DOD joins quest for better robots

Could robots revitalize the American manufacturing economy?

President Barack Obama thinks they could, and in late June he announced the National Robotics Initiative as part of a larger effort to promote a resurgence of American manufacturing. Now the Defense Department has put its weight behind the effort with the solicitation for fiscal 2012 of the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program.

The purpose of the effort is to "to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people," according to the National Science Foundation's solicitation fact sheet. The goal is to develop a new generation of robots and to encourage communities that could use them well to do so.

The Research Instrumentation Program exists to fund innovative instrumentation research in areas that interest DOD. For fiscal 2012, the solicitation asks for proposals in instrumentation to support robotics.

"This announcement is critical to the success of the National Robotics Initiative, given the role that equipment can play in enabling researchers to develop next-generation applications," wrote Tom Kalil and Chuck Thorpe on the White House's Office of Science Technology and Policy blog. "We hope that the Defense Department’s investments will serve as a catalyst for additional partnerships between the robotic industry and the academic research community."

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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