A decade ago, robots were seen as little more than toys and expensive gadgets. What we wanted was an ASIMO, but what we got was the Roomba. We longed for an R2-D2 or a C3-PO, but what we got was the AIBO robotic dog and Transformer figures that didn’t actually transform. In short, robots were a colossal disappointment.
Today, thanks to increased processing power, robots are starting to live up to some of our expectations. Give it a few more years and they’ll be driving our cars, flying our Amazon parcels across the skies and dispensing our anti-ageing pills. Considering headlines such as “Robots will take over most jobs within 30 years, experts warn,” future automatons are going to be surprisingly capable.
In some cases, they already are. Here are just eight jobs they can do, often better than a human can…
1. Cowboy — Scientists at the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics have developed a robot that can herd cows. The four-wheeled, omni-directional Swagbot has been designed to operate on Australia’s remote, rugged cattle stations and will eventually be able to monitor the health of nearby livestock.
2. Lifeguard — It’s no David Hasselhoff, but the former Baywatch star hasn’t rescued 300 Syrian refugees from the Mediterranean. Emily has. The Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard is effectively a bright orange buoy with a jet-ski propulsion system, enabling it to reach speeds of 22 mph on the water.
3. Bartender — When the world’s biggest cruise ship the MS Harmony of the Seas left Southampton on its maiden voyage, robo-bartenders were busy shaking cocktails in its futuristic Bionic Bar. Place your order by tablet and watch the Makr Shakr robotic arms mix up your favourite tipple.
4. Pizzaiolo — Your future pizzas might not be made by a human, but by a sauce-spreading robot called Marta. Over in Silicon Valley (where else?), Zume Pizza is planning to automate pizza production, even cooking your Margherita or Meat Feast en-route in special delivery trucks equipped with their own ovens.
5. Tattoo artist — Would you trust a robot to ink a tattoo? The man in the video below, entitled ‘World’s First Tattoo by Industrial Robot’, obviously does. Yes, his leg is tightly strapped down, but this is only to ensure that it doesn’t move while the needle-equipped robotic arm scratches a spiral design into the skin. What could possibly go wrong?
6. Camera operator — According to a report by The Guardian, Sky News and Sky Sports are replacing human staff with “an automated system that uses robot cameras.” In fact, Sky’s news studio already uses robotic camera technology, but the introduction of a new Ross Overdrive production system will take things even further.
7. Security guard — Knightscope’s K3 and K5 security bots are already patrolling shopping malls, office buildings and car parks in the US. Equipped with a variety of sensors, cameras and lasers, these Autonomous Data Machines can autonomously navigate geo-defined areas and report in real time. They won’t slack off to make a cup of tea and only take a break when it’s time to recharge.
8. Massage therapist — Over in Singapore, tech startup AiTreat has developed an articulated robotic arm programmed to perform physiotherapy massages. Dubbed the Expert Manipulative Massage Automation (EMMA), the robot uses a 3D stereoscopic camera and a 3D-printed massage tip to treat muscular injuries.
“Our aim is not to replace the therapists who are skilled in sports massage and acupoint therapy,” said EMMA’s creator Albert Zhang, “but to improve productivity by enabling one therapist to treat multiple patients with the help of our robots.”
We’ve covered various robots here on IQ, from the Roomba to the Segway Robot, DHL delivery drones to robotic suitcases. But is the world ready for robotic massages, automated tattoo parlours and drone cowboys? That’s a far bigger question.