September 10, 2020

NIOSH Proposes Study to Improve Safety of Human-Robot Interaction

A study proposed on Aug. 26 by NIOSH will evaluate the effects of robot characteristics such as operating speed, size, and movement trajectory on human behaviors, perceived safety, mental workload, and trust. The agency intends to use the information gathered during the study to improve the design and modeling of robots and robot functions to reduce human-robot collisions. According to NIOSH, the increasing number of advanced collaborative and mobile robots calls for research to improve the safety of human-robot interaction.

“Traditional safety measures for industrial robots, such as protective barriers, are no longer valid for the emerging collaborative and mobile robots,” NIOSH explains. “Physical contacts between human workers and robots are inevitable and even desired when they share a common workspace or work directly with each other under collaborative operations.”

The study is set to be conducted at NIOSH’s facility in Morgantown, West Virginia, and use virtual reality technology to simulate human-robot interaction during data collection sessions. Study participants will take part in two experiments involving simulated warehouse tasks in a virtual reality laboratory, first with a mobile robot and then with a collaborative robot arm. Researchers will use motion capture technology to track the movement and location of the participants and the virtual robots. Participants will complete three questionnaires after each experiment task to gauge their perceived safety, mental workload, and trust in the robots.

NIOSH is accepting comments on its proposed project through Oct. 26, 2020. More information is available in the Federal Register.