WPI Demonstrates Potential Life-Saving Robot Technologies During the SmartAmerica Expo Today

Selected Team Members and WPI President Laurie Leshin Attend a White House Technology Event in Advance of Expo
June 11, 2014

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) today will demonstrate two innovative projects at the SmartAmerica Expo in Washington, D.C.

The SmartAmerica Challenge brings together teams of experts from industry, academia and government to focus their collective efforts and expertise on improving the state of technology. Teams aim to apply "Cyber-Physical Systems" to improve such areas as smart manufacturing, healthcare, smart energy, intelligent transportation and disaster response. According to the creators of the SmartAmerica Challenge, the ultimate goal of this initiative is to "create jobs, new business opportunities and socio-economic benefits to America."

Through this Challenge, more than 65 companies, government agencies and academic institutions came together last December to launch 12 teams/projects. The teams have been working for the past six months to build systems, prototypes, pilots and products that demonstrate the capabilities of CPS. The SmartAmerica Expo is a culmination of the Challenge.

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WPI is involved with two teams:

• The Closed Loop Healthcare team is focused on the healthcare/medical sector, in which sensor data goes with patients seamlessly from home to ambulance to hospital to back home.

• The Smart Emergency Response System (SERS) team is using different types of smart technology to empower first responders and other emergency personnel with information needed in locating disaster victims.

Yesterday, in advance of the Expo, the Office of Science and Technology Policy held an exclusive event at the White House during which select teams participating in the SmartAmerica Challenge – including the SERS team – demonstrated their projects and the value of the "Internet of Things."

"The Smart Emergency Response System team made an outstanding presentation," said WPI President Laurie Leshin, who was among guests invited to the event. "It was very impressive to see how such a diverse national team has come together for a common cause. I’m very proud to see the vital role that WPI is playing in this important project."

John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Policy, told attendees of yesterday's event that the federal government has invested nearly $300 million in research related to the Internet of Things during the past five years. "The Internet of Things holds tremendous potential to create jobs and grow new businesses," according to a blog post by Richard Voyles, assistant director, Robotics and Cyber-Physical Systems at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Internet of Things refers to "…a network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment," according to Gartner, Inc., an information technology research firm.

As part of the SERS team, WPI's Atlas humanoid robot WARNER (WPI's Atlas Robot for Nonconventional Emergency Response), will demonstrate various mobility and manipulation tasks at the expo.

In total, the SERS team consists of human first responders, ground and aerial autonomous vehicles, human-operated tele-robots, and trained search and rescue dogs. In addition to WPI, the SERS team includes BluHaptics, Boeing, MathWorks, MIT Media Lab, National Instruments, North Carolina State University, University of North Texas, and University of Washington.

Taşkin Padir, assistant professor of robotics engineering at WPI, was on hand at the event and will participate in today's Expo. He noted recently that the SERS project "…is an effort to develop effective and efficient uses of technology for manmade and natural disasters." He also said the project is an effective way to bring together disparate technologies all working toward the same effort.