A DLR Lightweight Robot III robot arm, capable of holding a knife, scissors, a scalpel or a screwdriver, can kill you, but it won't. Designed by researchers from the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, the articulated arm has a safety system consisting of a prototype collision detector, and position and torque sensors in every joint.
Tests were carried out on a leg of pork and a lump of silicone, materials simulating human soft tissue, and a bold human volunteer -- the leader of the research team. When the safety system was turned off, the robot's stabs to the pork leg and silicone were deep and lethal. With the safety system turned on, the depth of cuts was reduced and sometimes prevented altogether.
If our households are destined to have helper robots, the scientists say their research and the safety system will help researchers develop safer ones.