It’s ironic that many of us struggle to find our car keys in the morning, yet we’re also launching billions of mobile and increasingly autonomous devices into the world to report on conditions, track activities, and even perform tasks for us. If we can’t find our dumb keys, how will we keep track of stuff that’s smart and moves?
Let’s pretend it is 2018 and start-up company Entrebot sees an opportunity to further disrupt the gig economy. The company has landed funding to purchase 25 autonomous robots and program them to pick up and deliver small items around the city of San Francisco. They’ll be competing head-to-head with Task Rabbit, Uber Food, Amazon Drone, steampunk bike messengers and other players in the personal service sector.
Entrebot robots run on electricity and charge themselves at ports throughout the city, based on time, location, and predicted labor demand.
Entrebot faces unique challenges each day:
- Deterrence of bots from their routes via harassment, vandalism and bot-napping
- Rerouting the bots when the unexpected occurs
Even in 2018, some people have a real problem with bots. It is a wide known fact that humans are afraid of robots. Many of them take out life insurance policies against robot attack.
Dislike of bots motivates people to harass, rob, vandalize and steal bots. These actions lead to increased wait times for deliveries, loss from customer claims when items are damaged or stolen, and volatile public perception of the robot’s impact on jobs and city life.
With so many calls, tweets and email flooding Entrebot, the company decides to get proactive in getting people’s stuff to them.
Entrebot’s customer service department decides to hire a Visualizer, a person whose job it is to see visual correlations between peak demand, robot location and probabilities of incidents. They work with a categorized queue of past, present and predicted loss and must triage it all to maximize their Customer Experience.
The Visualizer uses Augmented Reality to do their work, virtually moving through and manipulating holographic projections of buildings, people, vehicles, objects and the variable rates of change between all of them. This is one way the world may keep track of mobile objects in the near future.
Man and computer would work together to make robot delivery more efficient, effective and satisfying.
The Visualizer makes choices among the options presented from analytics. Analytics would present the Visualizer with possible actions when situations become too complex to analyze or require human input.
The computer can process large amounts of data but is not situated physically in the real world and may not be aware of certain factors impacting the business.
At times, deliveries will need to be rescheduled. Analytics can certainly recalculate routes and times, but the business rules call for human approval of rescheduled deliveries.
Bots need to keep running during an area-wide power outage to meet obligations and avoid backlog. Working with the analytics, the Visualizer can reprioritize the bots’ time, location and routes based on existing battery charge and distance from a back up power source rather, than the typical distribution schema optimized solely for time.
The Visualizer could really help when a bot gets kidnapped. They can trace the location through the city and work with law enforcement or private investigation teams for asset recovery.
Perhaps you think this sounds more like science fiction than an actual viable business model in the next two years. I’d bet against that given the trajectory of legislation for autonomous vehicles put out on Cyber Law Wiki by Stanford showing several states are already moving in that direction.
How long will it be before driverless cars are paired with tech like Uber? Just look at Spot, a robotic dog by Boston Dynamics that bears uncanny similarity to the mechanical hound in Farenheit 451, a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury.
Augmented Reality is a great technology for real world applications such as “Where are my robots?” (or any other connected item). It will be fun to see the technology and software offering evolve into brilliant new solutions to tomorrow’s difficult questions from start-ups all over the world.