At present, the use of cobots is enabling manufacturers in plants across the globe to automate many of the tasks on the factory floor that weren’t previously considered to be the primary candidates for robotic automation. While this a huge step forward, collaborative robots can also be used to control various aspects of the work cell. This in turn will have a positive impact on the factory’s performance as a whole.
Physical robots are starting to meet the requirements of bot researchers and manufacturers but progress still needs to be made in the control of collaborative robots. Over the last few years, there have been a plethora of programming systems but advanced collaborative interaction still remains in its infancy stages.
While, the creation of cobots is a giant leap for mankind, where does their future lie? The most crucial avenues of research for cobots is going to be improving the quality of interaction between robots and humans. Here are some of the other trends that will shape the next decade of collaborative robots research.
Cobots adapting to humans
Unlike traditional robots, cobots work more closely with humans thus the need for them to enable them to adapt to human behaviors and respond to them.However, as a field of research, this kind of adaptation is still young.
In the next five years or so, researchers in the robotics industry need to focus on recognizing basic human behaviors and in turn adapt the actions of cobots to respond to them.
Cobots that are truly collaborative
As it is, collaborative robots mostly operate on their own. Their collaboration is very basic as it involves removing and placing objects on the workspace of the cobot. However, there is room for a much deeper level of collaboration between robots and humans. This is where robots will have the ability of completing a complex plan in collaboration with a human as well as adapt to any changing needs of that plan.
Over the next five years, researchers are expected to have created fully collaborative robots. This will be done through the incorporation of explicit plans into programming to give cobots the ability to detect position changes in the plan.
Cobots that are more sociable
Social interactions is particularly crucial to the social robotics field. However, it is also just as relevant for industrial robots. In the end, there is the need for cobots to be able to interact with human workers in a dialogue. For this to happen, more complex interactions than the current methods of programming need to be involved.
In the next five years, researchers will need to develop systems or programs that allow the robot to model and track a user’s state in a setting that is controlled. In the next 10 to 15 years, collaborative robots will develop the ability to operate with different types of users as well as change user states.
Cobots that can handle long-term interactions
At present, cobot interactions take place over a very short period of time. For instance, for cobots, programming can only take a few minutes and their interaction with users is quite basic. However, the time frame will increase as interactions continue to become more complex.
Since the life cycle of a cobot can be over 10 years, it means that its human operator might use it for years. Therefore, there is need to develop a robot that adapts its collaboration speed to make the most of the abilities of each human colleague and remember their individual needs over the years they will be working together.
In the next five years, researchers should work on maintaining longer interactions between cobots and their human operators.
While it is hard to tell which trend will catch on first due to the unpredictable nature of research, it is evident that the future of robotics is bright. Remember that all these trends have years of research behind them. Therefore, the question is not if they will happen but rather when, only time will tell.