Robot Hits Human Volunteers to Find Out If It Hurts

A team of German researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF has developed a machine that kicks people, literally 1 photo
Artificial Intelligence may be the smart way humans will slowly back out of heavy industry factories and let robots do the hard work. However, to trust machines with such a job, scientists, users of human-robot collaboration and robot manufacturers have all agreed that, even if an error happens, robots should not exceed a harmless minor injury.
A team of German researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF has developed a machine that literally kicks people. The intensity is similar to that of a slap, and “the bullied” are volunteers who willingly go through the experiment. They are trying to help the country’s industrial companies that are using robots already and those that will eventually have machines doing the dirty jobs to regulate the way robots will co-exist with humans.

It is well known that carmakers use robots in their manufacturing plants, and Germany - as the home country of big players like Daimler, Volkswagen or BMW - has all the reasons to invest in such research. The Fraunhofer IFF has developed a test setup with a pendulum, which has been approved by an ethics commission. It allows collision tests with human subjects for the first time to determine maximum load.

Is this machine preparing to take over the world? No. As a matter of fact, any test that is run is supervised by physicians from Otto von Guericke University Hospital. It’s only in these conditions select areas of the human subject’s bodies are struck systematically with varying energy.

“The pendulum mass, the collision speed and the impactor’s geometry are varied during tests with human subjects. Every test is concluded the moment one of the loads classified as tolerable or moderately severe pain occurs. The maximum loads such as force, pressure or impact energy ascertained during the tests with human subjects can be used subsequently to define verified thresholds. Thus, the Fraunhofer IFF is making an important contribution to defining verified maximum loads, the future benefits of which will go far beyond human-robot collaboration.”

These tests may seem rather odd, but it is quite recognized that Europe is facing an aging problem, as many of the European Union states are experiencing a worrying growth of the older population compared to the younger generations.
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