Chapter 69 — Physical Human-Robot Interaction

A cobot in automobile assembly

Collaborative robots - cobots - are a new class of robotic devices for direct physical interaction with a human operator in a shared workspace. Cobots implement software-defined "virtual surfaces" which can guide human and payload motion. A joint project of General Motors and Northwestern University has brought an alpha prototype cobot into an industrial environment. This cobot guides the removal of an automobile door from a newly painted body prior to assembly. Because of tight tolerances and curved parts, the task requires a specific escape trajectory to prevent collision of the door with the body. The cobot's virtual surfaces provide physical guidance during the critical "escape" phase, while sharing control with the human operator during other task phases. (Video Proceedings of the Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, 1999)
Prasad Akella, Nidamaluri Nagesh, Witaya Wannasuphoprasit, J. Edward Colgate, Michael Peshkin