Workplace Robots to Replace Office Workers?

Technology and the workplace go hand in hand, but what happens when your HR department turns to the robot factory instead of the job market for top employees? Humanoid hires may soon turn over their desktops to their mechanically-inclined robot alter egos, considering new advances in workplace robotics.

Although we’ve seen bots poppin’ up for years in factories and on space missions, C3PO and his robot-dancing friends are now employed in the health care industry, mining operations and agriculture. At the University of Saskatchewan, an economically priced biz-bot that will sell for $100 000, or around the average manager’s salary in the US, is currently in development. The PowerBot weighs around 100 lbs and is equipped with a robotic arm that can hold almost 5 lbs of weight. Whether handin’ out pills to quarantined patients at the hospital, or entering radioactive mines to go where humans can’t, these bureaucratic bots do jobs too dangerous for people.

Beware Human Office Cleaners!

While the factory-bot lacks personality, the Jetson’s Rosey introduced us mere humans to the concept of automated yet personable house cleaners. Modern Stepford Wife-inspired robots are now readily available, ready to complete undesirable household tasks, from vacuuming, to pool cleaning to lawn mowing.  US based iRobot sells a line of home robots, including the the best selling consumer robot in history, the Roomba vacuum. With sales of the Roomba reaching 2.5 million units to date, robotic cleaning may be hear to stay.

Fembot cleaners or robots made to fill heavy duty job descriptions may be fine and good, but what’ll happen when office bots creepier than Hal9000 enter your workplace?  Technical terminators can be designed to carry out nearly any repetitive action, and who knows when biz-bots will do your company’s handshaking, business card passing or replacing of water cooler bottles.

Robots and Job Security

Worried that your office may start to look like a Futurama/Office Space mashup? No worries, says Reza Fotouhi, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. T-1000 won’t be taking your desk job any time soon, since new robot efforts focus only on filling labor shortages and doing dangerous work rather than stealing people jobs. Besides, over 35% of all industrial robots installed in the world in 2006 popped up in Japan. Less than half that number was installed in North America, keeping the number of robots lining up for your next job fair to a minimum.

Thinking of becoming a cyborg to work like a machine? Tryin’ out the Tin Man look might seem cool, but consider the anti-android sentiment that may exist in your workplace before transforming. Plus, applying oil to your rusty robot joints may not be considered a value-added activity.

Lia Ballentine
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