You will work with robots sooner than you think

How would you feel, if part of your staff or colleagues were robots? This will a reality in more workplaces sooner than you can imagine. You’d better prepare yourself for this change, because it will definitely come.

30.3.2017 | By: Joonas Kortelainen & Anne Sankari | Photo: Veera Korhonen

SAMK automaatio Mirka Leino, Joonas Kortelainen, Janika Tommiska

Mirka Leino is the leader of the Automation research group at SAMK. The group also includes Joonas Kortelainen and Janika Tommiska. Most of the group members were teaching when the picture was taken.

A robot is an effective information saver and analyser. It can take care of administrative management tasks, e.g. making schedules. It can call several sales calls at the same time or take care of distribution of medicines. Robots can find people inside the building, when there is a fire and investigate an air ventilation system from within. Robot cars are coming and rails become automated, too. Robots used in transportation can look like chest of drawers with wheels.

Many robots are a little bit like humans. They can be funny figures and fur covered robots are used in nursing care of children as pets. They can also lift child patients while the bed linen is changed. “Robots come close to us, interact with us”, Mirka Leino says. The corner stone of the  group’s work is the development of interaction between people and technology.

Nursing care and routines

Hospitals have already robots which carry linen, food and safely packed medicines. The aim is of course cost efficiency but robots also give time for nurses to do those things which robots cannot do. “Personally I’d prefer washing myself with a robot than with a human. This way I’d keep my privacy”, Leino says.

Personally I’d prefer taking a shower assisted by a robot than by a human.

Robots can also be part of welfare technology, e.g. an exosceleton, which is a dream welfare technologists Leino and Sari Merilampi have. An exosceleton would be interesting both in terms of physiotherapy education and programming. Also, it doesn’t take long before a wheelchair can climb the stairs and no lift is needed for it. There are already experimental applications and usually it takes from five to ten years before they will be available for purchase.

Leino has always appreciated the possibilities robots provide. They make it possible to have more time for interesting tasks, leisure, safety and care. She was thinking already during her studies that people shouldn’t do that kind of mechanical and boring work tasks which some people do in factories.

Intelligent robots make observations

Intelligent robots make observations about their surroundings. Then they make conclusions on the basis of their sensors and artificial intelligence and decide what should be done in each situation. They can be co-operative and work among people. They know their programmed route and when there is an obstruction they stop and move over.

Experts on robots think that robots can do anything that needs to be done and even more. There are a lot of possibilities which we still haven’t thought of. Technology has always developed in this way. On the one hand some have had wild technological visions other people have laughed at in the beginning but which have later been realized. On the other hand people have not even imagined all the things that can be completed with new technology, and how it can be changed when people find new ways of using it. Both humans and technology change in this process.

Knowledge, courage and understanding

Leino hopes that organizations interested in robots would be willing to try out robots and learn new things. They should think what robots could do in their workplace. Robots can be used for automation to simplify things and to do many things in a cost effective way. If the experiment in 1996 wasn’t a success, the situation can be quite different in 2017. It is important to try new possibilities.

Programming a robot does not necessarily require profound programming skills, but it can involve manual movement of the robot to the desired places and saving these movements. In many situations programming a robot to simple tasks can take from a few minutes to two hours. More complicated robots still require a lot of work.

It doesn’t take long before a wheelchair can climb the stairs and no lift is needed for it

When robots complete more work tasks, it is also challenging for the management because the workers’ autonomy and independence increase. In fact, these challenges already exist. In a vision on future, people have more time to think what to do and why instead of toiling at work.

It is also said that each robot which eats a job also brings two new jobs. Robots can be used to do individual tasks. They cannot replace occupations. ”All kinds of tasks which need thinking, drawing conclusions and understanding of nuances are increasing and this is so far possible for human beings only”, Leino says.

Mirka Leino SAMk automaation tutkimusryhma kuva: Veera Korhonen

Top three in automation right now

Degree Programme in Automation has one of the most comprehensive study module in robotics in Finland. The leader of the Automation research group, Mirka Leino is in the picture.

Co-operation partners can test industrial and collaborative robots in the research and learning environment of automation and robotics on Pori campus. In the future, also logistics and dual-armed robots can be tested there. The robot called Pepper will guide visitors in autumn 2017.

A Robotics Academy will be established in Satakunta in the future. It will provide club activities for children and elective courses for comprehensive school and upper secondary school students as well as for other people in different ages.

30.3.2017 | By: Joonas Kortelainen & Anne Sankari | Photo: Veera Korhonen

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