Cooperation with industrial robots becomes intuitive

January 31, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Cooperation with industrial robots becomes intuitive
Improved algorithms and sensor technology enable direct collaboration between humans and robots in industrial production environments.

Until recently, robots worked in specially fenced and protected areas. Recently, humans and robots have been able to work together - a little, at least, because direct interaction is still not possible: For safety reasons, robots stop moving as soon as people enter a large security area around them. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU have now developed a technology that makes collaboration with large-scale industrial robots almost as intuitive as with human colleagues. This technology enables robots to recognize gestures, faces and postures, thus enabling particularly safe and efficient cooperation.

The Fraunhofer technology increases the efficiency of cooperation - and thus of the entire production process. "We have added effective, safe and flexible interaction to the technology used to date," says Dr.-Ing. Mohamad Bdiwi, head of department at Fraunhofer IWU. "For the first time, humans can communicate and cooperate directly with heavy-duty robots.” In production, the cooperation looks like this: When the human enters the work area around the robot, the robot recognizes its gestures, face and posture. On the one hand, he uses the data to make the collaboration safe, and on the other hand, he uses it for control purposes. For example, humans can give work orders to their metal colleagues using hand and arm gestures - the robot itself analyzes complex movements. "Our technology brings gesture control to industry. Until now, it has primarily been used in game environments, such as consoles," adds Bdiwi.

In addition to the human hands, the robot also keeps an eye on the human face: If a person looks to the side or to the rear because he/she is talking to a colleague standing there, for example, the machine knows that the arm movements do not apply to it. Human and robot can work together directly and also hand over workpieces or tools. If the worker's hand is too close to his face for a


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