London: Robots, which are believed to be
doing all domestic tasks in near future, could accidentally
inflict deadly wounds on humans, scientists have warned.
Envisaging a future in which robots will start to become
domestic helpers, researchers from the Institute of Robotics
and Mechatronics at the German aerospace agency carried out
a study to know what happens in accidents involving robots
using sharp tools alongside humans.
They used a robot arm holding a variety of bladed tools
programmed to strike test substances that mimic soft tissue.
In some cases, the researchers found, the robots managed
to accidentally inflict wounds that would prove "lethal", the
The tests involved a robot arm weighing 14kg and a 1.1m
reach that was equipped with a variety of bladed household
tools including a steak knife, kitchen knife, scissors and
The robot arm was programmed to use the bladed tools to
stab and cut a silicone lump, a leg from a dead pig and the
arm of a human volunteer.
Striking, stabbing and puncturing tests with the safety
system turned off were performed on the silicone and pig leg.
Deep cuts resulted in most of the cases which could prove to
be "lethal" if inflicted on a living subject, the researchers
The objective of the tests were to see if a prototype
safety system could limit the damage done.
"Injuries were significantly reduced when the prototype
collision detection system developed by the researchers was
switched on," the report said.
This system uses torque sensors to spot when it has hit a
different substance and halts movement. It was used to limit
damage when human subjects were tested.
Although earlier studies have looked at what would happen
when large heavy robots bump into people, the German study is
thought to be the first to look at the slashing injuries
robots could cause.
The results of the study were presented at the 2010 IEEE
International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in
Alaska in early May.