Industry 4.0

  • Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • Interaction with exoskeletons and robots

  • Digitalisation

Social and organizational impact of technological transformations

Employers now have a variety of means at their disposal to do their job, including employees, platform talent, contingent workers, as well as new digital solutions, artificial intelligence and robotics. To discover the opportunities that this transformation offers, organizations need to understand the potential effects of technological change (such as automation, robotization and digitalisation) on employment, worker well-being and social inclusion, thus identifying strategies to increase trust and acceptance for the use of disruptive technologies. Furthermore, the opportunity to take advantage of these technological changes comes through the ability to support, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions in terms of individual well-being and health, performance and economic impact at the organisational level.

Human Robot Collaboration

In many production environments safe interaction between humans and robots has been implemented. Dedicated literature provides a valuable lesson about the importance of the human element in new technologies design. Data from various reports highlight that nearly 50–75% of implementations of new technologies have failed in terms of quality, flexibility, and reliability due to neglecting the human factors. In order for effective Human Robot Collaboration to be taken up by industry, beyond safety aspects, organizations need to investigate acceptability and feedback from users in a holistic way and how smart systems are designed to improve the quality of the job performed and to increase flexible production, thus finding a suitable trade-off between safety, comfort and productivity. Organizations need to identify human-related barriers and facilitators for the uptake of smart systems including robot technology in industrial environments such as ergonomics, user experience, comfort, trust, feeling of safety and control over the system, and liability in modern production facilities, taking into account age and gender aspects.

Usability and cognitive effort in exoskeleton

Measuring users’ trust, cognitive workload and system usability in exoskeleton is crucial. Developing a benchmarking framework will allow the development of well-designed exoskeletons which may improve cognitive performance helping the users to shift cognitive resources dedicated to the physical effort to the actual activity.
Moreover, the control of exoskeletons has ranged from manual to fully automatic, and the motions can be triggered in different ways, according to the level of automation. Furthermore, powered exoskeletons can accomplish various tasks, such as climbing stairs, walking, and passing through a mode to another one, for example moving from standing to sitting position. In highly automated systems, with less interaction from the user, there are risks associated with not having the appropriate Mode Awareness. The low ability of the user to track and anticipate system behaviour could be due to the poor design of the exoskeleton’s interface, the lack of appropriate feedback or the indirect mode changes. Addressing the factors that can produce Mode Confusion will grant to develop systems that are safe, trustful and usable.

Leadership and Teamwork Training

Especially in high-risk organizations, there are some operations that need to be performed in groups. Factors important to carry out safety-critical operations or tasks in teams are effective communication, shared situation awareness, monitoring performance, and backing-up team members, among others. Moreover, leadership is a key variable in this equation and the role of the team manager is increasingly affect the overall performance. Our research interests concern both teams and team leaders, studying ways to boost team performance, reducing errors (or learning from it to improve the entire system) and adverse outcomes such as severe injuries. Based on tailored advanced quantitative and qualitative measurements and tools, an in-depth risk assessment could identify the type of interventions required at individual, team and organisational level.

Human Factors and VR/AR

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) can be used to test people's interaction with different technological design concepts. This way, potential end users are able to experience and form an attitude about the different designs before they are really implemented. We can use VR and AR to test user acceptance and other attitudes regarding the technologies experienced through VR and AR.
Moreover, we can use VR and AR to deliver trainings that would be too dangerous in real environments or that would require unavailable resources.