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7 New Robots Designed to Do Human Jobs

Will robots take all of the jobs? A new report from Pew Research reveals that experts are divided on this topic: some think robots will displace vast numbers of workers by 2025. Others think that yes, robots will indeed take some of our jobs, but we’ll be smart enough to create new forms of work to make up for the losses. Only time will tell exactly what long term impact artificial intelligence will have on the workforce, but already, robots are being designed to do jobs only humans could before.

1. Bellhops

Starting August 20, the Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California will have a new employee. “Boltr” the robotic bellhop will independently roam the hotel’s hallways at a top speed of four mph, delivering items to customers in under three minutes. Starwood insists its robotic room service isn’t meant to replace any human employees. Instead, it is “an enhancement to our customer service,” Brian McGuinness, Starwood Hotels’ senior vice president for its Specialty Select brands, told the New York Times.

2. Tour guides

The Tate Britain museum is letting members of the public enjoy nighttime tours of the artworks without leaving the comfort of their living rooms. From their computer screens, people online can take control one of four robots that will walk around the museum and show off the galleries. Using keyboard buttons, tour members can make the robot move around or look in different directions. Art lovers, fear not: the robots are fitted with sensors that forbid them from getting too close to an artwork.

3. Fast food workers

Would you trust a robot to prepare your burger? A company called Momentum Machines is working on a machine that “does everything employees can do except better.” It is its own assembly line: slicing vegetables, cooking meat, and producing one “gourmet” burger every 10 seconds, all while providing additional sanitation and food safety. The company knows the robot will put line cooks out of work; in fact, this seems to be the goal. “The labor savings allow a restaurant to spend twice as much on high quality ingredients,” the company’s website says. To help displaced employees, Momentum Machines wants to offer them “discounted technical training” to essentially help them become technicians that maintain the robots that just took their jobs.

4. Government job screeners

If you want to work for the government, your first step may soon be enduring a long list of questions from a computer-generated interviewer. To speed the process of handing out security clearances, the National Center for Credibility Assessment is developing an avatar that would interview applicants about their past (drug use, health issues, etc). The goal of outsourcing this stuff to a machine is to save the government time and money, and an initial study found that the robots made interviewees more likely to open up about their history. The robots could also help solve a problem of gender and cultural bias in government jobs.

5. Farmers

An EU project called “Crops” is creating smart robots for crop and forestry management. Developed so far: a sweet pepper-picking robot, an apple harvesting robot, and crop-spraying robots. And for the livestock? A farm in Massachusetts uses a robot to milk its dairy cows. 

6. Librarians

Sydney’s University of Technology has a vast underground library where 325,000 books are stored. When a student wants a book, robots find it for them. The librarians actually seem quite pleased with the innovation, which they’ve dubbed the “bookBot.” The books selected for underground storage were the library’s least-read and were gathering dust and taking up valuable shelf real estate. Now they’re stored in clean galvanised steel bins, safe and secure and available with the touch of a button.

7. Pharmacists

Two hospitals at the University of California, San Francisco no longer have humans manning their pharmacies. Instead, robots receive medication orders and retrieve and package the doses. Nervous about letting a machine dole out powerful pills? At launch in 2011, the university boasted that the robots had prepared more than 350,000 doses so far without a single problem.

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Boston Dynamics
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technology
SpotMini, Boston Dynamics's Highly Capable Robo-Dog, Will Go on Sale Soon
Boston Dynamics
Boston Dynamics

Remember the Boston Dynamics robot that gripped the internet in collective terror earlier in 2018? The four-legged, headless 'bot was featured in a series of videos that displayed its ability to open doors, navigate stairs, and even challenge a human armed with a hockey stick.

Now, our dystopian nightmare is one step closer to becoming a reality. Boston Dynamics announced that SpotMini, their name for this practical-function puppy-bot, will see a limited release in 2018 and full-scale production in 2019. The company is eyeing commercial functions for the device, which can trot around office environments as a surveillance presence or assist in construction tasks that might prove dangerous for humans, like bounding up to the top of an unfinished skyscraper. With its optional, rather freakish arm attachment, it can pick up nearly 9 pounds—that’s roughly the size of a newborn infant.

The model does have one failsafe—it can only operate for 90 minutes before needing to charge its battery.

SpotMini will function through apps and human-controlled commands. By mapping out its environment using sensors, it will be able to locomote autonomously. No price has been announced.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Nixie Rhie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Food
The Secret to Costco's Delicious Pizza Is a Sauce-Dispensing Robot
Nixie Rhie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Nixie Rhie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Deliciousness often comes from unexpected sources. Take the food court at Costco, for example: No matter which location you're shopping in, you can always count on the pizza there to taste better than food served at a big box store has any right to be. Reader's Digest recently revealed the secret behind the chain's confounding culinary consistency: pizza-making robots.

Rather than relying solely on human employees to assemble the ingredients, Costco has perfected the art of pizza preparation with a machine that makes each pie identical to the one that came before it. Each Costco pizza starts with dough that's had sufficient time to rise and achieve chewy, pillowy goodness. From there, an automated nozzle dispenses an even layer of pizza sauce over a spinning, uncooked crust, and then the cheese and toppings are added with painstaking precision. "Every Costco pizza you get should have the same amount of sauce, cheese, and toppings,” Costco employee Kaiwen Zhao told Reader's Digest.

The final step takes place in the oven: The pie is blasted with heat from all angles and emerges from the oven exactly six minutes later. If the pizza isn't purchased within the hour, it gets tossed and replaced with a fresh one.

Surprisingly, Costco is one of the biggest pizza franchises in the country, with nearly 500 stores serving up the famous pies. But pizza isn't the only menu item that keeps customers coming back to the food court: Costco's rotisserie chicken is so popular that it has its own Facebook fan page.

[h/t Reader's Digest]

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