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The Robots Are Coming! How Technology Is Changing the Way We Work

Posted May 29, 2019, by Jenny

Fact: The world of work and the way we work is changing.

But how? What does this change mean for you? And how will it impact your career?

Technology is changing the way people work across a variety of industries and the digital disruption is just getting started. According to the OECD’s Employment Outlook 2019, 36% of Australian jobs are at significant risk of being automated in the next 15 to 20 years. Before you start to fret, remember, it’s not all bad, with new technology comes new opportunity to upskill and new job created.

So, what industries and jobs will really be shaken by technology and who will AI impact the most?

Agriculture/ Environment

Agriculture is one of the main industries being turned on its head. The rise of AI has brought with it new farm operations. How far has it come and where it is going? But most importantly what's AI mean for our agriculturists and our environment?

  • With 73 million sheep in Australia and 2,800 shearers, demand is clearly outweighing the supply. Solution? Bring in the robots. Yep, that’s right. The $3 billion Australian wool industry has invested serious coin into researching and mastering the sheep sheering robot. This raises a few red flags, so before you jump the gun, researcher Mickey Clemon explains how this technology is “entirely meant to help a shearer.... Our goal is to reduce the amount of manual effort it takes to shear a sheep for every shearer.”

  • The future of agriculture has arrived and it’s landed in Duette, Florida, where machine has replaced fruit pickers. Harv the robot created by automation company Harvest CROO Robotics, has been designed to have a gentle touch (one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to man Vs. machine) and could be the answer to the dwindling pool of workers.

    So what are the pros and cons of Harv, the robot fruit picker? “During a test run last year, Harv gathered 20 per cent of strawberries on every plant without mishap. This year's goal: Harvest half of the fruit without crushing or dropping any. The human success rate is closer to 80 per cent, making Harv the underdog in this competition. But Harv doesn't need a visa or sleep or sick days. The machine looks like a horizontally rolling semi truck. Peek underneath and see 16 smaller steel robots scooping up strawberries with spinning, claw-like fingers, guided by camera eyes and flashing lights.” – The Age
  • Automation is saving the Great Barrier Reef (see, automation isn’t so bad). A small yellow, submarine looking drone is gliding through the World-Heritage-Listed reef with one key focus – Eradicate the crown-of-thorns starfish! This starfish is recognised as on of the three major threats to the Great Barrier Reef and in a bid cull the pest, researchers in Queensland have established this world-first robot to administer a lethal injection to the starfish. This advanced bot can “see” underwater while being operated by a tablet.

    AI saving the environment

  • Drones are our heroes! Drones are being used to plant seeds for trees to help restore the world’s rainforests. A start-up engineering company in Oxford, Biocarbon Engineering, deployed a drone in September 2018 in a field south of Maynmar. They’ve since grown into tiny mangroves – hooray! “We are now ready to scale up our planting and replicate this success.” According to the engineers, ten drones operated by just two operators can plant a whopping 400,000 trees a day!

Transport

The transport industry is one of the first to come to mind when it comes to adapting to technology and the changes it’s brought with it.

Driverless cars, flying cars.... radical things that we thought they could only think of in the movies are being trialled and getting ready to take over our roads, railways and airspace as we speak.

  • Planes without pilots! Yep, you read right, humanless cockpits. With airline industry watchers in a seemingly perpetual state of worry about a pilot shortage, some think automation could obviate the need for those human pilots altogether. Aviation giant, Boeing is hoping to take-off with the new AI technology in the middle of the next decade.

