As coworking robots, or cobots, become more important in manufacturing, the focus is mostly on the physical safety of human beings who work closely with robots. But there is quite a bit of research on the emotional aspects of human-robot interaction, too.
We know that people will think twice about turning off a robot who begs for mercy. We’re willing to be bossed around by robots. We even make judgements about robots’ personalities based on purely mechanical behavior.
But new research from Cornell suggests that human performance can also be influenced by robots. In an experiment involving a tedious task and cash prizes, researchers found that people got discouraged if their robot rivals seemed to be much better at the game than they themselves.
When the robots beat them easily, the human subjects would quit trying. If the robot really outclassed them, they came to dislike the robot. This was measured with a post-game survey asking about competence and likeability. Subjects who had been skunked by their robot competitors judged the robots as more competent. But they also judged themselves as less competent, and the robots as less likeable.
The researchers think it might be a mistake to optimize cobots for efficiency and productivity. While it seems obvious that this is always the best outcome, it might not be. If a robot completes tasks easily in a setting that feels competitive, it could discourage human coworkers.
The secret might be to avoid making the setting feel competitive. A little healthy competition among human workers can be positive, but competition with cobots seems to be depressing. A factory full of depressed people is not a positive outcome.
Further research on robot-human interaction is likely. In the meantime, we can help with any service and support needs you may have for your Rexroth electric motion control. We offer phone support, field support, and factory repair and reman. We also have the largest stock of Rexroth components for emergency replacement — and that includes legacy units. Call for immediate assistance.