Cognitive robotics has been identified as a research area of common interest to Japan and the US; in addition, it is of mutual benefit to both countries to explore areas for collaborative work where each side brings complementary strength to the project. Moreover, there is already a good start in collaborative research among some US-Japan roboticists. We propose to propel this joint cooperative research to a higher level of impact by holding a joint NSF-JST workshop which brings together the best researchers from both countries and have them discuss and exchange ideas about the most opportune research directions, then work at a deeper level on some specific challenges in these areas in order to be well-positioned for a next round of collaborative funding opportunities.
This workshop has the potential to result not only in new research directions which could ultimately impact many industries (e.g., elderly care, logistics, security, medical, exploration, monitoring, etc.), but also lead to broader international opportunities for faculty and students. The goal is to have the results of this workshop result in high-impact collaborative US-Japan research with student and faculty exchanges and long-term visits. This renders our students and faculty more globally aware and competitive.
The NSF-JST Workshop on Cognitive Robotics took place in Santa Monica, CA, on October 7 and 8, 2011, jointly organized by the Japanese Science and Technology Agency and the National Science Foundation. The goal of this workshop was to discuss the benefits and mechanisms of future joint funding of collaborative teams of Japanese and US researchers in the area of cognitive robotics, a branch of robotics that emphasizes human-centered robotics with sophisticated computational models and algorithms. Such technology is envision to have significant impact on future societies with the aim of assisting broad populations in need, ranging in age, capability and context: in industry, hospitals, schools, elder care and other managed care facilities, inner city urban areas, and eventually homes. Targeted applications include assistance for the growing elderly population and for people with physical and cognitive disabilities, guidance of children and other at-risk populations on their commute, crowd and emergency response in densely populated areas, robotic rehabilitation and prosthetics, movement instructions for training, exercise, and entertainment activities, science education for children and minorities, search and rescue efforts in hazardous/disaster environments, and numerous others. The workshop concluded that combining the dominant strength in mechatronics hardware development and cognitive robotics applications in Japan, and the algorithmic research and software development strength in the US appeared to be a very fruitful foundation for US-Japanese collaborations. Both the JST and the NSF envision joint funding initiatives based on supplements to existing grants and future joint funding programs for new grant applications.