HANOVER, Germany  -  Collaborative robots and intelligent machinery may have wowed the crowds at this year’s Hannover Messe, but experts see German industry as having some way to go towards incorporating them on factory floors in what could become the fourth industrial revolution.

The undoubted star of the world’s largest industrial trade fair which closed its doors in the northern German city on Friday was YuMi, a collaborative dual-armed robot made by Swiss-based automation technology group ABB. ABB says it developed YuMi primarily for the consumer electronics industry and it is capable of handling the delicate and precise parts of a wristwatch to components used in mobile phones, tablets and desktop PCs.

But it will increasingly be rolled out to cover other market sectors as well, the company said. And it is completely safe, so that YuMi and human co-workers can work side-by-side on shared tasks without protective fencing or cages. Chancellor Angela Merkel put its safety features to the test when she visited the stand and placed her finger inside the gripper on YuMi’s right arm, causing it to stop. At another stand, the German firm Beckhoff showed off its automated assembly line able to adapt itself seamlessly to handle different parts according to their shape, size and colour, while the human co-worker is equipped with a special smartwatch to monitor the process and intervene if necessary.