Native RISC-V ROS chip targets robotics

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Two European companies are developing a microcontroller chip using the open source RISC-V instruction set that is optimised to run the latest Robot Operating System (ROS2).

The roscore-v project aims to use the native ROS 2 hardware implementation for lower latency and additional real-time capabilities as well as lower power consumption.

Acceleration Robotics, a robotics semiconductor startup in the Basque Country of Spain, is working with design house PlanV in Germany on the open source software and hardware.

Current popular strategies in robotics for integrating microcontrollers involve complex bridges that add complexity. Instead roscore-v will use dedicated accelerator hardware that supports the computations needed for robotics. It will also support higher level protocols such as the publish-subscribe DDS technology.

The  design will be developed as part of the ROS 2 Hardware Acceleration Working Group and prototyped first into an FPGA in 2023 and later into a physical chip.

This follows a RISC-V microcontroller for motor control developed by Renesas Electronics.

“Though microcontrollers are generally accepted as programmable specialized devices, most MCUs used in robotics today have general purpose building blocks,” said Víctor Mayoral-Vilches, founder of Acceleration Robotics. “There is not much robotics-specific in any of them. Most roboticists today use ROS 2 and the avenues to enable this in microcontrollers are often complex and hard to optimize for latency and real-time. Our goal is to design an open source and hardware MCU that has built-in robotics capabilities and we will do so by building upon open standards like ROS 2 and RISC-V,” 

“The single most interesting feature of the RISC-V ISA and related open-source implementations is the possibility of building extensions and customisations. The growing field of hardware accelerated robotics is the perfect playground where to experiment and demonstrate the capabilities, flexibility and maturity of these technologies,” said Massimiliano Giacometti,founder and MD of PlanV in Munich.;

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