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.
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.”
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.
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.