Gives literal meaning to “office drone”:
Business Week reports:
Between the global economic downturn and stubborn unemployment, the last few years have not been kind to the workforce. Now a new menace looms. At just five feet tall and 86 pounds, the HRP-4 may be the office grunt of tomorrow. The humanoid robot, developed by Tokyo-based Kawada Industries and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Sciences and Technology, is programmed to deliver mail, pour coffee, and recognize its co-workers’ faces. On Jan. 28, Kawada will begin selling it to research institutions and universities around the world for about $350,000. While that price may seem steep, consider that the HRP-4 doesn’t goof around on Facebook, spend hours tweaking its fantasy football roster, or require a lunch break. Noriyuki Kanehira, the robotic systems manager at Kawada, believes the HRP-4 could easily take on a “secretarial role…in the near future.” Sooner or later, he says, “humanoid robots can move [into] the office field.”
Robotic workers aren’t completely new. General Motors (GM) employed one on an assembly line in 1961, and—according to World Robotics, an annual report produced by the Frankfurt-based International Federation of Robotics—there are currently 8.6 million robots in use around the world. Many of them have been doing jobs that humans can’t do in places humans can’t go, such as plugging oil leaks in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of breakthroughs in technology, however, a new breed of machines may soon be filing papers and pushing the mail cart. In a 2007 issue of Scientific American, Bill Gates predicted that the future would bring a “robot in every home.” In the foreseeable future, though, it may be a robot in every cubicle—or at least every third cubicle…
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