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PI meeting for the National Robotics Initiative

September 15, 2013 Leave a comment

The National Robotics Initiative will have its first PI meeting on October 1-2, 2013. The meeting will be organized by the Robotics Virtual Organization (Robotics-VO) and take place at Hyatt Crystal City, Crystal City, VA.

It is anticipated that more than 200 people will attend the meeting. The program includes presentations by the NRI program managers / agencies, highlighted PI presentations, industry panels and presentations by program managers from other agencies such as ONR, DARPA and NIST. Finally all funded NRI projects will feature 1 or more posters. The event is an excellent opportunity to see the diverse of projects that are carried out within the NRI and also to get a sense of other opportunities that are emerging related to robotics.

Two tutorials are also organized as part of the program. One related to rapid prototyping of hardware using 3D printing, folding, … and another related to ROS/Gazebo.

Georgia Tech Robotics secures $2.3M in funding from NSF

September 15, 2013 Leave a comment

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded more than $2 million to fund projects led by Georgia Tech robotics researchers. The principal investigators (PIs) and co-PIs for these projects represent three of the Institute’s six colleges, illustrating the interdisciplinary collaboration that distinguishes Tech as a leader in the national initiative to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States.

Georgia Tech faculty have a strong tradition of exceptional research and a robust interdisciplinary focus . Extremely proud of and continually impressed with the contributions our researchers make to advancing robotics

Three projects received NSF funding through the National Robotics Initiative program, which was unveiled by President Obama in June 2011, and is led by NSF with support from NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Tech’s new projects focus on the development of the next generation of robotics and the advancement of the capability and usability of such systems in innovative application areas:

  • “Learning from Demonstration for Cloud Robotics”—Led by School of Interactive Computing Associate Professor Andrea Thomaz, this project received $426K and aims to leverage cloud computing to enable robots to efficiently learn from remote human domain experts.
  • “Understanding Neuromuscular Adaptations in Human-Robot Physical Interaction for Adaptive Robot Coworkers”—Led by School of Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Jun Ueda, this research focuses on developing theories, methods, and tools to understand the mechanisms of neuromotor adaptation in human-robot physical interaction. Associate Professor Minoru Shinohara (School of Applied Physiology) and Assistant Professor Karen Feigh (School of Aerospace Engineering) serve as co-PIs on the project, which received almost $1.2M.
  • “Don’t Read My Face: Tackling the Challenges of Facial Masking in Parkinson’s Disease Rehabilitation through Co-Robot Mediators”—Led by College of Computing Associate Dean & Regents’ Professor, Ronald Arkin, this project received almost $580K and has two primary goals: 1) developing a robotic architecture endowed with moral emotional control mechanisms, abstract moral reasoning, and theory of mind sensitive to human affect and ethics; and 2) creating a specific architecture for a robot to mediate communication barriers between caregivers and patients with Parkinson’s disease who experience “facial masking,” or lack of recognizable emotion.

The fourth project, “Bioinspired Collaborative Sensing with Novel Gliding Robotic Fish,” received more than $83K from the NSF’s Robust Intelligence (RI) program, which encompasses all aspects of the computational understanding and modeling of intelligence in complex, realistic contexts. Led by School of Electrical & Computer Engineering Associate Professor Fumin Zhang, the research aims to establish a theoretical framework and provide an enabling technology for robust underwater collaborative sensing with small, inexpensive robots.

Robotics research at Tech attracts more than $35 million in sponsored research each year. Core research areas include mechanisms, control, perception, artificial intelligence, human interaction, and application technologies. The Institute continues to advance personal and everyday robotics through its research into the ways robots can learn from and interact with humans, and by exploring issues surrounding their governance and ethical use.

Categories: AMRON, robotics Tags: ,

Robots and Humans

Great story in NY Times today about the cooperation between humans and robots. The next generation of robot system systems will be Co-robots where they cooperate with humans to perform tasks that may be difficult to perform by humans alone as they require heavy lifting, high precision or the tasks are highly repetitive. Humans are still incredible in terms of perception, dexterity, cognition and reasoning, so the combined human-robot system offers a number of added advantages.

One of the challenges is also is also to provide easy programming. A traditional industrial system will have a cost break down of ~25% for the robot, ~25% for auxiliary hardware and 50% for software. Through new programming paradigms it is possible to design systems that are much faster to program – the Baxter robot is an example of a new generation of such systems.

