Shah and graduate student Stefanos Nikolaidis set up a simple experiment that involved 36 people coming into a lab and working with a robot arm to drill three screws into a board. The actual drilling was simulated. Just like an assembly line, they placed the screws, the board moved down the line and the robot pressed in the fasteners.
Shah said the volunteers all had different ways of working with the robot arm. "Some people didn't like the robot; they were nervous," she said. "They preferred to put in all three screws, stand back, and watch the robot drill. In other cases, people wanted to do it as fast as possible, so the robot drilled as fast as the screws were placed."
By switching job roles, the robot was able to learn more quickly and the human began to trust the bot more. This human-robot cross-training worked better than giving positive or negative rewards to the robot.
"Cross training results in better teamwork," Shah said.
The other big issue is forging trust between the two, according to Nikolaidis. This is important if the job involves tasks such as lifting heavy objects or performing dangerous work.