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).
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.
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.
- Maintenance of a research roadmap for robotics in the US
- Support for educational efforts across all levels
- Document and promote processes to ensure adoption of robotics technology by industry and society at large
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com. 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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have questions, comments, suggestions, feedback please contact us as soon as possible.
Henrik I Christensen
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.
Last Friday, June 24 – 2011, President Obama have a presentation at NREC @ CMU about the importance of manufacturing to United States, and the need to strengthen the area. To address this challenge three initiatives were launched. The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership – which is an industry-academia partnership to make manufacturing more agile through fasters transition of designs from the desk to delivery. The initiative clearly has some overlap in objectives with the DARPA Open Manufacturing Initiative. The ultimate objective is agile manufacturing of lot size – 1 products. Such an initiative has a clear potential to seriously impact economic growth and job creation in the US. The initiative is launched based on the fundings in the PCAST report on manufacturing
In addition the material genome project was announced, as an endeavor to allow US companies to do research on new materials at a higher speed and lower cost through use of advanced simulation methods.
Finally the use of robotics to grow the economy was introduced. It is clear that robotics has reached a level where it offers significant flexibility for rapid tooling and flexible manufacturing. To grow the potential of robotics and to make sure that US has a strong R&D base, a National Robotics Initiative (NRI) is launched. The NRI will be managed through NSF but has active participation of NIH, NASA, and USDA. The first call for proposals is the fall of 2011 and then annually thereafter. The NRI is the implementation of a research strategy based on the US Robotics Roadmap – From Internet to Robotics, that was sponsored by CCC and a result of a broad national discussion on robotics.
It is very exciting that there finally is a national robotics program in the US. To push forward an agenda in robotics some of the major stakeholders – RIA, RTC, AUVSI and a group of academics have created a National Robotics Roundtable to coordinate efforts to maximize impact.
The last week I have started a discussion on the organization of an American Robotics Network. The issues as I see them involve:
- Creation of American Robotics Network – AMRON
- Research Coordination.
- Technology Transfer
- Educational Efforts
- Press Relations / Club of Journalists
- Liaison with other organizations
- Getting off the ground
- Questions to be considered. Need input
1. Creation of AMRON
We have come a long way with the CCC / National Robotics Effort in terms of defining a roadmap for robotics, getting it implemented in DC, raising awareness in US about robotics and starting to build a community across institutions. It may be time to move on to the creation of an American Robotics Network (AMRON)
Earlier efforts that have been successful include the European Robotics Network – EURON, that I was part of setting up. One could see AMRON as having 5-6 main trusts:
- Maintaining the roadmap and promoting it to agencies, …
- Consultations to US agencies on research, education and societal impact
- Tech Transfer and Best Practice for setting up new companies in robotics
- Educational initiatives and resources
- Organization of a press club on robotics
- Liaison with other organizations (internationally and nationally)
2. Research Coordination – Roadmap and Agency Consultations
We have already defined the first version of the roadmap. It will be important to maintain the roadmap over time and to work with agencies to see how the roadmap can be implemented. As initiatives are launched and results emerge the roadmap should be updated. Over time it would be helpful to have a number of benchmarks defined to have quantitative progress – beyond “we are doing great send more money”. Various benchmarks are emerging such as the manufacturing/logistics benchmarks, the perception challenge by Willow, … It would be great to have more measures. It makes it much easier to argue for resources with grand challenges and metrics to evaluate progress. It will be essential to make sure that the revision of the roadmap is carried out in close collaboration with the key industrial players such as RTC, RIA but also companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Motorola, C&S, iRobot, Willow,
It is also important to provide support to organizations as to how they can implement part of the roadmap and how their programs relate to the wider effort. Within Cyber Physical Systems NSF is sponsoring a virtual organization – www.cps-vo.org that provides such coordination and support. We should have a similar effort within robotics.
3. Technology Transfer
It would also be helpful to have an effort to study ways to improve technology transfer and to discuss the main obstacles to transition of results to industry or start-ups. What are the main challenges and can we document a number of successful examples of how results can be achieved. EURON has an annual tech transfer competition where primarily
start-up competed to win the tech transfer award. The companies that win received a trophy, a small cash award, but also significant press / media coverage. The latter is a major attractor for companies. If you are a small start-up and you can get major coverage by CNN, NY Times, … it makes a big difference. The process of acquiring/generating the
IP, getting access to VC funding, building the product, marketing, … can be exemplified for other to learn from. Only when we build more successful examples of how robotics is more widely used can we expect to have major impact and acquire more support for robotics in general.
