[Accepted] 3rd Ergonomic Human-Robot Collaboration: Opportunities and Challenges

October 2020

In many industrial countries, work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) are associated with high costs to employers such as lost productivity, worker's compensation costs, and so on. WMSD risk factors include awkward posture, repetition, mechanical compression, vibration, etc. To tackle such risk factor, a workplace ergonomics assessment comprises of intervention descriptions for WMSD and the intervention strategy for reducing, eliminating, or controlling worker exposure to the WMDS risk factor. These measures aim to ensure workers' health and safety. Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC) a promising concept that can potentially help with maintaining and improving ergonomics and working conditions of human co-workers. However, the traditional HRC technologies mostly focus safety in terms of collision avoidance and impact safety, while ergonomics potential is largely under-exploited. Therefore some of the major challenges and opportunities to exploit such potential are: collaborative robots have to be aware of co-worker's state and predict his/her actions; the interactive motion has to be able to reconfigure the human working conditions; the methods must operate online.

The above-mentioned challenges and opportunities present a novel research topic for the community. We previously organized two successful workshops to establish the field and to discuss this topic. First, we held a workshop at ICRA 2018 to introduce and discuss the concept in terms of collaborative robotics. Then we held a continuation workshop at IROS 2019 to review the initial research progress based on the goals set at the first workshop and identify major ongoing research problems. Now it is time to discuss those problems and come up with solutions to make progress towards robust and applicable methods for ergonomic human-robot collaboration.

The proposed workshop will first review the progress of the research and development in the new field that was achieved since the last workshop at IROS 2019. Next, we will focus on how to solve the problems that emerged during the research and development based on the goals that were set at the previous workshop. In addition, we will discuss potential novel research directions, ergonomic metric and robot control methods. Finally, we will discuss and design new validation methods that can be used for objective benchmarking within the field. Such an approach requires experts from various research fields and interdisciplinary discussion. For this purpose, we assemble a diverse set of organizers and speakers, who are leading experts in their respective areas that are highly relevant to this workshop topic.

The questions we want to address

  1. How to clearly define the measures for ergonomics in human-robot collaboration?
  2. How to design the appropriate optimization that the robot controller can use?
  3. Are the proposed ergonomic measures sufficient to ensure ergonomic conditions and prevent work-related injuries in terms of bio-medical aspects?
  4. How to improve the existing modelling of the human and effectively apply it to achieve ergonomic human-robot collaboration?
  5. Learning algorithms may help the robot to overcome some of the above-mentioned issues.
  6. What kind of additional sensory feedback systems are required?
  7. How can robot learning methods be utilized to this end? What are the challenges in achieving the proposed goal in different applications (i.e. industrial human-robot collaboration, wearable robots, service robots, etc.)?



We will welcome prospective participants to submit extended abstracts (up to 4 pages) to be presented as posters. The manuscripts should use the IEEE IROS two-column format. A PDF copy of manuscript should be submitted through our EasyChair platform. Each paper will receive a minimum of two reviews. The papers will be selected based on their originality, relevance to the workshop topics, contributions, technical clarity, and presentation. Accepted papers require that at least one of the authors register to the workshop.

Submission website


Important dates

  • Submission deadline for extended abstracts: September 2020

Speaker instructions

All accepted paper has to prepare the interactive poster session, it has two components: a 3-minute spotlight pitch and a 30-minute interactive presentation.


Time Description
09.00 - 09.30 Introduction by the organizers
09.30 - 10.00 Talk 1 by Dr. Freek Stulp
10.00 - 10.30 Talk 2 by Prof. Bram Vanderborght
10.30 - 11.00 Coffee Break
11.00 - 11.30 Talk 3 by Dr. Arash Ajoudani
11.30 - 12.00 Talk 4 by Dr. Wansoo Kim
12.00 - 13.30 Lunch
13.30 - 14.00 Talk 5 by Dr. Eiichi Yoshida
14.00 - 14.30 Talk 6 by Prof. Luka Peternel
14.30 - 15.00 Talk 7 by Prof. Heni Ben Amor
15.00 - 16.00 Coffee Break & Poster Session
16.00 - 16.30 Talk 8 by Dr. Serena Ivaldi
16.30 - 17.00 Talk 9 by Prof.Alexander Leonessa
17.00 - 18.00 Round Table Discussions


