Government grants for cutting edge robotics research and development typically favor large military contractors. But a lot of the development in robotics these days comes from individuals, startups, and university labs capitalizing on developments in 3D printing and falling sensor prices. Because hardware has entered a phase of rapid iteration, the government risks missing out on cutting edge technology if it continues focusing on long-term contracts to the exclusion of short-term innovations.
Now DARPA, which funds research for national defense, wants to throw the government’s money behind non-traditional robotics developers. To that end, the agency has teamed up with the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and BIT Systems (BITS) on the Robotics Fast Track program (RFT)