Can new technologies humanise automation?
New technologies such as collaborative robotics and artificial intelligence are redefining human-machine interactions in the industrial world. The way these technologies are implemented will influence this transformation and its impact on employees.
In order to better understand the ongoing transformation, we suggest a multi-disciplinary approach combining social sciences, robotics and computer science, and focused on the worker's experience. We will address the following questions:
- How will technologies alter the working world? Will the skills expected of employees change? How will the human-machine relationship change?
- Can labour division between human being and machine be optimised so as to enhance the value of the performed work? How can workers gain a sense of control over machines?
- How should the new technologies be used to make the interaction with the machine more natural and intuitive? What machine intelligence is required to meet the needs of workers?
Industrial transformation raises many questions regarding changing working conditions, especially with respect to low-skilled employees. From a historical point of view, automation is synonymous with de-skilling. However, the collaborative robot enables a redistribution of tasks between human being and machine. The robot carries out procedural tasks, while the human being takes care of the tasks requiring flexibility, know-how and/or critical thinking. This division of labour enhances the value of the performed work.
Field studies will allow a better understanding of the impact of new forms of human-machine interaction on the transformation of working conditions. A human-machine interface will be developed and continuously tested in collaboration with workers, in order to identify the factors that make the interaction worthwhile. The programming of the robot will be intuitive and flexible, so that the robot is at the service of humans rather than the opposite.
This project will make it possible to collect observations on the introduction of new technologies over a 4-year period and thus to provide a better understanding of the challenges of the current transformation of the working world. New technological solutions will be tested based on the workers' needs. Through this project, we aim to define guidelines for an integration of cobotics that can contribute to the improvement of working conditions.
A future that works: Cobotics, digital skills and the re-humanization of the workplace (CODIMAN)