Categories: AMRON, robotics Tags: , ,

Updated National Robotics Roadmap

As mentioned in an earlier posting the US National Robotics Roadmap was published the past week. The roadmap is a revision of the First US Robotics Roadmap that was released May 2009 based on a CCC sponsored study. The second version of the roadmap contained an update to three sections i) manufacturing, ii) healthcare/medical robotics, and iii) service applications (domestic and professional). In addition, new sections covering defense and space were added to the roadmap.

During 2011 we saw a 40+% increased in robot sales in the US for manufacturing. We also saw significant growth to service and healthcare applications. Overall the sector experienced fantastic growth. We have also seen how utilization of robotics and automation has enabled companies such as Apple, Lenovo, GE, Foxconn, … to setup new manufacturing facilities on US soil. Robotics has become an important catalyst to drive forward jobs, the economy and building stronger communities. An important challenge is to ensure education of our workforce. This includes all levels of the enterprise from design to manufacturing and from factory floor to board room. We have a significantly shortage of people to staff the manufacturing enterprise.

Categories: AMRON, robotics Tags: ,

Robots to Spur Economy, Improve Quality of Life, Keep Responders Safe

March 20, 2013 2 comments

Press release from Georgia Tech – March 20:

Robots are being used more widely than expected in a variety of sectors, and the trend is likely to continue with robotics becoming as ubiquitous as computer technology over the next 15 years.

That is the message Henrik Christensen, Georgia Tech’s KUKA Chair of Robotics in the College of Computing, will bring to the Congressional Robotics Caucus on March 20 as he presents, “A Roadmap for U.S. Robotics: From Internet to Robotics – 2013 Edition.”

The report, which outlines the progress of robots in multiple industries over the last five years and identifies goals for the coming decade, highlights robotics as a key economic enabler with the potential to transform U.S. society.

“Robots have the potential to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., to improve our quality of life and to make sure our first responders and warfighters stay safe,” said Christensen, who is also the coordinator of Robotics VO, sponsor of the report. “We need to address the technical and educational needs so we can continue to be leaders in developing and using robotic technology.”

A group of more than 160 experts from universities, industry and government came together for five workshops over the last year to fully evaluate the use of robotics across various applications and create a roadmap to the future. Christensen is presenting that report to lawmakers as a guide on how to allocate resources to maximize progress.

Most notably, the group found using robots in manufacturing could help generate production systems that are economically competitive to outsourcing to countries with lower wages.

Already companies like Apple, Lenovo, Samsung and Foxconn have begun to “reshore” manufacturing by using robotics in production systems. The sale of robotics in manufacturing grew by 44 percent in 2011 as robots have become cheaper and safer. The use of robots is shifting from big companies like GM, Ford, Boeing and Lockheed Martin to small and medium-sized enterprises to enable burst manufacturing for one-off products, the report found.

But Christensen notes that automation in manufacturing will not lead to job losses for U.S. workers, but will create new high-value jobs.

“Some jobs will be eliminated but they are the ‘dirty, dull and dangerous’ jobs,” Christensen said. “Those jobs will be replaced with skilled labor positions. That’s why one of the goals in the roadmap is to educate the workforce.”

In addition to manufacturing, robots are helping businesses, such as Amazon, improve logistics and reduce delivery costs, a savings that could be passed onto the consumer. In agriculture, robots are being used to precisely deliver pesticide onto crops, reducing unnecessary exposure of chemicals on produce. The report recommends that progress in both areas be expanded.

With advances in human-like manipulation, robots are increasingly assisting individuals with disabilities with tasks like getting out and preparing meals. They are also being used in 40 percent more medical procedures than a few years ago in a greater number of surgical areas such as cardiothoracic, gynecology, urology, orthopedics, and neurology. The use of robots for surgery can reduce the complications by 80 percent, the report found.

Robots have proven their value in removing first-responders and soldiers from immediate danger. More than 25,000 robotic systems were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for ground and aerial missions. More than 50 percent of pilots in the U.S. Air Force operate remotely piloted systems and never leave the ground.

Robots are also becoming integral part of space exploration, such as Opportunity and Curiosity on Mars. A “robonaut” is on the International Space Station helping with menial but important research tasks.

As impressive as the progress in robotics has been, the report outlines 5-, 10- and 15-year goals to take robotics to the next level. Critical capabilities that should be developed for robotics include 3-D perception, intuitive human-robot interaction and safe robot behavior.

The report is an update to the initial robotics roadmap, which was published and presented to Congress in May 2009. That roadmap led to the creation of the National Robotics Initiative, an effort jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Institutes of Health. It also established Robotics VO, an umbrella organization that brings all robotics players together to focus on joint initiatives.

