CNBC is reporting that a Tech giant is rolling out new robots to replace workers in hotels, airports and supermarkets. Said tech giant is the South Korean electronics company LG (Lucky Goldstar).
On Thursday, LG said it will showcase three new “concept robots” at the global consumer electronics show, CES, in Las Vegas next week. Those robots are designed for commercial use at hotels, airports and supermarkets, according to the company.
So these are prototypes, not yet ready for mass production. This means they may be mere years away.
The first one is a server robot that can deliver food and drinks to customers at hotels and airport lounges. It can essentially replace the work done by the waitstaff and be able to do it around the clock.
This could provide immense cost savings to restaurants and bars that adopt it.
Second is a porter robot that can handle check-in and check-out services at hotels and carry luggage to rooms.
Presumably you would either have a bellman or the customer load the robot, and the customer would unload their luggage in the room. Automated check-in/out has been a thing for a long time. It often doesn’t work, meaning you still need a person to back it up. So this robot seems less earth shattering.
Finally, LG’s third new robot is made to work with customers at a supermarket, telling them the price of products and then guiding them through the aisles.
Sounds a lot like Paul, the Media Market robot I mentioned in my post Is Automation OK After All? Since most big stores have already eliminated most helpful staff, I’m not sure how many people this will actually replace.
The International Labour Organization said as of May that nearly 50 percent of the global workforce is employed by the services sector. That includes trade, transportation, accommodation, food and other administrative and business services.
But not all of them are working in jobs that will be automated. As the article notes, a report released by McKinsey & Company last November (discussed in my post Will Robots Check You Out of a Job?) suggested that by 2030, as many as 800 million workers globally could be replaced by robots, but claimed that new technologies often create more jobs than they destroy, sometimes in areas that “cannot be envisioned at the outset.”
Not everyone is convinced by the argument that automation will create enough new jobs — especially to service and program AI and robots. Kai-Fu Lee, the former president of Google China, said that robots are “clearly replacing people jobs. They’re working 24 by 7. They are more efficient. They need some programming. But one programmer can program 10,000 robots.”
I don’t think McKinsey were arguing that all jobs would be replaced, and they certainly weren’t arguing that programmer was the only kind of job created. They are talking about jobs created to complement the automation. For example, the automated check-in/out robots could have a screen where a call center worker could pop up to help you resolve issues that the robot can’t figure out. I agree with Kai-Fu Lee that likely more jobs will be lost than are directly created in the industries that lose them.