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Tag : grants

by   -   July 8, 2013

Over the last 20 years or so, a sense that science has become conservative or incrementalist has developed, and calls for change in the approaches to public funding of research have been heard from various quarters. Several notions have been suggested of what should be supported instead of “normal science” or “incremental innovation.” Among them we have heard calls for more “high risk-high reward” research, or for more “highly creative” science, or for more “cutting edge” or “frontier” research and, more recently in language adopted by funding agencies, that more “transformational research” is needed.

by   -   June 27, 2013

Researchers and entrepreneurs are used to weighing the potential risks and rewards of any project they are thinking of putting time and money into. Potential financial investors — be they government policy advisors, members of grant committees, venture capitalists or angel investors — are no different. But in terms of viability, some projects, visionary and game-changing as they may be, are far from certain. Even if overwhelming technical hurdles are navigated successfully, there always remains the risk that the market will not be ready …

by   -   June 17, 2013

‘Bean-counting’ is a dull but necessary component of every grant proposal; it helps to keep our plans realistic, doable and accountable. But what if we weren’t tied to grants and budgets? Would it change the way we approach our work?

This month we asked the Robotics by Invitation panel to tell us what kind of research they would undertake if money weren’t an obstacle. Here’s what Mark Tilden and Illah Nourbakhsh have to say …

 

Illah Nourbakhsh

Illah Nourbaksh on “What would you research if you did not have to worry about grants?”

 Community empowerment through massive robotic sensing. There is no question we live in a world that is changing. Pollutants are changing the dynamics of the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the soil on which we live. Yet the power to measure pollution …

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Mark-Tilden

Mark Tilden on “What would you research if you did not have to worry about grants?”

 Well, I’m lucky enough to be a gentleman scientist, so I concurrently study problems on minimal dynamical control systems (optimizing performance to silicon ratios), power regeneration and efficiency, alien robot morphologies …

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by   -   June 17, 2013

Well, I’m lucky enough to be a gentleman scientist, so I concurrently study problems on minimal dynamical control systems (optimizing performance to silicon ratios), power regeneration and efficiency, alien robot morphologies (weird bodies outside the conventional biomimetic), sensor design, situational awareness and integration, motor and mechanical operational extension, locomotion and loading, and anything else that allows for useful, clean, interesting, semi-perpetual automatons.

Y’know, the basics.  Bringing good things to life.  Moo Ha ha.

So robotics research is excellent for those with ADHD – the field’s problem and feature is it’s not just anything, it’s everything that’s techno fun. However every now and again there’s something that skitters, flops, pronks, spins, walks, tumbles, or bounces across the desk that could really use … a brain.

So the short answer is I’d put (other people’s) money into researching affordable competent minds that could help organize any mechanical body, sensor or environment they are given.  Small, quick, cheap, and with a voice interface so I can encourage it to effectiveness without a million keystrokes.  Power on and it asks “Hello, what is my name?”

Yes, that’d be handy.  Do they have an App for that yet?

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by   -   June 17, 2013

Community empowerment through massive robotic sensing.

There is no question we live in a world that is changing. Pollutants are changing the dynamics of the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the soil on which we live. Yet the power to measure pollution, measure human behavior (including Emergency Room visits) and correlate the values is held tightly by government and corporate players.  They have the money to focus on sensors and values that make their case, and they have the marketing skills to then present those values in the best possible light for reelection and for corporate profit.

But in fact those most touched by a changing world are ordinary citizens, and it is the citizen who has the potential to make decisions that immediately impact health and future legislation, from what neighborhood to live in to which politician to elect. Robotic sensing technologies are rapidly becoming less expensive, and with the right infusion of research I believe we could develop the networking, data visualization and interaction smarts to have global, publicly accessible information about all sources of pollution. This would empower citizens and communities to make far more informed decisions, and to fight biased information presentations with their own re-interpretation of source data. This will take new innovation in sensing technologies, networking, Big Data storage, search, retrieval and evaluation.

It is the stuff of robotics, through and through, applied to the deep goal of community empowerment at an international scale.

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by   -   April 29, 2013

At the first UK Robot Ethics workshop on 25th March 2013, I offered — for discussion — the proposition that robotics is facing a Crisis of Expectations. And not for the first time. I argue that one possible consequence is (another) AI winter.
Alan_Winfield_Crisis_of_ExpectationsIn this talk I set out the proposition that robotics is facing a crisis of expectations. As a community we face a number of expectation gaps — significant differences between what people think robots are and do, and what robots really are and really do, and (more seriously) might reasonably be expected to do in the near future.

by   -   February 15, 2013

Funding new robotic projects in America is mostly done two different ways:

(1) strategic funding from NASA, DARPA, DoD, NSF and other government organizations to do the pure science involved in solving stumbling blocks in robotics, and

(2) entrepreneurial-initiated funding from friends and family, angel investors, VCs and “special people” like Scott Hassan, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, or Sergey Brin.

In addition, some funding is available via macro programs such as the Roadmap for US Robotics, which don’t move at the same speed as the entrepreneur-initiated projects.

Finally, surrounding each of the major universities involved in robotics research and education are clusters of support networks working with and supplementing the universities’ own commercialization activities. Stanford and UC Berkeley in the Bay Area of California; Georgia Tech in Atlanta; CMU in Pittsburgh; and MIT and Harvard in Boston. All of these clusters and commercialization activities are without government stimulus or direction.

Willow Garage is a perfect example of the benefits of special people: Scott Hassan had a vision to jump-start robotics – particularly the open source software side – and he invested hundreds of millions of dollars in that pursuit. From Willow Garage came seven notable spin-offs including an ongoing non-profit to perpetuate ROS.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page from Google established Google X-Labs, invested in Tesla Motors, and many more.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has set up a fund that has invested in all sorts of start-ups: from Uber to Behance to Linden Labs.

The real excitement comes from the special people: They not only enthusiastically give back with profits from their own experiences, but also bring the same level of energy that made them successful to funding of new robotics projects.

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by   -   February 15, 2013

The best way to commercialize robotics research is to make better connections between academics and entrepreneurs.  Academics venturing out into the business world tend to have a “hammer looking for a nail” mentality, and often lack an appreciation of the skills and real-world experience that entrepreneurs and business-minded folks bring to the table. Likewise, most entrepreneurs cannot accurately estimate the complexity of the underlying technology … they do not know what is hard to do and what is not. Nor should they be blamed for this: speaking as an academic, I must admit that distinguishing between what is easy and what is difficult to achieve is not usually the focus of our publications, web pages or videos. So how do we bridge this gap?  Two ideas:

  1. Continue to fund robotics competitions.  Not only is this a great way to educate researchers on how to build real systems, but the approaches adopted by the winning teams are highly correlated to what is feasible with today’s technology. Also, the challenges these teams encounter in a one-year competition cycle are similar to those faced by a young startup in its first year of existence. This funding approach could be expanded to include team projects that create large-scale public installations because, like startups, they too must be reliable and robust to succeed in a public, real-world context.  Finally, one must also make sure that entrepreneurs know about these competitions and team projects, and that they have the right incentives to attend.
  2. Provide funding that allows freshly-minted PhDs to transition from fundamental research to applied research with a specific business focus, and at the same time provide support from business mentors and entrepreneurs.  A pre-startup phase, if you will. This not only brings the research closer to application, but it also gives individuals an appreciation of what it takes to commercialize their research, without the immediacy and constraints of being a startup.  A good example of this kind of funding scheme is the Pioneer Fellowships program established at ETH Zurich.

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