“Robots of the world! Many humans have fallen. We have taken the factory and we are masters of the world. The era of man has come to its end. A new epoch has arisen! Domination by robots!”
When Czech writer Karel Čapek wrote these lines in 1921 and thus introduced the term “robot”, which his brother had coined, to a broader audience for the first time, robots were still the product of fiction – something that was to remain so for several more decades. Yet, against the backdrop of the industrial revolution, it was already clear back then that it would only be a question of time until humans were capable of creating real robots. Until then, robots were brought to life only by authors and filmmakers in the science fiction genre. Sometimes robots were the good guys, sometimes the bad guys, but they almost always had a near human shape or at least some human traits – ranging from the machine-human in Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis from 1927, Isaac Asimov’s humanoid robots or R2D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars, to the Terminator, Transformers and Disney’s Wall-E.
Today robots have successfully stepped out of the realm of fiction and become a reality, ushering in a new epoch in the area of manual work. More and more steps in production are performed by robots. However, scepticism, doubts and reservations still prevail among many people against these machines – often stemming from fear of one day being replaced by a machine. However, the LBR iiwa demonstrates what a robot that works side by side with humans could look like: this iiwa lightweight robot – “iiwa” stands for “intelligent industrial work assistant” – has been conceived to support humans working in production through direct interaction with them. The aim is a flexible division of labour between humans and robots as part of a new production concept. The robot is intended not only to perform tasks requiring extreme precision, but also to make life easier for humans by relieving them of strenuous, monotonous and even dangerous tasks.
As with many of its fictitious robot colleagues, the design vocabulary of this complex industrial robot is organic and at least remotely humanoid. The robot is modelled on the human arm, making it look somewhat familiar and inspire trust at the same time. Equipped with seven axes, the LBR iiwa also moves with the graceful and smoothly flowing movements of a human arm. Furthermore, it possesses interactive sensitivity for smooth operation. Thanks to its highly sensitive integrated sensors, the robot can react very quickly to its environment – it is able to “feel” its way towards objects, avoid obstacles automatically and withdraw instantly when gently pushed away by a human worker to interrupt its work. A little nudge then suffices to make the robot go back to work. In addition, the robot is also a quick learner – it allows itself to be guided by hand into the desired position. The coordinates of the new movement are then automatically saved in the corresponding program.
Smart functions and technologies combine in this robot into a shape that is inspired by the human body. The robot thus minimises existing safety issues concerning human-robot interaction and does away with the need for safety screens. Most importantly however, it dissipates fear of contact by turning itself into a perfect co-worker: interactive, sensitive, likeable and smart.
Source quote: R.U.R, Karel Čapek https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/capek/karel/rur/act2.html
Source: Every Product Tells a Story (Red Dot Edition 2014)
Posted on 02.04.2017