Robots can learn and adapt to the style of individual workers, says Julie Shah, head of MIT’s Interactive Robotics Group. She took on the problem of spar assembly, the process of building an airplane wing structure, in the demonstration pictured above. The robot was trained to recognize a worker’s preferred order of placing and hammering bolts, and to apply sealant at the right moment. The work, shown here in a video, was sponsored by Boeing.
Ever since General Motors first put “Unimate” on an assembly line in 1961, most manufacturing robots have worked in isolation, caged off from human workers. Now a new breed of more flexible robot is being developed to work more closely with people.