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Wanted: Agile Robots

Artist's conception of a mobile robot.

The Agile Robotics for Industrial Automation Competition is a national contest being planned by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology to try to remove a major obstacle to the adoption of robotics by manufacturers.

Credit: Federal Computer Week

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is planning the Agile Robotics for Industrial Automation Competition, a national contest to make robots more agile, with the goal of removing "a major obstacle" to manufacturers adopting robotics.

Programming a robot to integrate it into a manufacturing operation can make up 45 percent to 60 percent of the cost of deploying a robot, which holds back the development of the technology as a whole. Making a robot more capable of adapting to changing manufacturing demands will mean making advances in detecting failure in a manufacturing process, automated planning to cut down on programming time, working on manufactured parts whose location is not predefined, and "plug-and-play" interoperability.

"We want to make sure that the challenges in this competition are truly representative of those facing industry," says Craig Schlenoff, head of NIST's Cognition and Collaboration Systems Group.

Participants will test their solutions in a computer model of a real manufacturing operation, helping to develop metrics for measuring robotic agility.

The U.S. has 152 robots per 100,000 manufacturing employees, compared to 437 in South Korea, 323 in Japan, 282 in Germany, and 30 in China, according to International Federation of Robotics data.

From Federal Computer Week
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