Cobot is short for collaborative robot, meaning these automated helpers are specifically designed to assist humans, rather than simply replace them. Invented in 1996 by professors at Northwestern University as part of a research initiative with General Motors, cobots are between two- and four-feet tall and often are in the form of an arm. They tend to be easy to program, which means they can be operated by most workers and can smoothly transition between various types of factory jobs.
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do they do?
Cobots were invented specifically to help reduce the risk of injury for assembly-line workers and therefore are often helping them with tasks that require heavy lifting, squeezing into tight places or other ergonomic challenges. Cobots are also used for repetitive tasks that can lead to mistakes or inconsistencies when performed by humans because of their tedious nature. For instance, cobots work with superheated materials such as metal or glue or stack parts off a conveyor belt all day. They also take on the tedious task of tending precision computerized numerical control (CNC) machining.
do they work
Whereas large industrial robots often must be literally caged in to protect human workers, cobots are designed to operate safely alongside them. Among other safety features such as cameras, they include collision-detection sensors that alert humans and the cobot that they are getting close and stops the cobot to prevent physical contact. Researchers are even working on ways to create real communication between cobot and worker and other enhancements that make cobots act more like humans. For instance, some cobots now have faces and look in the direction they are about to reach to give human workers a head-up.