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News Link • Robots and Artificial Intelligence

The Next Wave of Factory Robots

• Jessica Leber via
 Automation giant ABB, based in Zurich, has developed Frida, a two-armed concept robot meant to be carried around and mounted to regular workstations on the manufacturing floor. ABB says Frida can be “easily interchanged with a human coworker” when new layouts are needed.

President Obama launched a national initiative last year to develop robots that are better able to work “alongside people” and “augment human capabilities.” The aim: bring manufacturing back to the U.S., where six million factory jobs were lost between 2001 and 2009.

Safety standards will be important if robots are to take up new tasks. Pictured is the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s robot manufacturing test bed in Maryland. NIST is working with industry groups to develop ways to ensure worker safety so that robots can be freed from their cages.

Robots can learn and adapt to the style of individual workers, says Julie Shah, head of MIT’s Interactive Robotics Group. She took on the problem of spar assembly, the process of building an airplane wing structure, in the demonstration pictured above. The robot was trained to recognize a worker’s preferred order of placing and hammering bolts, and to apply sealant at the right moment. The work, shown here in a video, was sponsored by Boeing.

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