Guardian is a new concept for an intelligent environment in which people and autonomous machines, can work safely and productively side-by-side. In this environment, a human should never be put in harms way, and the appropriate advice and information is provided in a timely manner. A human never needs to work alone, or in a dangerous workplace such as; working at heights, or confined spaces. Traditionally physical safety barricades have been required to separate humans from robots. To allow interaction in a more intimate and cooperation manner, it is necessary to create virtual and dynamic safety zones. This can be achieved with the appropriate combination of technologies, such as 3D situational awareness, fail-safe communications and risk modelling.
In practice Guardian will require technology that is able to map the environment, track and predict the behaviour of humans and machines in a workplace. CSIRO has developed a number of these technologies. In most cases, robots will assist rather than replace humans. They will be designed to provide both awareness and physical assistance to their human coworkers. For example, holding something heavy or awkward. In other cases, robots will be deployed to work in areas that are not suitable for humans (confined space). Coordinating machines to work alongside humans as a collective intelligence is the innovation for an exciting future.