Sony Semiconductor Solutions has announced an investment in Raspberry Pi Ltd, the for-profit arm of the Raspberry Pi empire, telegraphing hopes that it will be able to make its AITRIOS edge artificial intelligence (edge AI) platform the go-to way to boost the single-board computers' capabilities for low-power on-device machine learning.
"Sony Group is a longstanding and valued strategic partner. Our pre-existing relationship encompasses contract manufacturing, and the provision of image sensors and other semiconductor products," explains Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi chief executive officer and co-founder, of the companies' relationship. "This transaction will allow us to expand our partnership, bringing Sony Semiconductor Solutions' line of AI products to the Raspberry Pi ecosystem, and helping our users to build exciting new machine-learning applications at the edge."
"Our goal is to provide new value to a variety of industries and support them in solving issues using our innovative edge AI sensing technology built around image sensors," says Terushi Shimizu, Sony Semiconductor Solutions' president and chief executive officer. "We are very pleased to be partnering with Raspberry Pi Ltd. to bring our AITRIOS platform — which supports the development of unique and diverse solutions utilizing our edge AI devices — to the Raspberry Pi user and developer community, and provide a unique development experience."
AITRIOS is Sony's edge AI sensing platform, designed to make it easier to develop vision-based machine learning applications which operate both on-device and with cloud computing capabilities where required. " The name 'AITRIOS' consists of the platform keyword 'AI' and 'Trio S,' meaning, 'three S's,'" Sony explains. "Through AITRIOS, SSS aims to deliver the three S's of 'Solution,' 'Social Value,' and 'Sustainability' to the world."
While perhaps a little overblown, the three-S pillar behind AITRIOS aligns well with Raspberry Pi's own stated goals surrounding computing education and accessibility. It also provides additional grist for the rumor mill surrounding the Raspberry Pi 5, a still-theoretical successor to the popular Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer family and its potential to include on-device accelerators specifically targeting machine learning acceleration.
In 2021, Upton spoke at the tinyML Summit 2021 suggesting that the company's in-house application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) team may be working on compact accelerator cores — which would dovetail nicely with Sony's vision for AITRIOS.
For now, though, there's nothing confirmed about the Raspberry Pi 5 — and neither has Sony nor Raspberry Pi Ltd confirmed the value of Sony's investment, though Sony describes it as a "minority investment."