The NSF has just announced funding for a new program to establish four Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) with over $70M in grants. One of the four universities chosen to participate in the program is the University of Washington, which will receive $18.5M over the next five years for its ERC for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (ERC/SNE). Researchers will be designing and testing devices to restore or augment the body's capabilities for sensation and movement. UW's Neurobotics Lab will take a lead in the ERC/SNE, along with biologists and scientists focused on human health.
In the world of everyday computer technology, we know that the adjective "smart" (as in smartphone) refers to a flexible system that performs a variety of tasks on demand. My smartphone can be a camera, a calculator, a music player, a video chatting device, or an internet portal. If it were intuitive, like the car I don't yet own, it would automatically adjust its suspension for varied terrain or steer itself back onto the road if I dozed, without even requiring my input to maintain my comfort and safety.
When the President launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) last month, a key component was the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), which will pool the resources of multiple government agencies to support the development of robots designed to augment the work and health of human beings. These are known as assistive systems, in contrast to the totalitarian robots of science fiction dystopias that threaten to supplant humans.
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