By Jasmine Kim
Increasing automation has been a long time trend as technological advancements continue to take place. However, as the world slowly rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, the application of automation has been further pushed to prioritize contactless interactions.
The usage of automation such as robots instead of rehiring previous employees affected almost every market, including transportation, restaurants, manufacturing, and government services.
In the year 2020, millions of jobs were stolen by the pandemic, more specifically up to 114 million jobs globally, according to the International Labour Organization. However, this is an underestimation of the full extent of employment losses as a result of the pandemic.
The inducement to supersede human work with machines appears to strengthen as companies find new and lasting options that not only help businesses stay afloat, but also spur an economic recovery. Machines do not need to social distance, nor do they fall ill or require sick days. This way, businesses are able to carry on while abiding by COVID-19 guidelines.
Although employment losses were immense, new developments in robotics and artificial intelligence will continue to displace human workers before they are even given a chance to return to work. Robots were seen taking temperatures at doors, patrolling vacant properties, cleaning floors, and calculating money at checkouts.
In Daejeon, South Korea, a robot glides its way to customers seated at tables in a 24-hour, unmanned cafe with drinks in hand. The cafe, named Storant, which stands for smart automatic restaurant, opened in May of 2020 during the height of the pandemic.
The coffee making robotic arm can make up to 60 different types of coffees, and the robot server is able to carry four drinks at a time. The customer uses a digital kiosk to order an iced Americano, and the robot arms immediately starts making the coffee in the barista booth.
“Here is your iced Americano, please enjoy. It’s even better if you stir it,” the robot server says as it makes its way to customers, according to Reuters.
The tables were arranged in a way to ensure that the serving robot could glide towards customers without any issues, and the self-driving technology allows them to determine the best routes in the cafe. The robots are able to communicate and transmit information with each other, coming to each other’s aid to help deliver drinks when the cafe becomes busier.
When finished with delivering the drinks, the robot servers automatically move towards the docking system installed in the wall to recharge.
The coffee shop operates 24/7 with only one human employee, a patissier who refills the ingredients for the robots to use and keeps the cafe tidy.
Vision Semicon, a semiconductor company located in Daedeok Innopolis, confirmed plans to create a network of at least 30 cafes according to the Daily Mail.
“With the way things are right now, minimizing that close, face-to-face interaction is a widely-held preference, and might even set the precedent for all jobs related to customer service going forward. But ultimately, I think this is just one of the effects that always comes with using new technology to try and improve our everyday lives. It’s just one of those things that we as humanity are going to have to figure out together in the near future,” senior Eric Choi said.