Will AI, machine learning, and robotics make our lives better?

Absolutely. But not this week.

Three tech-savvy professionals stood around the $30,000 Eversys espresso machine at WeWork, clutching coffee mugs and eagerly awaiting our robot-ground beans and morning lattes. We waited... and waited... and waited.

The robot was out of milk. We all stood there, staring at the device, waiting for it to do something. It just blinked, alerting us to its problem. But we had no clue what to do.

The global food robotics market is estimated to exceed $2 billion by 2022. However, 70% of Americans don't believe that robots will take over their jobs. Robots can now make pizza, salads, and alcoholic beverages. The Tipsy Robot is the first robot-staffed bar in Las Vegas. Chowbotics, manufacturers of Sally the Salad Robot, list quality, efficiency, and dependability among the benefits of its droid greens assembler. Drones are delivering fast foods faster. Eatsa makes quinoa bowls and Zume makes pizza; no human hands involved.

But the dough is still rising...

Robot-powered food preparation is in its early stages. The move to AI, machine learning, and robotics is described as the fourth industrial revolution. But, like the first three, it will involve speed bumps and more than a few disasters. The novelty factor exceeds practicality.

When the robot malfunctions, a human will still need to troubleshoot (e.g., refill the milk chamber). Eventually, robots will assist other robots, but they still have a way to go.

The espresso incident made me realize that although I write about the many benefits of automation, I have become a bit too dependent on the bots in my life. I'm moving to Arizona soon. Although it's a technology hub, parts of the state are remote and confusing to me. I find myself pondering "What will I do if my smartphone dies when I'm driving through a strange desert area late at night, my battery dies I don't have a charger and I'm without Waze?"

In the weeks ahead, I'll write about the human aspects of AI, machine learning and robots; how this revolution will affect our day-to-day lives, habits, and careers. Plenty of people are covering the technology in the media; not enough are covering the humanity.

Did I ever get my coffee? Yes. Two of us simply gave up and walked over to the "analog" coffee maker to get our caffeine fix. We sacrificed foam for functionality and time.

I love the robot barista...don't get me wrong. But I would save your $30,000 until it can refill itself. (I'm also considering keeping an old school paper road atlas in my car trunk...I can buy one on Amazon for less than $10. They still accept credit cards and haven't converted to blockchain - yet.)

Published on: Nov 2, 2017