31 May Will covid-19 fasten the use of robots to replace humans?
As a pandemic grips the world, a person could be forgiven if they had forgotten about another threat to humanity’s way of life — the rise of robots. People usually say they want a human element to their interactions but Covid-19 has changed that,” says Martin Ford, a futurist who has written about the ways robots will be integrated into the economy in the coming decades.
“Covid 19 is going to change consumer preference and really open up new opportunities for automation.” Companies large and small are expanding how they use robots to increase social distancing and reduce the number of staff that have to physically come to work. Robots are also being used to perform roles workers cannot do at home. Walmart, America’s biggest retailer, is using robots to scrub its floors. Robots in South Korea have been used to measure temperatures and distribute hand sanitiser .With health experts warning some social distancing measures may need to be in place through 2021, robot workers may be in greater demand.
Companies that make cleaning and sanitising products have seen demand soar. UVD Robots, the Danish manufacture of ultraviolet-light-disinfection robots, shipped hundreds of its machines to hospitals in China and Europe. Groceries and restaurants offering takeaway are using these machines more too. Experts say as more businesses re-open we can expect to see further adoption of this technology — you may see robots cleaning your schools or offices.
“Customers now care more about their safety and the safety and health of workers,” says Blake Morgan, author of The Customer of the Future.“ Moves towards automation can keep them all healthier and customers will reward companies that do this.” Food service is another area where the use of robots is likely to increase because of health concerns. Fast-food chains like McDonald’s have been testing robots as cooks and servers. In warehouses, like those operated by Amazon and Walmart, robots were already used to improve efficiency. The Covid-19 outbreak has both companies looking to increase the use of robots for sorting, shipping and packing.
A 2017 report by global consultants McKinsey predicted a third of workers in the US would be replaced by automation and robots by 2030. But events like pandemics have the potential to change all the timelines and experts say it’s really up to humans to decide how they want to integrate this technology in the world.