New German Workbot is Programmed to be Cheerful when Busy

Forget menacing, hulking robots…forget boring boxy factory robots…meet the pi4-workerbot. It’s programmed to be amiable and the more work it has the more cheerful it becomes.pi4-workerbot. It’s programmed to be amiable and the more work it has the more cheerful it becomes.

According to Fraunhofer Labs, a German robotic company, the workbot is designed to meld right in with existing assembly line jobs and hums right along the proverbial 24/7.

“If a company needs to produce something fast but has no worker resources, the idea would be to rent the workerbot and integrate it into human working spaces,” Fraunhofer researcher Dragoljub Surdilovic told UK tech magazine, The Engineer.

The European Union-funded PISA project provided money for the robot’s construction. The EU seeks greater productivity in factories with the use of more robots in the workforce.

All in the wrist

The human-sized robot has very sensitive tactile sensors in its fingertips—so sensitive it can grasp and pick up an eggs without cracking it. That’s an amazing feat—the dream of robotics engineers for decades. Yet the pi4-workerbot accomplished it without a second thought.

That ability allows the bot to pick up small things like gears, sprockets and housing assemblies and jiggle them together.

Although the torso is not very flexible, its shoulders move and wrists rotate. The workbot’s real claim to fame is its hands and wrists.

Beaming bot

Interfacing with humans on the factory floor, it smiles happily whenever it completes a task and the smile seems to stretch just a bit wider when new assignments are given it by its supervisors. When it completes a lengthy or a difficult task, it beams with happiness.

The bot’s vision is as good as the sensors in its hands. It has three cameras—one a 3D mounted on its forehead—and is mobile allowing easy integration anywhere in the workplace. Its vision is so precise, it can inspect manufactured items more accurately than humans.

The robot can become so exhilarated with the joy of accomplishing some tasks, it wants to share hugs of accomplishment with fellow workers.

Although the pi4-workerbot is an absolutely amazing achievement in industrial robot engineering, the designers might want to dial down the exhilaration factor the bot displays. Physical outbursts of emotional reactions to completion of jobs may begin to wear on the nerves of human workers after a time.

The Fraunhofer Research News states that “If its work is going smoothly, it will smile happily. If it looks bored, it’s waiting for work, and the production manager knows the production process can be sped up.”