Impact and Perception of Human-Robot Collaboration to Factory Workers: Multi-Agent Policy for Long-Term Collaborative Tasks in Human-Robot Environments

Lewis, Wesley, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Francisco, Pedro Augusto, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Iqbal, Tariq, EN-SIE, University of Virginia

The integration of robotics into human environments heralds a transformative era where collaborative robots seamlessly meld into our lives and workplaces, reshaping how we live and operate. My technical research report, "Multi-Agent Policy for Long-Term Collaborative Tasks in Human-Robot Environments," investigates the development of sophisticated multi-agent systems designed to improve the efficiency and adaptability of robots working alongside humans in complex tasks. Concurrently, my STS research paper, "Impact and Perception of Human-Robot Collaboration to Factory Workers," delves into the sociocultural implications of these technologies, examining how they reshape worker perceptions, job structures, and workplace dynamics. These inquiries are interconnected through their focus on the human-robot interface, highlighting both the potential and challenges of integrating advanced robotics in human-centric settings. By examining the technical capabilities alongside human impacts, both studies aim to forge a pathway for robotics that is as socially responsible as it is innovative, ensuring that technological progress in robotics aligns with the needs and well-being of the human workforce.
The core objective of my technical research is to establish a robust simulation environment that enhances the safety and effectiveness of collaborative robots (cobots) through comprehensive pre-deployment training. By leveraging advanced simulation technologies, the project aims to refine cobot interactions in a variety of scenarios, reducing the risk and cost associated with direct human-robot interactions during training. This approach not only facilitates a safer integration of robots into human environments but also addresses economic concerns by minimizing the need for expensive physical testing and potential workplace disruptions, a key consideration highlighted in the STS research regarding the economic impact of robotics on workers.
The results from my study illustrate that cobots trained in simulated environments can achieve a high level of proficiency and safety before being introduced to real-world tasks. This ensures that when these robots are deployed alongside human workers, they are less likely to cause disruptions or safety hazards, addressing the primary concerns of factory workers as explored in the STS paper. Moreover, by demonstrating the effective sim-to-real transfer of capabilities, the research supports the broader socio-cultural acceptance of cobots, suggesting that enhanced training methods can lead to greater trust and cooperation between human workers and robots. This finding is pivotal in advocating for the responsible deployment of cobots in ways that bolster rather than displace the human workforce.
My STS paper centers on understanding how factory workers perceive the shift toward robotic collaboration, particularly in terms of job security, workplace safety, and task efficiency. The research methodology included comprehensive literature reviews and surveys that gathered empirical data from workers directly interacting with collaborative robots (cobots). This approach provided a grounded perspective on the social and psychological impacts of robotic integration in industrial settings.
Evidence from the study indicated a dual perspective among workers: while some expressed fears of job displacement, many recognized the benefits of cobots in reducing workplace hazards and increasing production efficiency. The results underline the importance of addressing human factors in the design and implementation of cobots, suggesting that successful integration depends on enhancing both safety and the quality of human-robot interactions.
Both my technical and STS research highlight the critical need for developing advanced robotic systems that are not only technically proficient but also socially and ethically integrated within the workforce. The advancement of collaborative robotics could lead to safer, more efficient work environments while also addressing socio-economic challenges posed by automation. By ensuring that these technologies are developed with a focus on human-centric values, we pave the way for a future where human and robot collaboration is both productive and mutually beneficial.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Human Robot Collaboration, Automation, Cobots

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Technical Advisor: Tariq Iqbal

STS Advisor: Pedro Augusto Francisco

Issued Date: