Significant progress has been made in human-robot interactions in recent years. However, the lack of an affordable and generalized modular robotic platform has hindered researchers’ ability to share and compare findings, impeding further advancements in the field. In a bid to accelerate progress in robotics, the National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent US government-funded agency supporting research and education, has announced an initiative to distribute a $5 million fleet of standardized humanoid robots called Quori bots. This initiative aims to foster collaboration, innovation, and advancements in robotics research.

The NSF plans to distribute an additional 50 Quori bots to various research projects, in partnership with Oregon State University, University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Laboratory, and robotics software company Semio. Initially developed with support from the NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Community Research Infrastructure, Quori robots are equipped with an omnidirectional wheeled base, an expressive video screen face, two gesturing arms, and a bowing spine. These versatile robots are designed to operate in both laboratory settings and real-world environments.

A pilot program was conducted, where ten Quori robots were built and tested. Subsequently, these robots were awarded to research teams, including one from Carnegie Mellon University, who focused on studying social behavior and communication methods between humans and robots. Building on this success, the multimillion-dollar expansion will make many more standardized humanoid bots available to researchers. All hardware designs of Quori robots are open-source, enabling anyone to access and potentially build their own versions.

The lack of a common robot platform has been a significant hurdle in robotics research. Bill Smart, a professor of mechanical, industrial, and manufacturing engineering in OSU’s College of Engineering and project co-lead, emphasized the challenges faced by researchers using different types of robots, making it difficult to compare results, replicate experiments, and build upon each other’s work. The Quori fleet, with its standardized design, will address this issue by providing a common platform for researchers to collaborate and advance their research more efficiently.

The OSU project co-leads, Bill Smart and Naomi Fitter, will establish and maintain a resource network for the Quori fleet. Their team will also beta test the robots and facilitate online collaborations, events, and various other opportunities to connect researchers and students. The overarching goal is to build a strong community of roboticists that can learn from one another, share knowledge, and accelerate the pace of research in robotics. By pairing newcomers with experienced individuals, this initiative aims to enhance diversity, access, and inclusivity in a field that has been predominantly composed of white male researchers.

The National Science Foundation’s $5 million fleet of standardized Quori bots represents a significant boost to the field of robotics research. By providing a common platform and fostering collaboration among researchers, this initiative aims to overcome barriers, drive innovation, and accelerate advancements in human-robot interactions. The open-source nature of Quori’s hardware designs further promotes accessibility and encourages the development of new robotic technologies. With this initiative, the NSF is paving the way for a vibrant community of roboticists who can collectively shape the future of robotics.

By Impact Lab