Collaborative robotics has established itself as a major force in pushing forward highly adaptive and flexible production paradigms in European large and small-medium enterprises. It is contributing to the sustainability and enhancement of Europe’s efficient and competitive manufacturing, to reshoring production, and to economic growth. However, still today the potential of collaborative technologies is largely underexploited. Indeed, collaborative robots are most often designed to coexist and to safely share a working space with humans. They are rarely thought to enter in direct socio-physical contact with humans to perceive, understand, and react to their distress or needs, and to enable them to work more productively and efficiently through better ergonomics.
SOPHIA responds to this need by developing a new generation of socially cooperative human-robot systems in agile production. Its modular core technologies will enable dynamic state monitoring of the human-robot pair and anticipatory robot behaviours to: (1) improve human ergonomics, trust in automation, and productivity in manufacturing environments, and (2) achieve a reconfigurable, flexible, and resource-efficient production. By advancing the decisional autonomy and interaction ability of its innovative collaborative systems, SOPHIA will contribute to the reduction of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the single largest category of work-related injuries and responsible for 30% of all workers’ compensation costs. SOPHIA’s societal relevance and the research groups’ experience in acceptability and standardization aspects of its core technologies will ensure their comfort-of-use by industrial workers, and the underlying design compliance to standards, thus strengthening the competitiveness in European manufacturing. We will illustrate and verify SOPHIA usability through the exploration of three real-world use-cases encouraging potential customers to integrate our core technologies in their workflow.