With grant support from NASA, a team of scientists at UW-Madison is seeking to improve “shared control” robotics, in which robots and humans work together to do complex tasks.

Led by Prof. Bilge Mutlu, a professor of computer science, industrial engineering and psychology, researchers are partnering with Boeing to design robots that could perform certain tasks required for manufacturing aircrafts.

“We identified a number of processes in aircraft manufacturing where this shared control could help,” he said. “Take riveting. There are thousands and thousands of rivets that have to be banged in there to join the metal of an airplane together. That’s hard, repetitive work.”

His team has also identified sanding metal, painting and piecing together components in tight areas as areas of potential improvement. Having a human-guided robot perform these tasks could reduce risks to health and safety, without sacrificing the skilled personal touch that human workers bring.

The robots they’re working on are different from industrial robots used in many manufacturing assembly lines, as they are less physically powerful and dangerous to people but also more versatile.

See more at WisBusiness.com.