Monday, September 26, 2005

WTEC: "Robotics In US Underfunded." (Wired News)

The World Technology Evaluation Center presented the findings from their Study on International R&D in robotics.

Delivering the presentation was the ancient fellow you see here, Dr. George A. Bekey of USC. Dr. Bekey spoke briefly on how robot funding is being handled in several key sectors including space exploration, medical applications and transportation. His talk included discussion of American funding policy. The lecture is dry and the presentation slides are terrible (at times, downright illegible), but the information is probably worth observing for anyone interested in this industry in a serious capacity.

A layman's discussion of the presentation's meaning can be found in the Wired News Article about the event, but if you prefer to know the whole story, the full presentation is available as well.

I find it disappointing to see robotics underfunded in the country most people think of as the birthplace of modern computing. Hopefully we'll see more investors with patience who are willing to take the risk on robot projects and see their rewards in five to ten years.

One thing that was telling about the presentation was the complete lack of industry involvement. It was a six man panel made up of four academics and two government men from NASA. Don't get me wrong--these men are brilliant roboticists. Vijay Kumar's work alone is intimidatingly comprehensive. All of them have distinguished and impressive careers in this industry. But at the end of the day none of them manage businesses that sell robots. I guess it was too much trouble to get Rodney Brooks or Stephen Jacobsen to attend?

If we want to see a truly meteoric rise in robotic development in the US, we need to get the businesses and the academic institutions talking, instead of ignoring each other.

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