and comes pre-installed with Linux and support for the Robot Operating System.

Meanwhile, the ZR300 Dev Kit combines depth-sensing with motion tracking, and is designed to provide accurate autonomous mapping and navigation. According to Intel, that makes it ideal for use in autonomous drones and robots.

The Forum also saw the launch of a RealSense Camera 400, which offers greater accuracy and double the 3D points-per-second than older models, as well as a Euclid Dev Kit with sensing, computing and connectivity capabilities built into one candy-bar package.

Source: Intel

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