The last year has been great for Nvidia hardware. Nvidia released a graphics card using the Pascal architecture, 1080s are heating up server rooms the world over, and now Nvidia is making yet another move at high-performance, low-power computing. Today, Nvidia announced the Jetson TX2, a credit-card sized module that brings deep learning to the embedded world.
The Jetson TX2 is the follow up to the Jetson TX1. We took a look at it when it was released at the end of 2015, and the feelings were positive with a few caveats. The TX1 is still a very fast, very capable, very low power ARM device that runs Linux. It’s low power, too. The case Nvidia was trying to make for the TX1 wasn’t well communicated, though. This is ultimately a device you attach several cameras to and run OpenCV. This is a machine learning module. Now it appears Nvidia has the sales pitch for their embedded platform down.
Embedded Deep Learning
The marketing pitch for the Jetson TX2 is, “deep learning at the edge”. While this absolutely sounds like an alphabet soup of dorknobabble, it does parse rather well.
The new hotness every new CS grad wants to get into is deep learning. It’s easy to see why — deep learning is found in everything from drones to self-driving cars. These ‘cool’ applications of deep learning have a problem: they all need a lot of processing power, but these are applications that are on a power budget. Building a selfie drone that follows you around wouldn’t be a problem if you could plug it into the wall, but that’s not what selfie drones are for.
The TX2 is designed as a local deep learning and AI platform. The training for this AI will still happen in racks of servers loaded up with GPUs. However, the inference process for this AI must happen close to the camera. This is where the Jetson comes in. By using the new Nvidia Jetpack SDK, the Jetson TX2 will be able to run TensorRT, cuDNN, VisionWorks, OpenCV, Vulkan, OpenGL, and other machine vision, machine learning, and GPU-accelerated applications.
Like the Nvidia TX1 before it, the Jetson TX2 is a credit card-sized module bolted onto a big heatsink. The specs are a significant upgrade from the TX1:
- Graphics: Nvidia Pascal GPU, 256 CUDA cores
- CPU: Dual-core Denver + quad-core ARM A57
- RAM: 8GB 128-bit LPDDR4
- Storage: 32GB EMMC, SDIO, SATA
- Video: 4k x 2x 60Hz Encode and Decode
- Display: HDMI 2.0, eDP 1.4, 2x DSI, 2x DP 1.2
- Ports and IO: USB 3.0, USB 2.0 (host mode), HDMI, M.2 Key E, PCI-E x4, Gigabit Ethernet, SATA data and power, GPIOs, I2C, I2S, SPI, CAN
The Jetson development kit is the TX2 module and a breakout board that is effectively a MiniITX motherboard. This is great for a development platform, but not for production. In the year and a half since the release of the Jetson TX1, at least one company has released carrier boards that break out the most commonly used peripherals and ports. The hardware interface of the TX2 is backward compatible with the TX1, so these breakout boards may be used with the newer TX2.
The TX2 module will be available in 2Q17, with pricing at $399 in 1k quantities. The development kit will cost a bit more. If you’d like to develop your own breakout for the TX2, the physical connector is sourceable, and the manufacturer is extremely liberal with sample requests.