Qualcomm to reveal drone-specific processors; Intel acquires drone maker Ascending Technologies

CES 2016: Qualcomm to reveal drone-specific processors; Intel acquires drone maker Ascending Technologies

Looks like, drones could become one of the hottest trends of 2016 in the tech world.

Now, just ahead of CES 2016, Qualcomm has released new video revealing features of the Snapdragon Flight drone platform. It is powered by Snapdragon 801 and the board has been designed to support 4K, quick charge, capability to communicate using dual-band 2×2 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GNSS location chips.

The drone can easily return back to its launch pad by avoiding obstacles, which means it can come back to its starting point without the need to control it. The Qualcomm Flight drone promises up to an hour of battery life on a single charge. The video shows a 4K capable camera, a down-facing tracking camera and stereo cameras for visual inertial odometry. Qualcomm will most likely reveal more about the drone at CES 2016.

Meanwhile, Intel has ensured that it isn’t late to the party. Another report highlights that the company has acquired German drone firm Ascending Technologies. According to Re/code, Intel has acquired startup Ascending Technology for an undisclosed amount. Intel is holding a keynote at CES and the company may reveal more details then.

At CES 2015, Ascending Technologies had helped Intel show off a game of ‘drone ping pong’ that was demonstrated using a hovering drone that automatically moved away from approaching people and obstacles. The flying robot AscTec Firefly was equipped with up to six of Intel’s RealSense depth cameras.

Qualcomm unveils LeTV Le Max Pro; features Snapdragon 820

CES 2016: Qualcomm unveils LeTV Le Max Pro; features Snapdragon 820

Qualcomm has unveiled something big in the form of Le Max Pro smartphone at CES 2016. While the Le Max Pro is supposed to be a more powerful sibling of the Le Max, a phablet-sized smartphone, the device also happens to be first one to pack in Qualcomm’s much-awaited Snapdragon 820 chipset.

The chipset that is based on 14nm FinFET fabrication process was announced back in November 2015 and packs in Qualcomm’s new Kyro cores that are said to deliver two times the performance of the currently available Snapdragon 810 chipset. The 820 chipset inside the LeTV Le Max Pro will also be the first processor 64-bit CPU that uses the ARMv8-A instruction set and the Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP that is used for offloading tasks that can be done faster and/or consume less power. The chip also supports LTE Category 12 with download speeds of up to 600 Mbps.

More impressively, this also happens to be the first chipset from Qualcomm to supports Qualcomm’s Sense ID ultrasonic fingerprint technology. Sense ID is both a software and hardware combined to deliver fingerprint readers that are more secure. More importantly, the new tech can supposedly read through surfaces like metal and glass reducing the need to have a visible, special area (like a circular ring) on a device.

While the design of the LeTV Le Max Pro smartphone has not been confirmed, but one could expect it to come without a designated exposed fingerprint reader than Android users are currently used to. Sense ID with ultrasound technology is supposed to be quicker and more accurate at reading fingerprints compared to the current generation of capacitive fingerprint readers.

Xiaomi Mi 5 to launch in February with Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset

Xiaomi Mi 5 to launch in February with Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset

Its official! The Xiaomi Mi5 will launch sometime in February, after Spring Festival/Chinese New Year and will also pack in the latest Snapdragon 820 chipset.

Xiaomi’s co-founder and senior VP Liwan Jiang took to Weibo to confirm that the Mi5 will indeed come with Snapdragon 820 and has entered mass production as well. He also stated that the company will launch the Mi5 after the Chinese New Year which begins on February 8.

There have been leaked images in the past that show off the front and back of the smartphone. The front appears to have a 2.5 D glass while the back is similar to what we have on the Mi Note. There seem to be no capacitive touch keys at the bottom, but just  a slim capsule-like, fingerprint reader that also appears to be a home button.

According to a previously leaked product listing the Xiaomi Mi 5 will sport a 5.5 Quad HD display (2560 x 1440 pixels) sporting a pixel density of 515 ppi. As expected from the very beginning, the smartphone will sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset clocked at 2.5GHz, coupled with 4GB of RAM.

The smartphone is expected to go on sale in three variants, 16GB, 64GB and 128GB; and none of them sport an SD card slot. You can expect a 20MP camera on the back and an 8MP unit up front for selfies. The device unlike its predecessor will support 4G bands and will be powered by a 3,800 mAh battery. Also set to make an appearance is a USB Type-C port at the bottom.

Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 820 for cars, while phones wait for the chip

Qualcomm snapdragon 820Am

Qualcomm has been talking up the Snapdragon 820 as the chip for next-generation smartphones for most of 2015—but that hasn’t stopped the company from announcing a derivative aimed at cars.

At its CES press conference on Tuesday, Qualcomm chief executive Steve Mollenkopf said that the Snapdragon 820 was being designed into 80 new devices. Unfortunately, we’ve barely seen a single one—although Mollenkopf revealed that Chinese manufacturer Le TV’s Le Max Pro phone would include it.

When asked when phones shipping to the United States would in fact see the Qualcomm 820 inside them, Mollenkopf answered somewhat cryptically, “Soon. We’ll see them this year.”

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Le Tv

But any design delays associated with the 820 haven’t stopped Qualcomm from designing a derivative chip for cars: the Snapdragon 820Am. In a sophisticated demonstration that encompassed navigation, automated driver assistance, and even distracted driving, Qualcomm executives showed off a system of four 4K displays scattered about a car’s interior, complete with smartphones, processing the information in real time.

The setup even included internal cameras that tracked a driver’s head positioning and made a determination on whether or not they were paying attention to the road. The system assumed that up to 600 megabits per second of data were being passed back and forth between the cloud and the car.

“This is what is possible with connected compute technologies,” Mollenkopf said.

One of Qualcomm’s stauncher partners appears to be Audi, which said that it will use last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 602A chip inside of its A5 models before the end of the year, and in its A4 and Q5 models in 2016. Audi, which is known for its large, attractive in-dash displays, will be able to use the chip to double the available computational horsepower driving them, according to Ricky Hudi, Audi’s executive vice president of electronic development.

Qualcomm will also release a series of upgradable modules that automakers can include in their designs, Mollenkopf said.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm has also made inroads into the Internet of Things. Qualcomm announced a series of chips for smart cities, including the 9607 LTE chip that’s designed to run for ten years on a pair of AA batteries, and the CSR102X Bluetooth SOC, which can stream HD audio to a pair of headphones. Qualcomm already powers more than 65 wearables, Mollenkopf said, with 50 new designs due in the first quarter.

Qualcomm's new chip will turn your next car into a self-driving theater on wheels

Qualcomm CES

Qualcomm unwrapped a new family of Snapdragon processors at CES that threaten to turn your car into something that feels more like a fairground than a mode of transport.

The chip maker showed its Snapdragon 820A driving a mock-up car interior with four HD displays — two for the driver and two for passengers in the back — and a digital animated dashboard. The same chip powers cameras inside and outside of the car, analyzes road conditions to assist with driving, and provides a download link as fast as 600M bits per second, according to Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf.

Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf

New auto technologies have dominated the first days of CES, and Qualcomm hopes to capitalize on the smarts and connectivity that car makers are packing into their vehicles. Whether anyone wants all this technology — or will be able to afford it when they buy a new car — seems beside the point here in Vegas. For now, it’s about taking it all in.

Cameras near the steering wheel detect the orientation of the driver’s head. “If Jeff looks sideways for more than a moment, he’s considered distracted,” said a Qualcomm engineer who demonstrated the technology. Presumably that triggers an alert to get the driver back on track.

Cameras outside the car keep an eye on surrounding traffic, so the vehicle can brake or swerve if they get too close. The 820A is programmed to detect multiple lane types, Qualcomm says, and it will run machine-learning algorithms for driver assistance technologies that recognize speed limits, traffic lights and other road signs.

The processors are similar to Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 820 chips for smartphones, Mollenkopf said, but adapted for automobiles.

Drivers can customize the animated dashboard so it will show the colors and dials they like best. If you share a car with a partner, it can recognize each driver by their smartphone and display their custom dash when the car starts up.

It will be up to individual auto makers to decide which of these features to include and how to implement them.

None of the technologies are exactly new by themselves — Nvidia showed similar things at last year’s CES — but Mollenkopf said the 820A is a single chip that can perform all the functions, making it more affordable for car makers to include them all.

The processor integrates numerous components in one package, including Qualcomm’s Kryo CPU, Adreno 530 graphics chip, Hexagon 680 DSP, and Zeroth machine-learning software. The chip comes in two versions, one of which has an X12 LTE modem that can download data at up to 600 Mbps so passengers can stream HD movies.

The chip is sampling to auto makers now, Qualcomm says, so it might make its way into 2018 models. Audi is using Qualcomm’s existing Snapdragon 620 parts in some of its 2017 vehicles.