Robots take strides into the workplace

Robots take strides into the workplace
     We already have robots working in factories, drones flying military missions and even robo-waiters taking orders in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China. But will a mechanized evil twin soon come for your job?

     Recently, experts interviewed by the Pew Research Center speculated about the possibility of a workplace with more and more robots. (See story here.) But robots are already popping up at restaurants, hotels and even hospitals. Here are a few examples:
     NEWS ANCHOR ROBOT:  Some news anchors look robotic, but the one at the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Japan is a robot.  And unlike its human counterparts, this robot can recite news reports from around the world 24 hours a day – and in different voices and languages, according to the museum.    
     Another robot “hired” by the museum closely resembles an adult woman and acts as a robot science communicator.       

     ROBOT BUTLER: Aloft Hotels, a “tech forward” brand that is part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts chain, has hired A.L.O., a robot butler (or, as Starwood puts it, a Botlr). The “cyber associate,” will make guest deliveries so that other staff can focus on delivering a “personalized” experience for guests, a company news release said.
     The first robotic butler went on duty in Aloft Cupertino in California's Silicon Valley. The robot “studied” at Savioke – a robotics company – “where it double majored in rudimentary tasks and hospitality,” the press release said.         

     EBOLA-FIGHTING ROBOT: A robot from Mount Pleasant, S.C., headed to Liberia recently to help in the fight against Ebola, according to The Post and Courier, a newspaper in the area.
     The paper reports that the remote-control robot “emits ultraviolet light powerful enough to decontaminate rooms of deadly stuff like E. coli and staph.” Dr. Jeff Deal, who, with his brother, David Deal, invented the robot, volunteered to travel with the robot and show hospital staff how to use it.  

     HITCHHIKING ROBOT: OK, so this isn't a job, strictly speaking. But can robots even fill in for slackers?
     This week, hitchBOT, a robot the size of a 6-year-old child, is celebrating the completion of a coast-to-coast trip in Canada from Halifax to Victoria. To make the trip, the robot tweeted, blogged, posted photos on Instagram and relied solely on rides from fellow Canadians to complete the journey. (The Japanese have robots that move like humans. Americans have robots that work in factories. Leave it to the Canadians to invent a charming robot.)
     Many question whether mankind can trust robots, but the project turned the question around: Can robots trust humans? The robot was programmed with voice-recognition software and was able to converse. It also had Wi-Fi connectivity and knew its position.
     Otherwise, hitchBOT could move only its hitchhiking arm – and nothing else. It depended on the kindness of motorists to transport it safely from one location to the next. The help section of hitchBOT's website instructed motorists on how to recharge the little robot by plugging it "into the cigarette lighter of your car, or into any power plug in your house."
     The project was the brainchild of David Harris Smith, assistant professor in the department of communication studies at McMaster University, and Frauke Zeller, assistant professor in the school of professional communication at Ryerson University.


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