MUNCIE, Ind.–You’ve probably already noticed an increase in the use of robots to do some mundane tasks. But they are being used increasingly in tasks that involve thinking and decision-making, a notion that bothers many people. A study by Ball State University shows who has the most skepticism and the tasks where fewer people prefer robot labor.
“People are really a little bit concerned about the use of robots in things such as flying planes, really that’s artificial intelligence, or self-driving cars, anything that has to do with transporting people,” said Craig Webster, an associate professor of hospital and food management in the Miller College of Business at Ball State.
He said providing security or other tasks where subtle decisions, also bothered people.
Interview with Prof. Craig Webster
“Babysitting. That’s another thing where we see a lot of resistance that robots can do this task,” he said. “Self-driving trains, self-driving buses, ships. What we find is that self-driving is a thing people are most concerned about and they are a little more suspicious or skeptical of the technology.”
Webster said 1,676 people from 103 countries answered the survey. The results were published in the report “Robots in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality: Key Findings from a Global Study.”
Webster said females tended to be more skeptical of robots. But, despite any skepticism, he still sees robots as a significant part of the future in the United States and all over the world because of a shortage of people to do mundane tasks.
“There probably will be some more acceptance once they are tested in the field a bit more and people are used to it.”
Webster described the Henn-na Hotel in Japan, which is run almost exclusively by robots. Henn-na translates rougly to “strange”.
“They made the headlines because they laid off about half the robots because it was just a little too much robot for some of the customers there,” he said. Nevertheless, Webster believes robots are will do many tasks at hotels and motels in America.
He described a stay at a hotel in Chicago where he ordered some M&Ms.
“The person at the front desk just put my M&Ms into ‘Wendy’ and ‘Wendy’ went upstairs and the phone rang and said, your delivery is outside your door’, and I just went outside and picked up my M&Ms,” he said.
“There’s a labor shortage in a lot of things out there. The hospitality industry specifically will have to think of how they retool,” said Webster. “Little things like the interface between the floor and the elevator has to be navigable and we have to take into consideration how facilities are set up to deal with robots.”
But, the drawbacks to having robots perform tasks of any size in any industry have drawbacks. Tomorrow you’ll find out why some of the skepticism may be justified and how robots could affect the economy.