Industrial robot arms are expensive, and come with a long list of caveats including concerns over whether they can work safely alongside humans.
Franka Emika, a new product coming in 2017 to the burgeoning field of collaborative robots, is a robot arm pitched to be easily programmable out of the box, unable to kill anyone, and capable of building more copies of itself. It is also set to vastly undercut its competition on price, costing about $10,500 (€9,900). Competitors start around $30,000.
The robot is safe because it’s torque-controlled, according to IEEE Spectrum, which means that it uses sensors to measure strain on its seven joints. The safety feature works because the software controlling the arm contains a comprehensive model of how the robot should move, and how much natural strain the joints should feel.