See Inside Scientific American Volume 308, Issue 5

Who’s the Boss? Next-Gen Factory Robots Could Call the Shots

Humans and robots will work elbow to elbow on the shop floor, but you'll be surprised by who's giving the orders

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The minute Michael Dawson-Haggerty burst into my office, clad in a blackened lime-green welding jacket and wearing a big smile, I knew he and his partner had won. Their test: weld a metal space frame for a Humvee—a military vehicle ubiquitous in Iraq and Afghanistan—faster than a team of experts with decades of experience.

This was Dawson-Haggerty's first professional job—he had just completed his master's degree and joined the engineering staff at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute—and it is fair to say that he had been a little nervous as he got started. Truth be told, I was more worried about his partner, who was reliable enough but generally lacked people skills.

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