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NASA, NSF Collaborate On Advanced Robotics

June 26, 2011

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will take the lead with NASA and two other federal agencies to support the administration’s National Robotics Initiative.

The initiative complements the administrations’ Advanced Manufacturing Initiative and technology transfer efforts and supports the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively, with people and that enhance individual human capabilities, performance and safety.

“To help everyone from factory workers to astronauts carry out more complicated tasks, NASA and other agencies will support research into next-generation robotics,” President Obama said during a speech Friday at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Over the past five years, tremendous advancements in robotics technology have enabled a new generation of assistive systems and devices in industries as diverse as manufacturing, logistics, medicine, health care, military, agriculture, and consumer products.

“NASA has been focused on human-robotic interaction for more than a decade, leading to flight of our newest crew member on the International Space Station, Robonaut2,” said NASA’s Chief Technologist Bobby Braun. “Our challenge today is to develop robotics technology that can increase the effectiveness and safety of humans in space and deliver cutting-edge science. Through our participation in the National Robotics Initiative, NASA will create the new knowledge, technology and capabilities needed for our future space missions while benefiting life here on Earth, today.”

It is becoming increasingly evident that these early, next generation products are a harbinger of numerous, large-scale, global, robotics technology markets likely to develop in the coming decade. The robotics initiative, which pays particular attention to fundamental research and education by academia and industry, seeks to engage our next generation of scientists and engineers in fields essential in the new global technology economy.

“It’s exciting to be on the forefront of creating new knowledge and to play a catalytic role in the development of smart technology that enhances America’s productivity and ultimately the quality of life of Americans,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh. “It’s also an opportunity to harness the expertise of our colleagues in several government agencies to tackle a major challenge and to bolster creative science and the U.S. economy. NSF is proud to lead this effort.”

The purpose of the initiative is to encourage innovative collaborative research that combines computer and systems science with mechanical, electrical and materials engineering and social, behavioral and economic sciences to tackle the most important and challenging problems in producing this class of human-assisting co-robotics.

Investments in the initiative from NASA, NIH, NSF and United States Department of Agriculture may reach $40 to $50 million in the first year, with anticipated growth in funding as other agencies and industry partners engage.

NIH has used robotics for the rapid screening of potential drugs and the subsequent discovery of new drugs. NIH anticipates robotics will play an important role in rehabilitation, home health care, and advanced robotic surgery in the near future.

The USDA encourages automated systems and improved robotics for inspection, sorting, processing or handling of animal or plant products, as well as multi-modal and rapid sensing systems for detecting defects, ripeness, physical damage, microbial contamination, size shape and other quality attributes of such products.

NSF will manage the solicitation and peer review selection process. All participating federal agencies will work with partners to foster the exchange of ideas and technologies that will directly benefit American today and well into the future.

Image 1: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, poses with Robonaut2, the dexterous humanoid astronaut helper, in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Image 2: Carnegie Mellon University is developing snake robots that can be used for search-and-rescue, inspection and even surgical applications. Credit: CMU

Image 3: Carnegie Mellon University’s Cave Crawler is a research robot designed to autonomously map underground mines and to aid in rescue missions underground. Credit: CMU

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NASA NSF Collaborate On Advanced Robotics NASA NSF Collaborate On Advanced Robotics


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