A Japanese tech team is in the process of developing a robot capable of cleaning up after you and your children. Using ‘deep learning’, the artificially intelligent robot will be taught to deal with menial day-to-day tasks around the home. Robots are already good at dealing with repetitive and menial tasks but, like some people, cannot compute mess or disorder. These robots will be using the same artificial intelligence that is used for self-driving cars and smart factories.
It is hoped that teaching algorithms inspired by the human brain will result in the robot being able to process large amounts of data so it can deal with performance tasks, such as cleaning. With all the technology available to us, you might think this would be straightforward, but it isn’t. Robots excel at repetitive tasks but can struggle to process a variety of little tasks and be unable to reach a goal if their algorithms fail.
To clean a room in your house, like a child’s bedroom, the robot must carry out tasks it will find difficult. Some of these tasks are all too familiar to parents, such as locating items that have been strewn across the floor, arranging disorderly objects and even identifying items never seen before. In one test, the robot failed to recognise a sock which was larger and more colourful than ones it had previously seen.
Toru Nishikawa, chief executive and founder of Preferred Networks which plans to launch the robots, is undeterred by these setbacks and says the company will be selling ‘tidy up’ robots within five years.
Sales in industrial robots have doubled in five years according to the The International Federation of Robotics’ World Robotics Report, with China by far the largest supplier.
Concerns about Artificial Intelligence
Despite its apparent benefits, some of the greatest minds of our generation, as well as the general public, have voiced concerns over the use of artificial intelligence. Technical entrepreneur, Elon Musk, said that AI is more of a global threat than North Korea and could even threaten mankind, which the late Stephen Hawking said was a near certainty within 1,000 to 2,000 years.
More than 60% of the general public surveyed in a YouGov survey in 2016 believed robots would ‘steal jobs’ within a decade. Nearly 30% thought robots would reduce the number of jobs within the service and administration sectors, in particular. There is also a fear that robots could cause chaos in the future, with scientists unable to control them. Leading computer scientist, Professor Michael Wooldridge, said that robots could become so intricate that scientists might be unable to keep up with their algorithms, meaning their failure wouldn’t be predictable. For instance, a driverless car might act out of character at a critical moment, putting people’s lives in danger. Elon Musk argues that everything that poses a danger is regulated, including cars, planes, food and alcohol – so why isn’t AI.
A 2018 survey found that 73% of people would welcome help with menial tasks in their homes. Half would be delighted to have help in the kitchen or have a robotic personal trainer, but tasks of a personal nature were less popular and only 14% would let their children be driven to school by a robot.
Robots could certainly be of benefit to people with disabilities or the elderly in need of extra assistance, but there is a question over whether we should be relying on robots to do things for us. After all, we will potentially become lazier as robots learn to do jobs we would do without them. If a robot tidies our children’s bedrooms for them then when will they learn to take responsibility for their own mess?
If you’re buying a new property, even if it has been built by a robot, make sure its algorithm hasn’t gone awry by asking a Chartered Surveyor for a building survey to report on the condition and structural elements of your new property to help you safeguard your investment.