“ Coexistence of humans and social robots is the next step in the evolution of our society”
So, what’s a social robot?
Social robots are autonomous robots that can interact and communicate with humans. Just like human beings, they are capable of exhibiting social behaviour and following rules according to the role assigned to them.
Social robots are going to take over the world but unlike the doomsday robot movies from Hollywood, rather they are going to play an increasingly important part in our everyday life and assist us in leading a better life. The global robotics market is expected to be worth $1.5bn by 2019 and the demand for business and consumer robotics is expected to grow seven times faster than in manufacturing.
They are going to enter our domains of work, home and the public space. So before we let them in, shouldn’t we be asking an important question:
Can we trust robots?
Social robots and the real world
While robots are usually shown to possess social qualities, social robotics is a recent field of study. Since the early 1990’s artificial intelligence and robotics researchers the world over have been developing robots which display engagement on a social level. But designing an autonomous robot capable of correctly interpreting the actions of people and responding appropriately is a big challenge and we haven’t reached there yet. People ignorantly hold very high expectations about the capabilities of a social robot based on science fiction representations. So the question of whether we can trust robots is not relevant as of now. But at the same time, there is a lot that a social robot can do right now to enhance our experiences at work and home.
When people hear about ‘robots at work’ they are most likely to think that robots are going to take away their jobs. But you will be surprised to learn that they are more likely to work alongside you than replace you.
However, there are some situations when a robot can work better than you. Until recently, tactile testing of touchscreen devices, levers/ buttons, and keypads could only be accomplished by human hands. Now, there are SCARA robotic systems for touch screen testing which can make 800 touches per minute without the element of human error.
The future of social robots
In the near future, we might be living in a world where social robots will work alongside us in various fields from retail to aviation. From a robot helping a pilot in pre-flight safety checking to another helping us find the best songs to get through a breakup.
Nobody can predict the future of artificial intelligence and social robots with certainty. It is placed amidst fears of massive job losses and ‘artificial intelligence world domination’ possibilities. But the robotic revolution does not seem to be slowing down rather it is accelerating. There is also the more optimistic possibility of multiplicity, the idea that you are more likely to work alongside a robot rather than being replaced by one.
Since neither of us can predict the future, let’s just hope that intelligent social robots of the future would not be a terminator but fun and charming workmate who might someday be our new friend.
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