Worker-Friendly Robots

Photo by Dewey Hentges

Evanston, IL - A kinder, gentler family of robots invented by engineers at Northwestern University could soon take its place on the assembly line.

They are called "cobots" - short for collaborative robots - and they make work easier for humans, rather than replacing them. On the production line, the chief function of the cobot is to prevent collisions between parts, enabling humans to work more quickly and easily. General Motors, for example, is experimenting with using a cobot to help assembly-line workers more easily fit a complete instrument panel through the narrow door opening of a truck cab. Researchers are also designing an armlike cobot to assist surgeons.

Don't worry that a cobot might steal your job. Since they lack motors, they can't get any work done without the help of a cooperative human.


Popular Mechanics, April 1997, Volume 174, No.4, pg. 20.