Improving the interaction between people and collaborative robots in factories

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For safety reasons, robots in a manufacturing environment are typically shielded from humans. However, humans and robots have very complementary skills. Combining the dexterity, flexibility and problem-solving ability of humans with the strength, endurance and precision of robots, the quality of industrial production can be improved – as well as people’s working conditions.

Yet, introducing so-called ‘cobots’ (collaborative robots) to flexibly assist human personnel in a range of tasks faces several technological and acceptance hurdles.

“We explored how uncaged cobots can more effectively be used in factories,” explains An Jacobs (imec - VUB). “One challenge we looked into, was how to make cobots sufficiently robust for use in manufacturing settings – leveraging for instance multimodal sensor input and vision technology to enhance human-machine interaction in noisy environments. Secondly, we investigated the human side of the equation: how do machine operators want to interact with robots? And how do they expect robots to help them with their daily operations?”

Project outcomes

  • New adaptive control software that increases flexible robots’ accuracy by 60%
  • Novel ways to tell a robot what it needs to do – using multimodal sensor input, and based on extensive living lab user research
  • Putting the ClaXon learnings into practice at Audi Brussels

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Improving the interaction between people and collaborative robots in factories.

ClaXon is an imec.icon research project funded by imec, IWT and Innoviris.

It ran from 01.01.2015 until 31.12.2016.

Project information


  • Robovision
  • Melexis Technologies
  • AMS
  • Audi Brussels
  • SoftKinetic sensors
  • SoftKinetic software
  • Robotics and MultiBody Mechanics Research Group


  • imec - EDM-IT - UHasselt
  • imec - SMIT - VUB
  • VUB - R&MM


  • Project Lead: Ilse Ravyse
  • Research Lead: An Jacobs
  • Innovation Manager: Piet Verhoeve