In the coming years, more and more workplaces will be equipped with collaborative robots (CoBots) that hold workpieces for employees, assemble car seats together with them, inspect packages or work physically close to people in other ways.

Understanding the states and next steps of such a robot is not only important for the successful completion of joint tasks, but also plays a major role for the acceptance by the human interaction partners. After all, safety and trust are basic human needs built on mutual understanding. For human-robot collaboration, this means that just as the states and intentions of the human partner must be identifiable for the robot, so, conversely, the states and planned actions of the robot should also be understandable and predictable for the human being.

Ideally, when a CoBot will actively intervene in the joint work process or in which direction it will move next can be understood intuitively. However, there is still great need for research to specify which robotic communication signals are understandable and pleasant for which group of people in which work context.

This is where the interdisciplinary consortium of the CoBot Studio comes in with new, creative methods. The project focuses on the development of an immersive extended reality simulation in which communicative collaboration processes with mobile robots can be playfully tried out and studied under controllable conditions.

Based on the technical infrastructure of the virtual reality room „Deep Space 8K“ at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz and other VR and AR technologies, test persons in the CoBot Studio participate in collaborative games with robots in which tasks such as assembling or organizing small objects have to be completed together. Within the games, the robots‘ non-verbal communication signals are varied and examined in their effects on variables such as task success, robot predictability, subjective safety and trust throughout the interaction experience.

The findings of the collaborative games and additional qualitative interviews are used to derive practice-oriented design principles for motion cues and visual signals of collaborative robots. The CoBot Studio thus combines physical and virtual levels of perception into a flexible research environment.

Collaborative Games

The first research game exploring cooperation and communication between humans and robots was conducted in autumn 2020 with more than 120 persons participating.

This research game „VR CoBot Studio“ is all about cooperation and communication between humans and robots at work. With the help of a virtual reality headset, the player is able to explore the virtual production halls of the rubber duck manufacturer Rubberduck Inc. In teamwork with industrial robots, rubber ducks must be painted, packed or held in place. Thereby it is necessary to correctly interpret communication signals and intentions of the robots as quickly as possible in order to achieve common goals effectively.


The CoBot Studio also stands for innovative bridges at the consortium level. With members from seven Austrian organisations, the project team unites expertise in psychology, robotics, computer science, multimodal communication, game design, virtual & augmented reality, sociology and safety:


LIT Robopsychology Lab
Linz Institute of Technology

Open Innovation Center
Johannes Kepler University Linz
Altenberger Str. 69
4040 Linz, Austria