What is a Cobot?
In order to clarify some lexical interrogations we thought it would be a good idea to elaborate on the meaning and variations of the word ''Cobot''. This word has been widely used for different things. To make things clearer, we have listed the definition that we usually refer to.
Cobot (Collaborative Robot)
In our vocabulary, a cobot is a slang or contracted term for collaborative robot. I have found a definition that really represents the meaning of cobot: "Collaborative robots are complex machines which work hand in hand with human beings. In a shared work process, they support and relieve the human operator.'' source: IFA. So basically it is a device that helps you accomplish your day to day job.
On the more technical side of things what makes a robot ''collaborative'' is the fact that they can detect abnormal activity in their environment through force limitation or vision monitoring. These sensors allow for cooperation between humans and robots without any physical separation. Most importantly, a cobot answers to the 4th criteria of safe collaboration which is force and power limitation. In fact, all collaborative robots have force sensors in their joints which stops their motion in case of an impact. This allows you to run the robot at full speed and not worry about the potential danger of the kinetic energy being carried by this robot arm.
There are various models of cobots on the market. From small tabletop robots to cobots capable of carrying heavier loads. To get a better idea of the different cobots available take a look at our cobot comparative chart.
Cobots Range: The load handling assistant.
Historically, when talking about a cobot, people were referring to a load handling assistant developed by RB3D. In 2008, the company focused widely on ergonomics and Muscular Skeletal Disease (MSD) risk reduction. The first audits led to the apparent need for a ''collaborative robot'' to reinforce users with extra strength. Consequently, after its study was launched, the company purchased assembling and controlling tools for its manufacturing. The first Cobot was delivered in 2011.
However in our vocabulary, this isn't a robot. It is a handling assistant. In other words, it cannot be programmed or work autonomously, it simply helps workers when they are transporting heavy loads from one point to another. So the human hand guides the structure (and load) where s/he wants to move it to and the ''cobot'' absorbs the load. It works basically as an exoskeleton i.e. loads are absorbed by a mechanical structure that monitors your body motions and works in coordination with your movements.
CoBot Robots: Personal Interface
CoBot robots is a project from CORAL (Cooperate-Observe-Reason-Act-Learn). The CORAL group is a bunch of students and professors from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. The CoBot project is basically a mobile platform designed to execute localization, navigation and multi-robot task planning using a web interface. The robots are now able to navigate and localize themselves autonomously. The robot has to collaborate (or navigate) around humans and monitor their position to avoid them.
COBOT: 3D Printer
The name of a German desktop 3D printer. The concept is pretty slick and seems to be a good quality machine. However, it has nothing to do with human-robot collaborative interaction. So the meaning here obviously doesn’t mean collaborative robot. Perhaps the meaning here is broader simply meaning that this machine can be helpful to humans as I am sure it is. Or the word could more simply be taken literally as the conjoined prefix co- meaning: joint, with, or accompanying, and bot for machine. So ‘with-machine’ similar to co-worker, co-insurance or co-payment. Only in this sense it is more created from the machine since it actually creates stuff...
Well, that's pretty much it. There might be a bunch of other definitions or brands that are using the word cobot. If you find an interesting one let us know, we are curious that way. However, the main goal of this article is really to focus on the use of the word ''cobot'' as synonymous for the expression ''collaborative robot''. In other words, we might use it from time to time to switch things up a bit. If you were wondering what the different collaborative robots on the market are, we have put together a comparative chart that can be consulted by using the big colored button below. Enjoy!