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MIT enables robot, human collaboration in manufacturing

Sharon Gaudin | June 13, 2012
MIT researchers have developed an algorithm that they say will enable robots to learn and adapt to humans so they can soon work side-by-side on factory floors.

"What we're finally seeing is that our digital helpers aren't just catching up to us, but, in some cases, are passing us," said Andrew McAfee, an MIT economist and co-author of the book Race Against the Machine, in a panel discussion last October. "In some head-to-head contests, machines have raced past us."

In Shah's work, the robots are designed to work in concert with humans, taking on repetitive or more dangerous work.

Steve Derby, associate professor and co-director of the Flexible Manufacturing Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said in a statement that MIT's algorithm moves the robotics industry closer to enabling a true collaboration between humans and robots.

"The evolution of the robot itself has been way too slow on all fronts, whether on mechanical design, controls or programming interface," Derby said. "I think this paper is important. It fits in with the whole spectrum of things that need to happen in getting people and robots to work next to each other."


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