US robotics roadmap reaches new heights in the windy city

Chicago skyline

Earlier this month, amidst towering Windy City skyscrapers and overlooking the Chicago River, some of the brightest minds in the robotics community came together for the US Robotics Roadmap’s Chicago Workshop. The goal of this gathering of visionaries? To discuss the exciting future of robotics and how the field will continue to shape society and empower people in their everyday lives.

The workshop, which was hosted by Illinois Computer Science Department Head Nancy M. Amato at the U of I’s Illini Center from September 11-12, brought together leading robotics researchers from academia, government, and industry, including invited representatives from Amazon and FedEx. The results of their strategic planning sessions will contribute to an updated version of the US National Robotics Roadmap.

First published 10 years ago, the Roadmap is a valuable reference for industry, university researchers, and government agencies about where robotics is headed.  The Chicago workshop was the first of three that will take place this fall to collect input from the robotics community for the fourth update of the Roadmap, which is anticipated to be completed by the summer of 2020. The revision process is being coordinated by Henrik Christensen, the Qualcomm Chancellor’s Chair of Robot Systems and Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, San Diego.

The three workshops expect to engage about 150-200 robotics experts from academia and industry to ensure that the Roadmap is representative of the community’s view of the future of the field. The roadmap will cover manufacturing, service, medical, first-responder, and space robotics. The revised roadmap will also include considerations related to ethics and workforce. It will cover emerging applications, the key challenges to progress, and consideration of needed R&D to enable progress.

Members of the Robotics community gather at the Illini Center for the US Robotics Roadmap in Chicago, IL.
Members of the Robotics community gather at the Illini Center for the US Robotics Roadmap in Chicago, IL.

Front Row: Kevin Lynch, Northwestern University; Nancy Amato, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Amy LaViers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Naomi Fitter, Oregon State University

Middle Row: Katherine Rose Driggs-Campbell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Maria Gini, University of Minnesota; Elena Messina, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Ron Alterovitz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Srihari Yamanoor, Independent; Henrik Christensen, University of California San Diego; Howie Choset, Carnegie Mellon University

Back Row: Aaron Prather, FedEx; Milos Zefran, University of Illinois Chicago; Zack Woodruff, Northwestern University; Roland Menassa, Amazon; Camillo Jose Taylor, GRASP Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania; Jana Kosecka, George Mason University

Not Pictured: Nikos Papanikolopoulos, University of Minnesota