What is it about?

In the world of robots and humans working together, it's crucial that they understand each other. Just like humans use gestures, eye contact, and sounds to communicate, robots should too. That's where our project, Antropo, comes in. We've created a special add-on for a popular robot arm, turning it into a robot that can 'look' at you, 'shine' its thoughts with lights, and 'speak' through sounds. The best part? Anyone can create this add-on using common tools and affordable parts. We've even tested it out, showing how our robot can more clearly 'tell' a human its intentions, making teamwork smoother. Plus, we've adapted this system for other robots in real-world jobs. Imagine a future where robots don't just work beside us, but also 'talk' to us in their own charming way!

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Why is it important?

As the world moves towards more automated industries, robots are becoming integral team members. However, while humans are naturally social, communicating with subtle cues like eye movements and tone changes, most robots lack this intuitive way of 'speaking'. This gap can hinder effective collaboration and even lead to workplace challenges. Additionally, as robots increasingly become our co-workers, it's pivotal for them to fit into the workspace both functionally and socially. Antropo is our solution to this challenge, designed not merely as an enhancement but a game-changer for robot-human collaboration. By equipping a widely-used robot with the ability to give visual signals and auditory cues, we're pushing the boundaries of traditional robotics. This innovation is about more than just functionality; it's about forging a new era of collaboration. Research indicates that when robots display human-like traits, people's interactions with them improve dramatically, leading to better teamwork and a more positive work environment. Antropo isn't just a technological advancement; it's a step towards shaping the future of human-robot synergy, ensuring that as robots become ubiquitous, our interaction with them remains intuitive, efficient, and even enjoyable.


Ever since I began working in the realm of robotics, I've been captivated by the idea of making robots not just functional, but relatable. With Antropo, I feel a sense of achievement and excitement. Using everyday components and simple manufacturing techniques, we've transformed the Franka Emika Panda robot arm into something that doesn't just 'do' but can 'communicate'. I see Antropo not just as a technological tool but as a bridge between two worlds - the mechanical and the human. Through its visual-auditory channels, this platform brings a touch of humanity to industrial robots. It's exhilarating to think of the potential applications and the deeper research it can spur, especially in understanding how multi-modal non-verbal cues can change the dynamics of human-robot interaction. Beyond the immediate applications, I believe Antropo raises important ethical questions. As we inch closer to a world where robots are an integral part of our workspaces, how do we design them? What responsibilities do we hold in shaping their interactions? I hope that as Antropo finds its way into more industries and research labs, it sparks not just innovation, but thoughtful conversations about the future we're building. We at VUB and imec are already working on a next version of the interface that will be revolutionary for robot to human communication

Constantin Scholz
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Antropo: An open-source platform to increase the anthropomorphism of the Franka Emika collaborative robot arm, PLoS ONE, October 2023, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0292078.
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