2/2016

Teaming up with robots

Robots are quickly making their way to our workplaces. They will replace some of the human work involved, but to an increasing extent, they will also collaborate with their human colleagues. Tampere University of Technology has engaged in research on human-robot cooperation.

Man and robot shaking hands

 

TUT aspires to be the world’s leading research unit for intelligent machines and networked systems.

 

WHAT? ‘Seamless human-robot interaction’ research project

  • A joint project between TUT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Systems and the Department of Signal Processing.
  • Funding providers: The Technology Industries of Finland Centennial Foundation and the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation as part of the ‘Future Makers’ funding scheme
  • Applications for the research findings from the 2.5-year project will be found in industry, service robotics, healthcare and logistics.
 

The Technology Industries of Finland Centennial Foundation and the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation have provided funding in the amount of 430,000 euros to a project conducted at Tampere University of Technology and focusing on the development of human-robot cooperation.

“Our aim is to redefine ‘work’ as we know it, with humans as the experts and robots as the helpers,” says the responsible project leader, Associate Professor (tenure track) Minna Lanz from TUT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Systems.

When a human and a robot work together, they must both know what the other is doing. A robot with the ability to observe, learn and communicate improves the seamlessness and safety of the work.

In fact, the project supplements industrial robotics with the latest machine learning and computer vision advancements. By observing human movement, an intelligent robot learns to complete different tasks and to identify when a human needs assistance. It will also know when to request help, in turn.

“For instance, the system will learn to identify human activities that diverge from the normal operations and automatically adjust its movements according to the varied professional skills, approaches and habits of different people,” Associate Professor (tenure track) Joni Kämäräinen from the Department of Signal Processing points out.

Research group

 

Alireza Changizi (on the left), Antti Hietanen, Minna Lanz, Jussi Halme and Jyrki Latokartano examine ways to improve seamless and safe cooperation between humans and robots.

 

Robotics lays the foundation for the Finnish competitive landscape

Contrary to what people may sometimes think, the research group believes that the wider adoption of robotics and automation in industry will bring new jobs in Finland. It will therefore lay the foundation for the competitive edge of Finnish industry.

“Even now, industrial clients are demanding robotised working phases to ensure and monitor quality. In Finland, for example, there are many companies that receive their orders from the German automotive and process industries. These commissions come with expectations of high quality and top expertise,” Lanz points out.

“When using robotics and automation, it is possible to attain higher outputs, decreased costs per unit and improved quality. These are all key requirements for maintaining production in Finland and Europe.”

TUT’s Vice President for Research Ulla Ruotsalainen agrees that the project first and foremost serves the renewal of Finnish industry.

“High-quality education and research in the fields of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will play a key role in the industrial renewal,” she says.

The theme of the project is also closely associated with TUT’s strategic profile area for intelligent machines. The University is seeking to be the world’s foremost hub of research in intelligent machines and networked systems.

The ‘Future Makers’ funding scheme summons ideas for renewing Finnish society

The Technology Industries of Finland Centennial Foundation and the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation are providing funding for ambitious research projects conducted at universities and involving first-rate science that spurs social renewal.

In spring 2016, the newly established ‘Future Makers’ funding scheme attracted 140 ideas for new research proposals. Five projects among them were granted a total of 2.6 million euros in funding. The projects involve new approaches to combining digital economy, the Industrial Internet of Things and circular economy, along with design and humanities.

“We wanted to challenge researchers to come up with new ways to create expertise that is unique by international standards and that renews Finnish society and commerce,” says Board Member of Technology Industries of Finland Centennial Foundation, Dr.Tech JT Bergqvist.

One of the funding recipients is the ‘Seamless human-robot interaction’ research project at TUT.

 

Text: Tuuli Laukkanen
Photos: Seamless human-robot interaction’ research project and 123rf

 
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