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Programming‐by‐demonstration in the coworker scenario for SMEs

J. Norberto Pires (Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)
Germano Veiga (Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)
Ricardo Araújo (Mechanical Engineering Department, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal)

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 9 January 2009




The purpose of this paper is to report a collection of developments that enable users to program industrial robots using speech, several device interfaces, force control and code generation techniques.


The reported system is explained in detail and a few practical examples are given that demonstrate its usefulness for small to medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs), where robots and humans need to cooperate to achieve a common goal (coworker scenario). The paper also explores the user interface software adapted for use by non‐experts.


The programming‐by‐demonstration (PbD) system presented proved to be very efficient with the task of programming entirely new features to an industrial robotic system. The system uses a speech interface for user command, and a force‐controlled guiding system for teaching the robot the details about the task being programmed. With only a small set of implemented robot instructions it was fairly easy to teach the robot system a new task, generate the robot code and execute it immediately.

Research limitations/implications

Although a particular robot controller was used, the system is in many aspects general, since the options adopted are mainly based on standards. It can obviously be implemented with other robot controllers without significant changes. In fact, most of the features were ported to run with Motoman robots with success.

Practical implications

It is important to stress that the robot program built in this section was obtained without writing a single line of code, but instead just by moving the robot to the desired positions and adding the required robot instructions using speech. Even the upload task of the obtained module to the robot controller is commanded by speech, along with its execution/termination. Consequently, teaching the robotic system a new feature is accessible for any type of user with only minor training.


This type of PbD systems will constitute a major advantage for SMEs, since most of those companies do not have the necessary engineering resources to make changes or add new functionalities to their robotic manufacturing systems. Even at the system integrator level these systems are very useful for avoiding the need for specific knowledge about all the controllers with which they work: complexity is hidden beyond the speech interfaces and portable interface devices, with specific and user‐friendly APIs making the connection between the programmer and the system.



Norberto Pires, J., Veiga, G. and Araújo, R. (2009), "Programming‐by‐demonstration in the coworker scenario for SMEs", Industrial Robot, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 73-83.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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