KUKA researches psychosocial aspects of human-robot collaboration
Together with the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Deutsche Sporthochschule (German Technical College for Sports), KUKA is evaluating a robotic system for neuromuscular training.
October 28, 2020
Three systems are being tested
Robot as carrying aid
Direct interaction between robots and humans
In addition to sensors and a Roboception camera, the system is also equipped with a tablet that enables visual feedback. “The test persons have no specific robotic training. The tablet makes communication more comfortable and establishes confidence in the interaction,” says Nadine Bender from KUKA, explaining the rationale behind the technical equipment.
The system also contains maps of the surroundings, in order to be able to control the navigation, and a database of photos. Using the integrated face recognition function, the robot greets its human partner by name. All three systems, i.e. this system, the leg press and the treadmill, can sense posture and movement and the strain placed on the person, and thus adapt to the person and to the specific situation. In this way, the robots ensure that users and patients are not overloaded or endangered. One woman who took part in the test said: “After a brief familiarization phase, I quickly noticed how the robot reacted to me, what it did and what it didn’t do. For example, I realized relative quickly that it does not tend make hectic motions.”
KUKA is focusing on basic research
In the network with the Technical College for Sports in Cologne and the Ministry of Education and Research, KUKA is performing basic research. While a number of investigations into human-robot interaction already exist, KUKA’s experiments additionally cover psychosocial aspects. The intention is for these findings to be applied subsequently to other products. “Particularly in the care sector, cooperation with robots is becoming increasingly important. However, humans and intelligent machines are also increasingly working in the immediate vicinity of one another in industrial settings,” emphasizes Nadine Bender.
The research project, in which the results of the test week in Augsburg are now being evaluated, runs until 31 January 2021. Evaluation of the two other systems in Cologne is being carried out equally comprehensively in the fall. Project manager Dr. Uwe Zimmermann says: “At the moment, we are concentrating both on the psychosocial research and on the development of innovative new technologies that can also be incorporated into other products. Ultimately, we want to develop a robot system that is able to learn and to apply forces actively, thereby making it an interactive assistant for humans.”