As machine-human collaborations become increasingly important to scale and optimise industrial operations, robotic devices are smarter to detect slight human movements – bridging the gap between homo-machina functions to increase precision and safety.
Humantics, an MIT spinout, is developing indoor radar systems that allow robots to detect human movement with greater precision than ever before.
Existing camera and depth sensors fitted onto industrial robots often gauge a proximate idea of a human co-worker’s position and movements within three-dimensional space. Emerging intelligent sensor systems will trigger safety modes that shut down machines altogether when a human worker is too close. This narrows physical proximity between machines and humans enough to implement assembly line functions. A human worker would pick up an item that the robot has set down without fear of an injury. This model of harmonious co-working can be applied in a variety of settings – especially locations like warehouses where manual labour is expressly repetitive.
Although there is some concern that intelligent machines will replace humans, experts believe that machines (at their current state of development) will be more productive if conjoined with human labour. Symbiotic homo-mechanical systems are already operational in some Amazon warehouses, where robots help people move items around mega fulfilment centres securely and efficiently.
Thomas d’Halluin, chief executive officer of Airbus Ventures, commented on the innovation, “we see Humatics’s technology as no less than a tectonic shift in position and motion tracking. Its quantum leap in precision unlocks powerful potentials for a wealth of new applications.”