Human, Meet Cobot: The User Experience in Action
Collaborative robots (“cobots”) are being adopted at unprecedented rates, due in large part to their user-friendly design. This positive user experience is no fluke. It comes as a result of in-depth research and design and ongoing testing to explore how the robots are actually being used and how they can be continuously improved.
UX DESIGNER CONNECTS R&D TO THE REAL WORLD
Hadar tries to meet with several typical robot users on her site visits, including the production manager, robot operator, and programmer. “The most interesting thing about visiting these companies is how different they are and how differently they use our robots,” says Hadar. “When I go to a smaller company, for instance, the person who programs the robot is often the same person who operates it, so it’s important that programming is easy to access and use. Larger companies might have those people in separate roles. In that case, the programmer might want to lock down the program so that operators just need to be able to start and stop the robot.”
THE USER’S JOURNEY STARTS BY UNBOXING THE ROBOT
Hadar’s research could ultimately lead to changes in the graphical user interface (GUI) used to program the robots, or where connectors should be located on the robot itself—anything that can improve the user experience. “It’s interesting to see so many different contexts where the robots are being used, but that also makes it very challenging for us,” Hadar explains. “We have to understand all these different interactions, which means that different users will have a very different sense of satisfaction. We need to meet all those needs.”
Collaborative Robots and Maren Hadar UX designer at Universal Robots.
Maren Hadar UX designer at universal robots.
PATTERNS HELP DEFINE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVEMENTS
For example, early UR robots incorporated Modbus TCP for communications, but UR heard from users in different countries that they also wanted Ethernet/IP. Hadar reached out to users in the U.S. to find out exactly what features they needed and that information was used to inform the new communication protocol design. This was released as part of a beta program that allowed users to provide feedback during the development process. “With the final release, we knew it would work and that it would give users just what they needed the first time around,” Hadar states.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTION
Universal Robots is a great place for a UX designer. As Hadar says: “UR is a global company with robots in many countries and with many different types of users. Part of my job is figuring out how we stay true to our name and create these “universal robots” that everybody in every market will want to use and will find useful. That’s the exciting challenge.”