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Robotics: This Bot's for You!


Written By: Christine Dantz

May 2016

As fast-food restaurants continue threatening to replace their human workforce with robots to save a few bucks on labor cost, AIs (Artificial Intelligence) seem to be hitting the news more and more. While you may not be too keen on a robot taking your job someday, but a service bot, especially if it can clean toilets…now that might just peak your interest just a bit. Tutor bots, cleaning bots, and delivery bots are all service bots that can improve your life…and they are rapidly making their way into our lives, whether we're ready or not.

Speaking of delivery bots…how would you handle a robot delivering your mail instead of your friendly postman/woman? Or how about a bot bumping on our door to deliver a package instead of a human FedEx or UPS delivery person?


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Screenshot of Dispatch's Carry—a 150 pound delivery robot.

Enter on the scene…Carry by Dispatch. The simple, 3-foot-tall, 150-pound battery-powered robot can deliver items weighing up to 100-pounds, from one point to another, using artificial intelligence, five cameras, and laser navigation. Carry is currently dispatched between two California college campuses for testing, but, it won't be long before you see it in action. The startup received a $2 million investment earlier this year, and the company's co-founder Uriah Baalke plans to use the money to expand his robotic delivery system in cities and college campuses.


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Businesses have found that not all service robots are created equal. Two Chinese restaurants recently made headlines when they "hired" the first robotic waiters. The restaurant hoped to save a few dollars on labor costs, but they ended up costing the restaurants more than they expected in glassware and customers.

An employee told China's Workers' Daily,

"The robots weren't able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down. The boss has decided never to use them again."

Nothing says innovation like hot soup in your lap. As the restaurant owners learned, robotic waiters may work in fast food, but not in a location where human interaction is required. When an American goes to a restaurant, they want wait staff that can take their order with a smile, not to mention pour a cup of coffee or tea without causing third-degree burns. Most of all, they need a waiter to ask if everything is okay at the exact moment they take a bite or sip, so they can't respond.


Robotics: This Bot's for You!

Yes, there have been failures in other countries with service bots, but, trial and error is an important part of the process. The ultimate goal is to have most of these bots capable of interacting with their human counterparts, taking on some responsibility to reduce their workload. Unfortunately, it is likely that there will be some humans who will lose their jobs to AIs/Robots…but someone is going to have to do the upkeep and maintenance on them, not to mention programming and such. So there should also be job creation in the process.

From housekeeping bots to package delivery bots, the future of robotics is here and well underway. Where do we go from here?


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References
Ackerman, E. (2016, April 12). Shockingly, Robots are Really Bad at Waiting Tables. Retrieved from IEEE Spectrum.
Kokalitcheva, K. (2016, April 6). This Cute Self-Driving Robot Wants to Deliver Your Food or Laundry. Retrieved from Fortune.
Taves, M. (2016, April 6). Why your next UPS driver might be an ugly robot on wheels. Retrieved from Cnet.

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Other Articles of Interest:

Robots: Reinventing the American Work Place

Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing: Where Robotic and Customization Movements Clash

New Sea Drones Set to Take Out Enemy Submarines

U.S. Military Wants Unmanned Ambulances and Robot Medics for Battlefield Extraction

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