US: Roadmap for robotics industry

A consortium of universities, institutes and think tanks has warned the US it needs to invest in progressive robotics technology to remain competitive with other global powers.

The Computing Research Association published a report last month, The National Robotics Technology Roadmap, describing which sectors could benefit from increased robot technology. The report concluded the US needed to pick up the pace.

In an associated communiqué, the research group noted that the European Union, Japan, South Korea and other major industrial powers had surpassed the US in robotics technology, making much more progress in the field and introducing robots into unconventional sectors.

While the US has largely excelled in developing robotics in its national defence sector, the report argued that other countries had begun using robots in sectors such as health, education and manufacturing, giving them a significant edge in the up-and-coming robotics market.

The report warned the US would soon be dependent on other nations for robotic products if the Obama administration did not promote investment in this increasingly important technology.

"Robotics technology holds the potential to transform the future of the country," the communiqué said. "The next generation 'robotech' industry will affect the lives of every American and have an enormous economic, social and political impact on our future."

Apart from industrial applications in manufacturing processes, the most prevalent use of robotics today was the role of robots as they became fixtures in everyday life, from medical and therapeutic applications to education and entertainment. Robots were even making their way into the arts: a Swiss theatre company is incorporating three human-like robots to act in a new play this summer.

This type of innovation was missing in the US, however, the report stated. It said the CRA had published its roadmap in the hopes the US could take an important turn "and get off the road to robotic ruin".