The cloud robotics race is heating up. One month after it was revealed that a Google Cloud Robotics Platform is coming in 2019, a juggernaut of a competitor has released a similar solution. Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing arm of Amazon, has released its RoboMaker cloud robotics platform to give developers a centralized environment to build, test, and deploy robots with the cloud.
Announced at the AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas today, RoboMaker can be used to build robots, add intelligent functions, simulate and test robots in a variety of environments, and manage and update robot fleets. RoboMaker runs on top of the Robot Operating System (ROS), the popular, open-source robotics middleware, and extends the framework to AWS services for machine learning, monitoring, and analytics. AWS said this will enable robots to “stream data, navigate, communicate, comprehend, and learn.”
Microsoft also recently announced it is bringing ROS to Windows 10. The ROS developer community has built workarounds for Windows, but official support of ROS Melodic Morenia on Windows 10 should make things a lot easier. It appears ROS for Windows is an opportunity for Microsoft to further expose its Azure cloud platform, and associated products, to the vast number of ROS developers around the world.
Amazon said AWS RoboMaker is currently available to cloud customers in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), and EU (Ireland). It will make RoboMaker available to other regions over the next year. As for pricing, RoboMaker does not have upfront costs, AWS said, and you only pay for the AWS resources you use. Users will be billed separately for each RoboMaker capability, including use of AWS services provided through RoboMaker cloud extensions for ROS, RoboMaker development environment, RoboMaker simulation, and RoboMaker fleet management.
“When talking to our customers, we see the same pattern repeated over and again,” said Roger Barga, general manager, AWS RoboMaker. “They spend a lot of time setting up infrastructure and cobbling together software for different stages of the robotics development cycle, repeating work others have done before, leaving less time for innovation.”
RoboMaker, which runs on AWS Cloud9, comes with pre-built worlds, including indoor rooms, retail stores, and racing tracks, to test robots on-demand and run multiple simulations in parallel. RoboMaker’s cloud extensions for ROS include:
- Amazon Kinesis Video Streams ingestion
- Amazon Rekognition image and video analysis
- Amazon Lex speech recognition
- Amazon Polly speech generation
- Amazon CloudWatch logging and monitoring
Users can also build and train Amazon SageMaker models to make use of machine learning in your robot’s brain. AWS said it has made both source code and documentation of the AWS RoboMaker cloud extensions for ROS publicly available under the terms of the Apache Software License 2.0. AWS is a member of the ROS 2 Technical Steering Committee has contributed to the platform’s real-time messaging, security, and authentication, as well as working with the robotics community to migrate source code packages from ROS1 to ROS2.
Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist for AWS, has a great write-up on the AWS blog that runs through an example of what RoboMaker can do.
“We regularly evaluate how we can use new technology to bring our customers a better experience,” said Brad Porter, VP and Distinguished Engineer, Robotics at Amazon. “Robotics has played a significant role in creating global solutions that help faster deliveries and lower costs for our customers. We’re excited to have supported the creation of AWS RoboMaker and to stand behind a service that will help accelerate robotics development and commercial deployments. We believe AWS RoboMaker will be impactful to advanced robotics operations across the world by greatly decreasing cost and time to production.”
Brian Gerkey, CEO of Open Robotics, spoke with AWS about how RoboMaker will benefit both the ROS community and AWS customers. You can read the full interview here, but here’s how Gerkey sees the partnership working out.
“We already mentioned that Amazon has full time engineers working on contributions to ROS 2, and has already released some open source tools that help migrate from ROS 1 to ROS 2. However, a major barrier to entry for many ROS and Gazebo users historically has been getting their development environment up and running on local machines. Up to now, it has worked best on a particular kind of Linux machine with a certain type of graphics card and the right drivers installed. That’s expensive and a lot of work to get set up right and stay current.
“With AWS RoboMaker, Amazon has smoothed the path to entry, making it possible to develop and test robotics software, with full simulation, from any platform, at a low cost, and with a free tier for trying it out. AWS RoboMaker handles simulation and deployments of software and updates to individual robots and fleets of robots.
“What Amazon has contributed with this new service offers the promise of being able to develop robotics apps much more easily. All of the dependencies and installation headaches get pushed to the cloud, making it easy for ROS users to access all the same tools and libraries without having to install anything locally.”
AWS shared how some of its customers, which include Embark, FIRST, FutureRobot, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Stanley Black & Decker, are using RoboMaker.
“We are planning to use autonomous ground vehicles and drones to make the construction industry more productive while reducing construction rework costs. Using a variety of imaging sensors, the collected data can be used to create 3D site models for planning and streamlining construction activities,” said Hamid Montazeri, VP of SW Engineering and Robotics, Stanley Black & Decker. “With AWS RoboMaker, we are able to easily test the robotics related software applications in a cloud environment, and rapidly generate synthetic imaging data to train our 3D site model creation algorithms. AWS RoboMaker also provides the ideal fleet management solution for use on ground vehicles and drones. The integration between AWS RoboMaker fleet management and AWS Greengrass makes it really easy to enable communications among ground vehicles, drones, and IoT solutions.”
The NASA JPL creates and works with many robots and rovers to explore space terrain. By using RoboMaker, JPL is able to visualize its open-source rover and receive near-real time metrics to understand how it’s functioning. AWS RoboMaker simulation has also enabled JPL to accelerate development of new functionality for the rover, for example by testing a robotic arm that can mimic the arm movements of a human.