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News Release 18-100

NSF announces awards to shape the human-technology partnership for the well-being of workers and their productivity

Convergent research to respond to the changing work landscape

computer screens with augmented reality

Each project brings together researchers from different disciplines to solve vexing research issues.

November 5, 2018

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is investing over $25 million in 26 projects to advance the cognitive and physical capabilities of workers in the context of human-technology interactions. These new awards will address critical social, technical, educational and economic needs in the workplace.

The awards were issued under the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF), one of 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments announced by NSF in 2016.

The new projects will advance human-technology collaboration in the workplace and focus on enhancing productivity, innovation and learning. Research will provide foundations for augmenting human cognition, including:

  • Models for social understanding and interaction.
  • Teaching and learning.
  • Biases in judgment.
  • Attention, memory and more.

Research also will work to advance the field of embodied intelligent cognitive assistants, systems that harness machine intelligence to enhance human cognitive and physical capabilities. These interactive cyber-physical systems involve robots, exoskeletons, virtual reality and augmented reality, including in autonomous vehicles and the built environment.

The award amounts range from $750,000 to $3 million each for three to five years, depending on the scope, duration and team size for the project.

"The landscape of jobs and work is changing at unprecedented speed, driven by the development of new technologies that have moved into an expanding array of manufacturing, knowledge and service occupations," said Dawn Tilbury, NSF's assistant director for Engineering. "These changes promise benefits to the nation in terms of increased productivity, opportunity for innovation, the creation of new industries and occupations as well as sustained global leadership."

Each project brings together researchers from different disciplines to solve a vexing research problem, integrating knowledge, methods and expertise to catalyze discovery and innovation. This approach is known as Growing Convergence Research, another one of NSF's Big Ideas.

A condition of the awards is that they must study human-technology interaction within the broader socioeconomic framework of jobs and work, and must also be attentive to social and economic impacts that can benefit workers, like training and workforce development.

"The impact of emerging technologies goes beyond individual workers to the transformation of occupations and entire industries," said Arthur Lupia, NSF's assistant director for Social, Behavioral & Economics Sciences. "This research addresses the effect of future work technologies on workers and provides the means to grow and transmit the requisite skills."

The funded projects include:


Media Contacts
Sarah Bates, NSF, (703) 292-7738, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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