Monday, January 09, 2017
Robots are STILL not coming to take your jobs.
Last year I think the fear of automation reached a fever pitch. Every week someone writes an article about how robots are going to take your jobs. And to be sure - automation will take ~some~ jobs. But not as many as people think. Most people have no understanding of how complicated robots are and what their limitations are.
I think I'm uniquely qualified to talk about this topic because this blog was literally created during the beginning of the consumer robotics trend in 2006-ish. I've been to countless conferences on robotics and have watched this trend since the beginning. I have watched the whole evolution of robotics. Way back then, I was super excited, but over time I realized this was going to take a lot longer than I thought.
Anyway....Lets bring this story current. Mr S. and I hadn't been in the robotics section of CES very long at all before he become super surly. He kept saying - I don't know what is up with all these robots with useless arms.
My soul died a long time ago in regards to how helpful robots would really be. But I always keep a little optimism because you never know where the break through will come. I thought that would be when the sensors became much cheaper. And they have. But there is still an achingly long way to go. It's taken them 10 YEARS to get here! Frankly I was just happy they have started to make them to look pleasing. So I turned to Mr S. and said - but they have cute faces and can dance - so shut up.
The more robots we saw, the surlier he became, It was about this time we peeled out for lunch. I was in a full hangry meltdown. It was 2.00 and I hadn't eaten anything. And to get into any restaurant in Vegas during CES takes a lot of effort. Mr S. was just trying not to upset the rattlesnake den (me) so he started talking about how robots were following the evolutionary equivalent of vestigial arms because they were so useless. At first I was like.... what? But after my blood sugar returned to normal and we got back on the floor he started pointing more robots out, I had to admit - he was onto something there.
With these robots the arms become shorter and stumpier.
Then they became sort of flappy fins.
This robot has been on the blog a couple of times (I think), because the entertaining part about it is that it will follow you around trying to get you to take literature. When you don't the face becomes neutral then frowny. And that's kinda funny.
As you can see though - the arms are almost useless.
Then some companies were like - screw the arms.
The pepper robot I have a slight affinity for because I've seen how it interacts with children. And for them it's pretty cute. But still highly limited. It dances so that's kinda cute.
By far this was the most useful robot I saw at CES. It basically rolled up to you and started opening all it's doors to reveal candy for you to take. And it has a clever name.
This robot below from Ewaybot was literally the only bot we saw that the arms were useful enough to grasp a water bottle.
Then - no arms at all. I wasn't even sure what this bot did. But it is a pleasing shape.
It's sort of frustrating because consumer robots started out as rolling robots. Then they tried to get them to walk. After that they put a ton of money into trying to make their arms useful. Here. Now they are kinda back to where they started. Rolling robots.
So honestly, all the hype about robots taking peoples jobs is by large - just hype. Robots do single tasks well. Other tasks... not as much.