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“Social” robots cleaning hotel rooms and delivering linen and supplies, taxi’s navigating the skies and automated police officers running the streets of Dubai. No, this is not the plot for the latest A.I. Hollywood blockbuster, instead it’s the very real world where automation is the order of the day.

The past five years has seen national governments reach a consensus – automation is the key to better urban futures.

Whether through autonomous cars, automated pharmacists, service robots in local stores, or autonomous drones making deliveries – cities are slowly turning to robots for everyday tasks.

Large cities like Singapore, Tokyo and London have already started serving as test beds for autonomous vehicle trials. All are hoping to win in the competitive race to develop “self-driving” cars.

Not to be left behind, Sydney has deployed the world’s first robo-security guard, Nimbo, who can be seen patrolling areas such as Luna Park, the CBD, the Olympic Park. The country also launched it’s first Robotics Roadmap in June 2018. That is not to say we are terribly behind in robotics development. Just last month, the team from the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision defeated 15 international teams to win a competition held by Amazon in Japan. The team’s “Cartman” robot won for picking up and storing the most items for the retail giant in the shortest amount of time.

Wins like this are great for the country and the “roadmap” looks to seize on the opportunity to invest further in the automation revolution.

Yes, we hear you. There seems to be far too much excitement regarding automation and robots than we’d like to imagine, especially after reading this report by Oxford University that claims artificial intelligence will outperform humans in activities such as driving a truck, writing a bestselling book and working as a surgeon, within the next 45 years!

The report certainly sounds alarming, however (before we all run off in a panic) maybe we should heed this call for calm by Rodney Brooks. The Chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics said: “I think the biggest misconception is how far along it is … We’ve been working on AI … since 1956 so roughly 62 years. But it’s much more complicated than physics, and physics took a very long time. I think we’re still in the infancy of AI.”

It’s because of this misunderstood hysteria that Dr Sue Keay, COO of the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, insists the roadmap is important.

“The roadmap will lead to more people identifying with the robotics industry … We need to have a good narrative about what are the advantages of robotics. Why should people be interested in it? I think the roadmap is a great starting point, but we still have a lot more stories to tell.”

So fear not, while a Blade Runner or I, Robot future is not imminent, there have been significant gains made in the robotics and automation world. But, instead of being terrified, we should embrace the prospect of new creations that could help make our daily lives more efficient and enjoyable.

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