Rise of the Machines – The Robot Revolution

The year is 2019.  News continues to spread about the rise of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and delivery bots.  Several decades ago, the biggest fear was the notion that these intelligent machines would take our jobs, or if you believe the cinematic versions, take over the world.  These fears, although may still exist in several circles, have become outweighed by the new notion that these intelligent machines are not evolving fast enough to meet our expectations.  An interesting study proved that customer expectations are increasing more rapidly than the development of this technology.

Collaborative robots, which are robots that work alongside humans to assist and support, are gaining acceptance as they continue to evolve. Several questions remain a focus regarding robot technology and how far we’ve come in the robot revolution.  Here are just a few updates on robot technology in the service industry.

Delivery Robots – This technology is the most common in today’s shipping and distribution news headlines. From drones to street bots, delivery of e-commerce products including food purchases are reaching their destination via robots.  Starship Technologies has successfully deployed delivery robots throughout many parts of Europe and on several university campuses here in the US, delivering e-commerce consumer purchases and food purchases to the communities.  UPS has partnered with Matternet to begin daily drone deliveries of medical samples at a hospital campus in Raleigh NC, which marked the first FAA regulated drone flight for this technology.  And Google’s drone subsidiary company Wing has received US Government approval as an airline to use drone delivery as a shipping method to customers.  This delivery service is scheduled to start next month in rural areas of Virginia.

Delivery robots are on the rise, and customers are welcoming the technology to provide delivery service for their products.  Customer expectations continue to increase with regards to delivery turnaround times, and delivery robots are one way the industry is responding.  With the rise of delivery robot technology and implementation, customer expectations will trend towards this delivery method.  Having a live human deliver a package to your doorstep will become a thing of the past.

Autonomous Vehicles – The race for autonomous vehicles is heating up among automobile manufacturers.  But the vision on the wide range of use for this technology is still a bit faded.  Autonomous vehicles are being touted as a method of consumer product delivery to compete with the delivery robots, ride sharing to compete with taxi services and services such as Uber and Lyft, and even as simple as personal driving preferences.  Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced an ambitious plan to roll out robot taxis by the end of 2020.  These self-driven taxis would be hailed via an app on your mobile device.  Ford Motor Company is currently testing autonomous vehicles in several cities to prepare them for city conditions.  If successful, Ford plans on introducing up to 100 autonomous vehicles into the market by the end of this year.

To many, autonomous vehicles still seem to be a thing of the future and not prevalent to today’s roadways and conditions.  Still others do not embrace the concept for reasons that extend from safety issues to the loss of the simple pleasure of driving.  But as we have seen in the past, technology evolves whether the mass population is willing or not.  There is a strikingly similarity to when the automobile was first introduced and marketed to replace the horse and buggy.  And yet look where we are today.

Customer Service Robots – Lastly, we come to the robots that people envisioned many years ago: The service robot.  Service robots meant to act “human” and provide human assistance are among us today.  The retail industry is deploying customer service robots to act as store guides, directing consumers to a particular department or product based on a direct inquiry.  The hospitality industry is also deploying these “human-like” robots to serve food or distribute marketing materials at events.  The real value in this technology is the artificial intelligence to gather customer data while interacting with them, much in the way we do to predict future customer needs and preferences.  For now, customers are intrigued by this technology as curiosity drives their interaction.  As these service robots continue to advance and become more common in the service industry, customer interaction will also become commonplace.

Delivery robots and service robots are on the rise, and will continue to make their way into industries that support the need for such services they provide.  Customer expectations continue to sway towards the service advantages this technology brings, and customers are embracing the concept of robot technology performing these services.  This is a far different mentality than the fear from several decades ago from robots taking our jobs or taking over the world.  But then again, the fear of advancing technology has been around for centuries.  So as the robot revolution forges ahead, we should be reminded how history has shown that the embracement of progress leads to a better world for all of us.