Robots carry out work more safely with assistive technology

Robots carry out their tasks more safely if they are controlled by another technology making them more suitable for use in the care sector, a study has revealed.

The study conducted at the Robotics and Mechatronics department at the University of Twente in Netherlands, said that soon the use of assistive robotics will become ever more important due to the increased ageing of the population and the steadily rising costs of care.

Researcher Stefan Groothuis noted in his study that the existing robots are not ideal for a care-support function because they carry out repetitive tasks in industry.

“These robots generally behave as rigid and less safe systems: the system that controls the electromotors (actuators) lacks the flexibility that is required in an unfamiliar domestic environment,” the study explained.

Adding a kind of elastic spring to the actuator can make the robot, or the robot arm, much safer, as shown by research carried out by the Robotics and Mechatronics department.

This spring ensures that the robot behaves in a more elastic way: it yields when it collides with an obstacle. This technology (known as the variable stiffness actuator) has never before been used in assistive robotics.

“We believe this can form the basis of a new generation of robots in the care sector: robots that can carry out more everyday tasks in a safer way, while simultaneously remaining extremely precise,” Groothuis said.

The material of the story was provided by University of Twente.