4. Educational Efforts
Big institutions have major educational programs. However, a majority of the researchers in robotics are from small
institutions where it may be difficult to organize a large coherent program and there is often a degree of isolation. It would be desirable to build up an educational repository with example lectures, example exercises, pictures of systems and robotics, a channel on youtube with robots, … maybe even a national robotics twitter stream. …. The purpose is to provide inspiration for others as they prepare new courses, to provide easy access to educational resources, and reference examples. It is evident that companies such as National Instruments, MapleSoft, Mathworks, …. all would love to provide support for such an effort. In the longer term one could also imagine organizing “summer schools/short courses” on specific topics. This has been done in Europe with great success. By definition not everyone can have direct access to to the best lecturers and world experts. For graduate students senior/prominent researcher are often difficult to
access at conferences as we go to N>>1 meetings, socialize with our peers, …. At focussed schools/courses it is possible for students to get access and to talk to these researchers on a one on one basis, which is very valuable. At the same time these events creates a social network across junior researchers, which is extremely valuable to their future career in robotics. AMRON should provide and promote mechanisms to make this possible.
5. Press Relations / Club of Journalists
It is of interest to all of us to build a press club with journalists from Scientific America, New Scientist, CNN, NY Times, Washington Post, Gizmodo, … to generate more awareness of robotics, but also to give them first access to the latest news. This has been done in Europe with success. We had a group of journalists with an inside track to launching stories and they knew they would get first access. As an example at GT we have had CNN HQ in Atlanta and we have had 3 major robotics stories as part of the “The big-I” segment over the last 6 months. Such stories generates very significant awareness. AMRON should include a press club to make sure that new autonomous cars, the latest medical robot, … are features in the best media. This is an efficient way to make decision makers aware that robotics is a big part of the future and not a job killer.
6. Liaison with other organizations
Obviously AMRON would not exist on its own and it will be essential to build relations with other organizations such as IEEE RAS, EURON, RIA, RTC, … This is important to build stronger international awareness but also to make sure that there is no unnecessary replication of effort.
7. Getting of the ground
It is anticipated that start-up of the effort will be on a voluntary basis. It may be unrealistic to wait for a funding agency to sponsor such and effort, at least not initially. In the long term it may be possible to attract support from agencies, but also have industrial support from companies such as NI, Maplesoft, … To get AMRON off the ground we need at least:
- a global mailing list (being set-up as email@example.com but to moved to an official domain)
- a web site with basic information
- a way for new people to get engaged (to register for membership)
- have area leads for each of the areas mentioned above
Once we have that we can start to build a professional organization. We would have to think about:
- admission procedure for new member (simple models are OK)
- organization of a board
- election procedures to make it democratic / transparent
For now I propose that we make it a relatively simple / lean organization to get things underway.
8. Questions – Need your input on
As people register I would like to use a web based mechanism to create yellow pages of all the groups involved so that we have a catalogue of research groups in the US. This is a valuable resource in its own right and would as an example help in mustering support for and by the congressional caucus on robotics.
A question that has been posed is the possible scope of this. Should we make this a purely US organization or should we try to engage research groups from Canada, Mexico, …. Love to hear your opinion about this.
I have had a number of discussions with people about this. Bill Thomasmeyer has indicated that RTC might be able to host an organization such as AMRON. What are your feelings about this? How do we build a relation to RIA to make sure that we are connected to some of the big industry players?
QUESTIONS THAT I WOULD LIKE FEEDBACK ON
a) Is AMRON a good idea?
b) Is the outlined set of activities mentioned above the right ones
c) Are any of you ready to volunteer to be area leads?
d) Are you ready to assist in getting more people involved?
e) Should AMRON be American in a wider sense of US focussed?
f) Any opinions about managing AMRON through an organization such as RTC?
I would like to get this underway as soon as possible to make sure that we can leverage the momentum from a National Robotics Initiative. It will also be an important mechanism to make sure that we can maintain a push forward. Looking forward to hearing your feedback.