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Robots and humans will work it out

Robots and humans working and living together in perfect harmony? For some the idea of a robot for a colleague might actually be quite appealing and new technology innovations point to a future where this scenario will become commonplace in many industries.

Robotics have been used in factory settings for a long time. Last week the People’s Daily, a Chinese newspaper, released a video on YouTube showing footage of robots that are processing nearly a quarter of a million packages a day.

A closer working relationship between robots and humans, where the two can carry out more tasks in unison, is still in its relative infancy though.

An exciting initiative in 2016 led by Dr De Momi, of the Politecnico di Milano, demonstrated how a robot could assist in surgery. She led a team who taught a robot how to replicate human actions.

De Momi’s work indicates that humans and robots can effectively coordinate their actions during high-stakes events such as surgeries.

Dr De Momi presents a positive vision of how robots can play a bigger role in the workplace, alongside humans rather than as replacements for them.

“As a roboticist, I am convinced that robotic (co)workers and collaborators will definitely change the work market, but they won’t steal job opportunities. They will just allow us to decrease workload and achieve better performances in several tasks, from medicine to industrial applications,” she said in a WEF article.

The manufacturing industry is inextricably linked to automation and has been using robotic technology for generations.

Dr Stefan Hartung, a member of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH whose responsibilities include the Industrial Technology business sector, says in “the coming decades, everyday work in the manufacturing industry will undergo fundamental changes.”

Bosch is showcasing its APAS assistant – a robot which can collaborate with people – as part of the Workplace 4.0 concept it is presenting at Hannover Messe 2017.

Workplace 4.0 is a new environment where the dynamics between machine and human will be transformed. It is a future not too far away when “people and machines will work more closely together than ever before,” Dr Hartung said.

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