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Alexis Ternoy
Alexis Ternoy 22 January 2016
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Robots Are Doing What Now?

Fire up the Waiter, Turn on the Teacher…it's Time for the Robot Work Day.

Fire up the Waiter, Turn on the Teacher…it’s Time for the Robot Work Day.  Across the world robots are performing more roles than you think, especially in Germany and China.

Maybe it is the final insult to beleaguered teachers: robots are taking their jobs.  Same goes for waiters and cooks- robots are doing their job too.  What happened to assembly line workers thirty years ago is now spreading.  Robots are taking over. Well...

What’s On The Menu For Dessert?  Summon The Robot And We Will Find Out

In China, robots are now cooking ramen and serving it up too.  In a country which only a few decades ago had a serious population explosion problem, it seems strange they would hand over jobs to robots, but hey it’s China.  They self-report their unemployment just above 4%, which if true is pretty impressive.  But experts doubt the validity of that figure and estimate it’s more 10%. Nevertheless, China says its businesses have trouble finding workers.  We will probably never know the real truth.

Any way you cut it, there are a lot of poor people in China who might like to cook some ramen for a wage.  Nevertheless, China has robot cooks and waiters.  And it’s not just in let’s say the cafeteria at HQ of a rich tech conglomerate, either.  It’s restaurants in medium-sized cities all across China.

On restaurant owner, who installed 7 robots in his Moli Robot establishment, already reports cost-saving benefits.  He uses them to cut noodles, greet customers, and serve customers.  They cost around $7,400 each, which is around what a human server makes in an entire year.  They last three to five years and of course don’t give you any flack about anything at all except maybe failing to get a full charge every night (it takes six hours).

Robots Are Helping Out With The Refugee Crisis in Germany

German is a notoriously difficult language to master.  So imagine the plight facing public schools who are trying to absorb all the Syrian refugee children.  Thanks to researchers at the University of Bielefeld, a programmable robot called Nao will soon be stepping in to help.  Nao will be teaching refugee children the basics of the German language, preparing them to enter the schools and someday get jobs in their new country.

Ill_1

Especially effective with kids ages 4 and 5, Nao uses a tablet to help it interact with kids and teach the language.  The tablet features illustrations that support Nao’s lesson of the moment.  Germans can expect to see Nao working by the first part of 2017.

Pass the Scalpel, Robot

2015 closed out with a first in medicine: the world’s first artificial blood vessel reconstruction performed with help of a robot took place in (where else) China.  The patient had pancreatic cancer and needed to have a blood vessel replaced without causing major hemorrhaging.  The robot did the surgery but was controlled by a human doctor.  The robot decided where to make incisions, however, resulting in smaller scars for the patient.  In fact, this surgery usually requires opening up the entire abdomen…not necessary thanks to the robot.  Just a few needle-sized holes and they are done.

Kohl’s Doesn’t Want To Get Left Behind This Time

When traditional retailers were taken by surprise with the popularity of e-commerce, it took them a decade to catch up and compete. Many don’t want to be left behind again when the next new retail trend arrives.  That is why they are pouring money into research.  Kohl’s is one example: they are looking into driverless cars, robots, and drones to serve up the future of shopping.

They have sent engineers to camp out in Silicon Valley, apparently to absorb everything they can and bring it home to Kohl’s.  They have also spent $1 billion in three years and they expect to spend another billion in the coming years.  What are they investing in?  Things like biometrics and AI…not your usual stuff.  It is far-reaching and it is not going to have an immediate impact but they hope it will ensure they will be ready when the future arrives.

Ill_2

They envision robots performing jobs in the retail stores, so human employees can focus on higher-level aspects of selling, like customer service, creative problem solving and innovation.

They are using the same NAO robot used in Germany…only this time NAO is telling customers about new products.  They plan to program Nao to hand out sample drinks (that the robots themselves made).  Further down the line, they would like to see robots stocking and taking inventory, plus checking out customers.

China Wants To Lead The World In Robots, Too

China wants to be robot headquarters for the world, and they are working hard to make that happen.  The vice minister of the Ministry of Industry and Technology has made bold statements about the mission of his office: to robotize the nation and become the world’s premier producer of robots and intelligent equipment. Other Chinese officials predict they will have over 400,000 robots in service by 2020.  They have already snatched up the honor of hosting the World Robot Conference.  Moving quickly from lab to reality, Chinese scientists are making good on these promises.  Kohl’s is doing its part to keep up, now lets us see what the rest of the world comes up with.

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