National Robotics Initiative: 2.0: Ubiquitous Collaborative Robots (NRI-2.0)
The NRI-2.0 program builds upon the original National Robotics Initiative (NRI) program to support fundamental research in the United States that will accelerate the development and use of collaborative robots (co-robots) that work beside or cooperatively with people. The focus of the NRI-2.0 program is on ubiquity, which in this context means seamless integration of co-robots to assist humans in every aspect of life. The program supports four main research thrusts that are envisioned to advance the goal of ubiquitous co-robots: scalability, customizability, lowering barriers to entry, and societal impact. Topics addressing scalability include how robots can collaborate effectively with multiple humans or other robots; how robots can perceive, plan, act, and learn in uncertain, real-world environments, especially in a distributed fashion; and how to facilitate large-scale, safe, robust and reliable operation of robots in complex environments. Customizability includes how to enable co-robots to adapt to specific tasks, environments, or people, with minimal modification to hardware and software; how robots can personalize their interactions with people; and how robots can communicate naturally with humans, both verbally and non-verbally. Topics in lowering barriers to entry include development of open-source co-robot hardware and software, as well as widely-accessible testbeds. Topics in societal impact include fundamental research to establish and infuse robotics into educational curricula, advance the robotics workforce through education pathways, and explore the social, economic, ethical, and legal implications of our future with ubiquitous collaborative robots. Collaboration between academic, industry, non-profit, and other organizations is encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science and engineering and technology development, deployment, and use. The NRI-2.0 program is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Questions concerning a particular project's focus, direction and relevance to a participating funding organization should be addressed to that agency's point of contact, listed in section VIII of this solicitation.