When it comes to the concept of robotics in the workplace, it might seem like a distant and foreign concept, in the realms of sci-fi shows like Red Dwarf and movies like Star Wars. In fact, we’re closer to having robots working alongside us in the workplace than ever before – and in some places and ways, robots are already amongst the workforce, providing valuable roles and mechanisms that humans cannot.
If you want to see what robotics can do to revolutionise an industry, the only place you need to look is the automotive industry. Though not quite the AI companions you might expect when you think of the word ‘robot’, automated, computer algorithm-driven machines have been impacting and evolving these industries for a few years now. In fact, according to the Financial Times, in 2016 global sales of industrial robots increased by 18 percent to a record $13.1bn, making the field both incredibly popular and also rapidly becoming a requirement for many factories.
From creating brand new automobiles ready to roll onto the salesroom floor to the distribution of chocolates, crayons and countless other factory-produced products, basic robots have been an industry staple for quite a while now; and the market need for these robots isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The technology behind these currently basic entry-level robots is getting smarter and smarter over time, resulting in machines that look more like our idea of the future than ever before. But don’t panic and worry that these robots are coming for your jobs – according to Germany’s financial analysis reported by New Scientist, the massive leap forward in workplace robotics has had no impact on job losses.
The rise of and reliance on AI
At this point, there are very few people in the world who haven’t come into contact with AI in some form or other. From automated customer service helplines through to the ‘smart’ algorithms that social media utilises to manipulate emotions and attachment, AI is being used quietly and efficiently all over the globe to benefit huge companies, and remove the need for a human workforce that could be better utilised elsewhere.
According to Gartner, AI augmentation can recover up to a staggering 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity by 2021, which these services are already well on their way to achieving. Removing repetitive, administrative type tasks from employees and shifting them onto automated systems can prevent the boredom factor, and of course, allow more important work to be completed faster and more efficiently while ensuring all the basics are covered. If your definition of robotics includes digital AI software and programming, then robots are well and truly integrated into our workplace already.
The Japan effect
If any country represents the future of robotics in the workplace, it’s Japan. In a country where absolutely everything is run like clockwork, from hospitals to trains, it’s no surprise that they have embraced more advanced robotics than any other country when it comes to using that technology in the workplace. From AI systems saving millions per year in insurance claims, according to an article on the Independent, through to being the country with the most robots per 10,000 in ’employment’ in the world. If you want to know how long it is until we start working alongside robots, take a look at Japan: that time is now.
Japan is also a good example of what happens after the initial industrial stage of robot evolution, with robotic and AI technology firmly entering retail and industrial workplaces with a mix of novelty and convenience. With robots acting as anything from chefs to customer service representatives, they are an everyday occurrence in many Japanese cities and workplaces.
Robotics in the UK
Based on a poll following a Sky series on robotic machinery in the UK, 30 percent of the surveyed viewers believed that in the UK, we will rely on AI and robotics to function by 2035. Though we’re nowhere near that level yet, AI and robotics are absolutely becoming a way of life across the globe, and Britain is no exception. With robotics already in use across many UK factories, as well as in a variety of different hospitality and care functions, it’s likely that many people already work alongside AI or robotics, even in a small way.
Of course, our private lives is a completely different matter. With anything from banks to supermarkets cashing in on the benefits of AI and robotics technology, from managing their websites to sorting stock, robotics is everywhere in our day to day lives, in small and subtle ways. This is all looking bright and positive for anyone looking to pursue a career in programming or engineering – because where there is artificial technology, there is an engineer behind that machine or software performing essential updates, maintenance and upgrades every day.
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