FELICE H2020 Project: Research Update by IfADo
The IfADo researchers completed a focus group survey to find out what concerns are among workers when collaborating with a mobile robot colleague. The focus was on smooth, understandable collaboration, and risky situations that may arise in human-robot collaboration. Additionally, the cause of potential risks ought to be identified. The participants not only mentioned possible problems with the robot, but also possible solutions.
Most important for the participants in the human-robot collaboration was that the robot had to be a relief at work. Therefore, reducing the physical and, more importantly, cognitive load on workers in complex and potentially hazardous work situations by improving work ergonomics. This can lead to increased work speed and reduced errors.
The findings of the focus group suggest that especially robot malfunctions can lead to stressful situations. Furthermore, the results show that measures for collision avoidance should be taken, for example, to move the robot only within a predefined area and use laser scanning systems to assess the environment and recognise objects and people. Adaptive visual or acoustic signals could be used to improve the collaboration between the worker and the robot. In this way, the robot can communicate its current state, and inform of malfunctions, which makes behaviour more transparent to the worker.
The training of the employees was seen by the participants as essential as a reliable and safe robot. The participants saw the need for a general introduction to the basic functions of the robot, but also for specific training on how to collaborate efficiently with the robot. This should include the training in emergency situations as a basic prerequisite for human-robot collaboration.