Robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction or a prospect from the distant future. In many contexts today, robots are carrying out work tasks, some of which would previously have been carried out by humans. From the military to manufacturing via the service industry, robots are engaged in a variety of automated activities within industries and organisations. Although many people fear the loss of jobs to robots, they can carry out dangerous tasks in place of humans, potentially saving lives.
Robots are used for dangerous tasks such as clearing mines and dealing with bomb disposal. Often this work takes place in military contexts; the use of robots removes the need to put humans at risk to carry out such, often vital, operations. In the military, machines such as drones are used to carry out military combat operations, with others used for safety-focused tasks. Robots are also under development for use in space travel contexts. NASA robots will assist in menial and potentially dangerous tasks, minimising the daily risks involved for human astronauts.
The manufacturing industry has been using robots within factory contexts for some time. Robots are typically used to carry out repetitive tasks such as assembling products. Naturally, robots are not subject to the same constraints as human workers in terms of the number of hours they can work and the need for rest breaks. Similarly, robots are used in agriculture and warehouse environments, bringing significant productivity improvements in many cases. In such contexts, robots can be extremely efficient compared with their human counterparts.
The service sector is an area just beginning to benefit from automation in the form of robots. In retail, hospitality and catering organisations, robots are being developed to carry out such tasks as preparing food and drinks, folding clothes and serving produce to customers. Although not considered robots in the traditional sense, automated systems in cars and other vehicles are being used to remove the need for drivers.
Robots can be engaged in a number of science-related roles. For example, in America, robots have been developed and deployed in medical centres to operate pharmacies. These robots are able to retrieve and dispense medicines to patients without human assistance. The robots designed for use in space may also be developed to carry out scientific tasks and repairs. The inherent ability of computing programs to carry out data and calculation processes such as statistics is also being used to create automated systems that can produce news stories and other journalistic output. Although these are automated systems rather than conventional robots, they could replace jobs previously carried out by skilled humans.