KUKA Innovation Award 2018: And the winner is…

This year, the science competition KUKA Innovation Award brought realistic applications for the interaction of a robot outside the industrial environment. The direct support of humans by the robot in an unstructured and dynamically changing surrounding was the focus point of the KUKA Innovation Award 2018. Team CoAware accepted the “Real-World Interaction Challenge” and won the Award. We talked to them about their application and participation in the science competition and asked them about their plans for the future.

How did you hear about the Innovation Award?

We knew it from the previous year’s organizations and received information about the event for 2018 during robotics conferences.

Can you briefly describe your application?

We presented an ergonomic and dynamically reconfigurable human-robot collaboration framework. This framework enables online adaptation, not only to the variations of the task and the environment, but also to the human states that contribute to the ergonomics. As a result, human co-workers can perform their tasks in a healthy and comfortable way by guiding them to configurations in which the effect of external load on the joints is minimal.

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What is special about your application?

Our idea was to adapt robots to task variations and human states to promote ergonomic human-robot collaboration. This required the integration of several modules, from human tracking and dynamic models to robot control and feedback mechanisms into a unified solution. To achieve this, IIT researchers from the HRI2 laboratory with expertise on robot interaction control, human-robot collaboration, human dynamic modeling, and feedback interfaces, teamed up with researchers of iCub facility and Humanoid Sensing and Perception laboratory, with expertise on robotic vision.

The idea of an ergonomic human-robot collaboration is very exciting. How did you come up with this idea?

Over the past few years, we have been working on the development of collaborative frameworks and workstations that enable online adaptation to task variations and human co-worker states. This led us to the idea of improving human ergonomics using such systems, the positive consequences of which can have a significant economic impact on European competitive industry.

What’s next, do you already have plans for your application or are you already working on a new project?

Several new proposals and project ideas are targeting this application. Some of them even arrived in Hannover during our time at HANNOVER MESSE. We are looking forward to the integration of this framework in realistic industrial environments.

How do you feel after winning the Innovation Award?

We’ve been working hard to show our application at HANNOVER MESSE. On the one hand, we are extremely happy about winning the KUKA Innovation Award. On the other hand, we are looking forward to continue our work on our project in order to make industrial work more ergonomic.

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