You arrive at your fancy hotel and are greeted by a robot that promptly takes your luggage off your hands and carries it to your room for you, all while reciting cool things to do and places to eat in the city nearby. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the reality is that this is not so far-fetched after all.
It is already happening in places like South Korea, where it was recently announced by the Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotels and Residences that they’re going to be using a robot helper to deliver luggage and room service to guests’ rooms, using 3D mapping, 5G and artificial intelligence.
It’s becoming more and more common to see robots being used in place of humans – in warehouse production lines, at airports and train stations, and even cleaning homes. So how is robotics going to change the service industry?
Robot wait staff
The use of robots as wait staff in the restaurant industry is on the rise, with more and more restaurant owners using robots in place of human staff due to a shortage of waiters. In addition to this, given the current need for social distancing, the appeal of robot waiters is booming more than ever before. Currently, there are robotic waiters that have been developed using an autonomous system that works by using wheels and a Robot Operating System (ROS) that maps out the robot’s path and uses specialised navigation software in order to direct the robot where to go to roll out its serving tray and deliver the food and drinks. Robot waiters are more efficient, less likely to be distracted en route, and give restaurant owners none of the hassle and human resource issues associated with human staff. Although these robot waiters are currently being used only to deliver the food, we could soon see a system whereby the patron inputs their order on a tablet or some other device at their table, and has it delivered without the need for any human interaction at all.
One of the most popular segments of the service robotics industry at the moment are robot couriers. Autonomous robots that can deliver packages accurately and quickly saves e-commerce retailers money and time and thus lowers operating costs in other areas, allowing these businesses to become more competitively priced for their product offering. Currently, US-based courier companies such as FedEx are testing robots that can do same-day deliveries of payloads of up to 100-pounds, with 10-mile p/h travel speeds and the ability to climb stairs.
These robotic delivery services are also being extended to fresh food deliveries and if trials are successful, we could see a huge boom in this area in the very near future.
Robot grocery store checkout staff
In the grocery and convenience store industry, robots are already being prototyped that roam the shelves, identify items by barcodes and special scanners, and take them into trolleys in order to be packaged by a human and delivered to the online shopper. One step further is robotics being used at the point of checkout, in order to speed up and streamline the whole process.
A grocery store in Osaka, Japan, has already started using a robotic checkout system that not only scans your groceries, but also bags them. More complex robotic checkout systems of the future could have actual robotic arms that are able to gauge more complex items and bag them appropriately.
Robots in casinos
The casino industry is already prototyping robot croupiers, that, in spite of removing the human touch from the gambling experience, actually add to its appeal by attracting people interested in gambling in futuristic casinos. Robot croupiers never tire, meaning that they can work 24/7 without the room for error and fatigue, and they are also able to detect cheating, making the lives of casino operators that much easier, as well as more cost-effective.
In addition to robotic croupiers there are other ways that robots are being considered for use in casinos. A robot bartender will get multiple drinks orders right simultaneously and will pour the perfect drink every time. In addition to this, you can also have a robot waiter who delivers the drinks right up to your poker table, quickly and seemingly effortlessly.
Robot security guards can patrol the casino floors, using video cameras and artificial intelligence to track gambler behaviour, enabling them to spot any suspicious activity and nip it in the bud.
Robots in the service staff as the way forward
Given how much robots will help these industries, it seems a bit of a no-brainer that technology is going to move in that direction. Although there is quite a furore over whether or not robot service staff will be taking jobs out of the hands of the people, one thing’s for sure, this is the way that things are going and it’s either get on board, or get left behind!