Technology 3 min read

Meet Cobots, the Collaborative Robots who Won't Replace you



Robots have been an integral part of the industry for decades. Conventional industrial robots are known to be powerful, fast, and precise.

However, in recent years, a new trend of industrial robotics has emerged. Traditional machines can’t hold a candle to a new generation of robots: “cobots,” which promise more affordable, flexible, and efficient automation.

What is collaborative robotics, and how it would reshape the industry and the human-machine relationship in the workplace?

What are Cobots?

The compound term “cobots” stands for “collaborative robots.” Cobots are machines embedded with sensors and powered by AI software.

Collaborative robots can deliver much more when it comes to optimizing production processes and boosting competitiveness. They work beyond simple pre-programmed commands, as they can react to people and their environment, and gather experience.

The concept of cobots was first presented in 1996 by researchers at Northwestern University in the US, and a patent was filed in 1997. The document describes “an apparatus and method for direct physical interaction between a person and a general-purpose manipulator controlled by a computer.” 

Collaborative Robots: Human-Machine Teamwork

The collective image we may have of industrial robots is that of a manipulator arm on a fixed base performing a variety of tasks quickly and with high precision. For example, these robots are used to spray paint, wield, or lift heavy loads.

Usually, because of the power and speed involved, traditional industrial robot systems often pose safety issues in the workplace. Often these robots are confined inside a safety cage and can’t operate outside closed-off areas.

On the other hand, cobots are safer. They can interact with humans safely and learn from this experience to boost their teamwork efforts.

Cobots may not be as powerful or move as fast as traditional industrial robots, but this comes with greater safety. Collision sensors allow cobots to detect any potential impact with an object or person in working areas previously reserved only for humans.

Although it is their main operation field, cobots can have many applications beyond manufacturing.

Cobots can serve in space, like NASA’s shapeshifting robots designed to aid scientists in exploring the farthest reaches of our solar system. NASA and General Motors’s Robonaut 2 (R2), is another collaborative robotics solution for a wide range of applications.

Pick-and-place tasks are usually done manually, and because of their routine and repetitive nature, they can lead to mistakes or injuries. King’s College London’ GROWBOT project is an excellent example of how cobots can help in automating some time-consuming tasks. GROWBOT is an acronym for GROWer-reprogrammable roBOT for ornamental plant production tasks.

Robots have served for a long time in the food processing industry, but now they’re moving into restaurants. Cobots can serve in restaurants and bars as baristas and bartenders. Or as burger-flippers like Miso Robotics’ Flippy, claimed by the company to be “the world’s first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant.”

Read More: Russian Startup Begins Mass Production Of Humanoid Robots

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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