This article reports three case studies on the usability and acceptance of an industrial robotic prototype in the context of human-robot cooperation. The three case studies were conducted in the framework of a two-year project named AssistMe, which aims at developing different means of interaction for programming and using collaborative robots in a user-centered manner. Together with two industrial partners and a technological partner, two different application scenarios were implemented and studied with an off-the-shelf robotic system. The operators worked with the robotic prototype in laboratory conditions (two days), in a factory context (one day) and in an automotive assembly line (three weeks). In the article, the project and procedures are described in detail, including the quantitative and qualitative methodology. Our results show that close human-robot cooperation in the industrial context needs adaptive pacing mechanisms in order to avoid a change of working routines for the operators and that an off-the-shelf robotic system is still limited in terms of usability and acceptance. The touch panel, which is needed for controlling the robot, had a negative impact on the overall user experience. It creates a further intermediate layer between the user, the robot and the work piece and potentially leads to a decrease in productivity. Finally, the fear of the worker of being replaced by an improved robotic system was regularly expressed and adds an additional anthropocentric dimension to the discussion of human-robot cooperation, smart factories and the upcoming Industry 4.0.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited