Want a happy worker? Let the robots take control

Bookmark and Share

If you’ve seen a sci-fi flick with autonomous robots in the last 40 years, you may be wary of giving robots any semblance of control.

But new research coming out of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) suggests that letting robots have control over human tasks in manufacturing is not just more efficient — it’s actually preferred by workers.

While manufacturers have long recognized the benefits of automation in streamlining processes and freeing humans from tedious tasks, such as aisle-running, there’s always a concern that workers may feel devalued or even replaceable.

“In our research we were seeking to find that sweet spot for ensuring that the human workforce is both satisfied and productive,” says project lead Matthew Gombolay, a PhD student at CSAIL. “We discovered that the answer is to actually give machines more autonomy, if it helps people to work together more fluently with robot teammates."

Specifically, in the study, groups of two humans and one robot worked together in one of three conditions: manual (all tasks allocated by a human); fully autonomous (all tasks allocated by the robot); and semi-autonomous (one human allocates tasks to self, and a robot allocates tasks to other human).

 



The fully-autonomous condition proved to be not only the most effective for the task, but also the method preferred by human workers. The workers were more likely to say that the robots “better understood them” and “improved the efficiency of the team.”

Read more at MIT News
Media coverage: PBS NewHour, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, Vice, The Daily Mail Business Insider, Computer World, Venture Beat, Read Write