Intel Euclid Makes Robots Smarter Than Sideshow Gimmick
Intel's Euclid is more than just a fancy camera. It's the evolution of decades of development around the most critical piece of the robotic equation: the software.
In honor of my lunch this afternoon, I wanted to share a snapshot of the sushi chef (see video below). While these parlor trick robots do make tasty rice patties, they remind us of how early we are in the cycle of robotics. Windows 95 was the moment when personal computing became ubiquitous; in my opinion, it will be the software, not the hardware, that will be the biggest factor in moving autonomy from a carnival sideshow attraction to mainstream adoption.
This week, Intel made this first step by launching a new compact computer called Euclid based on its Prime Sense vision system to speed the development of robots. Euclid is being marketed as the “eyes” for a future line of humanoid robots. Intel demonstrated the Euclid computer in a robot, which was moving onstage during CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote at the Intel Developer Forum.
Euclid has a 3D RealSense camera that can serve as the eyes in a robot, capturing images in real-time. It has motion and position sensors that can help the robot move around both indoors and outdoors. An Atom processor provides the computing capabilities to analyze the images and data gathered by the robot (i.e., its brain).
Euclid has wireless connectivity capabilities for communication and tracking. It runs the Ubuntu OS and the ROS (Robot Operating System) set of robot development tools and libraries, which are used to develop many robots today.
Intel’s Euclid is more than just a fancy camera, it is the evolution of decades of development around the most critical piece of the robotic equation – the software or Robot Operating System (ROS). The ROS is essentially a framework of programming tools used to write and develop robot software. It works as an open-source system providing OS-like services designed specifically for robotics - i.e., hardware abstraction, device control, implementation of common functionalities, and data package management.
ROS was originally developed by the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 2007, to support the lab’s projects (specifically the STAIR Robot). From 2008 to 2013, development on ROS primarily took place at the famed research lab Willow Garage. After Willow’s closure, ROS was transformed into an open source ecosystem. Since then, ROS development has skyrocketed.
ROS had the biggest leap in development when it was housed within Scott Hassan’s famous R&D shop, Willow Garage. Hassan is one of the biggest visionaries in the robotics space, and an extremely successful seed investor (his most recent pick was Magic Leap). Hassan started his career working with his college buddies, Larry Page and Sergey Brin programming Google’s original search engine. He was one of the first investors in Google, when he decided to invest $800 in the company 12 days after it was formed it 1998. He then founded his own company: An email-list service called eGroups.com that Yahoo bought for about $432 million in 2000.
Thanks to that success and his early Google stake, Hassan amassed the kind of money that eventually allowed him to buy office space in Menlo Park before he even knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. Its address - 68 Willow Road - ultimately inspired his new company’s name. Hassan then convinced his friend Steve Cousins, who had hired Hassan as an undergraduate intern at Washington University years earlier, to become Willow’s first CEO.
Hassan planned to dedicate enough funding to the startup to keep about 60 people working there per year, so they began hiring all the top roboticists and researchers they could corral. Initially, the collective focused on personal assistants, driverless boats, and autonomous cars, but eventually focused on building programmable bots.