Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pittsburgh Robot City

Carnegie Mellon University wants to build a research center called Robot City to develop the next generation of robots.

CMU would use the space to build and test prototypes of robots that would plant grass, mow the lawn, harvest crops, provide cleanup, oversee security and do other tasks. University officials hope the move will bring Pittsburgh closer to living up to the monicker given it by The Wall Street Journal: "Roboburgh."

"The community has been waiting for an exciting vision for that site, and this could be it," said Maxwell King, president of The Heinz Endowments. "It's the kind of vision that can not only lead to an exciting neighborhood but to economic development for Pittsburgh."

The first step is to move a faculty-student research team that is developing robotic vehicles into an old roundhouse that once serviced steam locomotives. Renovations are expected to begin on the roundhouse this spring, and university officials hope to complete the move this year.
Once the roundhouse is completed, CMU will seek a financial partner to develop the Robot City research center.

"It'll take years to fulfill the vision of Robot City, but that doesn't get in the way of starting now and having real machines and people on the ground and in action," said William "Red" Whittaker, Fredkin Research Professor at CMU's Robotics Institute and the leader of the university's Red Team. The team's two robot vehicles finished second and third in the 2005 Grand Challenge, a 130-mile race of robot vehicles across the Mojave Desert in October.

"Robot City is the next step in the evolution of robots, robotics enterprise and taking this work to the world," he said.

CMU plans Robot City -


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