The cobots—that's right, cobots—are coming


Collaborative robots, or cobots, as insiders call them, created something of a buzz at PLASTEC East in New York City and Plast-Ex in Toronto this month.

On the Plast-Ex show floor, ABB (Zürich) showed off its YuMi robot, which it premiered earlier this year at the massive Hannover fair in Germany. The company is calling it the "world's first truly collaborative dual-arm robot" that can work safely alongside humans. Meanwhile, in both New York and Toronto, Universal Robots (UR; Odense, Denmark) highlighted its single-arm model, while Rethink Robotics (Boston), which might want to challenge ABB's claim, showcased its dual-arm Baxter robot going through the motions. Presentations on the Center Stage provided insights into the technology and explained how it would alter the workplace in the years ahead at companies large and small.

One question that cropped up during the presentations, not surprisingly, was, what exactly is collaborative robotics and how is it different from conventional robotics? John R. Henry, owner of the consultancy, recently outlined a set of characteristics in sister brand Packaging Digest. Here is what he wrote in "What are collaborative robots and why should you care?".

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