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Nvidia Brings Computer in Cars to the Desktop

Nvidia is bringing Raspberry Pi-like board computers, called Orin, out of the trunks of cars and into labs. The Jetson AGX Orin 32GB developer board is the first of four new AGX Orin developer boards coming to desktops for developing robotics as well as industrial and medical applications.

The computer – which resembles a motherboard – is a sibling of the Drive Orin computer that is in autonomous cars from Volvo and Mercedes. The Jetson board has an Orin SoC with ARM CPU cores and Ampere GPUs, which are also available in Orin’s on-board computers.

Nvidia shipped the first Jetson developer board, called the TK1, in 2014, and it featured the company’s ARM-based Tegra K1 smartphone chip. The TK1 board is modeled around the Raspberry Pi, which spawned the “do-it-yourself” subculture and many innovative home-grown hardware projects. In the past Jetson boards were used in home-grown robots and drones.

The company has since moved GPU development for AI applications, and Jetson is now a hardware platform on which companies can test, deploy and run AI and graphics applications.

Nvidia already dominates AI and machine learning in data centers through its GPUs, but the company is also trying to get AI inferencing and content applications through hardware like Jetson boards.

The Jetson Orin provides a higher level of performance than the Raspberry Pi, and that makes it better for prototyping products that may eventually be sold commercially, said Bob O’Donnell, founder of Technalysis Research.

“It’s their robotic stuff in particular. There are a lot of people doing interesting things in robotics, like AGVs (automatic guided vehicles) in warehouses and industrial robots,” O’Donnell said. .

The Jetsons carried an older GPU architecture because of cost and power requirements, and devices like robots and drones didn’t need the latest and greatest computing chips, O’Donnell said.

Nvidia says the new Jetson AGX Orins are up to eight times faster than their predecessor, called Xavier. Nvidia recently introduced the successor to Ampere, called Hopper, but the company did not announce plans for the GPU architecture of the Jetson boards.

Jetson Orin boards deliver server-class performance in a compact form factor, which should improve developer productivity and expand use cases, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

Jetson AGX Orin 32GB provides 200 TOPS of INT8 performance. It has 1,792 GPU cores operating at 930MHz frequency, an 8-core Arm Cortex-A78AE CPU, 32GB of LPDDR5 DRAM and 64GB of storage. Nvidia sells the board for $999.

The Jetson AGX Orin 32GB module. Image courtesy of Nvidia.

In November, the company will ship the Jetson AGX Orin 64GB, which delivers 275 TOPS of performance. It has 2,048 GPU cores running at 1.3GHz, a 12-core Arm Cortex-A78AE CPU, 64GB of LPDDR5 memory, and 64GB of storage. The computer is based on the hardware included in the $1,999 Jetson AGX Orin Developer Kit, which already ships with the chassis.

GPUs and horsepower for graphics and AI separate Jetson boards from Raspberry Pi and other developer boards. The Jetson has HDMI and DisplayPort ports, and it supports camera input for computer vision applications.

The Jetson roadmap also includes less powerful Orin NX boards, which are more like embedded parts than full-blown developer computers. NX boards will ship later this year with 1,024-core Ampere GPUs and up to 16GB of storage.

Nvidia also has associated software and simulation tools for the boards that help product development, and that’s something other board makers can’t duplicate, Technalysis’s O’Donnell said.

For example, Isaac SIM allows roboticists to combine computer-generated synthetic data with real-world data to better simulate robots in the virtual world.

Development computers run on Linux, and applications can be developed using a dedicated software development kit called JetPack. The software includes the Ubuntu desktop environment and libraries for AI, graphics and computer vision, said an Nvidia spokesperson. Nvidia recently introduced TAO – which standardizes the Train, adapt and Optimize – AI toolkit, which makes it easier to write and deploy AI applications. The new developer boards will support TAO and other AI toolkits such as Riva for conversational AI.

The Jetson roadmap includes a new version of the Nano board – popular with developers – for release in 2023.

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