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human-robot teaming

Contributor(s): Laura Fitzgibbons

Human-robot teaming is any way that industry professionals incorporate machines and technology into human lives or workplaces to improve conditions and productivity. The more effectively that a robot is trained to handle human-like scenarios, the smoother human-robot interactions are. At the same time, humans benefit when they are trained in ways to make the most of collaboration with technology. Some human-robot teams involve a human-controlled machine, while others involve a pre-programmed autonomous robot.

Sometimes a robot handles a physical aspect of a task, allowing the human component to save physical strength. In other situations, a robot is able to bear some part of the cognitive load of a task, either by making difficult calculations, storing important information, or helping to optimize the decision-making process much more quickly than a human would be able to alone. Many forms of artificial intelligence (AI) are required to recreate a human-robot team. Even something as simple as a calculator allows a human to operate in a faster and more efficient way than they would be able to alone.

Incorporating natural language into human-robot teaming

Natural language processing (NLP) and natural languge understanding (NLU) play an important role in human robot teaming, especially when a workplace involves a large and diverse workforce. Most programs and robots are initially created to be very rigid when they receive instructions. Technology tends to need to have perfect syntax or even simple binary instructions to operate correctly. Because humans do not interact robotically, engineers and technicians work to create AI that can understand casual language and react flexibly and intuitively to a large ranges of phrases. One way a programmer might optimize a robot's linguistic understanding is to create lexical (dictionary) categories that contain multiple phrases and terms. When lexography is  part of an overall category, it allows the robot to understand a large variety of phrases that all have a similar intention. Programmers are able to do this using types and tokens and adaptive research of colloquial language.

Advantages of human-robot teaming

Human-robot teaming combines the strengths of AI and machines with the strengths of humans. Robots and machines are able to perform repetitive, sometimes dangerous, and exhausting tasks with little interruption. Humans, on the other hand, can problem-solve and creatively adapt, and handle unforeseen circumstances without needing prior programming.

There are many always-evolving uses of human-robot teaming, including all of the following and more:

  • complex search and rescue operations
  • military operations such as bomb diffusion or scouting
  • medical procedures like high-intensity operations, sensitive surgeries, or medicine delivery
  • manufacturing: a robotic apparatus can increase the strength and dexterity of a worker, allowing them to perform tasks with much higher speed and strength
  • video teleconferencing (VTC)

This was last updated in March 2019

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