Mobile Collaborative Robots: The Next Big Thing

By Alex Owen-Hill, RobotIQ

What will be the next big thing in collaborative robotics? Now that cobots are a mature technology, it looks like mobile cobots will be the next wave.

It’s fair to say that collaborative robots have “arrived.” Over the last 10 years, cobots have grown in popularity — as we discussed this time last year. They are almost as ubiquitous as industrial robots (though sales figures are still much lower). Businesses of all different sizes are using cobots to improve their productivity.

But, progress never stops. The “next big thing” is always around the corner.

What will be the next big thing in collaborative robots?

A good contender is mobile collaborative robotics.

Recently, market researcher Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh predicted that the next wave of robots will be mobile, collaborative and/or more intelligent.

What is a mobile collaborative robot?

The most basic mobile collaborative robot consists of the following, in my opinion:

  1. An autonomous mobile robot (AMR) with safety features which allow it to operate around humans.
  2. A collaborative robot manipulator (cobot).

The cobot is mounted onto the AMR, allowing it to travel around the workfloor autonomously.

It’s worth nothing that some people think of AMRs alone as “mobile collaborative robots.” I would disagree with this definition because AMRs tend to have safety features by default. There’s no point in adding the word “collaborative” just because it’s a buzzword. In my opinion, the collaborative element is provided by the collaborative manipulator.

What’s new about mobile cobots?

To be honest, nothing. Mobile cobots are nothing new at all.