National Robot Initiative

The world that we live in has always been and will forever be changing. People have had to make changes in order to keep up with advancements in everything from technology to science to thought. Whether it’s in business or education, simply failing to stay current can be a step backwards.

Traditionalists might say that things are just fine the way they are, and there’s no point in changing anything. This argument isn’t completely unfounded, albeit a little short-sighted. Sure, you could commute to work by horseback, but you’re at a severe disadvantage to drivers. Fine shouldn’t be good enough, especially when the entire world is racing to bring new contributions to humanity.

The Obama administration has taken to heart the idea that if you don’t keep up you get left behind. The National Robotics Initiative (NRI), announced by Obama in 2011, is an effort to develop robots that can work alongside humans. The idea is that robots can help humans work more efficiently and create new possibilities.

In 2012 NASA, the NIH, the NSF, and the USDA collectively established a new National Robotics Initiative, and raised $50 million to advance research and development in robots that can safely work side by side with human beings.

Last year, an additional $38 million was distributed through the NRI to projects in next-generation robotics and 3-D printing. These funds are not only going towards robotics that can be applied in a work environment, but also robots that can be used in healthcare, exploration, military, food production, driver safety, and other areas.

The National Robotics Initiative has led to results like Baxter, an affordable robot designed specifically to work with and learn from human workers without the need for a safety barrier.

As long as the U.S. continues to promote and fund advancements in robotics, the manufacturing industry will continue to benefit.