Service Without A Smile

Will robots replace low skilled workers?

by Angela Cheung, Richelia Yeung, Winnie Ngai

The application of artificial intelligence and robotics are gradually changing the workforce by automating jobs, according to the report released by market research company Forrester. Academics and employers believe robots can replace low-skilled labours in the service industry.

Kam Mong Restaurant is the second restaurant in Hong Kong to use robots as waiters. Billy Chan, the owner of the Cha Chaan Teng said difficulties in hiring and the high turnover rate in the catering industry are reasons why he came up with the idea.

“The advantages of using robots servers are that they can work any time anywhere,” said Chan. The programmable feature and consistency are advantages robots have over low-skills workers.

But the drawback is that of robots have no facial expressions. Robots waiters cannot communicate with customers due to the immature technology in the present stage.

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Kam Mong Restaurant is the second restaurant in Hong Kong that apply robots as waiters.

“The introduction of Minimum Wage Ordinance has increased the cost of hiring,” Chan said. He believes that robots can replace workers in repetitive jobs such as washing dishes and reception services on screen.

“I will use more robots in the future,” he said.

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Billy Chan, the owner of Kam Mong Restaurant, says that the programmable feature and consistency are the advantages of robots over low-skills labours.

Figures from the International Federation of Robotics shows that the sales of robots worldwide increased by 15 percent to about 250,000 units in 2015. Dr Luk, senior engineer of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Department at the City University of Hong Kong, thinks that the application of robotic is common in Hong Kong.

“Robotic application has been developing slowly and gradually. It can be found in different industries. The window cleaning in the domestic sector and the reprinting services and inspection in the industrial sector are some of the examples,” he said.

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Dr Luk, Senior Engineer of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the City University of Hong Kong, thinks that the future trend of robot application would focus on the interaction between humans and robots.

 

Talking about the artificial intelligence, Maverick Luk, the Chairman of RoboCupJunior Hong Kong Association thinks that the technology is applied everywhere but the public may not be aware of.

“The use of artificial intelligence depends on knowledge and education,” Luk said.

Dr. Luk thinks that universities have put resources on related courses and the research and development area to explore the application of artificial intelligence in Hong Kong.

“Education is the essential factor for the further development of robotic technology,” he said.

Although robots are just used for assisting human in the workplaces, Dr. Luk thinks that their existence reduce the number of low-skilled workers to a certain extent.

“It is definitely going to happen,” he said.

Dr. Luk said that robots are the manufacturing tool to guarantee the quality of products.

“Robots are used to sample products to ensure they meet the safety requirement in China,” he explained.

The future trend of robot application will focus on interaction between humans and robots. Dr. Luk said that health care robots in Japan is a good example of how robots can work well with humans. Robots can take care of the elderly by reminding them to take medicines and carrying them from wheelchair to bed.

“Robot with human behaviours, facial expression and communication skills are being developed as well,” he said.

 

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Maverick Luk, the Chairman of RoboCupJunior Hong Kong Association thinks that the use of artificial technology depends on the knowledge and education of the public.

 

 

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