Dependability and safety are of paramount importance in human-robot cooperation scenarios. The European Machine Directive 98/37/EC states that all appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that machinery or safety components may be placed on the market and put into service only if they do no endanger the health or safety of persons and, where appropriate, domestic animals or property. While industrial robot safety can be enforced by strictly separating the workspaces of humans and automation equipment this is undesired and unfeasible when humans and robots need to share their workspaces to collaboratively perform a specific task.
PHRIENDS is about developing key components of the next generation of robots, including industrial robots and assist devices (which include robots for the emerging market of non-industrial applications, e.g. for service, health-care, and entertainment), designed to share the environment and to physically interact with people. Such machines have to meet the strictest safety standards, yet also to deliver useful performance: this poses new challenges to the design of all components of the robot, including mechanics, control, planning algorithms and supervision systems. We propose an integrated approach to the co-design of robots for safe physical interaction with humans, which revolutionizes the classical approach for designing industrial robots – rigid design for accuracy, active control for safety – by creating a new paradigm: design robots that are intrinsically safe, and control them to deliver performance.
Although the scope of this project cannot encompass the integration of complete robot systems, PHRIENDS will create and deliver new actuator concepts and prototypes, new dependable algorithms for supervision and planning, new control algorithms for handling safe human-robot physical interaction and for fault-tolerant behaviour, and will integrate these components in meaningful subsystems for experimental testing, quantitative evaluation and optimization. The project will also contribute significantly to the ongoing effort of international bodies towards the establishment of new standards for collaborative human-robot operation.