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  1. A rapid rise in the recycling and remanufacturing of end-of-use electronic waste (e-waste) has been observed due to multiple factors including our increased dependence on electronic products and the lack of resources to meet the demand. E-waste disassembly, which is the operation of extracting valuable components for recycling purposes, has received ever increasing attention as it can serve both the economy and the environment. Traditionally, e-waste disassembly is labor intensive with significant occupational hazards. To reduce labor costs and enhance working efficiency, collaborative robots (cobots) might be a viable option and the feasibility of deploying cobots in high-risk or low value-added e-waste disassembly operations is of tremendous significance to be investigated. Therefore, the major objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of working with a cobot during e-waste disassembly processes on human workload and ergonomics through a human subject experiment. Statistical results revealed that using a cobot to assist participants with the desktop disassembly task reduced the sum of the NASA-TLX scores significantly compared to disassembling by themselves (p = 0.001). With regard to ergonomics, a significant reduction was observed in participants’ mean L5/S1 flexion angle as well as mean shoulder flexion angle on both sides when working with the cobot (p < 0.001). However, participants took a significantly longer time to accomplish the disassembly task when working with the cobot (p < 0.001), indicating a trade-off of deploying cobot in the e-waste disassembly process. Results from this study could advance the knowledge of how human workers would behave and react during human-robot collaborative e-waste disassembly tasks and shed light on the design of better HRC for this specific context. 
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  2. Cleaning work is a labor-intensive job that frequently exposes workers to substantial occupational hazards. Unfortunately, the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has increased the pressure on janitors and cleaners to meet the rising need for a safe and hygienic environment, particularly in grocery stores, where the majority of people get their daily necessities. To reduce the occupational hazards and fulfill the new challenges of COVID-19, autonomous cleaning robots, have been designed to complement human workers. However, a lack of understanding of the new generation of cleaning tools’ acceptance may raise safety concerns when they’re deployed. Therefore, a video-based survey was developed and distributed to 32 participants, aiming to assess human acceptance of the cleaning robot in grocery environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the effects of four factors (gender, work experience, knowledge, and pet) that may influence human acceptance of the cleaning robot were also examined. In general, our findings revealed a non-negative human acceptance of the cleaning robot, which is a positive sign of deploying cleaning robots in grocery stores to reduce the workload of employees and decrease COIVID-related anxiety and safety concerns of customers. Furthermore, prior knowledge of robotics was observed to have a significant effect on participants’ acceptance of the cleaning robot ( p = 0.039). 
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  3. Abstract

    As technology advances, Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) is boosting overall system efficiency and productivity. However, allowing robots to be present closely with humans will inevitably put higher demands on precise human motion tracking and prediction. Datasets that contain both humans and robots operating in the shared space are receiving growing attention as they may facilitate a variety of robotics and human-systems research. Datasets that track HRI with rich information other than video images during daily activities are rarely seen. In this paper, we introduce a novel dataset that focuses on social navigation between humans and robots in a future-oriented Wholesale and Retail Trade (WRT) environment (https://uf-retail-cobot-dataset.github.io/). Eight participants performed the tasks that are commonly undertaken by consumers and retail workers. More than 260 minutes of data were collected, including robot and human trajectories, human full-body motion capture, eye gaze directions, and other contextual information. Comprehensive descriptions of each category of data stream, as well as potential use cases are included. Furthermore, analysis with multiple data sources and future directions are discussed.

     
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  4. Voice recognition has become an integral part of our lives, commonly used in call centers and as part of virtual assistants. However, voice recognition is increasingly applied to more industrial uses. Each of these use cases has unique characteristics that may impact the effectiveness of voice recognition, which could impact industrial productivity, performance, or even safety. One of the most prominent among them is the unique background noises that are dominant in each industry. The existence of different machinery and different work layouts are primary contributors to this. Another important characteristic is the type of communication that is present in these settings. Daily communication often involves longer sentences uttered under relatively silent conditions, whereas communication in industrial settings is often short and conducted in loud conditions. In this study, we demonstrated the importance of taking these two elements into account by comparing the performances of two voice recognition algorithms under several background noise conditions: a regular Convolutional Neural Network (CNN)-based voice recognition algorithm to an Auto Speech Recognition (ASR)-based model with a denoising module. Our results indicate that there is a significant performance drop between the typical background noise use (white noise) and the rest of the background noises. Also, our custom ASR model with the denoising module outperformed the CNN-based model with an overall performance increase between 14–35% across all background noises. Both results give proof that specialized voice recognition algorithms need to be developed for these environments to reliably deploy them as control mechanisms. 
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  5. null (Ed.)