Skip to content

The Next Evolution in Human-Robot Collaboration

The Next Evolution in Human-Robot Collaboration


After penetrating the market a few years ago, the industry has been steadily transformed by human-robot collaboration. Collaborative robots have been widely successful and are becoming a key player in a variety of industries, particularly automotive and electronics.

While we do not expect collaboration at a Robocop or IronMan level yet, it is still quite a feat that we can now see humans and robots working together on the production line without separation and without safety fencing.

For robots to interact with humans autonomously, they need active decision making that takes human partners into account. For every step or task, they must firstly be coded or restricted by interactions that ensure they do not harm humans in the surroundings, even accidentally.

In short, the more computers can think like humans, the better they will be at performing tasks. We often take for granted how easy it is for us to do basic tasks like, say, reach into a fridge and grab a beer. But asking a robot to do that same task is really difficult right now, but maybe not so in the near future.

Even brighter future ahead, despite uncertainties

Today’s emerging technologies often feel like strange, new curiosities. Artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality, home robots, and cloud computing, to name only a few of the sophisticated technologies in development today, are capturing the imaginations of many. The advanced capabilities of today’s emerging technologies are driving many to envision futures in which their impacts on society will be nothing short of transformative.

At a recent expert workshop hosted by Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future (IFTF), participants suggested that the technologies in play over the next decade have the potential to “solve some of the intractable problems that humanity has faced for so long,”offer the opportunity to “increase productivity [such that] all our basics needs [are taken care of],” and fundamentally reframe “notions of what it means to be a person.”

While there are still many questions as to the extent of these technologies’ influence in daily lives, they will definitely affect the conditions of everyday life and reshape how many live and work in 2030. As a result, many organisations and people will navigate unchartered waters over the next decade, unsure of what lies ahead.

In Dell’s Digital Transformation Index study, with 4,000 senior decision makers across the world, 45 per cent say they are concerned about becoming obsolete in just three to five years, nearly half do not know what their industry will look like in just three years’ time, and 73 per cent believe they need to be more ‘digital’ to succeed in the future.

Understanding cognitive computing What if robots can think and behave like humans? Cognitive computing – of which AI is but one part – refers to an entirely new class of technologies whose purpose is to deepen human engagement, scale and elevate expertise, enable new products and services, and enhance exploration and discovery.

Cognitive systems can understand

massive and constantly growing amounts of data, reason and extract insights, continually learn and then interact with people naturally. They will give society an unparalleled ability to make smarter, informed decisions.

Unlike early forays into AI – or efforts to mimic humans – cognitive systems such as IBM Watson are specifically designed to augment human intelligence, and to work side-by-side with human experts as tools for enhanced decision-making.

It is happening now

The merging of machine capability and human consciousness is already happening.

A start-up company called Humai has announced plans to bring the dead back to life by transplanting their consciousness into a new brain in an artificial body. The company uses AI and nanotechnology to store data of conversational styles, behavioural patterns and thought processes. Imagine working with robots that have the conscious of a human?

Google DeepMind’s artificial intelligence AlphaGo made history when it won the complex game of Go against Lee Sedol, one of the greatest world players. This milestone was a feat in itself, and even more so when Elon Musk pointed out that experts in the field thought AI was a decade away from reaching that milestone. The momentous event showed that AI was gaining skills typically reserved for humans far faster than we expected.

The future of work

As AI continues to evolve and improve, the very definition of what we consider to be mundane or routine will also continue to change. With smarter technology, more and more tasks will be shifted to machines.

In fact, according to a recent report from Gartner, smart machines and robots could take over the tasks performed by highly trained professionals in such fields as IT, medicine and law by 2022.

But that does not necessarily mean certain unemployment for those individuals working on the front lines. According to one study conducted by ServiceNow, 79 per cent of executives surveyed say they expect an increase in the adoption of automation to lead to the creation of new jobs. Furthermore, an incredible 94 per cent agreed that when repetitive tasks are automated, the demand for jobs that call for soft skills like communication, collaboration and creative problem-solving will grow.

Ultimately, it is the way human workers approach this technology that will determine what tomorrow will bring. For those who choose to embrace artificial intelligence and all of the opportunities it presents, the future certainly looks bright.