A cobot (from collaborative robot) is a robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. This is in contrast with other robots, designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance, which is what most industrial robots were up until the decade of the 2010s.
Cobots can have many roles — from autonomous robots capable of working together with humans in an office environment that can ask you for help, to industrial robots having their protective guards removed. Collaborative industrial robots are highly complex machines which are able to work hand in hand with human beings. The robots support and relieve the human operator in a conjoint work flow.
Cobots were invented in 1996 by J. Edward Colgate and Michael Peshkin, professors at Northwestern University. A 1997 US patent filing describes cobots as “an apparatus and method for direct physical interaction between a person and a general purpose manipulator controlled by a computer.”