Robots may attack humans accidentally, warn scientists

Killer machines?

Robots may attack humans accidentally, warn scientists

Envisaging a future in which robots will start to become domestic helpers, researchers from the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German aerospace agency carried out a study to know what happens in accidents involving robots using sharp tools alongside humans.

They used a robot arm holding a variety of bladed tools programmed to strike test substances that mimic soft tissue.

In some cases, the researchers found the robots managed to accidentally inflict wounds that would prove “lethal”, the BBC reported.

The tests involved a robot arm weighing 14 kg and a 1.1 m reach that was equipped with a variety of bladed household tools, including a steak knife, kitchen knife, scissors and screwdriver.

The robot arm was programmed to use the bladed tools to stab and cut a silicone lump, a leg from a dead pig and the arm of a human volunteer. Striking, stabbing and puncturing tests with the safety system turned off were performed on the silicone and pig leg. Deep cuts resulted in most of the cases which could prove to be “lethal” if inflicted on a living subject, the researchers said.

The objective of the tests were to see if a prototype safety system could limit the damage done. “Injuries were significantly reduced when the prototype collision detection system developed by the researchers was switched on,” the report said.

This system uses torque sensors to spot when it has hit a different substance and halts movement. It was used to limit damage when human subjects were tested.
Although earlier studies have looked at what would happen when large heavy robots bump into people, the German study is thought to be the first to look at the slashing injuries robots could cause.


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