“Robotics is one of a few technologies capable of building new companies, creating new jobs and addressing a number of issues of national importance,” said Christensen. “We hope this report will help foster the discussion on how we can build partnerships and allocate resources to move the robotics industry forward.”

Categories: AMRON, robotics Tags: , ,

A new year has arrived

January 1, 2013 Leave a comment

A new year is here. Welcome to 2013.

The time around New Year is a great time to reflect on how far we came in 2012 and where we might be going in 2013. Looking at this from a professional point of view I think robotics is a very exciting place to be.

2012 we had a number of great things happen:

  • The joint NSF, USDA, NIH, and NASA National Robotics Initiative saw its first set of awards. In total more than 700 proposal were received, which were reviewed in 20+ panels. The request for funding was close to $1B and with an projected budget of $45m it was no surprise that success rates on proposals was low. However, we now have officially a set of ~30 projects that are funded under the NRI. I am sure we will see many proposals submitted for the 2012/2013 round.
  • A new organization the US Robotics Virtual Organization or robotics-vo for short was launched. This is a national robotics network similar in spirit to the European Robotics Network – EURON, that was launched around 2000. The network is trying to coordinate – a roadmap for robotics in the US, educational resources, best practise for technlogy transfer, and a press club for dissemination of information about robotics.
  • As one of the first efforts the Robotics-VO has setup a set of five workshops on roadmapping. This in turn has enabled an update of the US National Robotics Roadmap. The old roadmap from 2009 was in need up an update and many things has happened since then. In addition there was a need to augment the roadmap with consider military/first responder needs and also to align the roadmap with the NASA agenda. All of this has been accomplished and shortly (February) the revised roadmap will be published. A briefing to the congressional caucus on robotics has also been planned.
  • During 2012 we saw some major commercial successes. KIVA was sold to Amazon for 700m+ which clearly illustrates the potential for use of robot technology in logistics. An area we can expect to see further growth in during 2013.
  • The year 2012 we also saw the public announcement of the first robot Baxter from Rethink Robotics (former Heartland Robotics). A two armed robot that is considered safe for use in human environments at a price of less than $25k is a major achievement. It appears to be well suited for simple pick and place operations. It will be interesting to get a hands-on experience to see how well it does in real applications. With a higher speed it could be very interesting for logistics applications. The stiffness could be a challenge for real assembly operations, but it will be interesting to test it. Also a developer API is supposed to surface shortly for academic users.
  • There are by now a fair number of dual arm manipulator systems and given a mobile platform it is only natural DARPA launched the Disaster Robotics Challenge, where teams use humanoid platforms to demonstrate performance for first responder type scenarios. Given what we saw at Fukoshima in Japan during March 2011 this is a very natural and timely opportunity.
  • Apple announced that they will start manufacturing the next iMac line of computers in the US. The fact that we have started to in-source is a big deal. Through use of automation we can close the barrier between manufacturing with low salary workers and smart manufacturing systems. Others such as Tesla have decided from the outset that manufacturing will be in the US.
  • Willow Garage spun-out their perception work in Industrial Perception and the ROS effort was made independent in Open Source Robotics Foundation, and other systems such as the Point Cloud LIbrary and OpenCV was also made into independent entities. An industrial version of ROS was also launched through the South Western Research Institute.

For 2013 there is no doubt that we will see a number of new interesting opportunities

  • The National Robotics Iniative will continue to grow and as more agencies become active players in the program there is no doubt we can build sustainability, growth and longer-term perspectives. It will be important to see further engagement of industry to make sure that new R&D efforts lead to results that are commercialized. The objective is clearly to try to at least have a budget of $100m for 2013/2014.
  • The first Robotics-VO PI meeting will take place and it will be a great opportunity to get a broader sense of what is contained in the program and also to try to engage industry in transition of results into real products / processes
  • The first results from the DARPA DRC will be shown. Initially it will be in simulation, which will be a good start.
  • More and more companies such as Motoman, Rethink Robotics, Schunk, Yujin, … are providing two armed manipulation system. It will be exciting to see new applications with these systems in manufacturing, logistics and service applications. The real challenge is now in the integration of these systems into applications
  • For the application of robots it will be interesting to monitor the Industrial ROS effort. Traditionally industry has had a hard time embracing open source. There are a number of challenges in terms of stable releases, a unified architecture, proper code reviews, etc that must be adopted to make these systems reliable enough to be used in major manufacturing systems. However this challenge has been overcome before. Excellent examples include Linux, GNU (sub-systems), … Through consideration of best practise in these areas there is no doubt that robot systems integration can arrive at a similar place, which could lead to a new degree of economic growth due to lower price of deployment and a higher degree of interoperability.
  • The EU is launching a new framework program by the end of the year. The new program is named Horizon 2020. The most relevant program is in the cognitive systems and robotics division. The program enable broader international collaboration (INCO) and the initial focus will be around inclusion of US partners in new projects. That is – US universities and companies – can participate as equal partners in the projects and also be paid by the EU as part of a projects. In this past this has been possible in theory but in reality it has been a major challenge to make this happen.

