When it comes to new technology and the thought of robots completing automated tasks in the workplace, an instinctive reaction is to be scared that these robots will take over from people.
While there is research to suggest that increased automation can increase productivity and actually create jobs, the thought of robots in the workplace can still be an intimidating idea. While we all might be aware of the potential of robots to perform helpful tasks, what robots are currently being used in the workplace?
We investigate four of the many being used and tested at the moment:
1. Medical Robots
A machine might never be able to offer the same knowledge and bedside manner to a patient as a trained doctor, but robots in various forms are being used in the medical profession to facilitate learning and consulting with patients. From remote key-hole surgery to dentistry dummies that react appropriately to certain procedures, robots are helping medical professionals to refine their skills, and are giving them the tools to operate and examine patients remotely.
Within hospitals, there have also been various robots developed to perform routine tasks like delivering clean linen, medicine and other supplies, as well as being able to operate elevators, open doors and avoid obstacles. Functioning on a more stationary level, there are also robots which have been designed to be stand-in as nurses or carers for the elderly, reminding them to take their medicines and to helping them to get in touch with a doctor when they are feeling ill.
2. Manufacturing Robots
While machines are already an essential element of manufacturing, the use of robotics has also developed to include tasks usually performed by people, such organising deliveries. Designed to carry heavy weights but to still be able to move quickly, these kinds of robots can lift, carry and distribute products across a large area. These robots are used in the warehouses of large retailers to manage stock effectively, and are synchronised to work in teams to make handling that much more efficient.
Car manufacturers are also developing their own robots to assist with certain tasks that might be too mundane or time consuming for a human being. Robots are also being developed to help astronauts in risky and dangerous environments. These humanoids, as they are called, are constantly being developed to be more functional and dexterous, and more able to perform certain tasks with their hands in the same way as a person.
3. Robots in the Workplace
Working with a fully functional humanoid in the office might take some getting used to, but robots can contribute to increased productivity by being able to perform certain stand-in tasks. For instance, a robot has been developed to take the place of someone on a VoIP call who still needs to move around a workplace while conversing. Robots with wheels and cameras at human eye level can then allow someone to go on a factory tour or to see a process in action remotely.
Other uses of robots in the office, or in other work environments, are those that can be programmed to provide information, such as assisting people to get around an office building. This type of robot can give directions and even print out maps. Others can even be specifically programmed to go shopping for you, and distinguish between different products while being controlled remotely by a mobile phone.