5 Jobs Robots Can Do That Humans Don’t Want

Headlines about robots taking jobs are everywhere, but what exactly are those jobs, and do humans even want them?

Entering Unsafe Radiation Areas

The need for a non-human to enter dangerous radiation areas became a high priority after the damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011. Sciencemag reports that the maximum radiation levels discovered would have exceeded a human worker’s full year safety limits after exposure for less than one day. Military-grade robots had to be deployed to venture inside.

In the following years, development of robots to step over debris and access damaged, contaminated areas has increased. A Wall Street Journal video shows HUBO robot creator Professor Jun-Ho Oh explaining that they created the robot to deal with a radiation contaminated area.


Hazardous Mining Jobs

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has tracked 76,000 deaths due to black lung disease since 1968. Breathing coal dust or risking being trapped in a collapse, cave-in, or a flooded mine is not a desirable job for a human.  Robots are welcome in mining to reduce hazards and to aid rescue operations

To be fair, not all mining jobs are so hazardous, and some less-hazardous jobs are also being automated.  As reported by MIT Technology Review, mining companies are taking advantage of automation to haul iron ore and drill. Just like other industries, automation eliminates some jobs while creating others such as maintaining the new equipment.

Low Wage Farm Work

US News reports that the specialty crop farm industry wants investments in mechanization and technology to offset labor shortages. Leaving the political debate about immigrant workers aside, what makes farm jobs unattractive? The New York Times cited a Georgia experiment using parolees to work farms that resulted in parolees quitting due to “intolerable working conditions.” The Bloomsburg Businessweek article Why Americans Won’t Do Dirty Jobs presented low wages, and back-breaking physical demands as reasons why the unemployed don’t want to pick produce, along with an attitude against doing farm work.

Picking soft fruits has been a challenge for robots, but new robotic strawberry pickers are already in field testing.


Deburring and Other Repetitive Actions

Deburring is an excellent example of a repetitive, time-consuming, fatigue-inducing process prone to human error.  While flat parts are relatively easy to deburr using automation, curved pieces typically required traditional manual deburring. With robot end effectors becoming more sophisticated, they can adjust force to deburr rounded surfaces.

Dull Retail Tasks

What’s worse than searching for someone to help you find something in a retail store? Being the person on the floor who constantly has to answer the same questions over and over. With autonomous retail service robots, customers can “ask” the robot, receive a reply in their choice of languages, and even follow the robot to the location of the item in the store. Lowe’s is using the LoweBot in select stores, and reports that the robots allow employees more time to offer specialty knowledge and expertise.  By leaving the routine searches and repeated questions to robots, human workers have higher job satisfaction.


Transition Time

Automation is not going to go away, and jobs with a shortage of available or willing workers will be prime targets for robotic solutions.  Ideally, people will benefit from safer, more interesting work. But, as with most technology changes, the transition will likely not be easy for everyone to accept.

compare 34 collaborative robots

What’s New in Robotics This Week – Aug 25

– Manufacturing & cobot roundup
– Experts call for robot weapons ban
– Pepper champions robot rites
– On being rude to robots.. and much more.

We hope that the news we have selected will interest and amuse you. Enjoy!


Manufacturing & Cobot Roundup 

Two European Union-funded projects designed to improve human-robot collaboration in industrial scenarios were profiled in Horizon this week. The An.Dy Project is examining ways that cobots can anticipate their human colleagues’ actions:

‘Ideally robots should be able to sense interactional forces, like carrying a table with someone,’ said Francesco Nori, who coordinates the EU-funded An.Dy project which aims to advance human-robot collaboration. ‘(Robots) need to know what the human is about to do and what they can do to help.’

The second project, called SecondHands and led by the UK’s Ocado Technology, is designed support the work of human support technicians:

Duncan Russell, research coordinator at Ocado Technology explained: ‘Parts need to be cleaned and parts need replacing. The robot system is being designed to help the technicians with those tasks.’ […]

‘The robot will understand instructions in regular language – it will be cleverer than you might expect,’ said Russell. ‘Ask it to pass the screw driver, and it will respond asking whether you meant the one on the table or in the toolbox.’


