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A collaborative robot is a robot that collaborates with humans in some way – either as an assistant in a task or process, or as a guide. Unlike autonomous robots, which work largely alone and without supervision, collaborative robots are programmed and designed to work with human instruction, or otherwise respond to human behaviors and actions.
A collaborative robot is also known as a cobot or co-robot.
Although collaborative robots are designed in many different ways, there is a common consensus in the tech industry about what kinds of primary engineering designs and features are used to build them. There is the safety monitored stop, where the robot can temporarily cease operations according to human proximity, and the hand-guiding feature where robots can learn from humans physically guiding infrastructure for a particular process or task. There is also speed and separation monitoring, and power and force limiting, other designs to provide consistent standards for robot performance.
The idea of collaborative robot design builds on the advancement and sophistication of industrial automation – the idea that robots are not just mechanical objects providing repetitive motion, but that they can "learn" and "think" and act along with humans in a true sense. Many of these functionalities are made possible by brand-new technologies and advances in sensor-based learning systems, as well as artificial intelligence that has advanced worlds beyond what it was just a decade ago. Collaborative robots, to many, represent one of the biggest frontiers for the application of cutting-edge technology to enterprise.
The collaborative robot market is booming, and analysts expect that this market will continue to increase.