Friday, March 22, 2013

Updated Robotics Roadmap Presented to US Congress


Henrik Christensen, the KUKA Chair of Robotics at GA Tech and Chairman of the Roadmap project, Rodney Brooks, CEO of Rethink Robotics, Pete Wurman, CTO of Kiva Systems, and Russ Angold, CTO of Ekso Bionics all presented the new Roadmap to a packed gallery of the Robotics Caucus of the US Congress.

From left: Pete Wurman, Rodney Brooks, Russ Angold and Henrik Christensen

The Roadmap pdf is a must read and can be downloaded here.

The Roadmap and presentation covered six areas of robotics:
  1. Manufacturing - manufacturing represents 14% of the GDP and 11% of total employment. Close to 70% of net exports from the US are related to manufacturing. Thus manufacturing and robots are a very important area to the general economic health of the country.
  2. Medical Robots - with 40+% annual growth over the last few years in the number of medical procedures performed using robots, it is essential to continue to develop and deploy robot systems and to reduce the overall cost of care.
  3. Healthcare - finding cost-effective robotic solutions for rehabilitation and necessary household and personal tasks for the more than 11 million Americans living with severe disabilities.
  4. Service - annual growth in professional service robots (which includes inspection of power plants and infrastructure such as bridges and transmission lines) is 30%, and in domestic service applications (such as vacuums, lawnmowers and toys), the growth rate is 20%. US companies have dominated this area and it is considered economically important to maintain the momentum.
  5. Space - tremendous progress in science exploration of Mars and at the space station through the use of robotics has offered important insights into how the same systems can be used in daily lives. Partnerships such as with NASA's Robonaut team and GM, and enhanced teleoperation and remote presence consulting are examples.
  6. Defense - more than 25,000 robotic systems were deployed in ground and aerial systems in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dual use opportunities are tremendous as the FAA opens civilian airspace to these types of robotic devices. In a decade, airfreight may be transported coast-to-coast or transoceanic by remotely piloted aircrafts. This is another area where US companies have dominated and it is considered important to maintain the momentum.
While some critical capabilities and underlying technologies are domain-specific, a number are common across all six areas of robotics and include robust 3-D perception, planning and navigation, human-like dexterous manipulation, intuitive human-robot interaction, and safe robot behavior. These challenges are where the Roadmap suggests that the government stimulate development by investing in the core sciences from which the solutions will emerge.

Henrik also said about the presentation:
Robotics is one of a few technologies capable of building new companies, creating new jobs and addressing a number of issues of national importance. We hope this report will help foster the discussion on how we can build partnerships and allocate resources to move the robotics industry forward.
We had multiple members from NSF at the briefing. In DC, the program managers that work in areas related to robotics now meet regularly to discuss programs, potential future opportunities... so we are seeing a growing interest and a stronger representation in Congress and the DC community.
Good work Henrik and Bravo! for getting on so well in the Halls of Congress.