Wansoo Kim

Wansoo Kim, Post Doc

Italian Institute of Technology, Italy

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Wansoo Kim is a Post-Doc. at Human-Robot Interfaces and Physical Interaction Lab., Italian Institute of Technology, Italy from 2016. He received a Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Hanyang University, Korea in 2015 (Integrated MS/PhD program). He has developed several exoskeleton systems such as HEXAR-Hanyang Exoskeleton Assistive Robot, and conducted research on the control of the powered exoskeleton robot through the physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) forces. His PhD thesis is entitled “Human Synchronized Gait Control of the HEXAR-CR50 to Augment Lower Body Strength Based on the Human-Robot Interaction Force”. His research interests are in physical human-robot interaction(pHRI), human-robot collaboration, and powered exoskeleton robot.
Luka Peternel

Luka Peternel , Assistant Professor

Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

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Luka Peternel received a Ph.D. in robotics from Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2015. He conducted Ph.D. studies at Department of Automation, Biocybernetics and Robotics, Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana from 2011 to 2015, and at Department of Brain-Robot Interface, ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan in 2013 and 2014. He was with Human-Robot Interfaces and Physical Interaction Lab, Advanced Robotics, Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, Italy from 2015 to 2018. From 2019, Luka Peternel is an Assistant Professor at Department of Cognitive Robotics, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
Arash Ajoudani

Arash Ajoudani, Principal Investigator

Italian Institute of Technology, Italy

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Arash Ajoudani received his PhD degree in Robotics and Automation from Centro "E Piaggio", University of Pisa, and Advanced Robotics Department (ADVR), Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Italy (July 2014). His PhD thesis was a finalist for the Georges Giralt PhD award 2015 - best European PhD thesis award in robotics. He is currently a tenure-track scientist and the leader of the Human-Robot Interfaces and physical Interaction (HRI2) lab of the IIT. He was a winner of the Amazon Research Awards 2019, the winner of the Werob best poster award 2018, winner of the KUKA Innovation Award 2018, a finalist for the best conference paper award at Humanoids 2018, a finalist for the best interactive paper award at Humanoids 2016, a finalist for the best oral presentation award at Automatica (SIDRA) 2014, the winner of the best student paper award and a finalist for the best conference paper award at ROBIO 2013, and a finalist for the best manipulation paper award at ICRA 2012. He is the author of the book "Transferring Human Impedance Regulation Skills to Robots" in the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics (STAR), and several publications in journals, international conferences, and book chapters. He is currently serving as the executive manager of the IEEE-RAS Young Reviewers' Program (YRP), chair and representative of the IEEE-RAS Young Professionals Committee, and co-chair of the IEEE-RAS Member Services Committee. He has been serving as a member of scientific advisory committee and as an associate editor for several international journals and conferences such as IEEE RAL, Biorob, ICORR, etc. His main research interests are in physical human-robot interaction and cooperation, robotic manipulation, robust and adaptive control, rehabilitation robotics, and tele-robotics.

Eiichi Yoshida

Yoshida Eiichi, Co-Director

Intelligent Systems Research Institute (IS-AIST), AIST, Tsukuba, Japan

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Eiichi Yoshida received M.E and Ph.D degrees on Precision Machinery Engineering from Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo in 1993 and 1996 respectively. In 1996 he joined former Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, later reorganized as National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tsukuba, Japan. He served as Co-Director of AIST/IS-CNRS/ST2I Joint French-Japanese Robotics Laboratory (JRL) at LAAS-CNRS, Toulouse, France, from 2004 to 2008. Since 2009, he is Co-Director of CNRS-AIST JRL (Joint Robotics Laboratory), UMI3218/RL, and since 2015 he serves as Deputy-Director of Intelligent Systems Research Institute (IS-AIST), AIST, Tsukuba, Japan. His research interests include robot task and motion planning, human modeling, and humanoid robots.

