The pandemic has accelerated the demand for robots with a digital “face” and the ability to talk. They are gaining popularity in the retail and service industries, where they work with employees and customers. This is reported by The Wall Street Journal.
One such example is the Moxi robot of the Diligent Robotics company from the state of Texas (USA). Its task is to carry out the routine work of delivering medicines and laboratory samples. The manufacturer had been developing hospital robots for two years before the pandemic, but had none in the field.
In a few months, that changed. Diligent responded quickly to the pandemic and is now part of an industry-wide revolution to define what role service robots will play in a post-Covid world.
“We were in a great position to have a product that was ready to get out into the market and really help frontline care teams by distributing PPE [personal protective equipment],” said Andrea Thomaz, CEO of the company.
According to her, Diligent does not see robots being used like this in the future. But there are many other opportunities to improve operational efficiency that can be gained through automation. A robot can carry things around a hospital that would normally be carried by hand, and this has timeless applications.
Everyone has their own attitude towards Moxi. For example, patients are delighted with it. But the nurses were worried – in their opinion, it was a waste of money that could be used to hire people and pay them more. Although the Hospital Administration was generally satisfied.
Another example of robots successfully working alongside other workers is a restaurant in Oregon owned by a former Nike software engineer. Here, electronic assistants deliver food. The restaurant owner purchased a robot from the Chinese company Pudu Robotics, responding to the challenges of the pandemic. And now it has turned into a social distancing tool.
“We can’t definitely say that robots won’t replace people, but I think it’s quite far away. We look at robots right now as a tool. We used to wash the dishes by hand; now we use machines for that,” the restaurant added.
Despite the efficiency and practicality of robots, there are many concerns that they may “take away” jobs from hired workers. For example, according to a study conducted in 2020 by researchers at MIT and Boston University found that for every robot added per 1,000 workers in the U.S., wages decline by 0.42% and the employment-to-population ratio goes down by 0.2%.