AI News, Meet the robots that will be your colleagues—not your replacements

Meet the robots that will be your colleagues—not your replacements

The big difference with this new generation of robots is that they don't have to operate in closed-off areas.

Fully automating a factory isn't always desirable because modern manufacturing companies need flexibility to quickly alter their processes for a variety of products and customization.

Even if full automation with larger, faster industrial robots is more efficient, cobots can allow factories to increase their output while retaining a degree of flexibility.

For example, cobots take up the tedious and repetitive task of fastening each of the screws in a battery pack from the hands of their fellow humans.

Rather than replacing human jobs, cobots may create new jobs in applications, in which their strength, endurance and precision is combined with human dexterity, flexibility and problem solving.

In the future, cobots will pick, place and mount the components, and the human worker will finalize and check the output.

The incumbent companies tend to focus on conventional, heavy-load industrial robots for large volume manufacturing of cars, electronics or food products.

As cobots' speed, accuracy and ability to carry heavy loads continues to get better in coming years, they will increasingly be able to compete with traditional industrial robots and so there's a good chance that mainstream customers will also start to adopt them as well.


Cobots, or collaborative robots, are robots intended to interact with humans in a shared space or to work safely in close proximity.

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR)[3], a global industry association of robot manufacturers and national robot associations, collects statistics on two types of robots – 1)industrial robots used in manufacturing and 2) service robots for domestic and professional use.

Collaborative industrial robots can be used to automate repetitive, unergonomic tasks - such as fetching and carrying heavy parts, machine feeding and final assembly.

Collaborative industrial robots enable automotive and electronics manufacturers to extend automation to final product assembly, finishing tasks (for example polishing and applying coatings), and quality inspection.

In most industrial applications of cobots today, the cobot and human worker share the same space but complete tasks independently or sequentially (Co-existence or Sequential Collaboration.) Co-operation or Responsive Collaboration are presently less common.

invention resulted from a 1994 General Motors initiative led by Prasad Akella of the GM Robotics Center and a 1995 General Motors Foundation research grant intended to find a way to make robots or robot-like equipment safe enough to team with people.[10]

General Motors and an industry working group used the term Intelligent Assist Device (IAD) as an alternative to cobot, especially in the context of industrial material handling and automotive assembly operations.[13]

Since the safety of a collaborative robot is ultimately determined by the application (for example, a cobot wielding a cutting tool would be unsafe if humans could make contact, whereas the same robot sorting foam chips would not be) .