Human and Robot Interaction
As technology has evolved rapidly, so has the field of robotics. The driving force to create machines which can perform complex tasks has pushed the boundaries of tech, computing, and electronics. With robotics at the forefront of the tech revolution, humans aim to invent robotic creatures that can perform as well as (or better than) humans themselves. It’s no wonder that there has been an evolution in the way that robots have interacted with humans as well.
There are many different classifications in which robots exist and interact with humans. There are 5 classes which help categorize the possible types of robot and expectations in terms of human interaction and autonomy. These classifications of increasing interaction includes: cell, coexistence, synchronized, cooperation, and collaboration.
At the beginning, it was necessary to keep robots separate from humans, mainly for the sake of safety. Early robots had a primitive goal: to perform a specific task. In manufacturing, the first industrial robot was created by General Motors in 1961 and given the name Unimate. Its purpose was to transport die castings within the factory since the materials were toxic and harmful to humans. It was very important for Unimate to operate in an area separate from humans. This is an example of the cell classification of interaction.
Cell: a robot operates in a fenced-off environment, away from humans. In this case, there is no human interaction with the robot. The robot has a separate, dedicated space. This is the lowest amount of interaction the human and robot can have, as there is zero overlap between both task and space.
As technology improved, robots became safer and more advanced, which led to them being further integrated into society. With certain safety features and other improvements introduced came an increased amount of interaction between humans and robots. The following classifications describe the different levels.
Coexistence: the human and robot can be in the same environment but usually have no interaction. Like the cell classification but the robot is not physically separated by a safety fence.
Synchronized: a workspace is shared by the human and robot, with only one using the space at a time. The human and robot take turns using the shared space, focus on separate tasks, but have no interaction.
Cooperation: the robot and human share the workspace at the same time but work on different tasks.
Collaboration: a task is executed together by the human and robot. Typically, the action of one immediately affects the other, as they are working simultaneously to complete an objective.
Cobots – Collaborative Robots
Surprisingly, it took four decades to go from the first patented robot in 1956, made by the company Unimation, to the first patented collaborative robot in 1997, developed by J. Edward Colgate and Michael Peshkin. We have come even further in the past 25 years since the first cobot. Some major steps taken include computer-controlled movement instead of motor controlled, which meant humans were now safer around the robot since the amount of force could be throttled down to non-dangerous levels. The first official cobot also included guided motion control in conjunction with a human, meaning a person could guide the robot as it was doing a task.
In society today, we find both cooperative and collaborative robots everywhere. They can be found picking plants, flipping burgers, performing surgery, flying planes, and even delivering takeout. In fact, the movement towards integrating cooperative and collaborative robots into everyday life has sprouted more ways in which the robots can be useful. Interplai is working to create self-driving delivery robots which embrace interaction with humans and other robots.
The delivery robots are part of a whole last-mile logistics system, which gives businesses options to optimize their delivery processes. These robots cooperate with other robots by interacting with one another and being modular. A fleet vehicle carries the self-driving delivery robots, as well as modular container pods that can be added or exchanged. The robots then cooperate with humans while navigating the sidewalks to their delivery destination. Once arriving at the intended delivery location, the robot collaborates with the human to open the pod containing the goods. Then cooperates by returning to the fleet vehicle. All of which could never have been possible without the past 60 years of innovation within the robotics community.
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