“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” said William Gibson, an American-Canadian pioneer of the cyberpunk fiction genre. This is especially true of robots in the workforce. For some industries, like manufacturing and automotive, robotics has been present as early as the 1960s. For others, robots are just beginning to change the way work is accomplished.
In this article, we will explore the key differences between robots and the technology powering robotics, the industries experiencing a revolution, and what the future of work will look like alongside robots.
Robots versus Automation versus AI
Commonly misunderstood, the definitions and capabilities of robots, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) are different from one another. For one, robots are the physical hardware, the “shell”, that is powered by automation or AI. Automation is making hardware or software capable of doing things automatically without human intervention.
Note that automation does not necessarily operate with AI, but it can. An example of automation without AI is UNIMATE, manufactured by Unimation. UNIMATE is the first industrial robot to be used by a major manufacturer. It was installed by General Motors in New Jersey in 1962.
AI, on the other hand, is a broad umbrella term that encompasses technologies that mimic or predict human behavior through intelligent agents. AI mostly refers to machine or deep learning today. These subsets of AI can “rewrite” their own programming to make decisions based on the data collected in the environments around them.
The Industries most affected by robots
There is mounting research suggesting that robots will augment or replace jobs entirely in the near future. Over 30 million Americans will lose their jobs to AI, many of that AI being in robot form, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution.
Right now, these are the six industries that are being revolutionized by robots:
- Healthcare. Medical devices and robots assisting in medical settings are becoming more prevalent today. For example, the Da Vinci Surgical System relies on mimicking hand movements of the operating surgeon to control tiny, precise instruments inside the patient’s body. In a trial at a United Kingdom hospital, surgeons performed the membrane-removal surgery on six patients using a robotic eye surgery technique. Those patients in the robot group experienced significantly fewer hemorrhages and less damage to the retina, according to NBCNews.
- Transportation. Entrepreneur Elon Musk has dedicated much of his career to actualizing the self-driving car with his company, Tesla. These autonomous vehicles are powered by GPS, cameras, and end-to-end machine learning. Most self-driving car companies rely on LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), a 3D map-making technology, but companies like Tesla are relying more on deep learning to better their cars. Yamaha’s MOTOBOT, a motorcycle-riding humanoid robot can ride and test machines while providing real-time data to make safer riding experiences. Virgin’s Hyperloop One is testing a system that would put passengers in pods hurtling through vacuum tubes, forever changing the way humans travel.
- Higher education. AI and chatbots are showing a lot of promise in the higher education industry. Experts at EDUCAUSE say that AI can help streamline the application promise, along with matching students to scholarship opportunities based on data. A use case of chatbots is Georgia State University using a chatbot to answer general student FAQs over the summer prior to the fall semester, increasing their enrollment rate by nearly 4%. For colleges fighting enrollment declines nearly everywhere now, this is music to their ears.
- Home. Robots are quickly disrupting the home automation industry. Smart homes are “in vogue” right now. Foldimate is a robot that folds your laundry for you at an estimated target price of $1,500 USD per unit. Aeolus, based out of San-Francisco, is making headlines for its house cleaning properties. Even home security is getting a facelift with home automation companies like Vivint helping to keep communities safer with technology.
- Government. Deloitte reports how cognitive technologies like AI and automated robots can save the public sector “hundreds of millions of worker hours.” That’s in large because most of the work the government is doing, according to research conducted by Deloitte, is recording and documenting paperwork. For tech like RPA and intelligent process automation software like ProcessMaker, this leads to a huge opportunity to digitize workflows and free up time among workers with automation.
Chatbots and other kinds of virtual assistants are making waves in the world of FinTech right now. Common examples include Eno by Capital One and Erica by Bank of America. Voice recognition is another intelligent feature that has enabled customers to perform banking activities by voice command. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the technology behind making this happen.
Although not unique to finance, conversational AI like Drift makes filtering customer requests much easier. The perk of these bots is the enhanced customer experience they bring to the table, helping the finance industry meet new market demands.
A look to the future
HackerNoon says, “Narrow AI is where we have been. General AI is where we are going.” While we have been operating in the weaker Narrow AI we know today, the future is moving toward general intelligence. General AI is one step up, where robots and AI can make decisions with human-like judgment.
We can expect advancements in deep learning and other cognitive technology to teach AI discriminatory biases and how to discern right from wrong, but true superintelligence won’t come from quite some time. Until then, humans can expect to work alongside robots and AI in what is now being coined “augmented intelligence” — a type of intelligence where robots enhance the work of humans, not work against them. Together, humans and robots can achieve extraordinary things.
Considering automation to help save you time and money? Learn more about how we have helped hundreds of customers improve their enterprise workflows through process automation at www.processmaker.com.
ProcessMaker is a low-code business process management and workflow software. ProcessMaker makes it easy for business analysts to collaborate with IT to automate complex business processes connecting people and existing company systems. Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina in the United States, ProcessMaker has a partner network spread across 35 countries on five continents. Hundreds of commercial customers, including many Fortune 100 companies, rely on ProcessMaker to digitally transform their core business processes enabling faster decision making, improved compliance, and better performance.