Recently, I read a story in the San Jose Mercury News about a company called Anybots. Founded in 2001 by a former Yahoo Engineer, Anybots is a cutting edge robotics company that manufactures a remote-controlled robot product called the QB. The device resembles a Segway scooter with a disk like “head” instead of handlebars and two large bicycle wheels for movement. Its directions are controlled using the arrow keys on a computer keyboard and are beamed to the device using Wi-Fi technology. The QB has a video camera inside the head unit to direct the user and runs on a Lithium-Ion smart battery that can last up to 8 hours. It can travel at a top speed of 3.5 mph and comes with a $15,000 price tag.
Robots are playing an ever more important role in our society and are increasingly used in hazardous situations to spare human life. Robots can be used to defuse bombs or unexploded ordnance. They can be used in battle as mine sweepers or for surveillance. The list goes on and on.
In addition to hazardous duties, robots are also being experimented with in the workplace. Addressing the rising popularity of working remotely from different geographic locations, corporations are viewing robot technology as a more innovative and cost-effective way to accomplish this in the future. Instead of showing up at the office every day for a meeting, you could enable a company robot to represent you. Sort of like a workplace avatar.
In my opinion, robots don’t belong in the workplace. The greatest asset any corporation possess is its human employees. Human interactions and relationships are what I value most in my job even if that occurs over a telephone or video conference system. It’s still dealing with human voices and human images. I believe many people would agree with me as well. Robots cannot ever be a substitute for this. Moreover, given the current economy and the reluctance of companies to hire qualified and motivated men and women, the timing of such workplace experimentation is alarming and could lead to other radical ideas. What if companies started to purchase robots instead of hiring human beings? You get the picture. This is a road we don’t want to travel down.
Think about it. Would you really want to converse with a robot in the cubicle next to you that had the voice of your co-worker?
More information on Anybots can be found here.