In light of Google’s new self-driving cars, the increasing use of automated software to grade college essays, and the regularity of unmanned CIA drones striking targets in Pakistan, perhaps the accession of robotic factory workers should not come as a great surprise.
In Japan, KAWADA Industries has been developing humanoids to work alongside their Homo sapien brothers in factories manufacturing cash dispensing machines and ticket machines.
Whilst the Rise of the Robots might terrify most, here the NEXT-AGE employees, as they are known, have been accepted as important, even inspirational, members of the team. As one (human) worker noted: “He works with more accuracy than us, but it motivates us.”
First constructed five years ago, NEXT-AGE is an employer’s dream: it has a fierce work ethic and shows no signs of fatigue. As engineer, Atsushi Hayashi, explained: “It can work round the clock for a period of three to five years. It takes no holidays, it is never sick!”
As programmer, Hiroyuki Fujii, points out, NEXT-AGE works tirelessly, accurately, and without complaint thanks to the specific computer code that is their DNA: “(The code) is not too complicated and we already have a blueprint for every movement. We just select these patterns and stream them end to end.”
Whilst KAWADA Industries believe the robot’s humanistic features are part of the reason they have had so many orders for NEXT-AGE robots, the fact that its €30,000 fee can be recouped in just a few months, is also probably part of the appeal.