Japan wants to use automation, not immigration in response the problem of its aging demographics, says Bloomberg. South Korea is now the country with the highest robot density.


The Manufacturer explored the “three main misconceptions about cobots”:

1. Cobots are the only collaborative robots
2. Cobots can always work without safety caging
3. Cobots operate faster and are more productive than human workers


ROBO, the Exchange Traded Fund that tracks the ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index, has surpassed $1 billion in assets under management in less than 4 years since its launch.


The World Robotics Conference is being held this week in Beijing. I’ll have more next week, but in the meantime…

Fanuc Releases a New Collaborative Robot: The Small Green Fanuc

Last year Fanuc launched a collaborative robot that has altered the previous perception of what a collaborative robot is. In fact, the CR-35iA (or as I like to call it: the Green Fanuc) was bigger than any other collaborative robot and was 3x time stronger than any other cobot on the market. Now Fanuc is launching a smaller version of this robot: The CR-7iA. 


Fanuc is known for being one of the biggest robot manufacturers on the planet, though they are relatively new in the collaborative robot market. In fact with only one year of ‘shopfloor’ experience, they don’t have a lot of collaborative robots out in the wild. However, the fact that they are investing in R&D for releasing new cobot models only means one thing: Collaborative Robots is the future.

What I suspect is that the Fanuc CR-35iA even though it has had a lot of good hype around it, still has a large footprint and high payload. Perhaps end users are still a little skittish about putting such a large robot unfenced next to their workers, so that they preferred to choose smaller robots even though they are only able to carry lighter parts. Don’t forget that if you are carrying a heavy weight, you want your robot to be a little slower than with a small load. As you probably recognize, a heavy weight will cause more damage on impact than a smaller weight for a same speed. So in terms of safety, some users might prefer using a smaller robot to achieve a task. And this is where the CR-7iA comes into action.

Green Fanuc Family is Getting Bigger

When we visited IREX 2015, we saw that Fanuc was coming out with this smaller version of the CR-35iA. In fact, there were three robots talked about here: 2 robots with a 7 kg payload (one with 717 mm reach and the other with 911 mm reach) and a tiny version with a 4 kg payload and a 550 mm reach.


With smaller robots, Fanuc will be covering a broad spectrum of robot payload and reach. This means that with one robot manufacturer, end users will be able to achieve almost any task they want.

Fanuc can easily develop new collaborative robot models, since they are simply adding a protective cover and force torque sensor at the base of one of their regular robots… and presto you have a cobot. Their development time is thus a lot shorter than other manufacturer that would have to start from scratch in terms of hardware.

How Fanuc Collaborative Robots are Different from Other Robots?

To my eye the biggest advantage of using a collaborative robot from Fanuc is if you are already used to the robot software and have a bunch of Fanuc robots on your workfloor. You will then simply transfer your programming and integration knowledge from the one robot you have to whatever new robot you add to your robot park. However, if you are a new robot user, programming a robot for the first time can be a real headache. But these new cobots provide the usual collaborative robot hand guided, easy and simple programming.

Both green Fanuc robots are super sensitive to impact, because of their sensitive force torque sensor, which is located in the base. In fact, since you will enter your payload for each robot motion, the robot will detect force variations and will stop when a certain force has been reached. Furthermore, you will be able to restart the robot with the simple push of a button.

The robots are also protected by an external skin that will cover pinch points and sharp edges which will also act to reduce the force of an impact. The robot comes with a Fanuc teach pendant and controller. I understand that a bunch of options, such as iVision, will be available to fit the new robots.

I want one, Where can I see it????

According to Manufacturing Global, the robot will be shown at the MACH Show in April. It looks like a bunch of prototypes are scheduled to be shown in different shows and I am expecting the official release by the end of the summer. We will keep you posted, stay tuned.

This is very good news for the robotic industry, I’m always thrilled to see new robots coming out, specifically for the collaborative robot market. And to see such a huge company come out with collaborative robots is even better. In fact, this means that cobots have a promising future and that even though it is still a small market in terms of global production, it will potentially boom soon!

How to Shop for a Collaborative Robot: The Definitive Guide