Special Issue on Computer Architecture for Robotics
Department of Information Engineering Faculty of Engineering Tohoku University
In the realization of intelligent robots, highly intelligent manipulation and movement techniques are required such as intelligent man-machine interfaces, intelligent information processing for path planning and problem solutions, practical robot vision, and high-speed sensor signal processing. Thus, very high-speed processing to cope with vast amounts of data as well as the development of various algorithms has become important subjects. To fulfill such requirements, the development of high-performance computer architecture using advanced microelectronics technology is required. For these purposes, the development of implementing computer systems’ for robots will be classified as follows: (a) Use of general-purpose computers As the performance of workstations and personal computers is increased year by year, software development is the major task without requiring hardware development except the interfaces with peripheral equipment. Since current high-level languages and software can be applied, the approach is excellent in case of system development, but the processing performance is limited. (b) Use of commercially available (V) LSI chips This is an approach to design a computer system by the combination of commercially available LSIs. Since the development of both hardware and software is involved in this system development, the development period tends to be longer than in (a). These chips include general-purpose microprocessors, memory chips, digital signal processors (DSPs) and multiply-adder LSIs. Though the kinds of available chips are limited to some degree, the approach can cope with a considerably high-performance specifications because a number of chips can be flexibly used. (c) Design, development and system configuration of VLSI chips This is an approach to develop new special-purpose VLSI chips using ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) technology, that is, semicustom or full-custom technology. If these attain practical use and are marketed, they will be widely used as high-performance VLSI chips of the level (b). Since a very high-performance specification must be satisfied, the study of very high performance VLSI computer architecture becomes very important. But this approach involving chip development requires a very long period in the design-development from the determination of processor specifications to the system configuration using the fabricated chips. For the above three approaches, the order from the viewpoint of ease of development will be (a), (b) and (c), while that from the viewpoint of performance will be (c), (b) and (a). Each approach is not exclusive but is complementary each other. For example, the development of new chips by (c) can also give new impact as the components of (a) and (b). Further, the common point of these approaches is that performance improvement by highly parallel architecture becomes important. This special edition introduces, from the above standpoint, the latest information on the present state and’ future prospects of the computer techniques in Japan. We hope that this edition will contribute to the development of this field.