Invited Speakers

    • Dr. Serena Ivaldi

      National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (Inria), France

      "Prediction and optimization for ergonomics movement in human-robot collaboration"
      In this talk I will present our recent results in prediction of human movement for improving human-robot collaboration and optimization of human movement with respect to ergonomics criteria.

    • Prof. Bram Vanderborght

      Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

      "Improving workers’ ergonomics by cobots and exoskeletons"
      Cobots allow to combine the dexterity, flexibility and problem-solving ability of humans, with the strength, endurance, quality consistency and precision of robots and can be redeployed to other tasks much more easily. By also placing health, the working conditions and the sustainable development goals central, we can ensure ourselves to reap the full benefits not only economically but also for our society. This talk will discuss the multidisciplinary approach to develop a new generation of cobots and exoskeletons and control algorithms for improving the ergonomics of workers in the manufacturing industry.

    • Dr. rer. nat. Freek Stulp

      Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany

      "Ergonomic Task-Level Programming by Demonstration"


    •  Prof. Heni Ben Amor

      Arizona State University, USA

      "Machine Learning and Predictive Biomechanics for Human-Robot Collaboration"

    • Prof. Alexander Leonessa

      Virginia Tech, USA

      "Effects of a whole-body, powered exoskeleton on the completion of industrial tasks: current metrics and future adaptations"

      Despite advances in industry automation and mechanization, the flexibility, dexterity and resourcefulness of humans are indispensable in diverse work environments. In these environments, workers are often routinely exposed to ergonomic risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), the single largest component of work-related illnesses in many industrialized countries. There is a growing interest in using wearable robotic devices such as “whole-body” powered exoskeletons (WB-PEXOs) to prevent WMSDs. Using an exoskeleton provides on-body assistance/augmentation to the wearer, thereby potentially reducing physical demands without limiting their mobility and resourcefulness in various work environments. Exoskeletons thus allow for effective and flexible integration of manual and automated operations by augmenting the physical capacity of workers (e.g., strength, endurance) while minimizing exposure to WMSD risks. Currently, however, there is a lack of understanding exactly how human operators learn, use, and adapt to such technologies. Previous exoskeleton research is largely limited to passive exoskeletons that require no power sources or actuators/motors, so there is practically no scientific literature available on human-subjects evaluations with WBPEXOs that can quantify the ergonomic impact on human operators. Understanding these effects is crucial to developing a robot that can closely interact with a human in a work environment.

      We conducted a study in which we assessed how using a prototype WBPEXO (early pre-alpha version of Guardian XO with 24 total degrees of freedom, 8 active, impacts human operators in terms of body motion control, muscle activity, and task performance. Five participants were evaluated during the performance of several industry-relevant tasks, both with and without the XO. Outcome metrics derived using body kinematics and muscle activity showed the current effectiveness of XO during the different work tasks, and identified specific aspects in which it needs further development to better collaborate with the human. Our results support the potential for effective use of whole-body powered exoskeletons in the future workplace, and contribute to the evidence base regarding the use of an industrial WB-PEXO by identifying the metrics that best describe the ergonomic state of the human while operating the WB-PEXO. The findings from this study will enable the development of novel controllers for the WB-PEXO that are aware of these ergonomic metrics and are able to continuously adapt to the ergonomic state of the operator, thereby increasing the ease and safety of the industrial environment, and decreasing the risk of WMSDs.


The following IEEE-RAS Technical Committees have acknowledged the full support of the proposed workshop:


This workshop will be supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 871237 (SOPHIA), and from the European Research Council program under grant agreement No. 850932 (Ergo-Lean). The project SOPHIA will support a USB-key, which includes the workshop proceeding and the introduction of the SOPHIA project, for the attendees. The organisers are also evaluating the possibility of a post workshop social event (e.g. dinner) funded by the project (Ergo-Lean).