Language-free graphical signage improves human performance and reduces anxiety when working collaboratively with robots
As robots become more ubiquitous, and their capabilities extend, novice users will require intuitive instructional information related to their use. This is particularly important in the manufacturing sector, which is set to be transformed under Industry 4.0 by the deployment of collaborative robots in support of traditionally low-skilled, manual roles. In the first study of its kind, this paper reports how static graphical signage can improve performance and reduce anxiety in participants physically collaborating with a semi-autonomous robot. Three groups of 30 participants collaborated with a robot to perform a manufacturing-type process using graphical information that was relevant to the task, irrelevant, or absent. The results reveal that the group exposed to relevant signage was significantly more accurate in undertaking the task. Furthermore, their anxiety towards robots significantly decreased as a function of increasing accuracy. Finally, participants exposed to graphical signage showed positive emotional valence in response to successful trials. At a time when workers are concerned about the threat posed by robots to jobs, and with advances in technology requiring upskilling of the workforce, it is important to provide intuitive and supportive information to users. Whilst increasingly sophisticated technical solutions are being sought to improve communication and confidence in human-robot co-working, our findings demonstrate how simple signage can still be used as an effective tool to reduce user anxiety and increase task performance.
KeywordsHuman-robot interaction Graphical signage Anxiety towards robots Flexible manufacturing Collaborative robotics Industry 4.0 Technology acceptance
The authors acknowledge support from the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Intelligent Automation, in undertaking this research work under grant reference number EP/IO33467/1.
Compliance with ethical standards
The study was approved by the University of Sheffield Psychology Department ethics committee.
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