Robots are the future. We will increasingly view them as extensions of ourselves.
In a visit to Japan a few months ago, President Obama saw how companies like Honda are conducting research into robotics that will provide both essential and non-essential services in the near future. And they will drive massive change in everything from manufacturing to space exploration.The Spike Jonze movie, Her, no longer seems so far-fetched – even if Transcendence still does.
The Economist published a special report on the Rise of the Robots recently, robots featured heavily at SXSWi and it feels like daily you read about Google buying another Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning company. Imagine if your brand could know your consumers well enough to genuinely anticipate their every need.
No surprise that the company that developed Glass and self-driving cars is getting into robots: from Bot & Dolly and Meka Robotics to Holomni and Shaft. Google needs robots to stay ahead of the curve and at the forefront of man-machine interaction in the same way Android got them in front of our eyeballs. They have even brought on Ray Kurzweil, who popularised the Singularity – the moment when machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence – as Director of Engineering.
Ever since Amazon made its announcement about Prime Air – its drone delivery service, Facebook and Google have jumped onto the drone bandwagon (acquiring Titan Aerospace and Ascenta respectively). Want to see the future? Take a look at on-demand drones. The Gofor concept allows you to rent one direct from your smartphone: it’s not in production – yet.
Starting to think that robots are just for tech companies to play around with? Think again. Oreo continues to drive its cultural relevance and connect the Maker trend with the 3-D printing revolution: cue the Oreo-making robot.
More Maker-bot action! Last year, MIT’s Senseable City Lab partnered with Coca-Cola and Bacardi to create the Makr Shakr, a smartphone-controlled mixologist. Does this mean the end of the bartenders, or could it free them up to serve as mixology advisors and brand advocates? While Makr Shakr is innovating the on-premise market, these guys may have just developed the most compelling reason ever to own a robot – they trained their PR2 robot to get beer from the fridge.
One big fear of robots is that they will take our jobs (and look like Terminator). According to an Oxford University study, retail workers are among the professions most at risk. Not very surprising when you see shoppers turning to their phones before asking a retail assistant for help. The retail experience is being transformed, and finding the ideal experiential balance between automation and the human touch will vary by brand.
· Making lives easier
According to Dimitry Grishin, a billionaire investor and Internet entrepreneur, we already live with many robots that make our life easier, we just don’t call them robots. The reason this is important? Because redefining robots unlocks their potential: ‘robots’ are “where you start to apply internet technology to the real world.” Take for example, this desk light that notices a human, automatically provides light and coordinates with other light sources to illuminate the room. Or this sprinkler system that can make decisions on when, where and how much water to deliver.
· Better, stronger, faster
The US government has long been a proponent of robotic technology, DARPA in particular. In seeking ways to improve soldiers’ performance, a government funded company not only developed a wearable robot that can aid soldiers, but also will allow paraplegics to stand upright. The next step is to allow these exoskeleton systems to be controlled by the mind. Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroengineer at Duke University, plans to demonstrate a mind-controlled suit at the World Cup in Brazil that will make wheelchairs obsolete.