ROSETTA is the acronym for a new European Large-Scale Integrating Research Project “RObot control for Skilled ExecuTion of Tasks in natural interaction with humans; based on Autonomy, cumulative knowledge and learning”. The 4-year project started March 1st, 2009, and has a total budget of 10 MEUR.
ROSETTA develops “human-centric” technology for industrial robots that will not only appear more human-like, but also cooperate with workers in ways that are safe and perceived as natural. Such robots will be programmed in an intuitive and efficient manner, making it easier to adapt them to new tasks when a production line is changed to manufacture a new product.
The need for such robot systems stems from analyses showing that future factories will produce more and more goods with high volumes, but with many variants and limited product lifetime. This requires a flexible manufacturing system allowing for frequent production changes. Robot systems are the automation method of choice to meet these demands, but they need the ability to adapt even more quickly to new tasks, and to obtain full production output faster than today. Also, it is mandatory to easily integrate robots into manufacturing lines with human workers, as the combination of manufacturing by humans and robots promises highest flexibility. Tasks difficult to automate will in this scenario remain the domain of humans, whereas operations with low automation threshold or high quality requirements will be performed by these robots.
The project will address the challenges by developing methods to engineer and program robot systems in ways that are more intuitive, more related to the task, and less specific to the installation. This will require robots to be able to execute tasks more autonomously, without the need for detailed description of every step, and will lead to a significant reduction in programming effort. Once programmed, the robots will use sensor-based learning to autonomously improve their abilities (“skills”) to perform the task quickly, quite like a human worker. When the operation is optimised in this way, the robot shares the knowledge of how to best perform the operation with other robots by sending the parameters over a network to a central server. Other robots do the same, which results in a quick build-up of production knowledge (“cumulative learning”).
Storing and sharing production-related data will make use of latest techniques developed for the Web 2.0, representing such data as form of “knowledge” that can be accumulated, enhanced and re-used by a population of robots.
The production scenario that involves robots and humans working side-by-side and interacting safely requires that design, control and supervision devices and methods are found for robots to be harmless, and to act in a way that humans anticipate and feel comfortable with. This involves developing human-like motion patterns, speech interaction as well as avoidance of any situations that may pose a hazard or uncomfortable situation to human workers or operators. The human and machine cooperation will be supervised by a multi-level sensor system involving different sensor types and a reasoning unit that will analyse the robot environment and give the robot instructions in real-time how to adjust to changing environments and to human presence.
The engineering and production methods will make robot automation accessible for a variety of new applications, in particular where production is frequently adapted to new product lines. This will enable the European industry to increase its competitiveness by reducing production cost and by increasing production quality. A thorough understanding and modelling of the human/robot contact and interaction in a production scenario are a major effort of ROSETTA. The theoretical and experimental investigations will lead to injury risk classifications with the goal of creating future safety standards for human-robot cooperation, helping the industry to better utilise the potential of robots working in human environments.