In a very short time Uber has dominated personal transport and AirBnB personal resting places. Uber is already working toward producing an autonomous vehicle fleet, including flying drones for package delivery. It seems safe to assume AirBnb will in time offer robotic hosts for those with multiple properties in various locations. Indeed, in the longer term, it would be wise for AirBnb to go into the property business as well once robotic host/cleaners are adequate enough.
But robotics are not yet up to snuff — on their own at least — but with people alerted when a robot is challenged, a process that might take several minutes to complete autonomously could be done in less than a minute. Opening doors at the moment are particularly problematic, but with a human at the controls, the robot can perform properly and save the data to do a better job next time. Ideally, that data is sent to an open source repository like Robot Operating System (ROS), potentially enabling all robots to open doors for us, both literally and figuratively. Robots presently lack experience, but with people in the loop, operations will readily be modeled and cataloged for full automation ability later.
Telerobotics can help companies make what people want by inviting them to go online and have a look around the factory floor to see how things are made, have a chat with designers and engineers during assigned visiting hours, and show customers what improvements are being made. Rather than a projection of branded conscientious sentimentalism, public relations will become to mean communicating directly with producers to supply a custom fit. Sales and marketers can work with the more scrupulous customers to better identify what they want, helping to distribute improvements to the right channels, while also understanding where customers are and how to better meet their needs.
On-demand freelancing will accelerate when affordable robotics can make distributed teams work more effectively as a whole. Ideally, anyone in the company can easily observe everyone else working on a project and easily communicate, much like an open plan office space, even if each participant is at a different geographical location. Workers will be in multiple places at once, or at least, actively in one place at a time.
Most service work can become dull and repetitive, but with telerobotics, someone could work at home employed in several different service sectors, engaging with customers interested in various products or services. An hour could be put in making artisanal coffees, using gloves with sensors and haptic abilities while observing the remote environment by virtual reality (VR) headset, along with coffee making’s various tools of the trade, operated from anywhere with sufficient broadband Internet connectivity. Another hour could help guide customers at a general store where to locate the Mississippi Mud Pies, then to end the day providing private counseling at an office location anywhere in the world.
Much like in Wikipedia to select a random article, work can be discovered in the same way. The system will know what you are familiar with, so it can provide the appropriate tutorials based on your background or prefered learning methods to get your out to work with interesting people in a new area of engagement.
Mobile telepresence robots have been around for some time, yet the robot to physically manipulate the environment with the complexity of hand and arm movements through teleoperation has yet to be seen outside the research lab. The Baxter robot is the closest example, but it’s arms are moved or “programmed” by hand to perform repetitive tasks. If the tasks change, a person must physically return to the robot to give it new instructions. Add Segway-like mobility to a Baxter robot and have it connected to the Internet and app with a huge pool of operators may only require a few minutes of engagement with a robot before going to another task anywhere else in the connected world.
Call centers may be ripe today for near full automation, but the clearing of this office space enables its use for former call operators to better engage more personally with customers, but also do jobs that are never boring, working with hundreds or even thousands of employers and associated customers each day. Data will build and algorithms with continue to help automate where people once virtually gave a hand, so those with a focus on the service sector will increasingly need to learn novel operations and complete tasks within shorter time frames. What once required a VR headset, may eventually only need a person to observe a few images to confirm the appropriate actions. It is here we can imagine a rural African working from a smartphone ensuring the smooth operation of robotic processes with just a few taps and swipes.
The more people are involved with robots, the faster robots will learn, and given the appropriate economic policy changes (such as basic income adoption), the better our lives will be.
Telerobotics will be the fulcrum from which the robotic revolution skyrockets. I’m very interested in driving that revolution with you, so if you are in business and robotics, I am very eager to discuss the future with you.