CDC funds research on using robots to reduce workplace hazards in manufacturing, health care
Washington — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing $1.5 million for research aimed at reducing occupational hazards in health care and manufacturing via the development and use of collaborative robots, or “cobots.”
According to a Nov. 16 press release, NIOSH and the National Science Foundation are funding separate research projects at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Illinois at Chicago through the NSF National Robotics Initiative 2.0. The goal of the initiative is to accelerate the development and use of cobots – “an emerging robotic technology that complements, not replaces, human workers” – to enhance workplace safety.
In health care, remote-controlled “nursing robots” could reduce workloads and decrease the risk of infections, “especially in quarantine and intensive care environments.” WPI researchers are working on developing a way to make controlling and operating these robots from a distance easier for nurses.
“Researchers also will investigate best practices for integrating robots into current nursing education,” the release adds.
The UIC research will focus on developing and investigating the effectiveness of a personalized, wearable robot worn on the lower body of manufacturing workers. The robot senses “the wearer’s physical effort and responds accordingly using soft-wearable electronics,” which could reduce injuries related to heavy lifting, the release states.
NIOSH Director John Howard added: “The future of work includes a workplace where robots work in tandem with, or are even worn by, human workers. This important research will help guide the development and use of co-robots that can help minimize health and safety risks to workers.”