Kathryn Cave, Editor at IDG Connect writes, "What role will robots play in tomorrow’s office?"
This is a London street in 2040. A throng of workers are demonstrating in solidarity with their robot brothers and sisters. The banners read:
“Robot Rights!” - “Equal Pay For Robots!” - “I Love My Robot – Jayne – She Deserves MORE!”
|Photo: IDG Connect|
The role of robots in the workplace is developing at a furious pace. This looks set to continue. And while the portrait above may be pure fantasy, it is not inconceivable.
So, how are robots likely to develop in the workplace?
Ocado Technology is currently working on a new project to build physical robots to offer a second pair of hands to employees. This will use artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced vision techniques to find out where human workers need help with technical maintenance jobs. It should be complete in five years.
As Jonathan Wilkins, director at European Automation puts it, in future combined with M2M, robots will have an “increased ability to learn and make predictions based on previous scenarios”. This can be seen in virtual assistant Amelia by IPsoft or the experiment where a neural network of 16,000 processors taught itself to recognise cats after a week of watching YouTube videos.
At present work robots are still in their early stages though. And as usual cultural differences come into play. In the West they are mostly being used in manufacturing and, occasionally, a high profile receptionist. In the East they emerge in more ‘caring roles’.
The Japanese, particularly, have always had a distinct relationship with machines. And this
June, Pepper a humanoid robot, which can feel emotion and helps people by talking to them, made the headlines as its entire run of 1,000 sold out within one minute of going on sale.
It is this more human side of robots that will always draw the most fascination. This is the stuff of science fiction. And the film Her has already explored the relationship between a man and his virtual assistant. While Dr Helen Driscoll from Sunderland University Psychology Department believes that:
“Robophilia may be alien now, but could be normal in the near future as attitudes evolve with technology”.
This is a long way off. But things do seem to be moving in that general direction. “Robots are likely to offer different kinds of human machine interactions by encompassing social skills. It means machines will talk to people - in limited ways - but they will be able to trigger some kind of actions in our normal day lives,” says Dr. Antonio Espingardeiro, Senior Member of the IEEE.
Source: IDG Connect