These are merely a few of the things we can look forward to in 2013. This is going to be another exciting year! Happy New Year to Everyone.

Categories: AMRON, robotics

Check-out the Robotics-VO website

September 23, 2012 1 comment

The website for the US Robotics Virtual Organization - Robotics-VO is now live. The website has a number of useful tools. It covers the progress on the update of the US National Roadmap for Robotics. It has a fairly comprehensive calendar with calls for proposals, conferences, deadlines for papers, and we are starting to see educational material emerge aswell. Please check out the site. Much of the information is only available after you register. For now only people in the US can register to use the site (sorry).

Categories: AMRON, robotics

IFR/Metra Martech study predicts job creation through use of robots

November 23, 2011 2 comments

About a year ago IFR (International Federation of Robotics) contracted the company Metra Martech to study the impact of robotics on employment. Typically people predict that introduction of robots result in loss of jobs. Recent publications such as the “Make it in America” by Andrew Liveris, CEO and Chairman of Dow Chemical have suggested that through adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies the industrialized nations can compete with countries where low-salary workers are responsible for the manufacturing.

The recent Metra Martech study estimates that close to 3 million jobs today are enabled by use of 1 million robots. In addition the report predicts that over the next five years another 1 million jobs will be created due to adoption of robotics technology for applications in consumer electronics, solar & wind, and advanced fuel cell technology.

Both Japan and Germany are leaders in use of robotics technology and this has resulted in  increased employment in sectors such as automotive, that traditionally have been heavy users of robotics technology.

The report predicts that robots will continue to be major players in automation of factories, but that the new application areas will include elderly care and medical applications. In addition homeland security and defense will maintain its position as a high value market.

More information about the study is available from the IFR web site. The report can also be downloaded from their website.

Categories: AMRON, robotics Tags: ,

Invitation to participate in Robotics-VO

October 24, 2011 2 comments

Dear US Colleagues

An american robotics network is being launched. The network is termed the Robotics Virtual Organization (Robotics-VO). The formation of the network is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, but has to be self-sufficient
by the end of the first year.

The network will initially serve four functions.

  1. Maintenance of a research roadmap for robotics in the US
  2. Support for educational efforts across all levels
  3. Document and promote processes to ensure adoption of robotics technology by industry and society at large
  4. Dissemination of information about robotics.

A steering committee will be setup to organize the roadmap process. The expectation is that an updated roadmap will be published every two years. The process will be similar to the one adopted by SEMATECH for semiconductors.
We will review the present roadmap. From this current timelines will be updated and new opportunities will be identified. As updated roadmaps are published the Robotics-VO will work with agencies to consider how the plans can be adopted by different agencies. We encourage US researchers to become actively engaged in the road-mapping process. We expect to launch a discussion about the revision of the roadmap before end of November 2011 and hope to have a revised roadmap published by May 2012 (ICRA 2012). The roadmap process is managed by Vijay Kumar, UPENN and Henrik I Christensen, GaTech. To register for updates and to become engaged in the road-mapping please send email to roadmapping@robotics-vo.org

For educational efforts there is a need to consider how we can utilize resources across the community to educate people across K-12, universities, community colleges, … The educational effort involves aspects across sharing of lecture material to lab exercises, to resources for education such as lab platforms, to standard kits for design of robots by students and standard software packages to expose students to methods within robotics. We will build up a repository of lecture material, lab exercises, standard software packages, hardware platforms, picture database of robots, a video channel of US robots on YouTube, … The educational robotics effort is coordinated by Chad Jenkins, Brown and Rafael Fierro, UNM. To become engaged in this process of setting up and defining educational resources please send email to robotics-education@robotics-vo.org.

