WHAT A SOFTY

We can now work next to our robot colleagues without getting mauled to death, thanks to an airbag

German researchers at the DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center are working to create a safer workplace for both man and robot. One solution they’ve come up with: airbags for robots.

An inflatable cushion surrounds a heavy or sharp tool (like a claw or a gripper) on a robotic arm; when there’s a human working nearby, he or she can inflate the cushion. That way, if the robot collides into a person, it feels like a slap in the face with a pillow—not like getting hit by a frying pan.

According to industry safety standards, the maximum speed for a robot with a mounted tool is one meter per second. Even at that speed, the hard metal body of a robotic arm, let alone the pointy edge of a tool, could be injurious. But with an airbag the robot is “intrinsically safe” at all times, according to the DLR Robotics team.

Watch the video above to see the robot airbag in action.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search