How robotics (and AI) are changing how we work and live | TECH(talk)


hey everyone welcome back to Tech Talk
I’m Juliet Beauchamp I am here with computer world executive editor Ken
Mingis and we have a special guest in studio the editor-in-chief of Robotics
Business Review Keith Shaw Hey he is an award-winning textured former IDG and
each year with nearly two over two decades about almost you don’t want to
make him too here with a lot of experience covering technology so yeah
and we’re gonna be talking robotics AI and how robotics and AI are going to
change the enterprise and our lives so stick around thank you so much Keith we really
appreciate you coming in so excited to have you in studio
well thanks it’s great to be back it’s it’s a little weird cuz you know you
guys changed some things around we got to keep you on your toes and now I’m a
guest and most of the times I was in your spot now is usually interviewing
people so now I’ve got to be pretend to be an expert well you weren’t you can
pretend so robots I have to admit I was watching TV this weekend and I saw my
robot and I was thinking about okay do robots mean a dystopian future as we
have seen it on the big screen that that’s always the the general media
perception bots is that they’re gonna take our jobs or they’re gonna achieve
the singularity and IntelliJ and Skynet and they’re gonna destroy everybody
actually I want to go see the new Terminator movie but anyway that’s not
gonna happen if you if you go and visit real robot companies or if you see
companies that are using robots the a lot of the robots are good at doing one
thing and that’s all they can do so a robot arm that can help you know create
an automobile that’s all it can do it’s not going to achieve the factory workers
yeah but it might start to repel them well not necessarily I mean what we’re
hearing from the industry is that a lot of the tasks that are being automated
are our tasks so you know if you have a job where all you do all day is this you
know then yeah that task is gonna be replaced by a robot at some point okay
and really who wants a job where you just do this all day you know and so you
know in in the warehouse space for example Amazon you know seven years ago
they bought Kiva systems and replaced a lot of I don’t know a safer
place the workers but they now have robots that go out into a warehouse grab
a rack of products bring it back to a worker the worker then packs the order
yeah and so again because you had workers that were walking up and down
aisles and that was that was a horrible job and and you still hear stories of
Amazon workers and you know how bad the conditions are and yeah but there being
those those tasks are being replaced by robots and they’re using those employees
to do other things that humans can do well and you know again that’s multiple
tasks and creative thinking and things like that and that’s where the industry
is moving so they’re they’re not in some cases they’re gonna replace jobs in
other cases they’re replacing tasks in all cases I think companies want to
retrain those workers to utilize more of their human abilities and their
brainpower and things like that yeah you know it’s interesting I do think that
there’s this sort of assumption that in the workplace you know you’ll see robots
that look like humanoid type robots wandering around the halls and doing
things where we’re really robotics is much more of a manufacturing supply
chain delivery kind of that’s that’s where they’re really proliferating now
yeah that’s right yeah the three big areas where robots are having a big
impact are manufacturing obviously that that’s been around for 40 years with
with robots making automobiles and things like that electronics you see
some robot arms that are assembling some tasks and the supply chain within the
last five to six years all these mobile robots that either help a person pick
items off of shelves and then deliver them to a packing station and that’s all
been driven by Amazon I mean Amazon has been able to achieve the next day or
same-day delivery promise basically because of all their knowledge and
robotics and that company that they bought then they developed more from
that and all the other companies out there that suddenly found themselves
without a robotic solution are we’re scrambling to look for other kind of
companies and that saw a growth of mobile robot companies autonomous robot
company so you’ve got companies like locust robotics fetch robotics six river
systems which just got bought by Shopify you see Walmart investing heavily in
robotics you see target looking into robots more for the backend
in the warehouse in the supply center stocking supplies things rather than
delivery yeah but you’re even looking at delivery to the last mile delivery
problems so you know it’s so expensive for human workers that you’re seeing
kind of mobile robot you’re seeing drones you’re seeing a lot of different
ways to attack the last mile delivery issue that’s interesting so when you say
that last mile delivery issue when you say mobile robots what does that look
like like is that a an automated vehicle driving itself is that yeah it roams
drones so for delivery purposes it’s usually so when I say mobile robots I
mean a robot that has wheels or of some sort okay so because you can go from
point A to point B so in a warehouse it usually has a bin on top of it or you
can place a bin on top of it and it’s it you know it just looks like it’s a cart
on wheels or a cart but then it can move autonomously without someone controlling
it so in the last mile space you’re seeing kind of like the best example I
can give is like a a nice cooler like you know if you’re gonna go tailgating
you’ve got the cooler yeah imagine a cooler on wheels that has a top and so
what they’re doing is like for food delivery or for brother package delivery
they’re putting the item into the into the cooler so to speak and then locking
