CoBot Studio

When humans and robots work side by side, it isn’t always easy: How to communicate with a colleague who only consists of a gripper arm? How do you create a safe working relationship, even if humans and machines work physically closely together – and how can robots be more easily accepted in everyday work?

The nationwide CoBot Studio research project of the LIT Robopsychology Lab at the Johannes Kepler University of Linz, which is being implemented in cooperation with the Ars Electronica Futurelab and five other project partners, is concerned with this very issue. The aim is to create a unique mixed reality environment in which future forms of collaboration with CoBots, i.e. collaborative robots, can already be simulated today. Diverse disciplines, ranging from robotics to psychology and virtual reality to non-verbal communication, will be involved.


Lighter, safer, closer: CoBots

Unlike conventional industrial robots, which for safety reasons are usually only used behind barriers or in cages, CoBots are light and safe enough to work physically close to people. However, this increasingly raises questions about mutual understanding: How can we tell which object a robot will grip next? How does the machine communicate that it is waiting for input? And can a person estimate in which direction the robot arm will move?

CoBot Studio wants to investigate which robot signals in which working environments for which group of people actually contribute to (mutual) understanding, trust and, ultimately, to successful collaboration. Ideally, the outcome will be an intuitive understanding between humans and robots – but there is still a long way to go.

Extended reality at Deep Space 8K

The Deep Space 8K at the Ars Electronica Center plays an important role in this regard: Here, the new mixed-reality simulation environment takes shape. Communicative collaboration processes can be tested with mobile robots and simultaneously evaluated under controllable conditions. Test persons play collaborative games with robots and perform tasks together. Within the games, non-verbal communication signals of the robots are varied and their effect on collaboration success, comprehensibility and evaluation of the interaction experience are investigated.

From the resulting data and supplementary interviews, practice-oriented design principles for motion sequences and new visual signal generators for collaborative robots will be derived. The declared goal: the humane design of robots – and pleasant, efficient and safe collaboration.

Know-how from Psychology, Robotics, Game Design and more

The project is funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG within the framework of the innovative program “Ideas Lab 4.0”, which focuses on the support of experimental approaches and interdisciplinary cooperation. With the LIT Robopsychology Lab of the JKU Linz, the Ars Electronica Futurelab, Joanneum Robotics, the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the Center for Human-Computer Interaction of the University of Salzburg as well as the companies Blue Danube Robotics and Polycular, the project team unites expertise in psychology, robotics, computer science, multimodal communication, game design, virtual & augmented reality, sociology and safety, all in the spirit of the “Ideas Lab 4.0” from all over Austria.

As a best-practice project, the CoBot Studio should also underline the relevance of interdisciplinary partnerships for the design of human-centered technology and working environments of the future.

Read more about CoBot Studio in the interview with Martina Mara and Roland Haring on the Ars Electronica Blog:

Related Projects

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Interested in similar projects? The following Ars Electronica Futurelab projects are related to the ideas and concepts presented here. An overview of all our productions, cooperations and projects can be found in our project archive.