Army Secretary visits Austin to unveil latest partnership between military and Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — An autonomous, four-legged robot led the Army Secretary around the University of Texas’ flagship campus Friday, as the school highlighted its military partnerships with the unveiling of its robotics lab.

The facility, a collaboration between UT Austin and Army Futures Command, formally opened with a ribbon cutting Friday, though the advancements in technology have been long-worked on by researchers at The Forty Acres.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Gov. Greg Abbott and Army Futures Command General John M. Murray joined UT Austin President Jay Hartzell for the announcement.

“It’s not simply about a specific project or mission,” Hartzell said. “It’s about our full commitment to developing a technological advantage for the defense of our nation.”

On a tour of the robot lab, Army leadership saw dozens of demonstrations, including tele-surgery equipment for remote medical operations, quadruped robots to help search for targets and vehicles that make adjustments based on the environment around them.

The research is designed with military and civilian applications in mind.

“It’s created collisions for us with academia and business and compressing the timeline that it takes to develop and produce capabilities at scale,” McCarthy said Friday.

Abbott highlighted the role Texas leaders in the public and private sector play in this collaboration.

“The United States Army chooses that Austin, Texas and a connection with the University of Texas, is the right place for them to come and to grow and to interconnect with the tech sector, then it should be the right place for the private sector also,” Abbott said.

Dr. Peter Stone, who heads the lab on the UT Austin campus, said the dozens of robotics faculty and close to 100 students and research staff had previously been spread out across different locations under the university’s purview. The uniting of the team under one roof and ramp-up of staffing is a key promotional point for the work happening inside.

“My vision for this space is for it to be a living laboratory and showcase for all of the robotics research on campus, a space that fosters interdisciplinary cohesion, world class creative research and also serves as a destination for the public to learn about robotics,” Stone said.

McCarthy’s Texas tour took him to Texas A&M earlier in the week to tour the school’s combat development complex, where researchers are developing high-tech solutions to national security challenges.

Photojournalist Julie Karam contributed to this report.

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