A robotics roadmap for Australia

Have your say in nation's first robotics and computer vision roadmap

Submissions are being sought for Australia’s first robotics and computer vision roadmap.

Led by the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision – with additional backing from Queensland University of Technology and Advance Queensland – the roadmap’s organisers aim to emulate the success of similar initiatives in the US and Europe.

“Our hope is that, as has happened in other nations, the roadmap will inform policy, guide future research directions and support the development of the robotic and vision technologies required to support Australian industry in the future,” said Sue Keay, chief operating officer of the Australian Research Council funded centre.

It is also hoped the effort will attract the input of companies working in the area, companies Keay says have proven difficult to find.

“We're hoping that some of those companies will bubble up to the surface in this process. Little is known about Australia’s robotics and computer vision industries and as these, and related technologies mature, it is critical to understand and plan for the impact, challenges and the benefits they pose to our nation,” she said.

Submissions to the roadmap are being sought from various sectors – including resources, built and natural environment, manufacturing, services and healthcare  – with workshops scheduled for October and November.

The roadmap is being modelled on similar initiatives that have been run in the US and Europe.

The US last year published its third Roadmap for US Robotics, covering the societal opportunities and challenges presented by the technology, and what needed to be done to continue innovation and adoption.

The first version was released in 2009, and resulted in a $70 million research funding boost from the Obama administration through its National Robotics Initiative.

Professor Henrik Christensen, who led each of the US roadmaps, is advising the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision on the process.

Europe has also seen a number of roadmaps, the latest – Robotic Visions to 2020 and Beyond – is updated each year.

“They’ve been through this process a few times and it’s had enormous benefits for them. It made people a lot more aware of what the possibilities are and also focused a lot of attention on the area, which has benefits not just for the research community but also for the translation of all of that out into industry,” Keay told Computerworld.

It is hoped the Australian roadmap will be ready to be launched at the International Conference for Robotics and Automation (ICRA) which is being held for the first time in the southern hemisphere, in Brisbane in May next year.

“We have a tight timeframe. We thought let’s just do it. It’s perfect time for us to go: here’s what Australia can do in this space,” Keay added.