Robots have been infiltrating the workplace for decades, but have largely been relegated to industrial applications, such as manufacturing -- especially within the auto industry.
As Honda Motor Co.'s ASIMO shows, however, robots are becoming increasingly complex and adept at performing tasks once deemed impossible by machines (such as climbing stairs and even dancing), suggesting that use of robots on the job may become more widespread.
As Bloomberg Businessweek reported last year, sophisticated robots are already being used in the medical field to help with training, diagnostics and performing surgery. And retailers, such as Gap Inc. and Crate & Barrel, have deployed ottoman-size robots in warehouses -- capable of moving up to 3,000 pounds -- to help fulfill orders more quickly and efficiently.
Many workers fear that robots will lead to fewer job opportunities for workers. But that needn't be the case. Writing in Businessweek, Robotic Industries Association President Jeff Burnstein suggests that rather than merely displacing humans, machines can also create more career opportunities. That's because robots help companies design and build higher quality products, making both the company and its employees more viable in an increasingly global economy.
Secondly, Burnstein says, robots can relieve workers of "dangerous and boring jobs that they shouldn't have to do in the first place," freeing them up for more highly skilled, better paid positions. Moreover, as the need for robots grows, so will the need for engineers to design more of them, creating more jobs for humans.
For more on how robots are transforming the workplace and the kinds of jobs humans do, check out the infographic below.
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