Posted: February 6, 2020

Full proposal window open February 12-26, 2020

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). A co-robot is a robot whose main purpose is to work with people or other robots to accomplish a goal.  An ideal co-robot is an adaptable partner, not limited to a narrow set of specified interactions or functions, but able to significantly enhance team performance despite changes in its role, its teammates, or the team's collective goals. 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 themes that are envisioned to advance the goal of ubiquitous co-robots: scalabilitycustomizabilitylowering barriers to entry, and societal impact, including human safety. Topics addressing scalability include how robots can collaborate effectively with orders of magnitude more humans or other robots than is handled by the current state of the art; 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 different 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 should focus on lowering the barriers for conducting fundamental robotics research and research on integrated robotics application. This may include development of open-source co-robot hardware and software, as well as widely-accessible testbeds. Outreach or using robots in educational programs do not, by themselves, lower the barriers to entry for robotics research. 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, security, 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 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 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.

Read the full solicitation here.

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