UPDATED 12:03 EDT / NOVEMBER 26 2018


AWS launches RoboMaker to help developers build software brains for robots

Amazon.com Inc. uses internally designed robots to shuffle goods around its warehouses and has lately been experimenting with adding delivery drones to the mix. Now, the company’s cloud division wants to win the business of the other firms that use autonomous machines in their operations.

To that end, Amazon Web Services Inc. today launched RoboMaker, a development platform for building robotics software. It provides the ability to set up a self-scaling programming environment complete with simulation software in a matter of minutes, according to Amazon’s cloud unit. 

RoboMaker is based on the Cloud9 browser-based development service that AWS introduced last year. Every deployment is spun up with a collection of open-source software components specific to the robotics ecosystem. That includes first and foremost an installation of the Robot Operating System, or ROS, the most popular middleware platform for autonomous machines.

AWS has included custom extensions for ROS that let developers integrate their projects with various cloud services. A software team could, for instance, use Amazon Kinesis Video Streams to process footage from a robot’s cameras. There are also extensions for the recently upgraded SageMaker machine learning engine, the Polly speech generator and a number of related AWS services.

When a project is ready for testing, developers can turn to RoboMaker’s built-in simulation features. The service includes the popular Gazebo robot simulator and several prebuilt virtual environments courtesy of AWS that cover settings such as retail stores, indoor rooms and race tracks.

“RoboMaker is designed to work with robots of many different shapes and sizes running in many different physical environments,” AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr wrote in a blog post. “After you design and code an algorithm for your robot, you can create parallel simulation jobs in order to quickly see how your algorithm performs in different conditions or environments. For example, you could use tens or hundreds of real-world models of streets or offices to test a wayfinding or driving algorithm.”

Topping it all off is a built-in fleet management tool that enables companies to release software to their robots over the air after testing is done. According to AWS, it has built-in security and fault tolerance features designed to ensure that rollouts are carried out smoothly. The tool also lends itself to patching existing deployments.

RoboMaker is available today. Early adopters include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Stanley Black & Decker Inc., a Fortune 500 maker of industrial equipment.

The service debuted at AWS’ annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this morning, where the provider usually introduces a large number of new features and products. It also announced a pair of major cloud deals with Ellie Mae Inc. and Intel Corp.’s Mobileye self-driving car division.

Image: AWS

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