Australia launches robotics roadmap for automation adoption

Australia's first robotics roadmap, launched alongside the Australian Centre of Robotic Vision, aims to support the development of robotic technologies for a variety of industries.

Australia has on Monday launched its first "robotics roadmap" that aims to support the development of critical robotic and vision technologies.

Unveiled at Parliament House in Canberra and developed by the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, the roadmap aims to modernise the economy, build national health and sustainability, and "unlock human potential".

The centre's chief operating officer Dr Sue Keay said that automation is predicted to deliver Australia $2.2 trillion over the next 15 years if businesses are encouraged to accelerate their uptake of technologies such as robotics, which should be seen as "everyday problem solvers rather than scientific fantasy".

"We have an opportunity to take a collaborative, multi-sector approach to education, funding, and legislation to benefit industries and lead the way in the development of robotic technology that can solve real global challenges," said Keay.

"With support and collaboration between industries, government, researchers, and developers in coming years we will see robotic technology developed that can help maintain our living standards, protect the environment, provide services to remote communities, reduce healthcare costs, and create more efficient and safer workplaces," she added.

Leaders in academia, industry, and government across sectors including resources, manufacturing, agriculture, defence, and healthcare have helped developed the roadmap following submissions and workshops last year, according to the centre.

Speaking at the launch of the roadmap, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science and Research Senator for Victoria Kim Carr said automation will lead to job reallocation rather than job destruction.

"Robots will perform routine or dangerous tasks while raising the demand for higher-skilled forms of human labour," Carr said. "And new, lower-skilled jobs may be created through spill-over effects in other sectors.

"Media reporting of robotics, automation, and the Internet of Things have made these terms bogey words to many people. We must resist that," Carr added. "The choice we face is not whether to accept or reject robotic systems, but how to introduce and adapt new technologies in ways that enhance human potential.

"Devising the right policies will be the key to overcoming the anxiety that many people feel when faced with automation."

The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, formed in 2014 and based out of QUT in Queensland, is being funded with AU$25.6 million over seven years for new technologies that aim to transform Australian industries. It was behind the Cartman robot, which was last year's winner of the Amazon Robotics Challenge.

The centre also previously received a AU$1.5 million research and development grant from the Queensland government to explore social robotics with Japanese tech giant SoftBank.

The centre is one of the Australian government's ARC Centres of Excellence, which aim to support research and development in a variety of sectors, including Nanoscale BioPhotonics, Engineered Quantum Systems, and Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies.

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