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14-03-2019 | Industry 4.0 | News | Article

Interactive Control of Industrial Robots

Nadine Winkelmann

A novel technology could enable more intuitive cooperation with large industrial robots. The robots are capable of recognising gestures, faces and postures, enabling particularly safe and efficient cooperation.

Although heavy-duty robots in production halls now operate alongside their human colleagues without a protective fence between them, direct interaction is not possible. Until now, for safety reasons, the robot stopped moving as soon as a human entered a large-scale safety area in its proximity. A novel technology from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU) should now increase the efficiency of human-robot cooperation, and with it the entire production process. As soon as the human enters the working area in the proximity of the robot, the robot recognises his or her gestures, face and body posture. This would enable a human to give orders to the robot using hand or arm gestures, for example.

"Our technology brings gesture control to industrial applications. To date, it has been used mainly in gaming applications, for example, for consoles," explains Dr.-Ing. Mohamad Bdiwi from Fraunhofer IWU. Besides paying attention to the human's hands, the robot also pays attention to his or her face: If the human were to look back or to the side, for example, because they wanted to the talk to a colleague, the machine would understand this and then ignore the arm gestures. Humans and robots can now work together without borders, and hand components and tools to each other. If the worker's hand is too close to his or her face, and the handover could be dangerous, the robot recognises this and waits until the worker reaches towards the robot from further away. The core of this human-robot interaction is intelligent algorithms and 3D cameras that serve as the robot's "eye".

The algorithms are ready for implementation. At the Hanover Messe from April 1 to 5, 2019, Fraunhofer IWU will present a demo application to visitors that can be controlled interactively using gestures (Hall 17, Booth C24).


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