it it’s all automated locking and then the robot goes off and make delivers the
package then you’ve got an app and you go all my deliveries here but but put
made on locks and then you could take what it is what it you know and then it
goes back to the distribution center I could see how this those are being
deployed on college campuses a lot because you don’t have to worry about
real traffic and sidewalks and things like that yeah
yeah I was just wondering I mean cuz it sounds like something like this doesn’t
sound like it’s ready for like the open road yet you know we were talking a
little bit earlier about how robotics is on something one of the things that you
guys cover is autonomous of the universe and I can easily see where something
like this it may be limited for now either on a campus or a corporate campus
something like that could eventually with you know the advent of what with
advances in autonomous driving and machine learning things like that could
eventually make it out into the real world do you yeah we’re seeing some
pilot we’re seeing some pilot projects where
if if a vehicle can be autonomous in a certain area and obviously California is
one of those states Arizona is another state that’s allowed autonomous vehicles
on their roads so we’re seeing some pilot programs where for the delivery
space for example where you’ve got now an automated van and on the side of the
van when you open the van it’s all shelves and so we’re seeing pilot
programs where it can go into a neighborhood and then alert you when
your package is ready you come out of the house and you go to the van you take
your stuff and then it goes on to the next kind of delivery look what happens
if you’re not there when when the robot I think that it won’t deliver it won’t
just keep going it just keeps going you’re gonna stop wait for you to come
out if you don’t come out I think that probably the van isn’t deployed until
there’s enough critical mass pivot people that are home to that they can
see like the the product of the products or the packages yeah it’s but that’s one
way that I feel like is a really tangible and obvious way that robotics
are sort of shaping industry and it’s something that we can see as consumers
as everyday people because it’s gonna be slowly become a part of our everyday
lives but what are some ways that maybe robotics haven’t what are some
industries that robotics are beginning to become more and more integrated okay
all right so I mentioned manufacturing in supply chain I think the third area
that we didn’t get to was was in the medical space okay so you’re seeing a
lot of surgical row so like surgery it all started in surgical robot I think
the first one was 2011 don’t quote me on that
maybe 2001 even it’s been the the the da Vinci robot has been around for a number
of years and again it’s a robotic system that were that assists the surgeon and
so the surgeons doing the surgery surgeon it’s the robot actually and so
what you see with a lot of these systems is that so let’s imagine this is the
patient the robots kind of on top of the patient and then there’s a doctor who’s
sitting at a separate area and he’s usually here and he’s looking at you
know and then he’s basically kind of almost joy sticking the robot into doing
all that so we’re seeing surgical robots and again it’s that started with
procedures in the abdomen and and lower but now we’re seeing ones that
do knee replacements we’re seeing ones that do hip replacements we’re seeing
some brain surgery robots there’s a robot that does hair replacement hey why
are you looking at me when you talk about there’s brain surgery there’s you
know and so we’re seeing we’re seeing in the surgical space a lot of robotic
systems that are working on different parts of the body so that’s where you’re
seeing growth as well and then you’re also then within the hospital setting
most of these places are large campuses and they have materials delivering
issues just like everybody else like dirty linens and and cafeteria food that
kind of stuff and so robots are being used to kind of you know deliver from
point A to point B are we seeing anything you know I’ve got two other
industries too oh no no no we’re seeing construction and agriculture will
probably be the next two big markets where agriculture so self-driving
tractors and harvesters and combines okay but also aerial drones that can
then kind of fly over the the fields and with the software with AI software it
can it can tell you where certain crops need to be watered more water or less
measure growing there so there’s a there’s a weed robot that will go and
basically pick up like we use the ax yeah there’s some interesting kind of
applications within agriculture know what I was gonna ask yeah you just
played into it nicely was the idea that a lot of the things you talked about so
far in terms of robotics it’s it’s not they’re not smart robots there are
things that are do they do programmed routes programmed services or tasks but
are we are we gonna get to a point where there will be some AI or machine
learning involved you just mentioned it you know in terms of like the drones
that are flying over the crops um are we gonna see more of that as time goes by
are we kind of at a point right now where it’s really just sort of
repetitive tasks stocking shelves things like that yeah I still think it’s gonna
be the one task one application type of system we’re seeing integration in the
supply chain space so now you have a robot that goes out into the warehouse
and grabs an item or someone picks the item and then it moves back to a packing
station and a second robot will then pick it from the bin and
place it along the way so we’re seeing integrations to create more of an
automated process but that’s gonna take a few years to I don’t think the word
that’s there’s this term called lights-out warehouse which it just means
that the entire warehouse or the entire factory runs by automated and we’re not