  • For decades we’ve been obsessed and alas, flying cars are on their way! A prototype has been created by German startup, Lilium. Lilium is now working on a five-seater vehicle and plan to offer a ride-hailing service.
    If, or should I say, WHEN driverless cars hit the roads it won’t mean a decline in jobs, in fact, it could see the creation of new skilled jobs for the car manufacturing industry in Australia and around the world.
  • In case you missed it, earlier this year Sydney trailed its first driverless train which successfully ran the entire length if its 36-kilometre journey. It won’t be too long before it gets its final approval for service and it’s running in full force.
  •  A startup in Silicon Valley, Zoox, has been given the go-ahead to take it’s autonomous driving to the streets of California and transport passengers. The rides are free of charge (for now) and the vehicle must still have a technician in the “driver’s seat” ready to take over in an emergency case.

  • One word. Scout. Scout is Amazon’s robot delivery ‘man’

Health  

AI and robotics are changing healthcare - from detecting disease in its early stages to precision surgery and developing treatments. Technology has already brought us a long way when it comes to healthcare and it’s about to take us a whole lot further.

  • Google has made waves when it comes to improving the internet, but health? Yep, they’re cracking into a new market with an AI-first! Google is working on AI technology that can predict a patient will die. Yep, you read right and Google and many medical experts are predicting this is just years (not decades) away from becoming clinically attributable and moving into hospitals. Google, is there anything you can’t do!
  • Scientists have put virtual reality headset to a whole new use after discovering they can be used to help pinpoint people who may develop Alzheimer’s disease. The device is being used to test the navigational skills of people of those at risk of dementia. Scientists believe those who do worse in the tests will be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s later in life. The silver lining is that by identifying potential patients early on then is can become easier to develop treatments to slow the condition.
  • What's another good use for VR? Pop on a headset and use it as a distraction and way to dull your pain while the doctor is poking and prodding. One of the first patients to try this in Australia is pregnant patient Elizabeth Dietz who used VR therapy to distract her from the pain while undergoing a procedure to fix a complication. “When it got really bad, I was just thinking ‘get the lantern, get the lantern’. It’s something to have your mind going towards so you’re not focusing on the ouch.” 

Education

Teachers. Wouldn't you all just love a little more help in the classroom? Have a look at what may be in store for you ...

  • Professor Goel from the Georgia Institute of Technology recently developed an AI student chatbot. “We thought that if an AI TA (teacher assistant) would automatically answer routine questions that typically have crisp answers, then the (human) teaching staff could engage the students on the more open-ended questions." The idea behind this is not to replace teachers but to help them. AI technology can be put in place to provide valuable feedback for both student and teacher. From finding gaps in the curriculum to giving students additional support, this can mean great things for the education industry. 

  • In the UK, an online platform, Synap has been developed which allows students to create and share multi-choice quizzes as a way to help each other study. The way it works is Synap fuses predictive algorithms with the latest neuroscience research to build personalised learning plans for each student. They'll get a program capable of delivering the right question at the exact moment the student is most likely to remember it.

Building & Construction

The construction industry is at its peak, so how do you capitalise on this? By boosting productivity of course. Cue the robots....

  • Bricklaying bots. A Perth-based company is set to revolutionise the building industry with its bricklaying robot, Handrian X, who has been developed to be able to build a standard-sized house in just two days. The impressive machine has a 30-metre reach, allowing it to work on low-rise residential and commercial scale construction sites. “By reducing construction time and increasing the accuracy of the end product, we aim to reduce the build time of a standard home, which should equate to savings for builders and home buyers.”
  • Construction sites can be high danger zones and thanks to developments in AI the risks on job sites can be made a whole lot lower. An algorithm is being developed by a Boston-based contractor to analyse photos of job sites, scan them for safety hazards and correlates the images with its accident records. The plan is to compute risk ratings for projects so safety briefing can be held when a high threat is detected.

IT

While the rise of AI has some industries shaking in their boots, for others like IT, it’s creating serious job growth. A recent survey by Robert Half of Australian CIOs indicates that almost one in four plan to hire additional IT professionals to support the automation of departmental processes. Director of Robert Half Australia, Andrew Brushfield states, “while automation may negatively impact some manual roles, businesses can’t overlook the positive impacts of automation on the workplace — especially on IT.”

Jenny

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