Robotics: We missed the mark of pandemic bouncing robots again

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Robotics: We missed the mark of pandemic bouncing robots again

We missed the mark in funding robotics development to meet the critical demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a book from the journal Science Robotics, signed by leading academic researchers today.

According to the authors of the publisher, robots could easily be doing some of the “opaque, dirty and dangerous” work associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, but their funding and development had not been directed to capabilities that would be most useful to them.

In particular, robots can perform tasks such as disinfecting surfaces, taking people temperatures in public areas or at ports of entry, providing quarantine patients with social support, collecting throat and throat samples for testing, and allowing people virtually attend conferences and exhibitions. In fact, some of these features are available online in certain cases, as we have reported.

But the publishers are in favor of having scant funding for multidisciplinary research. Robotics, which exists at the intersection of fields as diverse as mechanical engineering, computer engineering, machine vision, artificial intelligence and biomechanics, have long been especially difficult to challenge outside of some prescribed industrial use cases. With some notable exceptions, such as Moxi, the socially intelligent hospital robot, the market has not prioritized certain types of robotics research that can help overloaded healthcare systems. We now see the consequences and, unfortunately, they were completely predictable.

“Experiences with the Ebola (2015) outbreak identified a wide range of use cases, but funding for multidisciplinary research, in collaboration with agencies and industry, to meet these use cases remains expensive , rare and aimed at other applications, “said researchers. in the editorial.

“Without a sustainable approach to research, the story will be repeated and robots will not be ready for the next incident,” they added.

Among the authors of the editorial are Howie Choset, a professor at the CMU Institute of Robotics and one of the founding writers of Science Robotics, along with Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, Robin Murphy, of the Texas A&M University, Henrik Christensen of the University. from California, San Diego, and Steven Collins, a professor at Stanford University.

Choset emphasized that the idea behind the publisher was not merely to prescribe how robots could be used in a pandemic.

“Rather, we hope to inspire others in the community to come up with solutions to what is a very complicated problem,” he explained.

Choset also emphasized that, like robots, artificial intelligence can help respond to epidemics and pandemics, but cross-disciplinary funding must lead to such applications. At Choset’s academic home, Carnegie Mellon, researchers are working on the intersection of various applicable technologies, including AI and robotics, human-robot interaction, automated social media control, and cutting edge computer science. and ad hoc computer networks in the hope of developing solutions to support future public health crises.