Robots for collaboration
A cobot is
a robot for direct physical interaction with a human user, within
a shared workspace.
Cobots were invented
by Northwestern University professors J. Edward
Colgate and Michael
Peshkin in 1996. Cobots were intitially called "programmable constraint machines", highlighting a passive and safe method for allowing a computer to create a constraint surface for a human user (and optionally a payload) to follow.
The term "cobot" was coined by Brent Gillespie, a postdoc at Northwestern University at that time, in response to a lab competition to come up with a better name.
Cobot was chosen as one of the Words of Tomorrow by the Wall Street Journal in its January 1 2000 issue. Brent won $50.
The first patent related to cobots (US 5,923,129) was filed in February 1996, and a patent using the new name (US 5,952,796) was filed in October 1997.
The first academic paper on cobots was
Nonholonomic Haptic Display
James E. Colgate, Michael A. Peshkin, Witaya Wannasuphoprasit
Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Philadelphia, PA, April 23-27, 1996.
It won the Best Conference Paper award. The first paper using the word cobot was
Cobots: Robots for Collaboration with Human Operators
J. Edward Colgate, Witaya Wannasuphoprasit, Michael A. Peshkin
Proceedings of the International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exhibition, Atlanta, GA, DSC-Vol. 58, Nov. 17-22, 1996, pp. 433-439
Subsequent academic papers.
Photos of some early cobots.
Development of cobots at Northwestern University was supported by the General Motors Foundation,
the National Science Foundation, and Ford Motor Company.
A spinoff company, Cobotics
LLC, was founded in 1996 by Colgate and Peshkin, to develop, manufacture, and license cobotic
technology. In 2002 Cobotics LLC was acquired by Stanley
Assembly Technologies, Inc.
Other terms that are used for human-interactive robots include collaborative robots,
co-robots, and Intelligent Assist Devices (IADs). IAD is used especially in the material handling field.
A 2002 white paper on Cobots and IADs describes Cobotics' view of the future of human-robot collaboration.
The Robotics Industries Association issued a safety standard for IADs.
reports & publicity
gallery, pictures of early cobots
a Kinder, Gentler Robot, press release, Nov. 1996
Watching: Robots to provide help in a tight spot, Financial Times
(London), May 1, 1997
Advantage Chicago Tribune, Business, p.1, Dec. 11, 1996
of the word "cobot"
learn to guide people, WIRED News, Dec. 19, 1996
push while machine directs, Inside R&D 25:50, Dec. 11, 1996
Robots, Popular Mechanics, Tech Update, April 1997
Arigato Mr. Coboto, Canadian Business Magazine, "technology", Spring
inventors make assembly line safer, Northwestern Daily, April 8,
Magazine Awards for Technological Innovation, 1997, Discover Magazine,
helps humans in the factory, Advanced Manufacturing Technology,
Nov. 15, 1997
work with people, IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, Dec. 1996
for the assembly line, Mechanical Engineering Magazine, Nov. 1997
A new generation of assembly tools for the line worker, SPIE Robotics
and Machine Perception International Technical Working Group Newsletter,
see cobot publications here