The ‘security officer’ started work a little early, and did a quick review of the previous day’s log reports. It is important to maintain situational awareness to do a good job.
As expected, the patrols started on time, one doesn’t want to keep anyone waiting. On the first garage patrol, the ‘security officer’ confirmed that someone had left a large box outside the parking space of Unit 7. This had been reported in the previous log, and it shouldn’t block any traffic in the garage, so there was no need to report it to the Security Command Center (SCC). Over the course of the eight hour shift the ‘security officer’ covered just over three miles and completed 58 patrols of the parking garage. Over 20 vehicles entered or left the garage, and on two occasions, when cars blocked the traffic flow, they were reported to the SCC; but no additional action was required. All in all, it was a routine day, except that the ‘security officer’ on this shift was a Gamma Two robot, and instead of going home when its shift ended, the robot was plugged in to recharge.
As simple as it sounds, this is a critical milestone for robots. This is a robot that can actually do a day’s work. It can go on-duty alongside human workers and it can do its job for a complete shift. It doesn’t require pampering or a special environment. And most of all, it doesn’t require an operator. If a robot requires constant attention, what value is it providing? In some environments (such as dirty or dangerous areas) there is a value in having the robot in the environment rather than the human, even if the robot is being manually controlled. But to become an effective co-worker, the robot needs to do its job on its own, autonomously.
And just like their human partners, a robot cannot just work for five or ten minutes. It has to work all day, every day. This is where a lot of robots fall down on the job. In an earlier post Projects versus Products, I looked at why lab projects grab the headlines, but never seem to make it out of the lab. Helen Greiner, in a recent “New Scientist” article also wrote about “Time for Robots to get Real”. Again the focus is on getting the job done, day in and day out.
That is hard to do. It’s not that hard to handle the really routine stuff, the long boring patrols where nothing happens; but to be useful the robot also has to handle the odd things that show up once in a while. Like the car that cuts the robot off. Apparently the driver thought the robot was going to steal the parking place, go figure. But the robot ‘saw’ the car, did an abrupt stop, reported the incident over the wireless network along with a high resolution image of the event to the SCC. And then the robot went back to work, because that’s what you do when it is a job. Sure, there are situations when the incident is ‘above your pay grade’. Then you pass it up the chain of command and let the boss tell you what to do, or take care of it herself.
But, for the routine, day to day stuff, you have to take care of it yourself. After all, that’s what they are paying you for. Or, in the case of the robots, that’s what they are recharging you for. It’s your job.
Where’s your robot? Ours are being built at Gamma Two Robotics