As robotics and AI touch more areas of our daily lives, the role of the designer is to make these technologies accessible, augment our abilities and create our best possible future. The Cobalt founders, roboticists Travis Deyle and Erik Schluntz, came to us with a robot that has the intelligence of a self-driving car and advanced sensing and computational skills. We saw an opportunity to improve workspaces and their security in a way that utilizes both humans and robots. Cobalt is a rented service alongside human security guards; its autonomous capabilities make an office space safe while also providing concierge and information services.
The Cobalt robot’s semi-cylindrical self-driving mechanism, sensors and cameras are covered by a tensile fabric skirt. This helps maximize the access and usability of the internal technologies, creates airflow to prevent overheating, and conveys a soft and friendly persona akin to office furniture. With the right design, user experience and brand approach, technology can keep an office safe without feeling authoritarian. Cobalt is a stark contrast to the Hollywood dystopian Robocop – it discreetly fits into its environment, provides a platform to grow with our needs, and enhances human ability without replacing the human: all core tenets of Yves’ manifesto for designing robots and AI. Cobalt is taking workplace safety to the next level, while providing a human approach to its service and design.