The use of collaborative robots is becoming increasingly important in the field of automation. Traditional industrial robots are typically rigid, strong, and have limited sensory capabilities, which means that they are kept separate from human workers. In contrast, collaborative robots, have been designed with safety features and mechatronics that allow them to work alongside humans.
The introduction of collaborative robots in industrial manufacturing and other work environments has the potential to transform the way we think about collaborative teamwork. In positive scenarios, collaborative robots can increase both productivity and job satisfaction for human workers. However, in negative situations, collaboration with robots may lead to humans serving robots instead of the other way around, thus reversing traditional roles.
Some collaborative robots are even equipped with the ability to produce or interpret social signals. For instance, the Baxter robot is capable of displaying various facial expressions on its screen to signal different internal states. This can include an embarrassed blush, which lets human co-workers know that the robot is unsure about what to do next.
See a video of Baxter robot in action:
Bartneck, C. et al. (2020) Human-Robot Interaction: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108676649.