Bengaluru’s Invento Robotics unveiled Mitri, the first robot receptionist in the country which blinks, talks and senses a bad day at work.
In popular fiction, robots have worked along with humans, sometimes harmoniously, and at other times disastrously. This has been common for a while in the industrial set ups where robots are employed to clean floors or help in manufacturing and packing units. At offices, robots have been able to read expressions, work for you and guard you. Advancements in technology are allowing greater diversity of robotic systems in the workplace by increasing their interactivity with workers. The offices of the future can be conceived as imaginative business establishments fully aided by virtual assistants.
Robots as colleagues
For a facility manager employee satisfaction, team productivity and space utilisation are important priorities. To ensure that the office meets the needs of all employees, many establishments around the world have already begun to alter their organisational structures and daily operations. People at workplace are getting more robot-ready than ever before. The offices of the future are going to involve a range of intelligent assistants and robots roaming around to improve the employee experience.
The 21st century offices
If the 20th century was about process, 21st century is turning out to be experience. On one end, the employees of the millennial generation are increasingly feeling dissatisfied with their work and on the other hand, employers are increasingly finding it harder to hire the 10X employees for expanded work.
This gap can be duly filled by robots. Robotics companies often get 2-3 conversations with enterprises every day, wherein they see the modern age enterprises thinking and going far beyond their 20th century predecessors in looking at employee productivity and experience. When it comes to robots as service at workplace, the very first use-case is automated cafeteria. Do you find yourself complaining about the limited choice and high prices of your campus cafeteria?
The future office is going to be equipped with robots that would be taking your order from the table and bringing you food that might be picked up from a fresh food vending machine. Restaurants could hourly load the vending machine with your favourite foods and robots could give you a range of options without having any kitchen on the location.
Employees are increasingly looking at robots as stress busters at work. A lot of times we just need someone to talk to in order to vent or de-stress. But, for various reasons we might not get the right person at that time nor we might not be too comfortable talking to someone who is not familiar. An empathetic robot could be a natural fit to save the situation in this case. Even a warm greeting at office could works wonders.
Other normal functions like getting checked in to a reception area of a crowded office in seconds, information handling, cleaning floors, security patrolling and other daily functions could be easily replaced by robots in the future.
Robots could revolutionarise training processes. Current training is done in a way that is bulky and boring. Robots of the future offices are going to engage you with their wit and wisdom and help with tiny nuggets of learning in a succinct and engaging manner. That way, you get through a lot of the routine training and pass the tests without much concerted effort. Apart from learning, searching has become a key driver for business. Google might be the go-to search engine but office information is always on the intranet. How often do you succeed in searching something successfully in your corporate intranet? What if you were to find a friendly HR robot that could help you with information related to adding a dependent or filing for claims? It could also help you raise a ticket with IT, give feedback on cafeteria food, know what is the new sales process or understand how the new stock plan works.
In the office of the future, you might find robots taking on functions that are time consuming and hard to do. Robots equipped with heat sensors, facial detection and employee badge scanners are being developed for the futuristic offices. The robots will roam autonomously, looking for signs of trouble, like an unrecognised person entering the building late at night. They could be used for patrolling, especially at night in parking areas, data centers and other areas. Cleaning, vacuuming and emptying dustbins are tasks that could be delegated to robots. Robots autonomously roaming to pick up on any slight glitches like flickering light to an employee seeming out of place could be the reality very soon. Assistance in this case, will be provided by the human. For example, when a robot encounters a problem, a human will come on the robot’s video screen to assess the situation via video chat.
World Economic Forum called Deloitte’s headquarters one of the smartest and most environmentally sound facilities in the world. Featuring 28,000 sensors, the building has its own app to help staff find parking spots and control humidity and temperature from their smartphones. Other aspects of the building are fully automated; the bathrooms inform cleaning staff when they need maintenance, and robotic security guards patrol the facilities after business hours.
Robots could also act as personal nutrition or productivity guides for employees. A robot might be able to accesses personal daily food intake at work and spot any undesirable eating habits possibly linked to chronic diseases. It could also nudge employees to a healthier lifestyle by analysing food consumption through working hours and providing advice and also the kind of food to eat.
Training the robot
Initially you may need a highly trained person to work with a robot and of course pay for high maintenance costs like power, care, security, and software integration. The complete integration of robots will take some time and learning curve for a seamless fit. But this reality is not too far. The benefits include long term cost reduction, and reducing human error in labour intensive tasks. Robotics will certainly take over blue collar jobs to handle back-office functions of large corporations. An example in the making is Bengaluru based Invento Robotics’ Mitri — the first robot receptionist in the country which blinks, talks and senses bad day at work. She can process people’s performance, recognise them when they appear in front of her and give them personal inputs on how they can improve. She can move around and interact with employees at their workstations and can even sense when people are having bad days or are depressed.
(With inputs from Balaji Viswanathan)