Metal Mickeys have been making headlines for a variety of interesting reasons
From collecting rubbish to flipping burgers, the role that robots can play in our lives has been under the microscope in recent weeks. Opinions differ about whether automation will be a force for good in our manufacturing industry, for example, while any innovations that place robotics into our homes will always generate plenty of heated debate.
Flippy - Robot or Employee?
Some argue that the only real place for robots is in an arena where they can be what they are: mindless, onenote machines designed to endlessly repeat simple motions that don’t require any thought or agency. In this sense, one robot was a victim of its own success recently. ‘Flippy’ had been given the job of turning burgers in a Californian fast-food restaurant and at the start, everything was going well. But - worry not burger chefs, the increased footfall generated by the publicity meant poor Flippy couldn’t keep up with demand.
Just as robots don’t need to take rest breaks like humans, they also don’t have the autonomy to speed up at will if they haven’t been programmed to do so. Flippy was taken off for upgrades after just one shift and we’re still waiting for news on whether his culinary career will survive. Of course, this will have been a massive learning curve for Flippy’s creators, who will no doubt have spotted the case for some serious machine learning. No doubt an AI burger flipper that can gauge and respond to the urgency of its boss’s voice is just around the corner and we can’t wait.
Do Robots need AI to be useful?
Artificial intelligence wasn’t really needed for the Chicago river robot, which tapped into another element of human curiosity. This helpful little machine was designed to potter along the river collecting rubbish, but it could also be remotely controlled by robot fans all over the world via the internet. Here, intense public interest proved to be a strength that could be harnessed for the greater good.
Our fascination with robots is going nowhere, that’s clear. But the smarter they become, the steeper our learning curve needs to grow. Are you working on a metal marvel that could transform the way we live, work or manufacture? We’d love to hear about it! Get in touch with the Breakthrough Group team today and you could see your story in a future issue of our Breakthrough Magazine.