Robots are everywhere – improving how they communicate with humans can advance human-robot collaboration

Emotionally intelligent robots can improve their interactions with people. Andrew Onufriyenko/Moment via Getty Images

By Raman Vinjamuri (Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

Robot is a machine that can sense the environment and use that information to perform an action. You can find them almost everywhere in today’s industrial society. There are household robots that vacuum the floors and warehouse robots who packs and ships the goods. Laboratory robots testing hundreds of clinical samples a day. Educational robots support teachers by acting as personal tutors, assistants and discussion facilitators. And medical robotics consisting of prosthetic limbs can enable a person to grasp and grab objects with their mind.

Figuring out how humans and robots can collaborate to effectively perform shared tasks is a rapidly growing area of ​​interest for the scientists and engineers who design robots and the people who will use them. For successful collaboration between humans and robots, communication is key.

Robotics can help patients recover physical function in rehabilitation. BSIP/Universal Image Group via Getty Images

How people communicate with robots

The robot was originally designed for perform repetitive and mundane tasks and operate exclusively in robot-only zones such as factories. Since then, robots have advanced to work collaboratively with people in new ways to communicate with one another.

Cooperative control is one way to transmit information and messages between robots and humans. It involves combining human abilities and decision-making with the speed, accuracy and power of a robot to complete a task.

For example, robots in agriculture industry can help farmers monitor and harvest crops. Humans can control a semi-autonomous vineyard sprayer via a user interface, instead of manually spraying their crops or spraying entire fields extensively and risking overusing pesticides.

Robots can too support patients in physical therapy. Patients who have had a stroke or spinal cord injury can use the robot to practice holding hands and assisting with walking during rehabilitation.

other forms of communication, perception of emotional intelligence, involves developing robots that adapt their behavior based on social interactions with humans. In this approach, the robot detects a person’s emotions while collaborating on a task, assesses their satisfaction, then modifies and improves their execution based on this feedback.

For example, if the robot detects that a physical therapy patient is dissatisfied with a particular rehabilitation activity, it can direct the patient to an alternative activity. Facial expression and gesture recognition capabilities are important design considerations for this approach. The latest advances in machine learning can help robots decipher emotional body language and better interact with and understand humans.

Robots in rehab

Questions such as how to make robotic limbs feel more natural and capable of more complex functions such as typing and playing musical instruments remain unanswered.

I am a electrical engineer which studies how the brain controls and communicates with the rest of the body, and my laboratory investigate specifically how brain And hand coordinating signals between each other. Our goal is to design technologies such as prosthetics and wearables robot exoskeleton device which can help improve the function of individuals with stroke, spinal cord, and traumatic brain injury.

One approach is through brain-computer interface, which uses brain signals to communicate between robots and humans. By accessing a person’s brain signals and providing targeted feedback, this technology has the potential to improve recovery time stroke rehabilitation. Brain-computer interfaces can also help restore some communication capabilities And physical manipulation of the environment for patients with motor neuron disorders.

A brain-computer interface could allow people to control robotic arms with just a thought. Ramana Kumar Vinjamuri, CC BY-ND

The future of human-robot interaction

Effective integration of robots into human life requires balancing responsibilities between humans and robots, and assigning clear roles to both in different environments.

As robots increasingly work hand in hand with humans, the ethical questions and challenges they pose cannot be ignored. Concerns around personal, bias and discrimination, security risk And robotic morality needs to be seriously investigated to create a more comfortable, safe and trusted world with robots for everyone. Scientists and engineers study the “dark side” of human-robot interaction are developing guidelines to identify and prevent negative outcomes.

Human-robot interaction has the potential to affect every aspect of everyday life. It is the shared responsibility of designers and users to create a safe and satisfying human-robot ecosystem for all.


Ramana Vinjamuri receives funding from the National Science Foundation.

This article is republished from Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read original article.

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The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research communities and delivered directly to the public.

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