Get ready for a load of acronyms. The Computer Research Association, known as the CRA for short, is made up of more than 200 North American universities. They aim to strengthen the US position in computing research. One of their committees, the Computing Coummunity Consortium (CCC) tries to figure out what areas we need to focus our research on and come up with appropriate research goals to get there. And here's where it gets more interesting to us. The NSF (that's the National Science Foundation) has given the CCC a grant to take a look at the field of robotics, leading to the CCC Initiative in Robotics. What they're doing is trying to determine what key robotics technologies are going to be needed over the next 5 to 15 years and develop a roadmap of associated R & D goals. To do this, they held 4 workshops in 2008 on Manufacturing and Automation Robotics, Healthcare and Medical Robotics, Service Robotics, and Emerging Technologies. That brings up to the present, when the CCC blog reports that the Robotics Initiative is preparing their roadmap for the NSF, NIST, DARPA, NIH, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. We don't know their full findings yet but here are a few choice previews of what's to come:
There is a need to consider new methods for easy programming of robots, and further integration of sensory information to enable robust and safe operations.
Wider adoption of healthcare robotics calls for new methods in machine learning, human robot interaction and flexible mechanisms for physical interaction with humans.
For domestic services there is a need to provide cleaning, surveillance, life sign monitoring, remote video, etc to assist people in their busy lives, but also to provide key functionality to enable people to remain in their homes as mobility and mental capabilities are reduced with age.
There is a potential to create an entirely new industry for cognitively endowed robots with richer interaction with the world.
The roadmap itself as well as supporting documents should be posted to the Robotics Initiative website in the near future.