Sandra Drolshagen, Max Pfingsthorn, Pascal Gliesche, Andreas Hein
Frontiers in Robotic and AI
The integration of people with disabilities into the working world is an important, yet challenging field of research. While different inclusion efforts exist, people with disabilities are still under-represented in the open labour market. This paper investigates the approach of using a collaborative robot arm to support people with disabilities with their reintegration into the workplace. However, there is currently little literature about the acceptance of an industrial robot by people with disabilities and in cases where a robot leads to stress, fear, or any other form of discomfort, this approach is not feasible. For this reason, a first user study was performed in a sheltered workshop to investigate the acceptance of a robot arm by workers with disabilities. As a first step in this underdeveloped field, two main aspects were covered. Firstly, the reaction and familiarisation to the robot arm within a study situation was closely examined in order to separate any effects that were not caused by the moving robot. Secondly, the reaction towards the robot arm during collaboration was investigated. In doing so, five different distances between the robot arm and the participants were considered to make collaboration in the workplace as pleasant as possible. The results revealed that it took the participants about 20 minutes to get used to the situation, while the robot was immediately accepted very well and did not cause fear or discomfort at any time. Surprisingly, in some cases, short distances were accepted even better than the larger distances. For these reasons, the presented approach showed to promise for future investigations.