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商业 - 科技

谁说机器人是就业杀手?它也能帮人保住饭碗

Jonathan Vanian 2016年06月21日

在某些情况下,机器人可以帮助仓库工人延长职业寿命。

机器人可能更擅于处理类似搬重设备和追踪库存情况等等,但并不意味着人类工作很快会被取代。

在某些情况下,机器人还能帮人保住饭碗。

机器人制造商Fetch Robotics的首席执行官麦罗尼·威瑟就这么认为。Fetch Robotics制造的机器人会跟在仓库工人身后在设备周围活动,就像自动移动的存储容器。本周二彭博新闻社在旧金山举办了一场科技行业会议,威瑟和多位机器人专家共同出席,还在会上发表了讲话。

威瑟承认“人们担心”机器人兴起可能会减少就业机会,但她认为这种想法“有失偏颇”。威瑟表示,如果机器人是她的公司生产的,机器人还能“保住人们的工作。”

机器人可以携带大量设备,比人类工人的负重能力强,跟在背部和膝盖有不便的仓库工人身边,工人们就不必再围着庞大的设备走来走去。由于机器人可以转移仓库的存货,工人们也不用像过去一样在仓库里频繁折返。

威瑟说,机器人能减少蓝领仓库工人身上经常出现的劳损,缓解疲劳,进而延长职业寿命。此外,采用机器人维护以后,设备的运行效率往往更高,也会因为生产力提高而降低了关停设备的概率。她解释说,即使有一名工人因为机器人而失去工作,也好过仓库关门大吉,40名工人失业。

当然,威瑟是机器人制造公司的负责人,不赞同机器人减少就业的观点很正常。不过,机器人技术近些年已经非常先进,在许多工作上都比人类表现好,并且极大地改变了劳动力的格局,所以她的看法也值得注意。

随着硬件成本下降,相关技术不断问世,制造商和业内企业开发机器人的速度越来越快。另一机器人公司Savioke的联合创始人泰莎·刘说,有了3D打印技术,只用几天就能开发原型,过去需要几个月。不过,机器人离全面普及还有些距离。

威瑟估计,目前全球可能仅有150万左右机器人投入工作。她介绍,许多机器人公司在为“格局明确环境”开发机器人,比如适合仓库之类环境简单,机器人可以轻松辨别方向的场景。在城市街道等“格局不明环境”中,机器人周围有众多不同的参照物,了解周遭环境并高效运作的难度大得多。

谷歌之类科技巨头正致力于研发无人驾驶汽车,对机器人制造商可能会有所推动,也可能掀起“更智能化”机器人的热潮。威瑟解释说,所谓“更智能化”,是指新型机器人能在复杂的环境和情况下应付更自如。

泰莎·刘指出,在《杰森一家》(The Jetsons)等热门电影和电视节目中,制造真人一样的机器人看上去“极其容易”。事实却是,造机器人“其实真的很难”,远没有好莱坞编导们想象中那么简单。刘说,我们不过是在机器人行业革新的初期,发展过程是“缓慢的,循序渐进的”。(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

Robots might be getting better at performing tasks like carrying heavy equipment and tracking store inventory, but that doesn’t mean they will be replacing humans at work anytime soon.

In some cases, robots can help save jobs.

That’s the opinion of Melonee Wise, the CEO of Fetch Robotics, a company that builds robots that follow warehouse workers around facilities and act as autonomously moving storage containers. Wise spoke on Tuesday along with a panel of robotics experts at a Bloomberg technology conference in San Francisco.

Wise admitted that “people are concerned” the rise of robots could mean less jobs for humans, but she thinks that belief is a “misnomer.” In the case of her company’s warehouse robots, those devices “enable people to keep jobs longer,” she posited.

Warehouse workers with bad backs and knees don’t have to walk around huge facilities as much with robot helpers following them and carrying more supplies than what the workers can handle themselves. Because the robots carry warehouse inventory, the workers don’t need to zig-zag back and forth the warehouse as often as they would without them.

She said that the robots cut down on the wear and tear of the human body, which typically occurs for these blue-collar warehouse workers and thus prolongs their careers. Additionally, facilities that use robots tend to be more efficient and are less likely to get shut down because of their increased productivity. Even if one worker loses a job because of a robot, that’s better than 40 workers losing their jobs if a warehouse gets closed, she explained.

Of course, Wise runs a robot company, so it’s likely she disagrees with the notion that more robots mean less jobs. But her opinion is noteworthy given the perception that robots have become so advanced in recent years that they stand to outperform humans in many tasks and dramatically alter the workforce.

Cheaper hardware and emerging technologies have enabled manufacturers and companies to develop robots faster than ever. Tessa Lau, co-founder of robotics company Savioke, said 3D printing has allowed her company to develop prototypes in days as opposed to months. Still, robots are far from commonplace.

Wise said there are probably only around 1.5 millions robots that have been deployed and are active in the world. Many robotic companies are developing robots in “structured environments,” like warehouses in which the environments are more mapped out and easier for a robot to orient itself in, she said. Within “unstructured environments,” like city streets for example, it’s much harder for a robot to learn the surroundings amidst many different variables and operate efficiently.

However, the work that companies like Google GOOG -0.01% are doing on self-driving cars has the possibility to create a spill-over effect to robotic companies, and it could create a wave of “smarter” robots that can function better in environments and conditions that are less predictable, she explained.

Popular movies and television shows like The Jetsons portray human-like robots that look “deceptively easy” to create, suggested Lau. The reality is that “it is really, really hard” to make robots, much less the ones dreamed up by Hollywood executives. We are in the beginnings of a robotics revolution, Lau said, but it will be “slow and incremental.”

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