Our founder Kevin McCullagh has already laid out in a widely republished piece, the general principles of how human interaction with machines is evolving. But the way in which we collaborate, will become more complex. In the future we will collaborate in many ways with robots and artificial intelligence, from more traditional delineated divisions of tasks between man and machine to symbiotic working relationships. These will fall roughly into five categories.

Certain tasks in a human workflow are outsourced to a machine. The machine completes the task unaided, with varying levels of instruction. Example: Industrial robots welding and spray painting car parts on a production line, while human workers perform other tasks like fitting the IP panels and custom parts.


Decision making processes are automated, but under a human eye. This mode requires the machine to be aware of and communicate risks and unknowns to human users. Example: Airline flights in which the pilot intervenes only in certain circumstances.


We will increasingly live and work alongside intelligent machines, sharing the same spaces, but focusing on separate task-flows. Machines in these scenarios must be able to effectively negotiate shared space and anticipate human intent. Example: Warehouse staff working in parallel with and alongside robots.

amazon robots

Machines that will help us perform tasks faster and better. They support particular tasks in human workflows, and will excel in discerning human goals and learning their preferences. Example: Writing assistants that suggest words and how to improve text.


This emerging mode of collaboration is highly  interactive and reciprocal. People input strategic hypotheses and the machine suggests tactical options. Example: Adobe Sensei which automated tedious design processes, and generates options, giving the designer more time for creative tasks.


Read Kevin McCullagh’s piece Human Machine Interlace to which this piece relates.