For technology transfer and adoption of robotics technology there is a need to team up with organizations such as RTC, RIA, AUVSI and other industry organizations to i) study successful examples of tech transfer from universities, ii) to understand the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, iii) to promote new applications of robotics, iv) to consider ways to promote transition of technology through competitions such as the recently organized RoboBowl. Could we imagine regional robobowls? It is anticipated that a strong collaboration will be setup with RTC, RIA and AUVSI to document best practice for transition of new technology to established companies and start-ups. The effort will be coordinated by Bill Thomasmeyer, RTC. To become engaged in the process please send email to techtransfer@robotics-vo.org and we will make sure you are added to the mailing list.

It is well-known that a single segment on CNN might have the same impact as N papers at ICRA/IROS. There is a need to have an educated media presence and to build relations to well established media. A press club will be organized participation of a number of known media outlets. The objective is to have an objective dialog about robotics across media such as major TV channels, big newspapers, and science outlets such as scientific america, new scientist,…. Robotics-VO will build up a club of journalists that will be educated on the value and limitations of robotics technology to avoid the frequent - “Jobs will be lost to robots” without a clear articulation of pros and cons. In addition a catalogue of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) will be defined to allow media to have access to people from academia and industry that can speak with authority about a particular subject. We will have a central phone number through which media can get pointers to the best experts in the US for particular subjects. If you have an interest to be engaged in discussions with media or to be listed as a subject matter expert please send an email to press@robotics-vo.org. We will follow-up to make sure you are listed under the right category for future media queries.

We are at present trying to get a web-site launched www.robotics-vo.org. However, it is valuable to get the different efforts underway already now. We thus encourage you to send email to the provided addresses to become engaged in the launch and operation of the robotics-vo. The success of the robotics-vo is essential to the future of robotics in the US.

We are slowly setting up an academic and industry advisory board for the robotics-vo.

If you have an interest in participation on the respective boards you are most welcome to contact the founding coordinator of the network - coordinator@robotics-vo.org

If you have questions, comments, suggestions, feedback please contact us as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely
Henrik I Christensen
Robotics-VO coordinator

Categories: AMRON

Building a Robotics Network in the US

The Cyber-Physical Systems community has setup a virtual organization – http://www.cps-vo.org. The objective is coordinate initiatives in the community. This is a great way to facilitate broad engagement in pushing the agenda, organizing educational activities, …

A similar initiative for robotics has just been approved by the NSF. The new initiative is termed the Robotics Virtual Organization (Robotics-VO). The initiative will be initiated by August 1 and hopefully have real substance by mid September.

Abstract

Recently a national robotics initiative was launched – http://www.nsf.gov/nri. The initiative is directed at basic research in robotics, using robotics to strengthen manufacturing, create new services and provide support to first responders. An important part of the initiative is fundamental research, transition of results to industry and increased awareness of the potential of robotics. The initiative is in many respects a follow on from the CCC roadmap on robotics “From Internet to Robotics” which was sponsored by NSF. For the implementation of the national robotics initiative there is a need to provide a common forum for the different parties that have an interest in the initiative across researchers, entrepreneurs, companies, government agencies and society at large. The present project is directed at the creation of a virtual organization that can provide the necessary infrastructure support for the initiative. NSF has already provided an example of such a virtual organization for Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS-VO). Given the investment in infrastructure for CPS this project will leverage the same infrastructure for creation of a VO for the area of robotics. In addition to a web portal for community dissemination and coordination the initiative will include efforts on i) road-mapping, ii) cross agency consultation, iii) coordination of education initiatives including STEM, iv) mechanisms for efficient technology transfer and industry engagement, and v) dissemination of information to the broader community. The objective is to make the VO self-sustainable and to have integration with other organizations such as Robot Industry Association, Robotics Technology Council, AUVSI, etc.

Intellectual Merit – Significant resources are devoted to R&D on robotics across industry and government agencies. It is essential to coordinate efforts to maximize the impact. In addition, there is a need to build educational resources where best practice is used across all institutions in the US to ensure access to the best human capital. There is also a need to study best practice for transition of results for exploitation. Finally there is a need to bring together the resources for provide broad information about the impact of robotics.

Broader Impact – A national robotics initiative is launched for the creation of basic technologies that can grow the economy, secure healthcare for future generations and provide support to first responders. It is essential from a societal perspective that the use of such resources is optimized to maximize the impact in terms of economic growth, job creation and provide services to the citizen. The organization of a Robotics-VO provides the required infrastructure support and coordination to ensure effective use of resources.

Categories: AMRON Tags: ,
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