The Way Forward of Robotics

The US leads the world in graduate engineering education. Many engineering undergraduate programs have adopted robotics as a teaching tool. And high school are using robotics as a lure to STEM education, with tens of thousands of high school students from all socio-economic levels taking part in the robotic competitions.

To accelerate the field, research is a number of key areas need to be undertaken. It ranges from fundamental long term research to practical ready to deploy developments, as enumerated in that order below:

• Visual object recognition: our robots today are not very aware of their surroundings, as we do not have general-purpose vision algorithms that can recognize particular objects never seen before as an instance of a known class.

• Manipulation: our robots today are not very dexterous as we have hardly had any multi fingered hand to work with. When mobile robot platforms started becoming available to researchers in the 80’s and 90’s the field of intelligent robot navigation exploded. We need to develop widely deployable robot hands so that hundreds of researchers can experiment with manipulation.

• Material Science: materials science is producing radically new materials with sometimes hard to believe properties. At the moment, robotics sits on the sidelines and uses these new materials as they might be applicable. A focused program on materials science and robotics would couple researchers in the two fields together to ensure that new materials that specifically benefit robotics are investigated and invented.

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