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April 29, 1999
Leaders in robotics community to discuss ways to advance U.S. robotics technologies

Panel discussion coincides with major conferences in Detroit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Seven experts representing the R&D community, robotics equipment suppliers, U.S. manufacturing industries, Congress, and organized labor are scheduled to participate in a first-ever panel discussion on needed advancements in robotics May 12 in Detroit. The panel discussion is part of the robotics community's two major conferences of the year, which for the first time are being held simultaneously in the same city.

The Robotics and Intelligent Machines Coordinating Committee (RIMCC) is sponsoring the forum to help accelerate the advancement of key robotics technologies by linking the nation's government- and university-based research establishment with the vast community of U.S. robotics systems users and robotics equipment suppliers. The IEEE's Robotics and Automation Society and the Robotic Industries Association jointly chartered RIMCC in 1993. (More about RIMCC is available at www.sandia.gov/isrc/What_is_RIMCC.html.)

"Intelligent machines technology is poised, right now, to offer national defense and commercial applications so profound they will fundamentally transform many aspects of our everyday lives," says Patrick Eicker, RIMCC Chairman. "This forum brings together many of the key players in the future of robotics, in the home town of U.S. manufacturing, to find innovative ways to speed that transformation." Eicker is Director of the Intelligent Systems and Robotics Center at the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories.

Members of the news media are invited to attend the discussion on Wednesday, May 12, in the Oakland Hall at Cobo Center, Room 03-45. Light refreshments will be served beginning at 5:15 p.m. The discussion begins promptly at 5:45. Panelists will be available for interviews before and after the discussion.

The panelists will offer their views about how emerging robotics technologies can benefit the U.S. by creating jobs, improving productivity, and reducing worker injuries. They'll discuss uses for robotics technologies in a growing list of industries, such as agriculture, health care, and assisted living. Following their remarks they will answer questions from the audience.

Eicker says the combination of people participating in the panel discussion -- union representatives, equipment suppliers, government officials, robotics users in government, and industry visionaries -- make this a unique event. ( A list of panelists is available from John German at 505-844-5199 or jdgerma@sandia.gov)

The forum will include a discussion of the U.S. Department of Energy's Robotics and Intelligent Machines Critical Technology Roadmap. The roadmap, released in October 1998, articulates the future robotics technology needs of DOE and provides a structure for meeting those needs while simultaneously advancing the state of the art in robotics and automation.

The DOE roadmap is an outcome of the September 1997 Congressional Exposition on Robotics and Intelligent Machines in Washington, D.C., sponsored by DOE, RIMCC, and Sandia. Following the Expo, members of Congress called for a national initiative on intelligent machines and development of robotics technology roadmaps by several federal agencies, including DOE, the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), and the National Science Foundation.

In addition, at the forum DOE plans to discuss its five-year program plan for robotics and intelligent machines technologies, which specifies how the Department will begin working toward its roadmap goals in fiscal years 2001-2005.

DOE operates several national laboratories and technology centers where robotics and intelligent machines technologies are under development, including the Robotics Manufacturing Science and Engineering Laboratory at Sandia (www.sandia.gov/isrc/), and facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

The discussion takes place during two major robotics conferences in Detroit: the International Robots and Vision Show May 11-13, sponsored jointly by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and Automated Imaging Association (AIA); and the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA99) May 10-15, sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

The Robots and Vision Show brings together more than 150 exhibitors representing robotics technology suppliers, users, systems integrators, and researchers to share the latest robotics and machine vision products. (For more information, see www.robotics.org.) RIMCC and Sandia are cosponsoring a booth at the Robots and Vision Show with NASA and NIST.

ICRA99 brings together hundreds of scientists representing organizations and agencies pushing the frontiers of research and development and advancing the state of the art in automation, robotics, and machine vision technologies. (See www.ncsu.edu/IEEE-RAS.)

The Detroit location also takes advantage of the large resident population of practicing engineers in manufacturing and automation. The goal is to promote collaboration between industry and the research community in the search for new research directions and solutions.

Robotics and automation technologies include sensor integration, data analysis, human-machine coordination, dynamic process planning and control, data analysis and modeling, path planning, production-line integration, and more. An estimated 88,000 robots are now being used in U.S. factories, according to the RIA.

Sandia is a multiprogram DOE laboratory, operated by a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy, and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Media contact:
John German, jdgerma@sandia.gov, (505) 844-5199

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