gonna see that for you know at least a decade again I’m just guessing right it
could be but most people think that you’re still gonna need humans around
well I hope so with even some of these pick even some of these picking robots
there’s a company in Summerville called right hand robotics they still need you
know out of out of a thousand picks they might drop one or two and you still need
someone to kind of pick it up and put it back so again you still need humans
around the robots but I do wonder how quickly something I mean that’s just one
example that you gave some of robots dropping something but how quickly can
innovation accelerate to actually make that it’s never gonna drop anything and
like I’m I do wonder how quickly we’re going to be able proof robot exactly
like fully trust a robot took fully to do a job completely which I mean frankly
we might not trust humans too well robots may be able to do it better I
make mistakes you still get do you still get a blue
screen of death on your computer sometimes do you ever get a thing where
the mat crashes I mean you still get you still get computer errors yes so yes I
don’t think you’re ever gonna and if you’re expecting a robot to be a hundred
percent perfect that expectation is way too high even in the self-driving car
now the self-driving car space you’re gonna need 99.999% you know confidence
before a lot of people will get into one of these cars
yeah but for you know for something that’s just picking an object you know
you know drop something yeah again yeah you know if it drops that that you know
the Downey right if it drops paper towels no one’s gonna get hurt if I did
the self-driving car you know if it stops and fails like you’ve got
passengers to think about you know that’s
you know accuracy and precision and reliability is gonna be bigger in the in
the car space isn’t the issue with autonomous cars right now is it it’s not
just I mean the autonomous car is obviously you know they need to they’re
gonna need to improve what they do and how they do it but isn’t one of the
issues that you’ve got autonomous cars on the same road with fallible humans
it’s it’s that you know if we’re all or or nothing if it was all autonomous you
probably in better shape than the mix of autonomous and crazy human because a big
problem for that industry is the is getting from that journey from where
it’s you know you’ve got cart you know you’ve got human drivers yeah especially
mess I really don’t want anybody to take my car but I know that may happen
there’s the issue of that – you know well okay so let’s say in let’s say 30
years or 40 years I mean 40 or 50 when you’re so you know retired
yeah and you you know you can’t drive anymore
god forbid but you don’t want to you know you want to so that’s that’s that’s
another that’s one of those driving forces is mobility for seniors so that
they don’t have to sit in a house all day and do nothing or you know making be
more independent okay did you have all of us is you ever an original I mean not
did you have another question there was another part of that question I think I
forgot that okay yeah so getting so getting from yeah so I talk to a lot of
people and they say if we have laws that basically told everybody to stop driving
we’ve got the cars the cars will drive everyone everywhere then I think you’d
be a lot closer and a lot of the development in autonomous cars is
figuring out what the human in the car next to you is gonna do an int is Amman
is so unpredictable I mean as you well know since we aren’t masses if you’re on
the highway you never know what’s gonna happen and a way from the right there’s
no way a robot can predict that and then of course if when there are accidents
the assumption automatically is that the robot failed or that the technology
failed actually not well there’s an earlier beat I mean we’ll assume that
when in in many cases it’s a human it’s human error right I’m not for the most
part even even that the the first fatality
that happened in Arizona last March yeah the the Safety Board determined that it
was a combination of kind of technical errors because sensors weren’t on and
then the safety driver wasn’t paying attention and now they still indicate
that they’re not quite sure if the safety driver if given enough time could
see and react because the pedestrian was crossing in an area where they’re
pedestrians not supposed to cross so again that’s why they ended up settling
right yeah okay interesting I think before we let you go Keith I would like
to sort of talk about this what we’re gonna see in the next 30 or so years in
terms of robotics and how robotics is not only going to disrupt virtually it
seems like almost every industry right but just disrupt our everyday lives I
mean we’re all people we all order stuff from Amazon we all drive so I wonder how
what the it seems very futuristic but the reality of the world is gonna look
like in 30 years thanks to robotics yeah so 30 years so 30 years from now would
be 20 50 50 50 wow that’s that’s way far like I don’t even know what’s gonna
happen but I think somewhere in between five to ten yes I think self-driving
cars in in limited areas definitely I’m you know I’m not sure if people are
gonna own the cars anymore they may just you know use an uber or service cars as
a service there is some interesting activity going on in the flying cars or
flying taxis space I think ubers invested a lot of money into that to
give kind of people short shuttle rides and I think you know most people talk
about the the traffic that happens between like New York City and the edge
of Long Island to go to the Hamptons for example that’s just one example and a
lot of people will take expensive helicopters but that cost fuel so it’s a
lot of these electric vehicles now that are either powered by solar or other
sustainable energy and so that idea of just jumping one of those and then it’ll
