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Johns Hopkins awarded $3.5M for robot research project

Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering is collaborating with universities around the country on a project to create robots that work more efficiently with people. The National Science Foundation has funded the four-year, $3.5-million human-robot interaction research project, part of the National Robotics Initiative, a federal effort. 
“In the world of robotics, there are two natural extremes: the completely autonomous robot and the fully technically-operated robot,” says Gregory Hager, chair of the computer science department at the engineering school.
“The idea is to create a more holistic robot,” he says of the project. “As more and more robots interact with people in different ways, that’s the middle stage we’re in now.”
Hager is the co-principal investigator of a team that includes researchers from Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz, and the University of Washington.
The project will focus on the manufacturing and medical industries, the two areas where humans and robots are most involved. Researchers' challenge is to improve human-robot teamwork and communication.
Hager says the researchers will examine the manufacturing process at two companies that make specialized products, like wire baskets, and require quick turnover. “Robots may be a way to enhance productivity at a reasonable cost,” he says, as well as reduce workers’ repetitive motion injuries.
For the medical industry, the team will work with Silicon Valley company Intuitive Surgical Inc., maker of the daVinci surgical robot, to improve speed, accuracy and precision. With over 2,000 daVinci robots in use, the company is the dominant player in the robotic surgery field.
“We hope to come up with methods that apply to a wide set of problems,” says Hager.
Source: Gregory Hager, Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering
Writer: Barbara Pash
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