This post originally appeared in the Navigate the Future blog.
When we think of robots, we often think of manufacturing. After all, machines have taken over numerous jobs that humans used to do by hand—from assembling cars to loading trucks and packing boxes. But as today’s artificial intelligence continues to expand—even, in some cases, adopting the emotional characteristics of human beings—the potential for the use of smart machines—i.e. robots—is rapidly expanding. It seems there are lots of jobs humans do that robots can just do better (and faster, and more consistently). Manufacturing is only the very tip of the iceberg.
(A side note for those concerned about robots taking jobs from humans: I get it. As I recently shared in my piece Artificial Intelligence and Automation: Predictions for the Future, studies show 40 percent of U.S. jobs risk automation by the 2030s. The good news? Studies also show about 85 percent of jobs we’ll be doing in 2030 don’t yet exist. There’s a lot of potential here with robotics and AI! Keep an open mind to the tremendous possibilities.)
I don’t know about you, but when I see a new housing development, I’m always amazed by how fast the houses get built. Robots are about to take it to warp speed. Think you could build a house in less than a day? Well, there are already 3-D printers that can, using concrete and other building materials. What about laying bricks? One robot, the Hadrian X, can lay 1,000 bricks per hour, completing in two days the amount of work that would typically take 4-6 weeks. Not only that, it does it more accurately! At this rate, we’ll likely be seeing fewer tractors and more robots on construction sites in the near future.
I remember the day I first shopped at Nordstrom and the sales associate helping me find the shoes I wanted also had a credit card reader in his pocket. I could check out anywhere in the store, with any employee—right on the spot. And it wasn’t that long ago! But today, retail is using far more advanced technology to change and enhance the customer experience. I’m not just talking about chat bots. Retailers can use steadily improving AI to greet customers, help them find products, and do price and inventory checks. Robots are being used to stock shelves and help free up employees for more pressing tasks. I don’t think it will be long before seeing a robot in a store will be commonplace. And I guarantee that it will make for a more efficient and more satisfying shopping experience overall.
Food and Hospitality
Anyone who’s ever run a restaurant or hotel knows there are a lot of moving parts—and it often takes a lot of attention to keep customers happy. That’s one of the reasons many leaders in the food and hospitality business are looking to advanced robots to help free up humans to have more meaningful encounters with guests. Imagine having a little extra time to chat with a customer about their day or the reason for their stay while a robot manages payment, prepares a drink, or cleans their table. Even more, imagine a robotic concierge sharing up-to-date, extensive information—far more than most humans would be able to keep straight—about local hotspots, hikes, or spas. Not only will the information be provided quickly and accurately—thanks to new emotional IQ capabilities, it will also be delivered with a consistently pleasant tone. After all, robots never have bad days.
OK—it’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a pretty big one. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is already changing the face of logistics and automation. Robots are just the most natural step in helping manufacturers use the technology in the most productive way. After all, especially in countries like China, there are simply not enough workers to keep up with the manufacturing demands. Robots can help stand in, building more products—more quickly—and keeping businesses rolling. Still, that’s not all robots are good for. Toyota just invested more than $1 billion for robotic AI R&D over the next five years. They see the possibilities far beyond just production lines. Robots could be used for design, quality assurance, safety, you name it—all to make better products for the customer.
Although I’ve only gone over four industries here, there are so many more than stand to benefit from robotic development. In healthcare, for instance, robots will likely perform increasingly complex and lengthy surgeries—ones where it’s difficult for healthcare staff to maintain stamina and focus over long and intense periods of time. They can also perform mobile health check-ups for rural patients, check in on seniors, and perform patient intake like temperature and blood pressure readings.
And yes, for those who have been awaiting their own personal Rosie the Robot, I’m already anticipating a rise in companion robots—those that focus not just on tasks, but on providing a feeling of comfort and friendship for those who are lonely or need support. Can you imagine: a friend who never flakes on you, is always available, and never judges your decisions! Truly, it’s not just major industries that will benefit from advanced robotics. It’s all of us.