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When Robots Invaded the Senate

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Sen. Harry Reid at robot demo

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), left, and Dr. Arden L. Bement Jr., Director of the National Science Foundation, center, get a demonstration of assistive device technologies from University of Pittsburgh graduate student Garrett Grindle.

Credit: Sandy Schaeffer / NSF

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently held a luncheon briefing and open house for U.S. Senate members to demonstrate cyber-physical systems (CPS), an emerging technology that incorporates computing power to improve modern life. Technologies on display included robots that can replace lab animals in clinical trials, scalpels that a surgeon uses without ever touching, and cars capable of autonomously navigating through busy streets. More than 50 CPS researchers and students attended the event to inform policymakers about how their research may relate to the challenges faced by the federal government.

The basic concept behind CPS is to combine computing power with existing systems to transform them into "smart" technologies, such as airplanes capable of detecting and monitoring each other and automatically adjusting flight patterns when necessary, or bridges capable of detecting when they are overloaded. Experts says that CPS technologies will have a major impact on the U.S.'s well being, security, and competitiveness in such areas as aerospace, automotive, civil infrastructure, energy, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing.

NSF director Arden L. Bement, Jr. says CPS technologies are a strong example of the real-world applications that come from basic academic research. Lunch for the event was provided by ACM, the Coalition for National Science Funding, the Computing Research Association, and the American Chemical Society's Science & the Congress Project.

View a video of cyber-physical systems at the July 9, 2009 open house on Capital Hill.

From The National Science Foundation
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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