January 7, 2022

The Robots Are Coming

The Robots Are Coming

Good snowy Friday morning and a Happy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing and restful holiday break and that your business is off to a strong start for 2022. Despite the immediate challenges at hand as we cope with surging COVID cases, I am optimistic that once things settle down, there will be many opportunities for growth in the next 12 months.

Ever wished you had a robot to take a few tasks off your to-do list? Maybe order a pizza for you or bring a package to the post office? That day may be coming sooner than any of us think. The robotics industry has been in overdrive since the pandemic arrived.

If you order breakfast at some hotels in California, your scrambled eggs and toast may be delivered by an R2-D2 look-alike. Apparently, these bots are a hit. As one hotel manager put it, “There are guests who like the fact that they can have items delivered and not have that contact with a human being.” In the age of COVID, that’s a plus.

Robots are the stars at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, one of the biggest tech expos in the world. Manufacturers are unveiling new robots that can wait tables, disinfect public spaces, and perform massages. Beomni 1.0, made by the company Beyond Imagination, can do many of the same things as people—take a patient’s temperature at a hospital, lift a human being, open a bottle top, work in a warehouse and even do dangerous electrical work. And then there’s Ameca, the freakishly humanoid robot seen waking up in CNN’s now-viral video.

People in Japan have turned to social robots to beat the loneliness epidemic. They’re using robot-dogs, complete with plush fur, wagging tails and AI programming that helps them adapt to the quirks of their owners, to provide companionship to the elderly. Supposedly, these robo-pooches are so realistic that people develop intense emotional attachments to them. At least you don’t have to walk your robo-dog in the rain.

Robots may ultimately turn out to be part of the solution to the staffing shortages plaguing many businesses. Has anyone else found their supermarket shelves barren? Or spent the better part of a day trying to check their COVID status? Someone I know had to wait three-and-a-half hours in the cold this week to get COVID tested because the testing site was so understaffed.

Most employers still rely on living, breathing human beings, and with job openings at record highs and people quitting jobs at unprecedented levels as the Great Resignation continues, employers will need to get creative to encourage more people to come to work.

All of this is yet another reminder to us all to show our appreciation to the front-line workers who are still out there, showing up for their jobs, in person—every day.

It seems this January is somewhat of a repeat of last year, with COVID cases surging to record numbers. The big difference this year is that as new cases break daily records, the very serious cases, requiring hospitalization, in many places seem to be less than last year. In simple terms, there are more less-serious cases. Maybe this is the point in time that, between vaccines and natural antibodies, maybe, just maybe, we will quickly reach herd immunity. It’s fairly evident that our society cannot go back to the days of shutdowns and quarantines. It looks like we’re going to have to figure out how to coexist with COVID.

Stay safe, stay healthy and remember we are all in this together.