From ‘wow’ to ‘ho-hum’

How soon will robots actually be entering your home?

Your home as a normal upper-lower class to middle-middle class person.

Well, we’d have to figure out what the purpose will be first.

We’re not talking about toy robots or Roombas that have been on the markets for decades.

No, we’re talking about robots that are made to perform complex tasks that require limbs, sight and sound as well as enough artificial intelligence to navigate curve balls.

Figuring out that task is key to learning why we’ll let them into our home and why they’ll be accepted fast, maybe with little notice.

Will they be cooking? Will they be providing security? Will they be serving as butlers?

That’s probably the wrong train of thought. The first complex robots most people will let into their homes will be somewhat like a handyman. They’re going to be there to fix or repair something. They’ll show up, perform their task, maybe accept payment and be on their way.

What’s pointing at this being the case, though?

First, these robots already exist in factory settings. Sure, they aren’t mobile, but give it time.

Second, when they learn a task, they don’t forget and they can learn more. It may take longer than teaching a human, but once it learns, it doesn’t forget and you don’t have to train a new robot the same skill every time you get a new one. All you have to do is copy the information from the first robot and put it in the second. With humans, you have to train every new person who comes to a job and that training takes time. In high-turnover jobs, hiring and training are processes that never stop. After all, how often do you see a new face in a fast food restaurant or a big box store?

Third, most of the cost is on the front end. The expensive part is the process of building and training a robot. After that, aside from the building cost whenever you get a new robot, upgrades and maintenance will be the majority of the cost for you. Sure, it might be expensive, but if a robot can do the work of 10 people in one-fifth of the time, then that expense is probably still far less than the wages, overtime, vacation time, retirement and health care you’ll be paying for employees.

Fourth, and maybe not final, when a robot is proficient at a task, it’s usually faster and more efficient than a human.

An example of what I’m talking about is what a research team in Singapore has recently accomplished. They spent three years programming a robot — made of arms, grippers, sensors and 3-D cameras — which assembled the frame of an IKEA dining chair in around 20 minutes.

A human, on the other hand, would likely have to spend more time than that reading the instructions.

Before that, the most complicated piece of furniture a robot had built was one at MIT that put together a simple Lack table that is nowhere near as complex as a chair.

Singapore has already embraced robotic technology in other aspects of life. The small city-state has restaurants and hotels that use robots to deliver food to customers and collect used plates and cutlery.

In hospitals throughout the world, they navigate hallways and elevators to deliver medicine. Eventually, they may autonomously perform surgeries in the same structures.

If they can do surgery, then it should not be surprising that they’ll eventually do plumbing, electrical and mechanical work in our home on a contract-with-the-robot’s-owner basis. We’ll see them going to work on a daily basis, being transported on the streets, maybe taking the sidewalks or eventually flying cars.

Of course, there will be sex robots. But is there a need to go into a subject that gets talked about so much already?

Eventually, robots will be common sights. They’ll start with people saying “oh wow” and, much like smartphones and game systems, people will say “ho hum.”

There’s an entire realm of possibilities where robots could do more and we could do much, much less.

I’m sure many people will be resistant to the idea. Whenever something new like this finally comes, it’s greeted with apprehension and fear. But, that eventually turns into “why isn’t that darn robot here yet?”

After all, we’re only human.