fly it to the location so I think the lying car is me I think what probably
yeah I think people will get into a flying car before they get into a flying
car not a flying car like a self-driving car yeah because of the safety issues
there’s less people up in the air yeah you know
and then the FAA is gonna integrate that all with the with the commercial
aircraft so they’re not gonna crash into each other and things like that fly
lower flying cars probably more surgery I think we’re gonna die yeah it seems to
be like that’s an area of allegory and I think the delivery there the delivery is
probably the first big thing that you’re going to see it’s it’s you know it’s
it’s already happening in a lot of different locations I don’t know exactly
whether it’s gonna be a mobile robot or drone or a combination or for like a
self-driving car I’ve heard people like from FedEx talked about the driver will
go to kind of like a central location in a neighborhood and then it’ll he’ll
either deploy the mobile robots or the drones from that central location and so
that again saving and gas saving on kind of energy yeah sure yeah that makes
sense I I don’t I think what you might not see
OK by 2030 definitely you won’t see this and by 2050 maybe but I don’t think
you’re gonna get that Rosie the Jetsons made type robot because general
intelligence versus like artificial you know intelligence where a robot can do
multiple tasks yeah I don’t think that that’s gonna happen anytime soon okay
because again I’ve seen what you know even the single tasks you can’t do and
and the that what the roboticist have a term called unstructured environment and
it sounds like the real world the house is a messy place yeah and even getting a
robot to try to clean up that like everything is just happening you’ve
got–you’ve yeah I mean you know again single task yeah so you know iRobot can
expand into like lawn mowing that’s that that’s their newest one I asked him once
if they were gonna do a toilet cleaning once that’s already out there oh okay
my future is now deploy those okay yeah so back to my original kind it sounds
like iRobot is probably not something we have to worry about
iRobot the movie where the robots come after you and you know want to take us
over and protect us from ourselves I’m not see I’m not seeing that at this
point there is some development on humanoid robots like you’ve seen the
pepper robot no but you know once at Boston Dynamics has done they’re sort of
cool 1090 MX well we could just go on a rant
I like them and I hate them at the same time okay 30 seconds
okay 30 second rent a lot of the videos you see do not show the autonomy yeah
there’s usually somebody come with exactly yeah so it’s cool the agility
that they get with a lot of these things is really cool
yeah but the autonomy is more Chi I like autonomy developed on a robot on wheels
that won’t run into you yeah now I heard the chief scientists talk last week at a
WPI event and they do have autonomy that’s being built in the other thing I
don’t really like about them is they got this little robot dog you know and
they’ve admitted they don’t necessarily know exactly where it’s gonna be
deployed and I have an issue with like if you build a robot you should tell
people what its gonna be Wow yeah they’re kind of open they’re
kind of doing that whole it sounds like they’re just developers to come up with
the application for it and then see which sticks so they’re asking the the
users to throw the spaghetti against the wall and that’s a really good visual
robot dogs yeah well it looks cool yeah it does it’s cool to watch which i think
is probably the point yeah great well yeah thank you so much for coming no
problem we could talk for days we will have you back alright and I am for the
record so in on some semi autonomous driving if it means they can pick me up
in my house and drop me off at work cuz I don’t mind the time of the commute by
having to operate the car for that long I wish I could just sit there and
autonomous driving would be the last thing I land bro what’s your traffic
situation like when you come up hill I mean are you stuck in traffic a lot no
yeah see and you okay I think so I’m stuck a lot and I just start thinking
about I could get so much more done either checking email or doing some work
or reading a book or watching a movie the concept of the the future vision is
called like these robot hotels or these mobile hotels so let’s say you have to
go from like Boston to Washington on a business trip instead of getting up four
hours early getting to the airport waiting for two hours than doing a
one-hour flight and sitting in another sitting in traffic for another hour
instead you just get into one of these robot car hotel things you get in it
lets you know it has a couch ok does it doesn’t have a steering wheel you know
it’s got a TV and all the windows are dark so people can’t see what you’re
doing inside and I think you’re still gonna have to wear a safety belt of some
sort I haven’t figured that out but you can then sleep on your journey from
washing to washing robot hotel it’s basically a robot hotel on wheels
something like that I would do that you know it’s the day-to-day driving I do
enjoy but I could certainly see now and I mean you could do a lot of work get a
lot of work done and if you take that out even further then you’ve got like
people that are talking about well maybe you wouldn’t have a home anymore you
could just live in a dystopia all right yeah thank you so much really appreciate
it and you can as always and thank you all for watching this episode of tech
talk if you liked this video be sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe to our
channel leave a comment I want to know are you afraid of the future with tons
of robots are you looking forward to it what do you want to see automated leave
a comment below and we’ll see you next time

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