Call for funding boost for robotics research in US
Sep 20, 2005 - 10:03:38 PM

When it comes to developing robots for use in biology and medicine, no country is currently a match for the United States . But that situation could change within the next few years, according to a new report.Unless the government boosts funding for robotics research, the United States – the world leader for research and manufacturing of robotic systems for tasks such as surgery and DNA sequencing – will likely have to start relying on technology from other countries, said Yuan F. Zheng, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State.

Zheng is lead author of the chapter on robotics for biological and medical applications. “We cannot say there's a systematic theory for robotics in biological and medical applications in this country, because the scientists who do the work come from so many different disciplines,” Zheng said.Most American scientists who develop biomedical robotics belong to one academic department on a university campus, and perform interdisciplinary research that crosses over into other departments. Some are engineers who know a little biology; others are biologists who know a little engineering. If more universities had such programs, the United States could grow the culture it needs to sustain its role as a robotics leader, Zheng and his colleagues suggest. Universities will need more funding to establish these programs, Zheng said. While the United States has reduced its support of robotics research in recent years, other countries are boosting resources in this area, Zheng noted. “I remember a few years ago when American research accounted for 80 percent of papers presented at robotics conferences. To compile the report, Zheng and his coauthors surveyed major foreign universities that had a robotics program for biology or medicine. They visited Japan , Korea , and countries in Western Europe .

The report details applications of robotics for biology and medicine that are under development worldwide. Doctors routinely use remote-controlled robotics to operate in constrained spaces, such as inside the heart, brain, spinal cord, throat and knee.

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