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New robots in Europe will be employees’ finest buddies

Researchers are ushering in a brand new mind-set about robots within the office primarily based on the thought of robots and employees as teammates quite than opponents. © BigBlueStudio, Shutterstock

For many years, the arrival of robots within the office has been a supply of public anxiousness over fears that they may exchange employees and create unemployment.

Now that extra refined and humanoid robots are literally rising, the image is altering, with some seeing robots as promising teammates quite than unwelcome opponents.

‘Cobot’ colleagues

Take Italian industrial-automation firm Comau. It has developed a robotic that may collaborate with – and improve the security of – employees in strict cleanroom settings within the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, electronics, meals and beverage industries. The innovation is named a “collaborative robotic”, or “cobot”.

Comau’s arm-like cobot, which is designed for dealing with and meeting duties, can robotically swap from an industrial to a slower pace when an individual enters the work space. This new characteristic permits one robotic for use as a substitute of two, maximising productiveness and defending employees.

‘It has superior issues by permitting a twin mode of operation,’ mentioned Dr Sotiris Makris, a roboticist on the College of Patras in Greece. ‘You may both use it as a traditional robotic or, when it’s in collaborative mode, the employee can seize it and transfer it round as an aiding gadget.’

Makris was coordinator of the just-completed EU-funded SHERLOCK undertaking, which explored new strategies for safely combining human and robotic capabilities from what it thought to be an usually neglected analysis angle: psychological and social well-being.

Artistic and inclusive

Robotics will help society by finishing up repetitive, tedious duties, liberating up employees to have interaction in additional artistic actions. And robotic applied sciences that may collaborate successfully with employees may make workplaces extra inclusive, corresponding to by aiding individuals with disabilities.

“There’s growing competitors across the globe, with new advances in robotics.”

– Dr Sotiris Makris, SHERLOCK

These alternatives are essential to grab because the construction and the age profile of the European workforce adjustments. For instance, the proportion of 55-to-64-year-olds elevated from 12.5% of the EU’s staff in 2009 to 19% in 2021.

Alongside the social dimension, there may be additionally financial profit from better industrial effectivity, displaying that neither essentially wants to come back on the expense of the opposite.

‘There’s growing competitors across the globe, with new advances in robotics,’ mentioned Makris. ‘That’s calling for actions and steady enchancment in Europe.’

Makris cites the humanoid robots being developed by Elon Musk-led automobile producer Tesla. Wearable robotics, bionic limbs and exoskeleton fits are additionally being developed that promise to reinforce individuals’s capabilities within the office.

Nonetheless, the quickly advancing wave of robotics poses massive challenges on the subject of guaranteeing they’re successfully built-in into the office and that individuals’s particular person wants are met when working with them. 


SHERLOCK additionally examined the potential for good exoskeletons to assist employees in carrying and dealing with heavy components at locations corresponding to workshops, warehouses or meeting websites. Wearable sensors and AI had been used to observe and monitor human actions.

With this suggestions, the thought is that the exoskeleton can then adapt to the wants of the precise process whereas serving to employees retain an ergonomic posture to keep away from damage.

‘Utilizing sensors to gather information from how the exoskeleton performs allowed us to see and higher perceive the human situation,’ mentioned Dr Makris. ‘This allowed us to have prototypes on how exoskeletons must be additional redesigned and developed sooner or later, relying on completely different person profiles and completely different international locations.’

SHERLOCK, which has simply ended after 4 years, introduced collectively 18 European organisations in a number of international locations from Greece to Italy and the UK engaged on completely different areas of robotics.

The vary of members enabled the undertaking to harness all kinds of views, which Dr Makris mentioned was additionally helpful within the gentle of differing nationwide guidelines on integrating robotics know-how.

Because of the interplay of those robotic techniques with individuals, the software program is superior sufficient to present path to ‘future developments on the kinds of options to have and the way the office must be designed,’ mentioned Dr Makris.

Outdated arms, new instruments

One other EU-funded undertaking that ended this yr, CO-ADAPT, used cobots to assist older individuals navigate the digitalised office.

“You discover fascinating variations in how a lot the machine and the way a lot the particular person ought to do.”

– Prof Giulio Jacucci, CO-ADAPT

The undertaking group developed a cobot-equipped adaptive workstation to assist individuals in meeting duties, corresponding to making a cellphone, automobile or toy – or, certainly, combining any set of particular person parts right into a completed product throughout manufacturing. The station can adapt workbench peak and lighting to an individual’s bodily traits and visible talents. It additionally consists of options like eye-tracking glasses to collect info on psychological workload.

That brings extra perception into what every kind of individuals want, mentioned Professor Giulio Jacucci, coordinator of CO-ADAPT and a pc scientist on the College of Helsinki in Finland.

‘You discover fascinating variations in how a lot the machine and the way a lot the particular person ought to do, in addition to how a lot the machine ought to attempt to give steering and the way,’ Jacucci mentioned. ‘That is essential work that goes all the way down to the nuts and bolts of constructing this work.’

Nonetheless, cobot-equipped workplaces that may totally faucet into and reply to individuals’s psychological states in real-life settings may nonetheless be numerous years away, he mentioned.

‘It’s so complicated as a result of there’s the entire mechanical half, plus making an attempt to grasp individuals’s standing from their psychophysiological states,’ mentioned Prof Jacucci.

In the meantime, as a result of new applied sciences can be utilized in a lot less complicated methods to enhance the office, CO-ADAPT additionally explored digitalisation extra broadly.

Good shifts

One space was software program that allows ‘smart-shift scheduling’, which arranges responsibility intervals for employees primarily based on their private circumstances. The strategy has been proven to scale back sick depart, stress and sleep issues amongst social welfare and well being care employees.

‘It’s a improbable instance of how workability improves as a result of we use evidence-based data of have well-being-informed schedules,’ mentioned Prof Jacucci.

Specializing in the person is vital to the way forward for well-integrated digital instruments and robotics, he mentioned.

‘Let’s say you need to collaborate with some robotic in an meeting process,’ he mentioned. ‘The query is: ought to the robotic pay attention to my cognitive and different talents? And the way ought to we divide the duty between the 2?’

The fundamental message from the undertaking is that loads of room exists to enhance and broaden working environments.

‘It reveals how a lot untapped potential there may be,’ mentioned Prof Jacucci.

This text was initially revealed in Horizon, the EU Analysis and Innovation journal.

Analysis on this article was funded by the EU. In case you appreciated this text, please think about sharing it on social media.

Horizon Journal
brings you the most recent information and options about thought-provoking science and revolutionary analysis tasks funded by the EU.

Horizon Journal
brings you the most recent information and options about thought-provoking science and revolutionary analysis tasks funded by the EU.



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