If science fiction has taught us anything about robots, it’s to have a healthy fear of the day when they rise up and start attacking us. In order to avoid that fate, Asimov created his famous First Law of Robotics, which says that a robot cannot injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
It all sounds good in theory, but as robots start interacting with humans more and more how can you make sure they don’t wind up hurting us accidentally? Well if you’re Borut Povše, a researcher at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, you have an industrial robot repeatedly punch human test subjects in the arm progressively harder to try and establish a human-robot pain threshold.
Each of the six test subjects in the experiment was punched by the robot at each of 18 different power settings. The robot was also tested using two different attachments: a round and relatively blunt one, and a second, sharper arm.
While the experiment may seem absurd, the researchers believe their experiment will provide valuable data allowing for the creation of robots that can’t injure people and Povše hopes that the research will eventually lead to robots that can work closely with humans without risk of injury.