We're Close to Controlling Welding Robots With Our Minds

Welding robot in automotive manufacturing facility

Welding,  the joining together of two pieces of metal to create a single piece, is efficient, economical, and absolutely essential in a wide variety of industries. Common welding types include orbital, shielded metal arc, flux-cored arc — and now, robotic welding.

As the name suggests, robotic welding relies on the use of fully or partially automated robotic components to perform the weld and simultaneously hold the workpiece in place. With little need for human touches, fully automated processes allow for greater efficiency, increased safety, and reduced costs.

Mind-Controlled Robotic Welding

Mind control may bring the best of manual and robotic welding together. Welding takes considerable skill. Robots don't simply have that skill: they must be carefully programmed to do the jobs they do, and that programming is done by highly-skilled human beings.

Though the robotic welding process saves time in the long run, the programming process can often be lengthy and detailed. For high-volume projects, this isn’t much of an issue. However, the amount of time it takes to program a robot for a small batch of items is disproportionate and may add to expected lead times.

Using mind control preserves the safety and efficiency of robotic welding and eliminates the need for programming in advance for those smaller projects. In the current experiments in this area, the human welder wears electroencephalography (EEG) cap and watches a computer monitor.

Images display on the monitor featuring different types of potential welds. An interface between the computer and the human reads the human’s reactions to the displayed images, measuring a wide range of factors to determine which method the human operator would use to complete the job. As such, the human welder’s responses instruct the computer on how to proceed with the robotic weld.

Though this technology isn't ready to be put into regular use, research continues to be promising. Research subjects underwent incremental tasks, such as controlling a digital cursor on a computer screen, and grasping and moving objects from a table to a shelf with a robotic arm.

The Future of Welding

Technology designed to interface with the human mind has many potential applications, and the mind-controlled robotic welding process is just one of them. The potential for increased efficiency on smaller projects while maintaining welder safety could have a big impact on a company's bottom line and even their company culture. The long-term implications are even more positive for high-risk welding jobs, such as underwater welding.

Soon enough, mind-controlled robots may be helping to build your appliances and automobiles. Don’t be afraid of these advances, however—it’s nothing to lose your mind over.

Image Credit: Praphan Jampala / Shutterstock.com

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